Category: bullying

Nerd Misogyny and Intolerance

In an age where comic books are all over movies and television and geeky scientists are celebrated in the number one comedy in America, you can make a compelling argument that we are now in the Age of the Nerd. Back in the old days when I was in high school the nerds were semi-integrated into the various social circles but mostly they hung out together in the computer club or AV group. Now they get a starring show at the popular kids table and I have recently been pondering the result of that paradigm shift. The sad part is how little has really changed…

big bang theory2In some ways this nerd-revolution has been a great thing allowing more people to feel accepted and included and different tastes to flourish instead of just traditionally cool stuff like sports and rock music. However, in some ways, at least in my observation, things aren’t really that different. We’ve just expanded the pool of people participating in the bad behavior. Yes my friends, misogyny, marginalization, bigotry, bullying and even hate are now not just the realm of the jock and popular kids. No, we see it in all people, even the nerds.

First, what traditionally made up a nerd? Well, it was the smartest kids in class who were often socially awkward or uncomfortable around their peers. Some of these people suffered from Aspergers or other autism spectrum challenges. We saw them portrayed in movies and on TV. Popular figures were Screech on Saved by the Bell, Urkel on Family Matters and Anthony Michael Hall in Breakfast Club.

We even had Revenge of the Nerds in 1984.

revenge of the nerdsIn Revenge of the Nerds the characters give a rousing speech to the student body about sticking up for nerds!

Lewis: Hi, Gilbert. I’m a nerd too. I just found that out tonight. We have news for the beautiful people. There’s a lot more of us than there are of you. I know there’s alumni here tonight. When you went to Adams you might’ve been called a spazz, or a dork, or a geek. Any of you that have ever felt stepped on, left out, picked on, put down, whether you think you’re a nerd or not, why don’t you just come down here and join us. Okay? Come on.

Gibert: Just join us cos uh, no-one’s gonna really be free until nerd persecution ends.

Unfortunately some of the nerds have let me down. It’s so surprising to see some of the behavior on the part of supposed nerds once they finally have a little bit of social power.

broniesFor example, there’s an entire group of men who like the latest incarnation of My Little Ponies (a delightful show TBH).  These are called Bronies. Now I’m not going to say the fascination with a child’s television show isn’t unusual.  It is but so is a fixation on Batman, Spider-man and Thor, the Norse God, if you ask me.

As an observer, I’ve been amazed at the vitriol showed against bronies by nerds who I would think would be more accepting.  Is it because it is a female oriented show that causes the revulsion?  You don’t see the same outcry against men who like more traditionally masculine oriented franchises like Star Wars or Marvel? Shouldn’t they be standing up for people liking whatever weird stuff they want to like?

You can find the same example of the treatment of the furries. I guess it is ok to like dressing up as comic book heroes but animals? Now that’s madness.

Such hostile nerd culture can also be seen in the scores of discussion boards and comment threads.  I’m constantly amazed at the inability of some nerds/fans to accept a wide variety of opinions. Again, you would think given the ‘nerd persecution’ of the past they would be accepting of different opinions. Not so much…Just look at the recent Batman v Superman drama. Certain people are unable to deal with someone liking or disliking the film and they go nuts.

Movie critic Chris Stuckman made the mistake of putting out a fan fiction rewrite of Batman v Superman and fans freaked out to the point of harassing his parents in Ohio and telling him to kill himself.  It’s just unbelievable to me.

What’s alarming amongst nerd culture is how resistant they have been towards women. Again, you’d expect them to be more accepting of minorities but repeatedly I have seen resistance to any inclusion of women in their favorite properties.

Even someone like Furiosa in Mad Max Fury Road was seen as ‘women infiltrating their feminist agendas into our movies’. Feminism is usually blamed and if the character existed to promote girl power or feminist theory I’d see their point. However, Furiosa does nothing in the film that a man wouldn’t do. You could cast a man to play Furiosa and it would be exactly the same. So, what’s the problem?

