Tag Archives: inequality

Bystander Programs — Bullying Resolution Project

Administration Poster bystander 2

Student Poster bystander

Torina Gedler, Angela Geametto, Darpan Mehta, Pamela Mulhern

Bullying Final Post Draft
We’ve chosen two posters that a) Encourage students to get motivated by the Stand for the Silent program and b) Reminds the administration that tackling bullying is a big part of their responsibility. Our research indicated that the administration is usually very good at handling bullying cases that are overt (actual physical abuse such as punching or kicking or overt verbal actions such as name-calling and insulting) but not that great at handling the more covert aspects of Bullying. Covert bullying is the kind of bullying done out of sight and involves inflicting harm by damaging another’s social reputation, peer relationships and self-esteem. I.e. involving more relational bullying and threatening looks or hand gestures. Therefore, our posters need to tackle the more covert cases which we realize will be more difficult as we’re trying to bring about systemic changes and not just trying to implement a bullies get punished method.
As we’ve seen from our readings in this class and from the video ‘Bullying’, the conventional methods that have been used so far that focus more on an individual’s psyche don’t really address the problem. The bully is still likely to continue bullying. Instead, our method focuses on treating this as a systemic problem that can only be truly eradicated through making a change in student perceptions about bullying which the first poster aims to do. It is also very important to have a simple poster that encourages a child to look up a program that has much more information in it. Treating bullying is a vast subject and it’s more feasible to provide a starting point via a poster rather than cramming all the information in the poster itself. It also plays on the curiosity of students who are much more likely to learn that way instead of being subjected to posters and material that they are forced to learn.
Giving the bystander room to explore also addresses one of the main challenges of Bystander Programs. Most bystanders don’t step up even when they know bullying is occurring is because of lack of awareness of what steps to take to help stop the bullying. A Lack of awareness leads to lack of courage to step in as they aren’t sure as to what to do. A lot of bystander programs encourage students to step up but the students need to know how or want much more information before they take any action. Consider, also that different students are satisfied with different levels of awareness. Student ‘A’ might step when bullying occurs and tell the bully to cut it but Student ‘B’ might want to know more about what to do if the bully changes his focus to them or ignores them. A self-motivated approach that we propose via having a simple, yet inviting poster is to let the student decide how much awareness he/she needs herself before acting to do something.
The administration needs to realize the effect that they can have on preventing and stopping bullying. Student’s are not likely to report their problems to the administration if they feel nothing is being done when they do report. The administration needs to do continuing education in these areas throughout their time teaching as we learn new techniques to deal with bullying all the time. Bullying is also something that every instructor will see at some point in their career and the importance of combating bullying needs to be remembered with each student encounter. Parents are leaving their kids at school with the belief that they will be in safe capable hands and administrators need to realize how important that makes their jobs. The internet opens a wide area of possibilities for administrators to help combat bullying in their own school. They can reach out to other schools that have had success in lowering incidence of bullying on what they did and how that worked. There are various workshops available to administrators currently on the subject of bullying and each school district should research the best one for their school to take part in.
The administrators also have the responsibility to bring bullying prevention exercises to the students. The administration will have to take what they learn from their own experiences to the students in a way that the students will take it seriously. Administration needs to show the students the importance of the program and the gravity of the situation for the program to have any success. Once the workshop of sort has been presented to the students the administration should make available options for students to join Stand for the Silent or to encourage the students to making their own anti-bullying program. This type of take charge stance on bullying should especially be encouraged in the students that have the most influence and power in the school such as those on the student council. This would be important because these students are essentially the administration of the students and they already know that they have to power to make changes. The administration needs to realize that while they have great power to end bullying they also still need the students’ cooperation and help in making these important changes.
Research
http://www.nsvrc.org/bystander-intervention-campaigns-and-programs
https://www.notalone.gov/assets/bystander-summary.pdf
http://www.bullyingnoway.gov.au/teachers/facts/types.html

