So I’ve been writing everything except for a new blog post over the past few weeks! The other day I noticed my writing taking a trip to memoirville, and soon found myself recalling my first incident of being a victim of sexual bullying. It jarred me so much I had to stop writing for the night. This morning I had this nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach that I needed to delve more into that memory. Ughh! But when I want to avoid something I’m pretty skilled at it. So I decided to indulge in my favorite pastime: watching motivational, inspirational videos on youtube! This way I don’t feel too guilty about how much I watch because I’m being inspired to do work …eventually! lol And who’s more motivational than Oprah?!?
I ended up watching an hour-long special of her interviewing Lady Gaga. I’ve never followed Gaga’s career. I discovered she was a young artist doing her thing and promoting the message, “love yourself!” Coolio! ok, And I do love the awesome costumes and her overall sense of fashion. That aside I knew zero about the legendary Lady Gaga. However, throughout the interview she revealed that she herself was a victim of bullying. She realized from her fans, the “little monsters” were dealing with accepting themselves too, in spite of the bullying and judgements. So she wrote “Born this way” & started an anti-bullying charity by the same name.
I thought it significant that she made it a point to include that she was bullied for being too feminine as well. Something in me perked up immediately because I could relate to that type of bullying. It also made me realize that just because we grow older does not mean that bullying stops when high school ends. Especially not sexual bullying. Events like The Goddess Walk to help prevent street harassment in our neighborhoods is a prime example that this type of bullying is alive and well in our society.
Well into adulthood I seemed to find myself being a victim of sexual bullying including street harassment, inappropriate touching, even extremes like public objectification and humiliation in social situations largely based on my body type, race, and my choice to embrace my femininity. I started to think, damn I’m too old for this! When does sexual bullying stop? Because I have large breasts and I’m a woman and you’re a woman, does not give you the right to grab my breasts! Because I’m a Black woman, does not give you the right to yell obscenities as I walk down the street.
In thearticle I read about sexual bullying, which was one of very few that highlighted bullying that was sexual in nature, the writer points out how gender stereotypes affect why sexual bullying is brushed aside. In the media women with voluptuous body types are presented as sexually promiscuous, unintelligent and often conniving. Racial stereotypes also have a huge affect on how people perceive one’s sexuality. When you look at pop culture where women are viewed as objects and often spoken of in demeaning ways, it’s no shock as to why people don’t think twice when they bully someone sexually. Hell, they’re probably oblivious that it would be viewed as bullying or even significant.
For example, I was recently at a bar and an “artist” was performing their rap song and the chorus was “Gut that Whore” and people were jumping up and down, dancing and cheering. It was scary! I looked around and thought, ” Am I the only one who has a problem with these lyrics? If so that’s terrifying.” Other rap artists from NYC and surrounding areas performed that night, but the message that rang true in all but one group’s performance was that women were worthless, not to be trusted, obviously not valued and literally a dime a dozen, to be changed like socks or underwear. It was disgusting. I know that a lot of those guys were just emulating what’s on the radio & TV. It seemed like they just adopted ideas on how they should behave and treat women and folks not like them. How they should treat women who think highly of themselves, women who are secure in their sexuality, and how they should treat men who don’t uphold the “manly man,” macho characteristics. In short they believed and solidified their beliefs in song, that they should treat such individuals like garbage.
I know we understand that bullying is a serious issue especially with the alarming amount of children who are killing themselves because of it. But I wonder if we can bring more visibility to the severity of sexual bullying especially since it obviously extends beyond our teenage years. If the shame and humiliation brought on by bullying can cause some to want consider suicide and even take their own lives, what do we think happens to us psychologically when we are continually sexually bullied?
An org called Womankind World Wide in the UK started a “Stop sexual bullying” campaign. I thought of a few things I could do in my everyday life that might make a difference : Writing plays with some positive lead characters for women who are usually demonized for their body type, race, & sexuality in a way that shows them as human beings worthy of respect. I already don’t support musicians financially that continually objectify women. And I don’t dance to demeaning songs about women or queer folk when I’m in the club. I think it makes the DJ think twice about what type of message their promoting if I stand stark still in front of the dj booth w/ a WTF face! Seriously, what if everyone just stopped dancing and walked off the dance floor if that type of music was played while you were out getting your two-step on! I also smile at women who are giving me disapproving looks because of my choice of clothing or my figure. Showing that you like who you are in spite of judgements and bullying is a great way to take a stand! So how do you take a stand?