The fact is that maybe the nerds weren’t that different from the jocks all along? We have seen this played out in full colors with the recent reboot of Ghostbusters. Now my feelings on the marketing and film itself are beside the point. The amount of vitriol director Paul Feig received after his casting all women was so extreme he finally came out and said this:

“The ‘a–holes’ of which I speak are the ones who live online, who write those hateful tweets and posts and comments. I’m not talking about the people who have true concerns and worries about the rebooting of a franchise they love, nor am I talking about people who have watched the trailer for our movie and didn’t like it. Those are all valid opinions and I respect them all. I am talking about those that write misogyny and hate and threats. Those are the ‘a–holes’ of which I spoke…Every community has bullies who make up a very small minority of the community as a whole. Bullies scream the loudest and seem to get the most attention. But they are simply bullies who in no way represent the vast majority of wonderful, thoughtful people who make up our geek community”

I think he is right and sometimes it is more subtle ignorance and misogyny than death threats. Like take a look at this quote I saw on a comment thread about the new Ghostbusters Movie (again the movie could suck. It’s beside the point).

ghostbusters quoteIf this was 20 years ago I would have expected such a quote from a misogynistic jock but evidently nerds can behave the same way and have the same ridiculous ideas of gender roles. Heaven forbid girls participate in such ‘inauthentic behavior’ as driving a hearse and living in a used fire house. But I think this quote is more telling because it’s not just the movie he disagrees with but that ‘guys are more prone to nerd behavior’. Isn’t that nice ladies? You must fit this thin cutlet of appropriate behaviors or we are outraged and it is ‘beyond ludicrous’.

So I propose a change to Lewis’ speech from above:

“Hi, Gilbert. I’m a person too. I just found that out tonight. We have news for the beautiful people and the nerds. There’s a lot more of us than there are of you…When you went online you might’ve been called horrible names or told your taste and ideas are stupid. Any of you that have ever felt stepped on, left out, picked on, put down, whether you think you’re a valuable person or not, why don’t you join us.”

Paul Feig echoed this sentiment “The geek world has been a haven for so many of us and we should all refuse to let these bullies hijack the conversations and debates we all love to engage in, nor should we let them represent our community and culture to the rest of the world. The bullies are not the norm and I would dare say they are not even true geeks. They are the micro minority. God bless the true geeks of the world and here’s to taking our community back from the bullies”

There are enough bullies in the world without the nerds joining in! Let’s do better!

Pleasing No One

writing_is_a_struggle_against_silence_by_amazinganimegirl-d5f157w

So I learned a lesson in the last few days, one about standing up for my writing in a new way and that by trying to please everyone I pleased no one, least of all myself.

A few days ago I wrote a post I was very proud of about the commonly believed myth that weight has anything to do with finding a life partner.  This is something I have been told all my life and never really believed.  I see too much to argue against it everywhere I look.  As I mentioned in the post, even in Hollywood we see the movie The Heat has 2 actresses, one skinny, one plus size.  It is not the skinny one that is currently married.

Anyway, I used a framing device for this piece a horrible date I had been on where I was told I was fat, needed to diet and exercise in order to attract a suitable spouse.  While I felt hurt I felt the piece was fair as it disclosed no personal information and it could have easily been John Doe for all anyone knew.  He also had every right to write his side on his blog, get his friends to defend him.  I also had given him more of my personal information than he had of me so if anything the power play was in his hand.

Nevertheless, the post sprouted a wide array of opinions- most of the positive and I will admit many of them coming on my request, as I asked for defense (my friends are the best and so loyal).  There was a small minority that felt I had been a bully and unchristlike.

This was hard for me to hear because as a bullying victim I take that type of behavior very personally.  I sincerely didn’t believe that was what I had done but the idea that anyone, especially one very close person, thought that was what I had done bothered me.

So, in a moment of weakness I took the post down but this didn’t feel right either.  I saw the positive effect it was having and one girl even said “I needed to read this today! Thanks for posting, sometimes I feel like the only women dealing with this. You rock!”  If for this woman alone I felt the information needed to be out there.  What to do?  Again in a weak moment I decided to edit it to not include the date and just the weight discussion.  This was a much weaker post but i figured it was better than nothing.

Unfortunately when I did this the comments made no sense so I tried to change them in nominal ways, keeping their core content but a friend rightly pointed out this was censorship and not ethical.  I knew it wasn’t right when I was doing it but was down the rabbit hole at that point.

