When we talk about bullying, we typically focus on our children and how bullying remains rife within schools. In that vein, our attempts to resolve the issue of bullying focus upon children's experience, with one organisation recommending that children develop better self-esteem in order to cope with being bullied, or to prevent them from becoming bullies themselves.
While these are incredible interventions, and increasing our children's self-esteem is crucial to their wellbeing, I also wanted to pose the question: Aren't we all being bullied?
We exist in a culture that thrives on and endorses a covert, widespread bullying. Marketing campaigns tell us on a daily basis that we are not good enough, smart enough, slim enough, fit enough or pretty enough, and that because of these deficiencies we are somehow not fully formed human beings.
We are told that none of us are good enough just as we are. Is it any wonder that childhood bullies target these very vulnerabilities? Aren't we, as adults, teaching them that we should not accept anything less than perfect and to attack those we see as lacking? It is only as adults that we learn to adapt this aggression into a more groomed version of 'bullying' behaviour....
Regardless of the gloss, the messages are the same.
Growing up in a world that demands we hate ourselves, products rely and fuel that 'truth'. We are often being told to 'Stand Up To Bullying', but what if we don't think that we are worth standing up for? Bullies often tell us what and who we are, often at a time in our lives when we are struggling to know it ourselves.
Surely we need to stop focusing on the symptoms of the problem and tackle the core issues? Isn't it time for us to find this kind of mass manipulation unacceptable? Something within us bucks at this approach - inherently we know it's wrong, so we try to teach our kids that they are good enough regardless of how they look etc., but then we model a totally contradictory behaviour.
Over the last few years we have seen a whispered shift in what we celebrate as 'woman'. The Lena Dunhams, Amy Schumers and Ashley Grahams of this world have challenged what it is to be a powerful and successful woman. Yet, they also have some sort of 'cult' status; we identify with them and we root for the underdog because we see ourselves in them, and yet we simultaneously inhale detox juices, cut carbs, and hate ourselves for the bowl of pasta that we ate the night before.
As inspired as we are by these women, the toxic nature of this problem lies so deeply at the heart of our community that something more must be done to tackle it.
So what's the answer? In the summer of 2016, London's Mayor, Sadiq Khan, took the incredible step of banning an advert that was aggressively promoting weight loss drugs on London's Underground. Khan vowed that 'body shaming' adverts would no longer take up space on the Tube.
As a woman travelling on tube regularly at the time, a feeling emerged in me as this news unfolded...it was pride: someone actually did something real. For once, this wasn't a politician talking about how awful something was, this was someone who decided to defend us and act for something good.
Khan is one of many that have the power to influence and cause mass changes. Perhaps our attention during future awareness weeks need to focus on these people, and what they are doing to change the way things are.Suggest a correction