Sticks and stones break bones and all, but nothing hurts more than words as weapons.
I know as much as you do - we were all the bully on the schoolyard playground as much as we were the one dreading recess; we talked poorly about those we didn't like in high school as much as we knew full well some smiles we got were strained. It's something we all take for granted, but perhaps the greatest advantage that comes with maturing to the age I'm at now is the step closer to escaping the cruelty of stereotypes and, albeit to a lesser degree than what's found on the playground, bullying. And yet regardless of how great the step or how many steps in the right direction to begin with, it's an issue that's still persistent - in my life, at least, though slightly.
I remember a group of boys in the grade above mine would always call names after me whenever they'd see me out on the field with the rest of the kids of the school relieved with recess. I can't remember their names, can't remember the names they'd call me - thankfully, anyways, they weren't anything with real weight considering I'm not emotionally traumatized by what was said - and I honestly don't even remember their names. Such an insignificant fact to my twenty-one-year-old self proves only the pettiness of bullying altogether; as much as I don't remember specifics about this outside of the basic outlines to this name-calling, I can remember at times dreading recess if I knew I wouldn't be with my direct friends for whatever reason, or even turning quickly on my heel to reroute myself so I'd avoid this group of boys to ensure I'd get away with just being called Matt for at least one recess. And yet as much as I remember being the subject of childish taunts, I can fully remember I wasn't saintly whatsoever; in fact, I often say if I knew my grade eight self, I might not have liked him much. I was a do-gooder, and I can fully remember that if I didn't like someone for whatever reason, I was horrible to them - not that I was the bully everyone cowered from; I just mean to say my track record isn't clean when it comes to the sort of minor bullying going on at that age.
As cliche as it is to say, high school can be ruthless. Gone is the immaturity of bullying; at a younger age, kids choose the most trivial of things to pick on other kids - because they might look funny, because they might do something a different way, but nothing ever seeded in pure stereotype and discrimination. (although I have to mention that a heavier sort of bullying that might lead to long-term emotional damage doesn't exist; I just mean that I never encountered it in elementary school) Therein lies the difference between elementary school and high school: in high school, we said what we said and we did what we did for a reason, and that reason is anything but positive.
I remember in grade eleven an instance of a more direct and hateful "bullying" (I hate using the term sometimes because it seems trivial) aimed at me. I waited outside of the portable for the period to start with my friend, and I can remember a group of guys who began to snicker to themselves like idiot guys do before they decided to address me - and do I remember who they were? Absolutely, but you're stupid to think I'm stupid enough to include the names. They would say, "Matt, is it true?" but by the way they were acting I knew not to engage them. This question persisted throughout the class - they conveniently sat directly behind me, and they continued to whisper the same at me between hushed laughs - and I only found out what they so desperately wanted from me once the bell had dismissed us. And as I walked past the one of them - I remember who - he said, "Matt, are you a faggot? Is it true you're a faggot?" And as much as it hurts me to say that wasn't the last time I'd been subjected to this assumption made by others about my orientation, and by extension, to the sort of derogatory language fired at me as a(n assumed) homosexual. Remember that horrible website Formspring, where people could leave anonymous questions? That wasn't as fun for me as I'd hoped. I can't see how the makers didn't foresee this as a literal breeding ground for bullying considering an individual is at their strongest without a name and a face. People do make decisions about who others are, about who I am, and they stick to them, and though it tears me down, there's no such solace in knowing who you yourself are regardless of what others decide to impress upon you.
Bullying, in the most simple of terms, is rooted entirely in stereotype. And that's why I hate stereotype. I can't see how a person's character, this entirely complex and intricately woven identity that makes them who they are, can be deconstructed and reduced entirely to "nerd" or "loser" or "retard" or "faggot;" hell, labeling someone "jock" or "goth" or even something with a positive connotation completely demeans everything that makes them truly unique and reduces them to this stock ideal which simply must be true about them. I can't think of something that is more disrespectful to someone than to disregard everything unique about them. And by extension, then, comes this horrible concept of bullying where these stereotypes, once pressed on someone, are completely unmovable. Call a kid with glasses a nerd and they'll forever be that nerd, and even when they've reached a mature age where this concept of petty bullying is nearly gone they will always be that remembrance of that caricature that stuck with them. Assume something about someone because of what music they listen to or who they hang out with is to further disregard the concept of individuality; I can't see why movies or music or books or sports (et cetera) are restricted to this or that stereotype - why can't a person enjoy something for the sake of enjoyment, and that's that?
To bully is to resort to what's easy: it's remarkably easier to call that person a nerd or four-eyes than it is to actually understand their likes and dislikes and habits and preferences and everything else completely possible that could serve as a building block to their individuality as a whole. I do my best not to subscribe to these sorts of stereotypes considering said stereotypes are still placed upon me, and I'm no fan of hypocrites. I feel like I'm talking in circles when I keep reiterating that bullying proves the loss of individuality. It's strange to see that a person's acceptance of their own individuality is something that needs to be promoted - we have this new movement of encouraging the young generation to embrace who they are, but why did we get to the point where that encouragement had to be a necessity to begin with? Shouldn't you love who you are anyways, and not because you've been giving the go-ahead that you're allowed to do so? And that's the sort of governing power bullying and stereotypes have over those who are bullied and subjected to this hatred; it's a sick grip. Nothing should make you doubt your own self-acceptable, nobody should make you less comfortable about who you are or what you like or how you act, and nobody should tell you who you should be or shouldn't be.
It's old news, but does anybody remember that documentary entitled Bully that was nearly prevented from opening considering its subject matter was deemed too harsh? I'm not sure if anybody saw this movie (I haven't), but I remember there was this minor social uprising on Facebook ala that Kony 2012 business where a large amount of people on my friends list shared the trailer for the movie to raise awareness of its message against the severity of bullying. My purpose of bringing this up ties into the final point of this I-don't-know-what-I've-got-going-on-right-now-blogpost, and I'm going to take an aside briefly and apologize for this getting too preachy, opinionated, or worst of all, personal. My purpose of bringing this up is that I remember that some of the people who shared this video with various "bullying is a serious issue!" bullshit messages were those who I can actually remember being horrible to either myself or others in my grade. And so I say: this ease of bullying based on stereotype is intoxicatingly easy as I've spoken of, but it bothers me that people take this clean bill of conscious and promote this tolerant lifestyle when they themselves have been venomous. I've mentioned that I myself have been in the position of the "bully," but it comes down to the fact that to be picked on is one of the worst feelings in the world and it weighs you down with such guilt that you'd wished you'd never said anything mean to anyone in the past. If you say you hate bullying so much, don't do it.
Again, I apologize for this. I don't know my intentions with this post whatsoever, nor did I before I even started writing - this more or less exists because the topic was an idea I've had for a while, and I figure it won't get out of my mind until I just write it, be done with it, and continue on to the usual pretentious humour I write with. Promise.