Bystander Programs

Bystander Group
Posted by Darpan Mehta and Angela Giannetto at Friday, May 22, 2015 1:32:11 PM CDT
Our area of research is into Bystander programs as a method of social justice to try and solve the issue of bullying in schools. Bystanders are individuals that know about the existence of bullying around them, often right in front of them. There are mainly two types of bystanders, hurtful and helpful. In the video Bully, the girl who informed the school officials of Alex being bullied is a helpful bystander. So is Ty’s friend who stands up for him and tells the Bully to back off. Unfortunately, we see instances of hurtful bystanders much more often in the video, even in real life. The kids who egg the bully on and tell him “give it to him good” when the bully is hurting Alex, the kids who remain silent and provide an audience for the bully all contribute to justify bullying. Worse even are the school officials who are supposed to protect the children but don’t do anything about the bullying. They ignore the problem, pretend it doesn’t exist, believe the victim was asking for it by annoying the bully or even reprimanding the victim for not wanting to shake his bully’s hand. Sometimes they offer to help, but often just get the story from the bully’s side, and simply reprimand the bully with words. After talking to the bully they then speak to the victim, in this case Alex, who they ask if he trusts them to take care of the problem, getting defensive when he suggests that he doesn’t. These factors show that there is something glaringly wrong with the current system of dealing with Bullying as an individualistic problem instead of a social one. They are simply facing it on a case by case basis, assuming that they are acknowledging the problem even exists in the first place. The failure of this system, and the avoidable deaths of children that occur scream for a new social justice approach of attempting to solve the bullying epidemic.

The social justice approach of dealing with bullying recognizes bullying as a systemic issue and tries to address the underlying gender socialization issues that lead to bullying, including the underlying social inequalities. It is a program that aims to educate the children on “emotional literacy, social injustice and inequality,” through the curriculum in order to bring forth social change to reduce bullying. The social justice way of dealing with bullying raises awareness with the aim of reducing, if not altogether eliminating the social structure that has led to children taking their own lives. An example of a program that does so is the “Stand for the silent” program created partly in honor of Ty Smalley, an 11 year old child who took his life because of bullying. The program reaches out to schools and educates the students on just how harmful the effects of bullying can be and how to be a helpful instead of a hurtful bystander. So far the program has 1,053,000 kids in 1,043 schools as shown on their website. This massive campaign is slowly changing what the norm has been for students to do when they are bystanders in bullying. Because of this program more children have the knowledge of what they can do to help and address the situation effectively, instead of staying silent and providing a form of justification that what the bully is doing is okay.

School administrators should have participation in a program, such as Stand for the Silent, be mandatory for all teaching staff. They are really the first line in stopping bullying because although the kids in the school that see things like this happening can speak up, they really have no power over the bully to prevent retaliation back on them. These kids that speak up should know that if they go to the administration something will be done to help the situation. At this point in time they have absolutely no faith that will happen. The administration likes to stand behind saying, “Well there is nothing I can do. Kids will be kids.” But there is something they can do; taking the school bus as an example the kids that are constantly being written up for bullying should lose bus privileges. They should not be allowed to ride the bus when they are constantly making threats and hurting students. The parents of the bully will see this as an inconvenience and possibly actually talk to their child about the issue and maybe this will stop the student. Other examples would be detention and mandatory write ups in the child’s file if they are caught bullying. The blaming of the victim which seemed to happen a lot in the video needs to stop. The school board needs to show these children that they will protect them because once they step through those doors onto that bus they are in the school’s care until they step off of that bus at the end of the day.

The kids as bystanders need to realize when they are seeing bullying. Part of the problem when the kids on Alex’s bus went to report the issues was many of them said that, “They were just kidding around.” Maybe that has something to do with culture that they really do not understand how hurtful bullying can be. Videos like Bully and other programs like Stand for the Silent should be apart of every child’s school experience. The children should learn what bullying looks like and techniques as bystanders to put a stop to it. This also goes back to the administrators making it clear to the child that when they report a problem it will be solved. Once a child reports an issue they should be given follow-up on what the administration did with that information and be told what to do if it continues. In Alex’s case he self-reported an incident that the school said they took care of, although not really quite frankly, but he did not know anything about what happened from there. Possibly schools should even form separate clubs in conjunction with Stand for the Silent. So that these kids can help the administration identify and stop bullying where the teachers do not necessarily see it. The administration stated in interviews that they cannot be everywhere all the time. This is most certainly true, but maybe if the kids thought the administration would do something they would be more likely to report these issues when they see them.

