There are people who thrived in school and then there are those who would never look back. School life can only be compared to a long hike. Some run to the top, some could run but would rather hang back and enjoy nature, and then are those who are slugging behind. All of them are not limited to simply the hike but who knows about that. Thus, the ones at the back are made fun of, shouted at to catch up or to simply not be a “loser”. They are the ones who suffer the cruelty of bullying.
Today is National Stop Bullying Day and it is high time for the hike to become fun for all.
Bullying is more than how the cliché is portrayed in boarding school literature. Sometimes it is not a group of boys ganging up against the one meek student (though such actions are still very much in practice).
For a person who has gone through a lot of phases in reading, I can say that there are many books that talk about school hierarchy. The trope of a mean girl and the victimized wallflower can be found in almost all high school fiction. One of these many books that have a unique take on the social ranking is The Duff. Kody Kepplinger was also a teenager when she first wrote the book. From being an online release, it has now become a popular read and also has a movie adaptation starring Mae Whitman.
The most interesting part of the book (and the movie) was the incorporation of passive-aggressive bullying into the romance. Though, there is not one specific bully in the book the portrayal of social status based on friendships and how you are viewed by peers is explored. It is relatable for all those people who weren’t “bullied” in the traditional manner of speech but have their fair share of insecurities. She had great, supportive friends, was academically proficient and didn’t have a life-threatening disease. Yet, her mind was filled with thoughts of not being up to the mark. Of being ugly and to run away from this she shunned her friends while the one word, Duff refused to leave her mind.
Having said that, the traditional understanding of bullying is unfortunately not of practice. All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven is about such bullying. The book should be read with a prior warning of suicide. It shows the impact of long-term bullying and how normalcy becomes a weapon to hurt. The protagonist was convinced that he was not “normal” and because of that, he had no right to live with others. It showed the sad reality that sometimes the pain seeps in so deep that it becomes a part of the person and even fairytale love can not heal the wound. Like my comparison of school, life is a hike, this book is a journey. An emotive one but a much-needed one.
Choice of words is very important. Calling someone else normal to indicate someone else being abnormal is hurtful. Bullying is prevalent in school-going kids because probing into such things is not second nature to children. We pass it as a childish mistake and then their words become pins to the ones on the other end. The need for them to understand starts with the adults.
In Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, an adult working woman is subjected to bullying.
She has at many points of life been called names to a point she believes them. She has a routine like life to ensure that she doesn’t stray away from the perceived sanity of society. Armed with a traumatic past and the constant critics given by her mother, Oliphant aims to just get through her life. Being bullied is not a matter only limited to school. Gail Honeyman tries to show that in this book and there are many moments when I closed the book and fought the urge to clap.
Talking about such matters, being sensitive, and simply supporting each other can go a long way. Bullying must stop because even if we don’t know what the other person is exactly feeling, the risk to hurt is just not worth it. If you feel you may have done something, anything, that has hurt someone, stop. It might have been accidental but it has caused pain and all the literature in the world will not be enough if one does not find it in their own heart to be kind.