Tag Archives: bullying

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End Bullying Panel At Comic Con

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On the final day of the San Diego Comic Con 2014, a special, second annual panel titled “End Bullying!” capped off a circus like weekend at the downtown Convention Center. Although much of the four day Con’s festivities revolved around massive panels on TV shows, long lines and comics, there were a few salient panels addressing issues pressing in entertainment and our society.

The panel discussion, was spearheaded by the Pop Culture Anti-Bullying Coalition, represented by Chase Masterson. Masterson, a longtime actress known for her roles in Doctor Who and Deep Space Nine, enthusiastically introduced the members of the panel and the topics to be discussed. As the title of the panel makes clear, the discussion covered issues such as geek bullying, cyber bullying, LGBT bullying, and analyzing how the entertainment and media industry “affect our attitudes toward bullying and aggression.” The panel consisted of authors, writers (Brad Brown and Jane Espenson, writers of the show Husbands), a psychologist (Dr. Andrea Letamendi), actors, representatives from the United Nations Association, the Anti-Defamation League, and Cartoon Network. Each panelist got an opportunity to  speak on their occupation and how they are utilizing their role to affect change.

One of the first panelists to speak was Ashley Eckstein of the animated series Star Wars: Clone Wars (2008-2014). Aside from her role as Ashoka Tano on the Cartoon Network owned show, Eckstein runs a successful clothing line site called HerUniverse. The idea of the clothing line is to promote fashionable apparel and accessories for fangirls of science-fiction and comics. However, the feature of her clothing line she emphasized the most was something surprisingly difficult to find on clothing sites: plus sizes. In a country where 68% of all adults are either overweight or obese, society seems to continue to turn a blind eye to the necessary plus sizes on most retail goods. Eckstein’s point that the lack of clothing for plus size women can have drastic effects on a person’s psyche, and encourages eating disorders simply to fit into a desired pair of clothes. Conforming the woman to the clothes, and not the way around is the problem Eckstein wants to address, understanding that largely ignoring plus sizes is essentially another form of bullying against a certain demographic of women.

Anthony Breznican, a reporter for Entertainment Weekly, discussed his advocacy to end bullying in reference to powerful testimony to his own personal experience and in the form of his debut novel, Brutal Youth. While the book itself is a dark, fictional reversed coming-of-age story, the events that take place and the bullying that is inflicted from administrators to students were influenced by Breznican’s own childhood experiences and people that he knew. Breznican expressed that the bullying comes down to having the friends and strong support be there to influence any kind of bully’s potential actions. From his perspective, the best way to make those friends that you want to have is to be that friend to other people. That way, you are making positive and meaningful steps to building strong relationships and that support system down the road.

Alice Cahn emphasized the role of the entertainment industry to change attitudes towards bullying

Alice Cahn emphasized the role of the entertainment industry to inspire people to change their behaviors.

The last panelist to speak was Alice Cahn, the Vice President of Social Responsibility for Cartoon Network. Despite the stigma of being the representative of a larger body of network executives, she expressed gratitude and happiness to be associated with a network that she feels is acutely aware of its role in affecting attitudes towards bullying in society, especially with regard to children. “Cartoon Network is about great storytelling, great characters and great animation. We work very closely with the writers, animators, and show runners to make sure they know exactly who young people are. We would be foolish to ignore 50 percent of the audience.” Alice Cahn spoke at length about Cartoon Network’s Speak Up campaign,  focused on stopping bullying and “giving kids the confidence and the competence to speak up when they see someone get picked on.” She characterized the campaign as a microcosm of what the Cartoon Network brand is trying to do as a whole, making social-emotional learning fixture as one of their goals and objectives. “Our work is really to take that realm of social-emotional skill, those things that kids really need to be kind, good people, and put content on the plotline. What I really love about our brand and about the creatives that we work with is that those goals have become a part of our branding.” While acknowledging her network’s efforts in teaching children how to deal with bullying, she recognized the significance entertainment can play in facilitating change overall, “Our industry really can create a change. The entertainment medium has the ability to inspire and motivate people to change their behaviors and learn new behaviors.”

The panel concluded with a final heart breaking question from a bullying victim in the audience, a twelve year old girl who having got no help from school administrators or teachers, asked what is she supposed to do when she felt that she had no friends. Several panel members including Brad Brown and Anthony Breznican replied with emotional responses advocating the importance of turning the bully’s actions on them with empathy and using that hurt to help someone else you see being victimized. In Breznican’s words, it’s “easier, I think, to stand up for somebody else, when you are hurting as bad as you are,  than it is to stand up for yourself…but if you stick up for them, stick your neck out and take some of that heat, you’ve made a friend”

As routine as it may have seemed for the panelists to respond in kind to the bullying victim’s inquiries, the seriousness with which they treated the situation reflected awareness that comes with genuine passion for a subject that has manifested itself in so many ways that generally go unheeded. While the panel was in a room that was less than half attended (compared to the TV panels that had thousands packed into the rooms), I couldn’t have felt luckier to be in attendance and was proud that such an incredible panel was held at such a massive event that Comic Con has become. There are real people and real efforts being exerted to stop bullying, all we have to do is stick our necks out and be the change we want have.

Watch the video in the link here to see the Speak Up special video, along with links to the rest of the Speak Up series.

Panelists:

Tina Malka
Chase Masterson
Carrie Goldman
Brad Bell
Anthony Breznican
Ashley Eckstein
Jane Espenson
Dr. Andrea Letamendi

 

 

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Bullying in the Face of Football

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When the media bubble bursted on the player situation on the Miami Dolphins team this week, it would seem like bullying issues in the real world are some new idea. It would also seem, based on the responses from NFL players and personnel, that bullying is a non-issue in the NFL and that Jonathan Martin should have handled it differently. In my opinion, not only are the NFL personnel wrong about Martin and that bullying is a non-issue in the NFL, bullying is perhaps one of the most pervasive, systemic problems of our society.