Eventually I reached a status where nobody was happy with me and for good cause.  Worst of all I risked alienating readers and especially hurting my friends who had come to my defense so quickly.  I reluctantly decided I’d made such a mess of things that I erased the post and moved on.

I would like to apologize for this whole episode and for deleting the comments you took time to craft.  My only defense is that I learned a lot from the experience.  I learned to trust my voice and trust my readers who overwhelmingly agreed with me and liked the post.  If I had just let it be and not worried about it everything would have blown over and been fine.

Writing is a bold endeavor and I am very proud of the fact that I have never held anything back on this blog.  It is the proudest thing I do.  It is the best part of my life.  In a way it is my life.  I need to honor my voice and writing and feel confident in what it tells me to produce.  Lesson learned.

If I can end with a plea.  If you were offended on either side I am sorry.  Please continue read (and thank you for the nearly uniform understanding and support I have felt in the last 2 days), share, comment and ponder.  I have written 720 posts over 6 years, what I conservatively estimate is 400,000 words.  If one post was handled poorly please give me a second chance.  I know what I have to say is important.  I have no editor but I do the best I can and I believe in my voice, now more than ever.

The greatest thing we can do in life is to be true to ourselves and serve God.  Sure love ya! To 400,000 more words and 6 more years. I will keep writing.  Thanks! Now on to Nanowrimo!

32 vs 17

So tomorrow I go back to my home in Utah, get back to work and training for my swims in my free time.  Aside from a little stomach ache today, I’ve had a great time and it was a nice break from my everyday life.

I don’t know how detailed I can get without shaming people but I learned a lesson this week I felt was worth sharing with all of you.

When I was about 17 I had an experience that stuck with me.  I had always felt bad about my weight and felt like it was something I couldn’t fix that I wanted to fix.  I was at a family reunion that summer when someone said something cruel about my eating ice cream and I threw the ice cream away and stormed out in tears.

My brother, who I was not normally close with, got very angry, stood up for me and stormed out of the restaurant, walking the rest of the way home.  My parents, uncle and cousins were also very supportive and the incident blew over with probably nobody remembering it but maybe my brother and me (although he claims to remember nothing from his childhood).

Well, that’s always stayed with me and on Friday night I was with the same person eating ice cream again and he/she made another comment about my weight and at first I s laughed it off but then I got mad.  This time instead of storming out I stood up for myself and said

‘You know what…..I know you would be happier if I was skinny but you will just have to deal with it’ and then I left the table and cried outside. I’d say an improvement in 15 years wouldn’t you?  I was pretty upset and frustrated that nothing seemed to have changed over such a long period of time, that nothing I had done in the intervening years had made a dent or changed that person’s attitude towards me.  I was still the same girl eating ice cream, feeling bad about myself.

For a second I felt 17 again…How could a situation mirror itself so closely after all that time?

Or was it?  This time it was not my brother, Dad or cousins standing up for me.  It was me, and yes I felt the tears of 15 years of frustration and pain, but I had said something that made an impact.  In fact, the next day I had flowers and a letter of apology from the person.  Forgiveness was granted and yet none of that would have happened if I had kept my mouth shut and smiled through the ridicule or if I had made an unsightly scene.  I certainly had not received an apology at 17.

Maybe all of us had learned something in the last 15 years after all? Hurray for humanity and a victory for underdogs out there.

Redemption and a high five to the 17 year old me!

Then
Then
Now
Now

Diet Before 10

I shared this with my facebook community but thought I’d do the same with my blogging community.  I think this photo tells a lot.

I can relate to this photo because I was on diet before I turned 10.  I have almost no memories of not being on a diet in my life.  In fact some of my most vivid memories are being put on diets or being told I was fat by kids or even coaches, other adults.  As all my readers know I was also bullied for nearly 2 years (4th and 5th grades) because I was overweight.

I have to say compared to some of my overweight friends, my parents have actually been pretty great.  They did put me on a diet when I was young but overall they tried to be supportive and loving.  I did not get a ton of pressure from them to lose weight and I certainly was never told that I was ugly, embarrassing, fat, whatever.  I hear such stories from some of my friends and I’m grateful for good parents.

