If you're not knitting, the terrorists win

(My mostly on-topic ramblings about knitting. And life in general. My life in specific.)

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Location: Indiana, United States

I'm a middle aged mother of 2 grown children and wife to a man who doesn't seem to mind my almost heroin-like yarn addiction. I spend my time writing, knitting, and generally stressing out.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

On Bullying, Depression, Self Image, And Parenting

I was watching CNN this morning--not because I wanted to, but because T already had it on when I walked into the room and sat down with a cup of coffee. (I don't know why I stayed there. But I watched for a while.) CNN is doing a series on eating disorders and one of the staff members was talking about her own experience with an eating disorder and why she developed one.

While I was watching, it struck me that this woman--who is a beautiful woman, by the way--was made to feel like she wasn't good enough. And that it's just not right. And who is to blame?

The other girls who said nasty things about her, sure. I think when you get to be about 3 years old, you know when you are saying something to hurt someone on purpose. So yes. Those girls knew what they were doing and they should be blamed. And the boys who laughed and said "Oh gross" or something to that effect when their friends said "You like her." Again: you know when you are being hurtful. They should be blamed too.

The media? Everyone wants to blame the media for putting out an impossible standard for girls (and guys) to live up to. So yes. They should take some of the blame too. But who made the media responsible for teaching people what is good and bad and right and wrong and how people should look? Why is it so damn important to look like a model? That is, by the way, a person who is professionally made up, dressed, photographed, and airbrushed by the time you see them. Sure, they look good in real life, but they also look real. They don't look like their magazine covers.

The media has always influenced opinion on fashion and body image. That's part of what it does. Think of some of the hideous fashion people have worn because it was "in style." I, myself, used to sport some pretty fantastic "wings" on the sides of my hair back in the 80's. But that's pretty harmless, right? I never starved myself or puked myself thin or took diet pills (Okay, I did do diet pills. But it was for the speed effect and not for the weight loss. That does not, of course, make it right. I'm just saying.)

I'm not saying there wasn't bullying when I was a teen. There was. Believe me, there was. There were the girls who made you feel like you just didn't even want to come to school any more. There were the boys that made you feel like you didn't deserve to be liked, would never be liked, and that was just as well with you because they were so horrible you didn't want to be liked by them anyway. There were the teachers and administrators and other adults that made it very clear, by their attitude and actions of thinly disguised contempt, that poor kids were a drain on resources because they would never amount to anything anyway. Heck, they made it clear with their words. A friend of mine, who was doing very well in school and was very smart, was told by the school counselor that he should forget about the college prep courses and just load up on the shop classes, since he would never be able to afford college anyway.

But I don't understand why the bullying, why the negative self-image, is so prevalent today. The internet, of course, makes it so easy to be anonymous or distanced from your prey. You might not say things to a person's face and risk them retaliating with words or fists or worse. You might not badger someone continually and risk being stopped by someone in authority or someone who sees that what you're doing is wrong. But you can troll someone online with near-impunity, can't you?

Still, it's not the internet's fault. The internet is a tool--for good or ill. It has no opinion one way or another. These people are to blame for their actions. They know better. And--this may be an unpopular viewpoint--the people who taught these people how to act are to blame. The parents.

Do you think if the parents had instilled strongly enough in their children a sense of empathy--or even a sense of right and wrong--these people would bully? No. They do it because they believe in their hearts it's kind of okay for them to do it. The lesson of how to act in society has not been clear enough to them. Don't misunderstand. They don't think it's a good thing to bully someone. They know it's wrong. They just don't think it's all that wrong.

I have seen this lack of parenting a lot these days. I see it in the kids (young adults) who blow each other up online with the most horrible sort of bully behavior. I see it in the people who steal things--this attitude of, if you can get away with it, the victim deserves to lose it. I see it in the way they treat each other and let each other be treated. And, I see this in their parents.

Let me tell you, that's the problem. Yes, sometimes good parents have kids that do bad things. But bad parents always have bad kids. I have no quick answer to this issue. I have only observations. What can we do? We can't make people empathize with others. We can't even make parents pay attention to their kids. (Let me ask you this... How does a kid build pipe bombs and collect an arsenal of weapons in their home without the parents noticing? I'm sure my kids did stuff I didn't know about--went someplace they weren't supposed to, didn't do something they were supposed to--but I cannot even fathom the amount of distraction it would take for me to not know if they were stockpiling weapons.)

The sad thing about this is, these kids/young adults are forging their own world. They will have to live in the world they created--a world of cyber-bullying and dishonesty and violence. Wait. No. That's not the sad thing. The sad thing is that there are people who don't feel or act like that and don't deserve that type of world. And still, they will be forced to live in it, too.


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