Let’s start with idea of bullying. Bullying in the adult “real world” exists in a way not dissimilar to bullying in schools. Most people typically associate bullying as an activity confined to the borders of our adolescence, mean school yard pranks and embarrassment. Rather than claim it as bullying, in the grown up environment we tend to use words such as harassment, defamation, and extortion. The act of using someone’s superior strength to intimidate another into doing something is by definition bullying. Martin was verbally harassed, threatened and intimidated. Jonathan Martin, for all intensive purposes,  was bullied.

When you hear NFL players defending Incognito and personnel, such as current Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland, say that Jonathan Martin should “punch” Incognito, you realize how Martin may have felt with seemingly no one to turn to for help. Sure, the NFL is a a league of hyper-aggressive males and confronting bullies may be the option many in the NFL would advocate for dealing with the testosterone charged lockers rooms, but it is literally only one option of many.

What is perhaps even more upsetting than this brutish, closed mindset of the NFL personnel, is how Martin was basically chastised for his decision to seek help. In an essay written by ex-Dolphin Lydon Murtha that was published by Sports Illustrated,  Murtha claims Martin “broke the code” by going to the media and that he should “handle it indoors”. A lot of NFL players, including his current teammates, have echoed similar views about going to the press and keeping club issues in-house. What has gone unacknowledged is the fact that Jonathan Martin didn’t go to the press at all, but left the team directly to seek medical attention elsewhere. It was only after reports of Martin going to find help he wasn’t finding in the Dolphins organization that the reports started piling in about Martin and Incognito. Martin’s lawyers and agent have spoken on his behalf and given evidence to back up Martin’s decision to leave the organization, but Martin himself has not spoken in public since leaving the Miami Dolphins. Unless checking into a hospital for emotional distress is really backwards, Martin didn’t break any “code”.

On a final note, the notion that Jonathan Martin couldn’t handle the pressures of the NFL, wasn’t enough of a man to play the game is absurd. While it helps to have hyper-aggressive athletes fight tooth and nail on and off the field, that shouldn’t exclude players with just as much talent that lack that kind of persona. Jonathan Martin was a second round draft pick (42nd overall) who clearly has the talent to play football at the highest level. Mike Mayock’s (NFL.com)  draft analysis of Martin states that he was one of two tackles that could be considered “elite” from that draft and that he is a, “First-round talent right here, tremendous arm length. I call him a little bit of a finesse player. Doesn’t mean he’s not tough, but he’s so good with his feet and understands angles. I believe the Dolphins just got themselves a starter on either the right or left side.” Although Mayock subtly references to Martin’s personality and play as “finesse” his overall impression is a starting, NFL-caliber player that rated as a steal for the Dolphins in the second round. While it remains to be seen what will happen with Jonathan Martin,  it’s clear that the NFL’s path to rebranding its image has an added wrinkle of bullying, which is both ingrained and to an extent tolerated by many in its subculture.

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Understanding Bullying

bullied-boy Bullying as we know it has happened at some point in most of our lives. It is an unfortunate experience we remember vividly in some capacity, whether it be as the bully, the bullied victim, or the bystander, oftentimes in a school related setting. Sadly, bullying exists across most facets in our lives, but it almost certainly originates from the time we were children. Some have had it worse than others, but that is little excuse to blow off what is almost certainly a preventable issue. In fact, bullying is considered a learned behavior, and something scientists and researchers have come to increasingly understand. Understanding bullying is the first step we can take to learning how to appropriately deal with a behavior that often impacts the lives of children far beyond their childhood.

One of the most important aspects to understand about bullying is it is repetitive in nature for the means of achieving empowerment over another. Dan Olweus, a prominent researcher on behaviors of bullying states that “a student is being bullied or victimized when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative acts on the part of one or more other students. It is a negative action when someone intentionally inflicts, or attempts to inflict, injury or discomfort upon another.” It often involves repeated physical aggression, but also can take place verbally, through isolation, or through virtual harassment such as on websites and social media outlets. There is distinct differences in behavior and motivation between normal interactions and bullying. Marlene Snyder, Ph.D., listed a helpful comparison chart between normal conflicts and bullying in her article as seen here:

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It may seem obvious, but the behavioral distinctions between bullying and non-bullying are important and often difficult to identify. It is perhaps in part because of this that bullying persists  in our culture. Without first identifying bullying, bullies receive little consequence for their actions, and continue the abuse of their victims. Most victims will continue to be bullied, or be ridiculed by others, but there are those that become violent towards the bully and others. Violent responses by bullied victims in schools over the past few decades has in no small part been a main catalyst for sparking the bullying conversation in America. The strategies for bullying should be focused on how we can identify bullying and intervene as adults to help children understand how to deal with bullies.

As Corinne Gregory explains, effectively dealing with bullying should be based on a model of prevention and changing our culture that enables the behavior. It is important to see semblances of this notion picked up by groups such as the National PTA and Discovery Education, who have kicked off a campaign visiting town halls in cities across the nation to discuss bullying prevention and mental health. While anti-bullying campaigns have achieved mixed results politically, with an anti-bullying bill failing in Minnesota today, being aware of what constitutes bullying is imperative to helping our children deal with these behaviors as they go to school in the present. Society is criticized for having many faults, but bullying does not have to be one of them. Just as bullying is learned, so too can we learn to prevent it both individually and as a community. Through understanding and knowledge, we can properly address and intervene in an effort to curb a preventable behavior.

 

(Source: Marlene Snyder, Ph.D.)
Great Schools

(Source: Corinne Gregory)
Social Smarts