In November 2010, I wrote a post called “Anti-Bullying Starts in the First Grade” for my blog, Portrait of an Adoption. I was concerned because my daughter, Katie, was upset about being teased for carrying a Star Wars water bottle. Apparently, Star Wars was “only for boys, not for girls.”
It was the post that launched a thousand Geeks. Comments poured in so fast that they crashed the entire ChicagoNow server. Katie’s story appeared on international and national news shows. Radio talk shows had a field day with the story, and hundreds of bloggers wrote posts about the Star Wars teasing. A Facebook event was created in support of Geek Pride and Katie, and over thirty-five thousand people participated. Feminists, Star Wars fans, adoptees, adoptive parents, former victims of teasing and bullying—all jumped to a young fangirl’s defense.
Why did the article strike such a responsive chord? Because in a time of heartbreaking headlines about cyberbullying, my child experienced a refreshing new phenomenon—a term I am calling “cybersupporting.” People were hungry for a bullying case that offered hope of a happy ending, and Katie’s situation became a chance to step in early and support the victim.
Our family has been overwhelmed by the generosity of spirit that the Star Wars community has bestowed upon us. Yes, there have been gifts of lightsabers and Star Wars posters, Legos, and even a TaunTaun sleeping bag. But of all the gifts, the most profound have been the stories you have shared with us of your own histories with bullying.
It is those stories which prompt me to write to you today and invite you to participate in a massive cyber-supporting campaign that will benefit ALL victims of bullying, instead of just benefitting one lucky little girl.
We invite you to create and upload your own inspirational videos where you share your stories with those who are caught in the cruel winter of bullying. Tell a struggling stranger to hang in there. Reassure a taunted child that he or she is not alone. Maybe you were once a geeky kid who was bullied, and you could offer some encouragement. Maybe you were a former bully, and you could offer an apology.
Please visit www.teambullied.com to share your story and see the stories of others.
I have spent the past eighteen months researching and learning about bullying. I have interviewed hundreds of people—parents, teachers, kids, bullies, victims, celebrities, geeks, authors, social workers, psychologists—all in an effort to understand why bullying is so pervasive in our culture and to learn what we can do to improve the situation.
If you are interested in learning more, you can order my book, Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear (HarperOne, 2012) on the “About” page at the Team Bullied website. I spoke with many of YOU in the process of writing Bullied, and I am grateful for your honesty and trust.
The Team Bullied video project is dedicated to everyone who has ever felt alone due to peer victimization. It is for the child who cries at night because she dreads what the next day at school will bring. It is for the stuttering boy who elects silence over speech. It is for the student with autism who is bullied on the playground, and it is for the overweight person who is afraid to eat in front of others for fear of being mocked.
It is for the brothers and sisters who worship at an altar that others fear, and it is for those whose skin color becomes a label for the person inside. To the princess boys and the Star Wars girls, the nonconformists, the marginalized, the ignored and the outcasts, the hidden Jedi of the universe, I offer these words to you:
You are not alone.