Empathy and Friendship as Bullying Prevention summer WGS

Empathy and Friendship
Posted by Lea Kozulic, Emily Tyler, and Susan Smith at Friday, May 22, 2015 4:59:32 PM CDT
#1

The course materials shed light on bullying by showing the connection between bullying and reinforcing gender stereotypes. Bullying, especially in males, came as a way of reinforcing a certain idea of masculinity in the degradation of homosexuality and an exaggerated sense of heterosexuality with a male gaze. They acted to limit people to a certain idea of gender roles, a limitation that the 2nd Wave Feminism Free to Be Me series attempted to break down and create greater diversity through. The series worked to acknowledge differences within gender and make them more acceptable so that bullying would not be such an issue in aligning with only certain ideas of gender roles.
#2
Free to be content challenged gender roles, race and class. It focused on overcoming the large gender divide that was represented in children’s literature. The good thing was that those songs from the album were catchy and easy to learn so teachers could use them in school as well to create a sense of new ideology for kids starting from their early age. That way they would create a common way of thinking for children, a common sense of ideas which would help with empathy. Empathy would be much greater and kids would understand each other better which would reduce bullying and also, raise awareness about it to other teachers and parents. It’s really hard for parents to force their children to just stop being who they are, just like’ve seen it in the movie Bully. You need to gradually teach them how to behave and that’s why Free to be was great for nurturing. It was great how granny, the member of older generation, was the person who helped in breaking the barriers in the movie. That shows how wide audience the content of Free to Be had. The era of second wave feminism was the era of new ideas and liberty where noone was supposed to be afraid of what they truly are and not be afraid to show it. Free to Be served as a friendly and accessible point of entry for the feminist message of gender equality and self-atualization. Many feminists argued that children’s gender indentities were shaped primarily by their social environment so they wanted everyone to embrace the differences between people and encourage them to not be afraid to show if they are different than someone else.

#3
Because gender expectations are so stringent I think it could be hard to make friends. Pascoe showed that it is not only aggressive bullying that attacks gender roles but friends joking with friends too, as we see in 40 Year Old Virgin, “you know how I know you’re gay…” Friends would have to be constantly guarding themselves from displaying any kind of feminine behavior to avoid this. Putting on an act at all times of who they are socially expected to be, not necessarily who they want to be. This robs people the opportunity to be true to themselves but also build meaningful friendships. Being in a constant act also can lead to an actual belief of this is who I am, we saw this problem in 5/20’s readings. It is important for kids to be able to find other kids they can identify and empathize with. A moving scene in the film Bully was when one of the young boys who is friends with 12 year old suicide-victim Ty discussed his journey from second to fourth grade wherein he talked about how he went from being a bully to understanding the effects of his actions and changing them. By Ty taking the opportunity to empathize for other kids he ceased bullying himself and was able to make friends.
#4
Pascoe looks at bullying not as a matter of individualistic behavior deviations, but rather results of structural inequalities which therefore need to be dealt with on a large-scale, systematic manner rather through personal corrections. It’s occurring because of the gender socialization. It’s not just gay kids that are bullied because they are gay. It is a part of boy’s gender socialization where they try to shape their masculine behaviors so they would call someone gay just because that boy would cry or express the sensitive behavior. Pacoe showed that middle age boys were the most common bullies, that being a bully was like a “rite of passage” to becoming men. This rite of passage mostly consists of young boys being homophobic. She explains that homophobic is not just the fear of gay men but a catch-all for anything seen as unmasculine. This homophobic taunting she explains plays an important role in boys’ gender socialization process. Because this behavior is done much more than the traditional bullying manner, by friends joking with friends for example’ Pacoe states that she believe bully programs are too short sighted, that rather the focus should be on addressing structural inequalities regarding gender and sexuality. The video showed that children who were seen as others struggled from bullying, if you are defined as being other then society doesn’t have to befriend you or show you empathy. The young girl was forced to quit basketball because they were concerned with touching her. They young boy was forced to switch to a different bus because of the constant verbal and physical abuse he was subjected to. During the town hall meeting a young boy stands up and state that the administration doesn’t do anything because they act like the kind themselves must have done something to deserve the negative attention or that they will.
#5
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. If we as individuals took the time to consider others feelings, then after this consideration prudently decided how we act the world would have the opportunity to achieve social justice. Social justice is the view that everyone deserves equal economic, political, and social rights and opportunities. If we do not take the time to display empathy and consider others feelings, we will not be able to achieve social justice. In the movie Bully, noone felt/experienced empathy with Alex besides his parents who went to see the principal because they didn’t know what else to do and they were devastated and desperate because they knew what their son is going through and they couldn’t help him. Principal on the other hand, didn’t really show signs of empathy with the parents because she said she would help them in fall and she did not. Finally, she intervened and asked her assistant to work on the case but it didn’t end up being very effective because children kept teasing him and the boy ended up being scared even more. Same thing with the girl named Kelly who was a lesbian. In the end of the movie, she said that “maybe there’s other place she could go and make a difference”. But, not here.

