I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, and LGBT advocacy.
Why It's Time to Go Beyond the Pink Shirt
Pink Shirt Day is probably one of the most recognizable awareness days on the scholastic calendar. Students and teachers alike band together, putting on their best pink wear, to put the message out that bullying is not okay in any form. I enjoy that people get excited over seeing what kinds of pink-shirt fashions might come out. I also enjoy seeing all the anticipation around leading important anti-bullying work discussions.
However, as is the case with most awareness days, there's a whole lot of talking and then once the awareness day has passed, the talking and any sort of potential solutions about the problem seems to fade away (as though after the one awareness day, there's not the need to do much about it anymore). This is a common problem with most social challenges—both students and adults know that one day doesn't solve all the problems.
There are still a lot of people who struggle with bullying on a daily basis, whether silently or otherwise. There are still people who choke back the hurt and the sense of betrayal that no one is recognizing that they are in trouble because of the bullying. There are kids whose self-confidence is so battered—if they aren't physically battered from bullying themselves—they come to believe that they are absolutely worthless after a while.
Are Zero-Tolerance Policies Effective?
We have policies in our workplaces and in our schools that state that there's a zero-tolerance policy against bullying, and yet there are a lot of people who feel completely unsupported by their workplaces or schools because nothing seems to be done to stop that situation, which further fuels their sense of isolation and helplessness.
Is #PinkShirtDay Enough?
Don't get me wrong. Pink Shirt Day, as with every other awareness day that we honor, is important. However, we have to go beyond wearing a particular color or a particular piece of clothing. On Twitter right now, it says, "Canadians take a stand against bullying," under the #PinkShirtDay hashtag. It is bothersome that we seem to have started to believe that simply wearing certain clothes and certain colors suffices for taking a "stand" against bullying or whatever issue it is that we're trying to raise awareness about.
What Does It Really Mean to Take a Stand Against Bullying?
To truly "take a stand" against an issue, we need to speak up about the issue. For instance, with bullying, the first thing we have to do is simply say, "Stop" loudly and clearly. It doesn't matter if we're the ones being bullied or if we witness it. We have to open our mouths and use our voices and tell someone the action needs to stop immediately. If the first person we talk to doesn't listen, we have to keep fighting and ensuring that we're taking every opportunity to do something about it until someone actually does something to try and stop it.
How Pink Shirt Day Started
I realize that saying that is far easier said than done. If you consider the reason why Pink Shirt Day even exists, for instance, the young lad wearing the pink shirt—the inspiration behind Pink Shirt Day—was bullied simply because he was male wearing a color typically associated with the female gender. Something so basic as that caused this poor kid to be bullied and he started a movement, yet what would have happened if this young boy hadn't been helped by others?
It's awesome that we're talking about bullying on days like Pink Shirt Day, but when does the talk start changing to action? When do we actually take all these conversations and try and change what's happening?
Let's Look at Leadership
Certainly, some of what's going on in our society as a whole isn't helping alleviate the bullying situation. One need only look at the United States leadership and the leadership in the province of Ontario, for instance, to realize in some cases, what's happening is that our leaders seem to tacitly accept, if not promote, bullying behavior. As adults and as children, some of us are starting to reflect on what we're seeing on social media and in the news and that's terribly unfortunate.
What Steps Can We Take as a Society?
What can we do, as individuals in a rapidly evolving society, beyond simply wearing a shirt to reflect that we will not tolerate bullying anymore? We need to do something about taking awareness days and actually taking action about the issues at hand.