I’m wearing pink today. My six-year-old thinks it’s awesome as I never wear her favourite colour. But this isn’t about mother/daughter matching outfits. It’s Pink Shirt Day and I’m joining the symbolic stand against bullying.
What I love about this campaign is how it started. In 2007, two Nova Scotia Grade 12 students decided to do something about a Grade 9 student who was being bullied for wearing a pink polo shirt on his first day of high school.
The two teens bought 50 pink shirts at a discount store one night, emailed their friends about their “sea of pink” idea, and the next day they donned their new shirts. Their statement that “enough was enough” was loud and bold.
When the bullied student walked in the school that morning, a look of relief took over his face. His days of being harassed were over.
“If you can get more people against them…to show that we’re not going to put up with it and support each other, then they’re not as big as a group as they think they are,” said one of the Grade 12 organizers at the time.
When I read that, I can’t help but wish someone had stood up for me. I was bullied and harassed for much of my years in elementary school in Barrie, Ontario. For almost nine years, I never knew when I’d be locked in a change room, ridiculed, ostracized, whispered about, tripped, hit, pushed, laughed at…you name it, it likely happened to me.
I didn’t really understand the dynamics of what I went through, until about six years ago. That’s when CBC Radio ran a town hall about bullying following a string of bullied teenagers committing suicide. During the broadcast, I first heard the term “social bullying.”
Social bullying is generally how girls operate. They befriend you, with the intention to find out a secret or two, then they drop you and use the information against you. They will ostracize and isolate you. They are relentless and rejection is the name of the game.
It was a time of my life that I’d rather forget. I started to believe that I was the “loser” that everyone told me I was. It was so bad, I remember wanting to die. I just wanted it to end.
But then I caught a break. I went to a different high school than most of my graduating class. In my first couple of weeks of Grade 9, I was sitting in homeroom, and I cracked a joke…and the entire class laughed. I was astounded by the thought: “I’m funny!” And the image of myself as worthless started to crack. That moment was the beginning of a lot of healing for me.
When I hear about kids being bullied now, an anger over the injustice rises in me. I’m hyper-vigilant now about my daughter being bullied, or worse, her becoming a bully. I don’t want any kid to endure what I went through.
And that’s why I am wearing pink today.