#6
A social justice approach to bullying can be done through increased empathy. When people can see what others are experiencing in an emotional way, as the documentary Bully allowed people to do, it becomes harder to ignore the problem. More things of this nature- things that allow people to connect with victims and feel their pain- should be used in creating empathetic understanding and hopefully through that reduce if not eliminate bullying.

The Prohibitive Culture of Snitching

The Prohibitive Culture of Snitching New
Posted by Zachary Berman, Reed Timmer, Hannah Hennessy, Allie Calvert, and Tasha Alexander at Friday, May 22, 2015 6:44:03 PM CDT
In C.J. Pascoe’s article, she refers to a statistic that 93 percent of youth hear homophobic slurs occasionally and 51 percent hear them daily. These homophobic slurs shape masculine identities. Similarly, boys mock homosexual behavior. One of the most prominent behaviors deemed ‘homosexual and unmanly’ is snitching. Snitching means that you are unable to deal with problems on your own and rely on others to fix things for you. Boys are supposed to take care of themselves and not need their ‘mommies’ or teachers when things aren’t going well. Our group read several articles, watched a film, and watched other videos that relate to the prohibitive nature of snitching. In most cases, a child goes to an adult, or ‘snitches’, in search of help. We see that most often, they either are ignored or appropriate action isn’t taken. In this post, we seek to define the difference between ‘classic snitching’ and reporting behavior that is beyond a child’s control.

The story of William’s Doll was a controversial subject. It was portrayed to schoolchildren to show that it is okay for boys to have a doll. Although William’s dad encouraged sports, William still wanted a doll to call his own. After some time latter his grandma decided that William should have a doll because he wants to care for it and love it. Despite the criticism that his classmates gave him for wanting a doll, William still wanted a doll. In this situation, the grandma acted as the social justice. Grandma gave the doll to William, which brought the justice to William, as he wanted a doll. Grandma also talked to William’s dad, showing him that William wants a doll to care for, so that when William grows up and becomes a father, he will be a great father to his baby. At the end of this video, there is a different attitude towards the situation from his father and the kids from school that made fun of him. In this video and reading, snitching plays a role in how the kids treat William, and his reaction to their bullying. At the beginning of this video, only three kids mock him, but the next time the chorus comes around, more kids mock him. There must have been some snitching going on. At the end of the video when William is talking to his grandma, he tells her how much he wants a doll. William also tells her how all the kids to make fun of him for wanting a doll. This shows the correct type of snitching. He is doing to because he is getting bullied, not to cause harm to the other kids.

In the video, “Free to be… You and Me”, if you listen to the lyrics of the song, you can hear a cry for kids to be equal. The reading explains how fifth graders understand and feel inspired by these lyrics. The song alone brought social justice to classrooms everywhere and gave a sense of equality with students. One student said, “I’m only in the fifth grade but I feel I can understand these songs. They are so meaningful and sensitive.” These songs tried to give a greater sense of diversity among children and to show these children that they can grow and carry on these traits and stories.

