Body-Based Bullying – Reflections on Pink Shirt Day
When someone dies as a result of bullying, as in the cases of Reetah Parsons, Amanda Todd and Jamie Hubley, there is an appropriate outcry in the media. At the same time, in the same media, there are many stories of how Kate Middleton hasn’t lost her ‘baby bump’ two minutes after giving birth; that Jennifer Lawrence has ‘cellulite’, and so on. It’s rare for us to see the connection between the frequent body-shaming in the media with the more overt bullying that happens in the schoolyard, social media and in the workplace.
Media stories often make it seem that not only should we look a particular way, but also that if we don’t, it’s a choice, and it’s because we are lazy, undisciplined and stupid. These media messages creep into our everyday beliefs and behaviours: More than one out of two children report that they are bullied because of their appearance. Poor body image and self-esteem can lead to children dropping out of school, fearing social events, and not voicing an opinion. While these consequences of bullying may be less obvious, these children live lives of quiet hell and live with the long term consequences.
Helping youth to understand how media messages work is key to building critical thinking and undermining bullying. Based on a successful pilot project, we rolled out Beyond Images, media literacy curriculum for Grades 4 – 8 (www.beyondimages.ca). As NEDIC Director Merryl Bear says, “Healthy relationships, career success and overall well-being all have strong self-esteem at their root. Learning how to decode media messages, and to take what is positive and resist what is harmful is a huge boost to kids.” We’re pleased that the body positive messages in Beyond Images are teaching children across Canada that one size does not fit all, teaching media literacy at an age when young people are most vulnerable to media messaging. Our message is simple: It’s not our bodies that need changing. It’s our attitudes.
Today, we honour Pink Shirt Day (www.pinkshirtday.ca/) by recognizing the effects that bullying has on us all – individually and as a society. We reflect on the impacts of body-based bullying, and we urge everyone to take a moment stand up to body-shaming. Let’s tell jokes that don’t involve our bodies as the punch lines. Let’s refrain from comparing one other’s bodies along restrictive ideals of perfection. And let’s learn to embrace our natural sizes while accepting and celebrating body diversity in others. We hope you’ll join us in wearing pink to show your support of this much needed day.
The NEDIC Team