I recently came across this story about Grayson Bruce, who was told to leave his My Little Pony bag at home because other kids bullying him had become disruptive. It's been making the rounds on Facebook for the past few days, and many people have made many excellent points in regards to it. Clearly it's blatant victim blaming, on par with blaming a rape victim for the way they were dressed. It also sends the message that conformity is not only easier, but the right thing to do. You owe it to the people around you, and they have the right to make your life miserable if you don't do it. Not to mention the fact that Grayson is being bullied because he's different, which likely will not change if he ditches his backpack.
There is an age-old adage the angel on my left shoulder often repeats when I read an article like this. "Don't read the comments!" she urges. It's sage advice. However, the devil on my right shoulder, who looks remarkably like me (one key difference being that she wears a black statement t-shirt), disagrees. "Fuck that," she retorts. I'm right handed, so she generally forces my hand before the angel can step in.
Although the devil makes a compelling argument, the angel is right. Reading the comments makes my blood pressure rise. Worse, it makes me want to respond to some of the comments. But if I respond to the comments, I might as well put on a statement-t and go live under a bridge. I know, it's probably where I'm headed, but I'm not ready yet. For now, if I really can't control myself, I have my blog.
This story triggers quite a few different issues. The narrow, constrictive demands of masculinity is the most obvious, and the school is sending a damaging message to all of the children, bullies and victims alike. But it is also a reminder of our adult privilege. Yes, I, PC thug, said adult privilege.
The comments section contains some doozies, but the sentiment generally boils down to one concise point made by a thoughtful man named Brian.
"Another parent that doesn't understand the real world."
Who, Brian, not that. Your literacy is head and shoulders above many of your fellow commenters, but still...in the real world, people judge you on these things. I'm not kidding - the world is harsh, and some of us can be real assholes.
When adults use the term "the real world", they are generally referring to the adult world. This is strange, as kids inhabit the same planet we do and are in the process of living real lives, but I suppose I can let it go. I'm straying from the crux of the matter, which is that you have the "real" world dead wrong.
Assuming Brian is an adult, I would absolutely love to hear the last time he, the school administration, or the social worker Grayson Bruce's mother talked to were punched, verbally abused or received even the slightest disapproval regarding the vehicle in which they carry their possessions.
You know what doesn't fly in the adult world? Assault, harassment, and stalking, which are more accurate terms for what we call "bullying" when it happens to kids. You could probably get away with telling someone you disliked their purse (and, therefore, them), but it would reflect poorly on you, not them. You'd look like what you are - an emotionally stunted loser.
In the adult world, we don't punch someone because we don't like their bag. It does not happen. If it did happen, there would be consequences. Consequences that wouldn't involved telling the victim, "Yeah, well, that is a pretty stupid bag, and that guy hitting you is too much work for me. You're easier to control than he is, so just get a new bag."
But Grayson Bruce and his classmates aren't adults. They're kids. Kids who are not necessarily developmentally ready to accept that other kids like different things than they do. Kids who are still learning the rules. That's why they have adult guides. Social workers, teachers, parents and administrators to tell them, "Hey, if you don't like Grayson's backpack, you can just keep it to yourself."