There is a gender standard of socially acceptable behavior that is heavily influences children. Boys and men are supposed to work hard, play sports, provide for the family, be smart, make decisions, wear blue, and marry girls. Girls and women are supposed to like pink, play with dolls, stay at home, cook and clean, bare children, raise the family, have decisions made for them by men, and marry a man. All of these stereotypes of socially acceptable gender behaviors standardize children into being what they should be instead of letting children grow to their full potential and be themselves. William, viewed as a boy who wanted to play with girl toys, was seen as feminine and gay, rather than as practicing to be a good nurturing father. One way to potentially break this stereotype is making toy colors more gender neutral instead of Pepto-Bismol pink and baby blue.

Free to Be…You and Me, Second-Wave feminism, and 1970s American Children’s Culture featured a song called Free to Be… You and Me. The song promoted kids to be who they are. It said that it is okay for boys to play with dolls and for girls to have liberty. It began the second-wave feminism both by inspiring adults and initializing new ways to raise children to be themselves. The song also promoted diversity in children’s’ lives. No matter how similar two families can be, those same families are also very different, though not inferior. A portion of children’s book viewed girls and women in an insulting way. A girl called Albasically stated that it was okay to be less girly as a young girl because she will eventually grow up to be a reserved lady. Books like these are considered “social poison” in the article. A woman’s confidence, based on the traditional women, is blind to the opportunities and potential of the world. Free to be did not represent easy acceptance to the changes coming among us, it represented the fight and hard work to achieve the goals you desire. Just as freedom for any independence war did not come easily.

In the eyes of children, a snitch is a tattletale. It is someone telling on someone else for doing something bad even if it has no immediate affect on him or her. This has evolved into telling on someone for doing anything at all, even if it does directly involve him or her. A couple of consequences come from snitching: worse treatment from a bully, loss of trust, and exclusion. A child’s goal in life is acceptance. They want people to like them even if they have to sacrifice parts of who they are. They think being friends with bad people is better than not having friends.

Sometimes kids are scared to tell people what is actually going on because they are told that they are tattling or snitching, and that’s not what you’re supposed to do. Some people act like the kids don’t know what they’re talking about, are just having a few problems in school, and aren’t really getting bullied. We need to let the kids know that they do have people to talk to and that they can come to people that will help them with their problems. Kids should not have to face bullying alone.

In the movie Bully, the same kid picks on Cole every day. He has threatened to break his arm and even to kill him. One day, the teacher sees it happening and makes them both come and talk to her. The teacher has them to shake each other’s hand and apologize. Cole won’t do it because the bully is only doing what the teacher says because they are in front of her, not because he actually means it. Cole tried many times to get away from the kid and tell people about him. He has reported the bullying to the school and to the police and they tell him they will take care of it, but nothing happens and the kid still picks on him every day. The teachers and police don’t take Cole seriously. If a kid goes to an authority like a teacher or police officer for help, he or she should get help. If he doesn’t, it teaches them that they are in it alone and there is no one to go to when the problem gets even more serious.

A girl named Ja’meya in the movie tries to talk about how mean the kids are to her and how they pick on her every day, but no one would listen. Ja’meya decided to do something about it for herself by bringing a gun to school to get the kids that were picking on her to leave her alone. She had to spend a couple of months in a psychiatric hospital as a result. She should have never taken the gun to school, but it could have all been prevented if someone would have listened to her when she was trying to tell people about her problems. Sometimes kids are under so much pressure to fit in and make friends that they forget what the difference between right and wrong. In some cases, like Ja’meya’s, they can get so fed up with everything going on that they make rush and bad decisions because they have no one to talk to.