So what is my advice to parents who have a heavier child and don’t know what to do? Here goes:

1. Set the whole family on a healthy lifestyle regiment so that one child is not singled out. Then everyone wins.  It could even be a fun project to do together.

2. Explain that it really isn’t about appearance. Its about health, energy, happiness.  Perhaps give them examples of athletes, other adults who maintain a healthy weight.  (show them my blog about my swims 🙂 )

3. I think a lot of parents feel guilty about their overweight children and that just makes the child feel worse for failing their parents.

4. Do not EVER be embarrassed by your child.  This will only teach them to be ashamed of their bodies and could lead to behaviors later on that are far worse than being overweight such as self-abuse, eating disorders, and addiction.

5. Try to avoid using food as a reward or a punishment.  It will happen on occasions such as birthdays or at a party and that’s fine but in general find non-food related rewards

6. Avoid equating food as a sin.  Do not make a child feel guilty for what they eat.  Just encourage the good and move on from the bad. I still struggle with feelings of guilt and even sin when I stray from my diet and I don’t think that is a healthy behavior.

7. Introduce your kids to new food experiences so they don’t think that healthy food=boring food.

8. Involve your kids in the cooking process so they can see what goes into it.  A processed packaged meal will never give your children any excitement for fresh, healthy ingredients.  Also take them to farms, have them learn how to milk a cow, see where eggs come from, how to make cheese, whatever.  This may be a drag for some kids but in the end it will help them build healthy eating habits and a love for good food.

9. Be positive, positive, positive, positive!  Even today, I find I need overwhelmingly positive feedback from my trainers and other support.  I know what I could improve on.  In fact, I’m usually beating myself up more than I probably should and don’t need any help in that department.  Any added ‘tough love’ just makes me feel depressed and hopeless

10.  Make sure you explain all aspects of health to your child.  Meaning physical, mental, spiritual, emotional whatever.  All of these aspects are important for a healthy person.  Writing in journals, meditating, having honest discussion, learning new things, reading, prayer, other worship,  and learning to manage stress are all AS IMPORTANT as our weight.

11. Make sure they have correct information about weightloss, health, etc.  Despite all my dieting I never learned that type 2 diabetes was curable.  When they diagnosed me as border-line a few years ago, I honestly thought I was going to die. I was petrified.  Instead of just scaring kids with words like cancer, heart disease, diabetes.  Let’s explain what they really are and how they can be prevented and overcome.

Recently I did a wellness challenge where there were 10 categories of health including 15 minutes of spiritual reading and setting daily goals.  I think this type of overall wellness would be a great system for kids.

Now some of you may scoff and say ‘she’s single.  What does she know about raising kids?’.  Well, I was a kid once and I know intimately what it is like to grow up as a fat kid. I also have kids in my life who I want to support in the right ways; therefore I have given the topic much thought.

Its important to understand that as adults, we are all fighting an uphill battle when it comes to the health of the kids in our lives.  They have so much coming at them from the media and even other children and adults at school.  We must conscientiously work at fighting this messaging or our kids will get their self-worth from the myriad of other sources trying to claim it.

Unfortunately sometimes people that mean well can be a destructive influence.  Celebrities like First Lady Michele Obama have started a ‘war on childhood obesity’.  I really wish Mrs. Obama would rethink this wording.  I wish she was more focused on health of all children whether they happen to be heavy or skinny.  I certainly am proof that an active heavy person can do things that a lazy skinny person could not do.

Health, health, health not weight, weight, weight.

It Gets Better/Bully Full Video

So, thanks to some tips I was able to combine my 3 previous videos and add music.  I am more proud of it than I can say. Really, it ranks as one of the top 10 things I’ve ever done.  Please share with all the chubby little girls you might know and let’s encourage each other to be better.  I learned on a plane this last weekend that adults can be bullies too.  Just because someone looks different doesn’t mean they don’t have value.

Thanks to all my friends and family who love me no matter what size I am.

On a side note, I recommend everyone read this book.It changed my life.   It gives scientific evidence that health can be gained at any size and that the war on obesity misses the mark in a lot of ways.

 

 

 

Bully / It Gets Better

This may be the post I am the most proud of. I hope it comes across the way I intend.  I hope it inspires someone.

