When I was a kid, there were bullies and there were the bullied.
Nothing has changed.
Well, I shouldn’t say nothing. When I was young, I remember the stance teachers and parents took was for weak kids to “toughen up.” And bullies, well, they were bullies, but it was kind of expected. Boys will be boys.
Nowadays that’s not okay and it’s definitely not accepted.
There are “No Bullying Zones” at school and there are significant rules about bullying – with a ZERO tolerance in many many school districts. In fact, the anti-bully moment is strongly supported by parents, teachers and kids alike. And that, in a nutshell (if nuts were allowed in schools) is why Pink Shirt Day is a thing.
In 2007 in a Nova Scotia high school, a boy was bullied for wearing a pink shirt. Instead of joining in on the attack, his fellow students joined in on the defensive, coming to school in droves wearing pink shirts in support of the boy who wore pink. The school administration was so impressed by the “Pink Protest” that they went out and bought 50 more pink shirts and gave them out in the school. Imagine the difference in this bullied boy’s life. Pink Shirt Day was born.
If only we could stand up to all bullies this way; always band together and protest unfair treatment, champion the weak, the gentle, the ‘easy target’ as a bunch of highschool children did that day 9 years ago.
So today I’ll send my boys to school wearing pink.
My younger son – he’s 5 – snuggled into me tonight and said “Mom, I don’t think I want to wear my pink shirt tomorrow. What if kids laugh at me. I don’t like pink but they’ll think I like pink.”
Maybe he’s too young to fully understand the “Pink Protest” or maybe we’re not doing enough to explain the meaning because we’re too caught up in the rhetoric of it all. If you knew my 5 year old you’d be surprised that he’d worry about people laughing at him – he’s the alpha, the rough-and-tumble one, the one with the strong will. And yet, he worries, the gentle little guy.
Bullies aren’t necessarily who you think they are. Bullies aren’t just the toughest kids, and the seemingly tough kids aren’t necessarily as tough as you think.
They’re just kids.
So today, this February 24, try to go beyond the fashion statement and beyond the words, and really get in there with the explanation about bullying and what that really means. Share your stories with your kids, and ask them the tough questions. Whether your kid is the bullied, the bully, the supportive friend or the bystander that looks the other way, bullying will touch their life in more ways than just a pink shirt, and the more it can be discussed, the more bullying will really become disarmed.
If you want to put fashion to work beyond the pink shirt, a company called Accept Me has come across our radar. They are fashion forward, using beautiful design to break barriers. Accept Me uses the proceeds of their sales in the pursuit of philanthropy to help people be accepted for who they are, “Breaking the barriers of social marginalization through awareness and education.” All proceeds from purchases on Pink Shirt Day, February 24, will be used to support CKNW Orphans’ Fund.