Another kid from the movie Bully, Tyler, got bullied so severely that he committed suicide. All of the teachers’ responses were that they couldn’t watch what every kid said or did. It is understandable that with so many kids, it is hard to ensure everyone is on their best behavior, but when the person has already had problems with kids bullying him, you need to make sure to watch them and make sure that they are okay. One time at school, there were two kids who ganged up on Tyler and beat him up. After he got beat up, the school officers that were there said that they couldn’t press charges because the boys who did it said nothing happened. The school officers knew that the bullying that was going on, and when it happened right in front of them, they did nothing and acted like it was normal for boys. There are many instances of bullying that happen on an everyday basis, but we often try to act like nothing is happening. It has gotten to the point that the only time we pay attention to bullying is when a child takes their life because of it. We need be proactive and do something about bullying before it gets to that point.

Alex, also in the movie Bully, has a hard time telling his parents what is going on at school and on the bus because he doesn’t have many friends. He doesn’t want the other kids to dislike him even more. He told his mom, “If you don’t think these people are my friends, then what friends do I have?” He has become the punching bag for all of his supposed friends and doesn’t want to tell anyone about it because then he might lose the “friends” that he has. His parents went in to talk to the principal and the principal told his mom that she rode the same bus, and the kids on the bus are “good as gold”. After having a meeting with Alex’s parents they decided to talk to the kids bullying Alex. They think just getting after the kids is going to stop the bullies, but it doesn’t. It’s part of the reason Alex didn’t want to tell his parents in the first place: He has told them before and the principal had a talk with a kid, but that was it and the kid continued to bully him. Kids need to be able to go to someone when they need help. They shouldn’t be scared to tell adults what is going on, and they should be able to tell them without it being considered snitching. We would never question an adult and would help them right away, so why are we making our children suffer?

In terms of a social justice approach, snitching is viewed by society as a negative thing from an outside partying getting involved in another group’s business. We can see why snitching is bad in many situations, and a lot of them are brought up in the article, “Boy Culture”. The author talks about how boys grow up by experiencing games and pastimes where there is often head to head hostile conflict. This is where boys begin to learn the basis of bullying and snitching. Little fights are deemed as “boys being boys”, yet they learn to realize which groups of kids are weaker. There may be kids strictly observing the conflict, and later tattle on those they don’t like to get them in trouble. This type of tattling gives teaches children that snitching is bad.

Boy Culture also went over the culture and adult authority aspect of a boy’s childhood. This goes well with our concept of the prohibitive culture of snitching. I think by learning about authority, especially from people boys in that situation respect such as their parents is a key role in gaining background information about snitching and realizing snitching’s consequences, along with other bad behavior. Also connecting it to bullying, once bullying begins and escalates to the point where someone needs to stop it, the party that is being bullied or a third party almost immediately will go and look for a proper authority figure or party. If this aspect of boy culture (one of learning respect and almost a little fear for elders) is not learned, then the bully will have less of a chance to discontinue all the pain that he or she is causing. Going further, if that respect isn’t learned or realized then kids in the bullying situation will not know who to turn to for help, which is indeed different than snitching.

The last section in the “Boy Culture” article talked about friendship between boys. Friendship is key in building trust. They learn how to respect others. When snitching occurs, it obviously affects the feelings of the other party involved. If that aspect of a boy’s life doesn’t develop, they won’t realize the harm of snitching to others, and won’t be able to form bonds with others. The article talks about loyalty, which is a great word that relates to snitching and boys growing up. Remaining loyal to a friend or peer goes a long way. Loyalty shows maturity, even in a young boy, along with respect that they will carry for the rest of their lives. They will act with those aspects of their character when they get involved with a bullying situation.

These articles and videos all show ineffective adult intervention. However, proper adult intervention can help reduce or even eliminate bullying. Classmates are on the same relative level of wisdom and respect in society, while adults are more respected. According to NoBullying.com, only 20-30 percent of bullied students tell adults. Also, when an adult intervenes, the bullying stops within ten seconds about 57 percent of the time. The fact that adult intervention usually stops immediate bullying activity is important, but adults need to do more than just intervene. They need to help find a long-term solution that will less likely lead to the children reverting back to their old behavior. Society discourages snitches and tattle-tails, but often times the only way to resolve a problem is adult intervention. Thus, adults should make themselves an open resource to come to when kids are having problems. Them, they can determine whether or not it is worth action, but they must consider whether or not it can be solved without an adult to garner respect and authority.