Today for Family Home Evening I decided to see the controversial documentary Bully.   This has been something I’ve been a bit anxious for but knew I needed to do because of my own experience being bullied.  The odd part about the movie is I wasn’t that emotional while watching but then as soon as I got in my car I started to bawl. I felt all emotions of anger, frustration, despair and a little bit of hope.

Some have criticized the movie because it doesn’t go into the mindset of the bullies themselves.  My response is that every story cannot tell every story.  This is a movie about the victims and how futile the school system is in helping deal with these problems.  Granted their task is daunting but the attitude of ‘kids will be kids’ is far too present.

There is one scene in the movie where a principal actually forces a little boy to shake hands with his tormentor (a valid concept until you find out this has happened again and again with the bully feigning an apology each time).

The victim has the courage to not shake hands and the teacher says

“You’re just like him”.

The boy says “Except I don’t hurt people”.

Can you imagine if we expected such things of adults? Do we expect rape victims to shake hands with their accusers and if they don’t are they ‘just like him.”?  It made me so mad I wanted to throw something at the screen.  I actually said ‘unbelievable’ out loud and then 2 girls in the theater looked at me.

One of my favorite moments was the Mom of a boy named Alex meeting with a principal that despite proof of abuse on a bus claimed ‘I’ve ridden that bus and they are good as gold’.  The Mother says ‘When I was a child that bus would have been pulled over until the bad behavior stopped’.  That’s what we have lost.  Now I’m not advocating physical discipline for children but to pretend like adults have to sway over the behavior of children is just wrong.

Children should be safe and protected at home and school- in fact sometimes they need to be safer at school than in some homes.  I know in my case little was done to stop bullying that lasted for nearly 2 years despite repeated requests from my parents.

It is a complicated problem but a couple things I suggest:

1.  CHANGE SCHOOLS– My parents changing schools literally changed my life.  I was fortunate enough to be able to go to private school and then my family moved but there are always other options.  There are charter schools, online schools, homeschool, tutors, whatever.  Anything is better than someone being a in situation where they are tormented.  Its like sending an abused women into a closed building with their abuser 8 hours a day.  Be open-minded, pray for direction and you will find something else that works.

2. Teach your children about differences and expose them to a variety of people.  Talk to them about bullying and what they can do if they see someone who is being treated unkindly or most importantly being ignored.  Teach them to look for people that seem a little different and try to befriend them.  When they don’t like someone try to discuss what it is and how if possible they can learn to love that person.  I’m not saying they have to be friends with everyone, that isn’t realistic but each kid that tries is one less bully.

One of the Mom’s who lost her son to a bullying related suicide said ‘He cried and then it got to the point where he didn’t cry and then it became difficult to know what’s going on’.  Watch for those early tears…

3. Find something your child is good at and nourish that skill.  Everyone is good at something (or at least enjoys something) and usually you can find someone else who shares that interest.

4. Make sure your children have one person in their life who is an uncompromising cheerleader.  Parents have to discipline their children and say things they may not like but I was immeasurably benefited by several people who loved me unfailingly including my Grandpa Richards and my young women’s leader Sister Potter.  They never gave me ‘constructive criticism’.  I was always beautiful and perfect.  Everyone needs that kind of cheerleader.  Whether its a boys or girls club or a mentor look for that for your children.

5.  Speak out about your history being bullied.  Each of us that speaks adds another voice to the world, one more voice that says ‘It gets better’.  ‘It will be OK’.  ‘Don’t give up’. ‘God loves you’.

6. This is just my opinion but I think rough housing and mean joking should be avoided.  A lot of the bullying in the movie starts out as rough housing and honestly may be viewed by the bullies as just fun but it turns so fast.  One of the kids in the movie has a sister that teases him a little bit. At one point she says ‘LOSER spells Alex’.  Things like this are not helpful and should be disciplined when possible.  Again, I’m not a Mom so its just my opinion as an observer.

https://smilingldsgirl.wordpress.com/2011/04/23/memories/

Here’s my voice:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

 

(Just to be clear when I talk about my accomplishments its not to brag but just to say ‘you can do whatever you want in your life’)