In Australia adults are rising up to fight against bullying. Celebrities, parents, principals; instructing school kids on the different techniques they should use when being bullied, or when they see a peer being targeted. Urging us to work individually and as a group to halt this epidemic. I currently attend high school and can tell you from first-hand experience that the issue that should be focused on isn't how to fight back against bullying, a currently fundamental part of school life, but the first step in a lengthy process of dismantling the institutionalised acceptance of bullying should be to try and truly define what bullying is if change is ever expected to happen.
For too long American movies have instilled the standard that anything less than a head in a toilet or a pack of girls physically swarming another is not bullying. Drilled into our heads is the concept that bullying is obnoxious and in your face; something black and white that is 100% inexcusable and indefensible. What if I pose to you, in this contemporary context, the notion that maybe bullying isn't, and shouldn't be, defined by society as a strict idea of what it is and isn't with no room for flexion?
In school, in life, words are perceived different by everyone; mean different things to each individual person and when said to different people are intended to be taken in different ways. Words are complex, difficult and their meaning can be undefinable. Tone may indicate one thing, facial expression another. "Slut" could be derogatory or a sign that your friendship is moving to the next level.
The term ranga, is a perfect example of this conundrum. To some a nickname that established and defined them, responded to with pride; their flaming locks an instrument that bonded them with peers through a affectionate colloquium. To others, an offensive put down which haunted them through school. Who is to decide if this term is offensive; the one calling the name or the one being called it? If it was genuinely meant as a joke should it be acceptable then? Is it only offensive if the redhead decides to get offended? Life isn't black and white and when the complex, multi-layered issue of bullying can't even collectively be defined how can we hope to combat it?
Now don't get me wrong, I want bullying to be eradicated. I want everyone to be able to grow up in a safe school environment free from fear of their peers but this is a dream that is never going to happen if people only stand up to the arbitrary idea of bullying. If I can't tell the difference between friends and abusers on Facebook how am I meant to make a difference? I ask you these questions as I don't know the answer to them, don't know if standing up to what I might perceive to be bullying is going to help the person or ostracise them from their friends.
Who has the right to define what is and isn't bullying then? Some cases may appear straightforward but if the "bully" said the exact same thing to six other people and they were fine with it does that make what they were perceive to suggest fine? I am simply trying to show that everything doesn't fit into a neat little box in life and trying to do so with such a delicate and sensitive issue such as this is simply impossible. More needs to be done to expand, shape and alter these rigid ideals about bullying from a simple square to a much more fluid and dynamic shape; applicable and unique to each and every questionable situation, not just ones involving heads in toilets.
Everyone wants a quick and easy fix; a collective "no more" to sound out from all across the nation to stop this destructive and dehumanising practice but this can not, and will not, be accomplished if bullying itself can not be defined; if even the victims themselves aren't fully aware that the way they are being treated by their friends isn't right. I do not want people to stop trying to fight the good fight but I urge you to actually know what you are truly fighting against first.