Twitter is already squawking about Tina Fey’s “drink in hand, Taylor Swift dig” at the Golden Globes. People are naturally lining up to take sides and offer their opinions, while female activist groups once again pontificate about the perpetuation of “mean girls” thanks to Tina’s on-camera bullying. I cannot help but roll my eyes in silent protest, though. Maybe this is how Rwanda genocide survivors feel when they overhear the inane complaints of a city slicker’s recent run-in with unexpected, midday traffic. Dramatic analogy? Perhaps, but hyperboles tend to get the point across.
Not to stand on the self-righteous soapbox of a girl who's devoted her whole life to girl empowerment in the 21st Century, but if we are in fact going to throw around phrases like, girl-to-girl bullying, let's really make it count. I hardly think Tina mentioning to the audience that Taylor, "needs some time alone to figure herself out" is a form of bullying. Sure, it might have been a bit catty, but it's also what most of us would like to say to Taylor given the chance.
What I do think is that the very real bullying I've been privy to over the past few weeks in a local high school in Connecticut is worthy of tweets, social media posts and blood-boiling reactions. After recently being cast for a new MTV anti-bullying campaign, I have become even more aware of the serious repercussions our girls are plagued with from elementary school to well, forever, I'm sad to say. I don't think bullying goes away because it just becomes more sophisticated as we mature. Bullying has become an issue we can no longer afford to ignore.
I have preached on the epidemic of insecurity from the White House to the Girl Scouts, for an audience of 10 to an audience of 80,000 and yet, only now do I feel a sense of urgency my previous talks lacked. Girls are taking their lives over mean Facebook posts, cutting themselves because their crush tweeted they were not pretty and are starving themselves because it seems like the only, teeny-tiny thing they can control in the midst of this crazy, fast-paced world. More importantly, we are failing these girls. We invalidate the gravity of their experiences when we highlight celebrity babble and splatter comments pretending to care.
Humbly, I went into a high school thinking that I would bestow my knowledge and be an activist against bullying. I walked out learning more than I ever expected to teach, though. The real hope here for me is that these girls are waking up to their own reality, but unlike the fairy tale stereotypes, they are realizing that no one is coming to save them; these aren't the kind of girls who would want to be saved anyway. These girls are realizing that the adults in their lives will continue to talk about bullying in this estranged, distant way, but if it is real change they want, it will have to come from within.
This generation is different. They see the problem, but they also have an innate desire to be the solution. This bully problem will not be solved with a top-down approach. Advocates like myself are not going to doll out years of focus group studies, statistics or any other numbers and figures to inspire a solution. The bullying issue will be solved by the girls themselves, not by the outrage over Tina's catty comment to Taylor.
Image courtesy of Boiseweekly.com