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Anti-Bullying Propaganda: Can we Cool it?

Every year in Canada, we have something called “Wear Pink Day”. WPD started years ago when a high school student was bullied by one of his peers because he was wearing a pink shirt. A couple of students watched this injustice, and decided they were going to do something about it. They told all their friends that the following day, they were all going to wear pink to show the bully that his behavior was not acceptable. As such, (the legend goes) the next day everyone at the school showed up wearing pink, and the bully learned a valuable lesson about never making others feel small for being different.

What a nice story hey? Only if it ended there, it would be just a nice anecdote for us to share and think upon.

Instead, parents and teachers got ahold of this idea, and ran it into the ground. What was a great example of brave students standing up for what was right soon became a once-per-year mandatory dress code. Schools and media outlets started pumping up “Wear Pink Day” as an annual “stand-up to bullying” extravaganza, all while missing the inherent irony that they themselves were telling students what they should wear.

We seem to have dumbed this issue down to a level where it is practically meaningless. Bullying is a complicated phenomenon. When we talk about bullying, we tend to think of football players pushing mathletes into lockers. But anyone who has been bullied knows how diverse bullying can be. Bullies are EVERYWHERE, in every corner of the world. They’re rarely pushing anyone into lockers—that would be too obvious! Nowadays, they’re the ones who tell you that you have to work overtime for no extra money. They’re the ones running celebrity gossip websites. They’re the ones who are telling us what to wear! Saying “everyone wearing pink will get rid of bullying” is like saying “we can get rid of racism if we deport all the minorities.” Now, they’re the ones wearing pink and looking down on anyone who won’t do so.

Every kid knows what to do when faced with a bully: find an adult. But in all honesty, what do we do when the adults are the ones doing the bullying? Most of the bullies I’ve met in my life are actually the ones in charge (most of my employers have been masochists!) We need to teach kids that bullying never really goes away, it just changes forms. It goes from pushing nerds into lockers, to making fun of celebrities in magazines, to cutting support programs for the underprivileged.  It follows us from schools to offices, from lockers to water-coolers.

Pink is not a magical hue that can cover up the uglier side of human nature, and we need to stop letting the bullies tell us that it can. If there’s one thing we need on “wear pink day,” it’s more people who won’t stand to be bullied into wearing pink.

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