National Bullying Prevention Month
I bet every one of you reading this knows a bully. I’m pretty sure each of you probably either experienced bullying first hand as a child or adolescent or you were witness to bullying behaviors in others. You may have even been the bully, but let’s hope not. This month is National Bullying Prevention Month and I encourage you to think outside of the normal “bully box.”
I want to first level the playing field with a common definition of bullying. The definition below comes from the National Bullying Prevention Center on pacer.org. Although definitions of bullying vary, most agree that an act is defined as bullying when:
- The behavior hurts or harms another person physically or emotionally. Bullying can be very overt, such as fighting, hitting or name calling, or it can be covert, such as gossiping or leaving someone out on purpose.
- It is intentional, meaning the act is done willfully, knowingly and with deliberation.
- The targets have difficulty stopping the behavior directed at them and struggle to defend themselves.
You see, often times when we hear about bullying in the media it is in relation to gender, race, ethnicity or sexual preference. I am in no way belittling any form of bullying. All forms are wrong, wrong, wrong. What I want to point out is that frequently weight-related bullying is not reported. Whether this is because those who would report it are too embarrassed or because those to whom the incidents would be reported fail to carry through with addressing the situation, we do not know.
So often we only think of bullying in relation to children or adolescents; however, this behavior is alive and well among us “grown-ups.” A recent example of bullying behavior has drawn quite a bit of national attention when Wisconsin reporter Jennifer Livingston received an email from a viewer who felt it was his calling in life to make her aware of her weight. He also stated she was not an appropriate role model for young girls who may see her reporting. Jennifer, a beautiful, articulate mother of three young girls decided not to “just take it.” Instead, she chose to stand up for herself, for all of us really, by responding to this uninvited, unwelcomed, intentional, emotionally hurtful comment. Jennifer’s response was one of the most appropriate and eloquent responses I could ever imagine someone making. What was the result of her on-air response? Lots and lots of comments, the majority of which were supportive; of course, there were also the naysayers. Many people have challenged whether this behavior constitutes bullying.
What we do know is that obesity is the last socially acceptable form of discrimination. Those of us with a socially moral conscious know that bullying on all levels is wrong. I know that Jennifer Livingston stood up to her bully. She called him out, she told him he was wrong and to leave her alone. I know the only way we will ever change the public perception of obesity is to be more like Jennifer and to call out every bully every time. Kudos to Jennifer Livingston. Mr. Krause has now apologized to Ms. Livingston and she has accepted his apology. See, that’s how us grown-ups are supposed to communicate.
Pam Davis, Chairman of the Board of the OAC