Bullying Intervention summer web blog 1 Intro WGS

Intervention
Posted by Eric Olsen, Marial Williams, Anna Burns, Katrena Gillis at Friday, May 22, 2015 4:39:07 PM CDT
Intervention is defined as the act of coming between as to prevent or alter a future course of events. Throughout the movie Bullying, both child and parents try their best at intervening in some shape or form, usually with little changing. Even involving the administrators of the children, the people specifically set in charge of dealing with bullying situations were not able to prevent or change the circumstances that plagued these bullied children. The degree to which intervention is implemented in schools, of any age where bullying exists, is to create programs that foster anti-bullying and reason with their students on how their actions impact their fellow classmates. This is especially vital in cases of sexual orientation or disabilities where bullying runs rampant and rarely gets prevented. The culture of these institutions needs to be reformatted to include anti-bullying programs to best ensure their students a safe and loving educational environment.
At its core, social justice is the view that everyone deserves equal economic, political and social rights and opportunities. In regards to bullying, this creates a much more holistic approach that is unfortunately very difficult to maintain and implement. Social justice requires people, in this case adolescents, to see the differences in the people around them and treat all people with the same level of respect and dignity. Currently, children perceive the differences in their peers around them and act on them, resulting in bullying. Children want to feel important and special over the people around them and are willing to achieve this standard, even if it means ridiculing their classmates. If social justice was implemented and accepted, children would understand the effect their words/actions have and would improve virtually every aspect of bullying. With this approach not only would current bullying cease, it would prevent future bullying from happening due to everyone involved understanding the consequences for their actions.
An approach like this would also require a major shift in the views of society. Masculinity has been so ingrained into our society that bullying, to some extent, has been encouraged. It is considered masculine to be dominant and aggressive over those around you. Changing the landscape of bullying would require younger boys to realize that bullying is not the outlet to channel these masculine tendencies, but rather through other outlets like sports or hobbies. Exerting your ability in a hobby is far less harmful than showing your power in degrading another human being. While this will not be easy, through the right programs and determination boys can be changed and can learn that bullying is not a healthy path for anyone.
Social justice directly affects intervention because it teaches all parties involved to be active in confronting the bullying around them. Everyone ‘buys-in’ and takes responsibility for their actions in creating an equal environment for all, refusing to let injustices prevail. A social justice system would also likely be effective, if all accepted, due to its easy conversion to a broad range of factors that involve bullying like sexuality, race, or class. In essence, intervention would no longer be needed because bullying would be eliminated, after the system was in place. However, in the developing stages of a social justice system, intervention would be encouraged from a variety of sources, empowering those to act on the differences they observe.

Relay for Life at Drake–my first “cancer talk”

Four years ago I found a lump on my breast. I am not here to tell you that cancer is a gift. I will not tell you that I learned the true meaning of life or that I treasure the wisdom I gained battling and surviving this disease. I have survived, but I don’t want to own that word because the people who do not survive battled just as hard as I did. And it makes me angry that they are not here to tell their stories. I don’t want to share pink ribbons with you. I’d rather make you angry. That inspires change, and we really need to change the way we talk about the big C.

Cancer makes chaos of the stories we tell ourselves about our lives. The unspoken stories I carried in my body–that I was healthy, that I was strong, that my life was in my own control–were shattered by cancer—not really by cancer itself, but by the implications and threats of it, the treatment for it, and by some of the destructive cultural ideas about what it means that I was inundated with. The cancer itself was removed in the lumpectomy. I was not being treated with chemo and radiation for a cancer that was still in my body; it was for the imagined cancer that might show up in my future life. And this statistical narrative will always be a looming possibility. Cancer makes chaos of all stories about my future. All possibilities of the future now have a shadow narrative threatening to take over.

The stories we tell ourselves try to answer the question of WHY. Bad things are not supposed to happen to good people. Why did this happen to me? It is hard to answer this question without being affected by popular explanations. I want to share a few stories. The first is one that still makes me angry.

