Here in America, we have a tendency to focus on something and suddenly it happens everywhere. I don’t know if this happens in other cultures. I don’t know if it happens more because we live in an instantaneous/share everything/share immediately society. We no longer have to be the nosy neighbor on the front porch checking out the neighbors; we can read their blogs and their twitter streams to see what’s happening.
Suddenly, information is everywhere about bullying. Everyone has a story about being bullied (I’ve told some of mine). A few of us have admitted to being a bully (yes, I’ve done that too). But not every cross word spoken your way is bullying.
I cheered when I saw journalist Jennifer Livingston spoke out to the man who criticized her for her weight. He made assumptions about her health from her looks and deserved to be publicly chastised. She didn’t ask him for his opinion. As far as I know, she never asked any of her viewing audience for comments on her appearance and health.
But was she bullied? When I saw the upsurge in comments about Livingston being bullied, I kept thinking: “nope, she was criticized.” Because it was a one-time thing and he wasn’t exactly cruel. Unless there’s more to this story and the gentleman has been writing her and calling her repeatedly, calling her fat. Since that hasn’t come out, I am assuming it hasn’t been happening.
Finally, I saw an article about Octavia Spencer’s thoughts about the incident and they were in line with my own.
It isn’t bullying if it only happens one time. According to the Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary, bullying is defined as: 1. to treat abusively and 2. to affect by means of force or coercion. Spencer’s definition is ”facing coercion or physical repercussions on a daily basis.”
Bullying is a problem. And where it exists, it should be fought. People should be enlightened about the how and why of bullying. But defining every cross or critical word as bullying diminishes it when it really occurs.
Livingston is a hero to many people, me included. She had the means and the guts to do what many people dream of daily. But her experience is completely different than the children who are bullied every day for being different. They are the ones being truly bullied. They are the ones who can’t or won’t or don’t know how to fight back. They’re the ones that need our help.