Why I'm Not Wearing a Pink Shirt

I've been trying to articulate my hesitation about Anti-Bullying and Pink Shirt Day and what it comes down to is that I don't think I really am anti-bullying.  Which sounds absurd, but the thing is that I don't see the point.  ("Bullies!  I hate 'em!  If I see one, I'm going to....")

Bullying exists. Bullies exist and wearing pink is not going to scare them away.

What I am is Pro-Empathy.  Let's have a pro-empathy day.  Let's encourage our kids to watch out for their friends and to watch out for the kids that aren't their friends too, because somebody has to.  Let's encourage them to stand up and not to be a bystander.

Rehtaeh Parsons, the Nova Scotia teen who recently took her own life in response to cyberbullying following on a sexual assault, apparently made a number of plea for help type posts on her Facebook.  In one she quoted Martin Luther King, Junior: "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."  In a very sad story, this to me was one of the sadder elements.  

Let's do our best to teach our kids how to be good friends to others.  When we talk about Anti-Bullying, I don't think that any of us ever believe that one of our kids could be the bully.   

I've posted before about empathy and I've written a little about the link that seems to me to exist between reading fiction and empathy. Since this is a blog about reading and about children's books, I'd like to bring this back on topic by recommending once again an excellent YA novel by Susin Nielsen called  The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen.  It's an intelligent, funny novel in which a family faces the unimaginable when one of their own goes from victim to instigator of violence.  (And really, are bullies born or made?)

If, as parents, we're not capable of imagining our children as the bully then perhaps we can do them a service by helping them to imagine what it is like to be one of the victims of bullying.  Perhaps this is the way to make a difference.

And really, apart from not liking pink, I've nothing against this campaign.  I just think that there's a lot more we need to do.  Wear pink ... stop bullying?  If only.


Cynthy Nugent said…
well said. I agree on all points
cynthia Nugent
Unknown said…
This is a beautiful post, Sara (and no, not because you mention my book, but thank you for that). I have similar feelings about Anti Bullying campaigns but have not known how to articulate them. It's better than nothing, but the issues are deep and more ingrained in who we are as human beings. Solutions are not that simple. Some of it is language. I think about "Roots of Empathy," which just sounds better all around ... That said I have no easy answers, either.
Anonymous said…
I am always asked why I write about bullying. I never set out to write about it as an issue, but it's such a big part of being a tween that it was inescapable. What I did want to do was give the child being victimized a strong friend. Benji is able to make it through because of Clarissa and eventually Mattie and Michael. I hoped that kids who were friends of victims would take a page out of Clarissa's voice and speak up, loudly.
Sara O'Leary said…
Wouldn't it be nice if there were easy answers, Susin? I've been looking at the Roots of Empathy book and program so thank you for that.
And Vikki, thanks for pointing out the way you tried to model behaviours in your books. Sorry to say I haven't read them yet, but they are on my list.
Thanks for the support, Cynthia.
I'm now trying to think about some sort of reading list for teens and children if anyone has any suggestions.
This is a new inspiration for many people. Thank you for sharing with us.

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