One friend told me that I must have gotten cancer because I had not dealt with my “issues.” She said I needed to figure out what I had not dealt with and deal with it. She looked me in the eye and told me that if cancer comes back it will be because I didn’t deal with my “issues.” She did not seem able to hear me when I told her that cancer was not my fault and that I was not in control of whether or not it comes back. She did not hear my recitation of the aggressive nature of triple negative breast cancer or the higher than usual rate of recurrence for this rare cancer. While her insistent blame was a bit extreme, her view came out of mainstream ideas explaining cancer through individual actions, rather than larger systemic forces. Positive thinking, eating right, exercising, and alleviating stress are important for everyone, but doing these things will not protect anyone from cancer because we live in a cancerous world. If we want to understand why people get cancer we need to look to larger causes than individual behavior and broader solutions than just medical research for cures. These things may be necessary, but they are not sufficient. Of course, we need research, but we also need to stop polluting the environment. We need to eliminate structural inequality that puts some people at a disadvantage in society even though they work just as hard as anyone else. Pink ribbons don’t cut it for me or for all of us that need to think critically about what kinds of stories we draw on to make sense of our cancer, our survival, and our lives.

My second story is about the links between inequality, the stress of dealing with it, and 3 women in 3 years with breast cancer. I was first. Triple negative breast cancer is extremely rare, and occurs most frequently among African American and Latina women. Most white women who get it can trace it to genetic markers—BRCA 1 or 2. This cancer is aggressive and has a much higher rate of recurrence than other breast cancers. It is also the breast cancer we know the least about. One thing the Mayo Clinic seems to have figured out is that the higher prevalence of this kind of cancer among women of color is likely connected to the stresses associated with societal inequality, like the intersections of race, gender, and economic inequality. So there I was—white, in case you couldn’t tell—with triple negative breast cancer. It turns out I do not have the genetic predisposition. But what about this question of structural inequality? Are they keeping statistics on lesbians? A few months after my diagnosis, Judy, another white lesbian who was also a professor at Drake was diagnosed with triple negative. Research is clear that the stress caused by dealing with homophobia has negative effects on health. The third woman, who also identifies as queer, was diagnosed with breast cancer after several years of very pointed sexist and homophobic treatment by co-workers; the stress led directly to weight gain, and the cancer she got was linked to excessive weight. Inequality plus stress led to cancer. These two friends of mine and I are what scientists would call “anecdotal evidence,” but for me this is the real story. I think Judy’s family and friends would agree with me. She is no longer here to tell her side. Her triple negative cancer came back two years after her diagnosis. She died a year later. I can say with absolute certainty that she did not die because she failed to deal with her “issues.” She is not gone because of some moral failing. Her loss is not about poor lifestyle choices. She is dead because a rare and aggressive form of a deadly disease that there is no cure for took hold of her being at the cellular level. We will never know for sure what effect homophobia had on her or how much environmental pollution poisoned her body or mine. But the least we can do is to ask hard questions of the stories we hear about cancer.

Black lesbian poet Audre Lorde died of breast cancer in 1992. She wrote in “A Litany for Survival,” “So it is better to speak, remembering, we were never meant to survive.” Her words challenge us to question the stories about inequality that blame individuals for the pain we experience. Survival in this context is about living a meaningful, safe, and legally recognized life, family, identity. The system was not set up to nurture and protect those of us in the borderlands—those whose lives are defined as outside the norm. The power of the norm has profound consequences.

Sometimes I think cancer is a response to oppression, an escape hatch. Other times I think it is the arm of the state, the tentacles of worry and stress and dis-recognition sending invisible troops at the cellular level to attack the integrity of the organism. It is an attack of meaning that spreads and transforms from unequal laws and hateful words to over-replicating cells; some strange alchemy at work, mutating external attacks of legitimacy into an army of bio-invaders. The consequences of inequality are complicated, hidden in plain sight and diverted from acknowledgement by the stories society tells us, and the versions of them we internalize. We need to learn how to tell new stories that lead to social justice and healthy lives for all of us, new stories that provoke us to make the world a safer, more peaceful place for all of us to thrive, not just survive.

Sandra Patton-Imani