At the age of five, for the annual kindergarten Halloween party, I decided that I wanted to be a princess. Not a firefighter or a soldier or some sexually ambiguous horror movie villain, but a princess -a dainty, pink and proper princess.
When I confronted my parents with this grand proposal, they looked at each other nervously and said, “Siddhanth, maybe you should be a clown instead.” I did what I was told and dejectedly donned my clown get up. That’s when it started.
I was told, since I was five, that I was different from everyone else, that I was strange. Little did I know that this would escalate to a dramatic level.
Amongst petty complaints about administration and the problems we face with the ice machine, we often lose sight of some of the difficult, but real, problems that perpetuate SAS culture.
Bullying is a topic that can easily be overlooked. But with the meteoric rise of the viral world, bullying has adopted a shapeless form.
What fosters bullying in a school culture? What gives a bully the impetus to bully? What even is a bully?
These are important questions. I had the opportunity to interview someone who experienced severe bullying here at SAS. This source remains anonymous as per her request. I asked her to describe her bullying experience. Her eyes darted nervously as she tried to hold back the tears.
“I was in a situation with this guy and he had video taped me doing something that I had no clue about and it got around. I found out about it on Twitter—someone tweeted about me—and I didn’t even know the story.
“The senior girls on Twitter last year were really harsh, and people started calling me a slut—even though I know I was not. But when you hear it a lot, it makes you feel like you’re not good enough, especially when guys tell you that the reason you’ll never get anyone is because ‘you’re too easy’ or that ‘you try too hard’ or that ‘you have too much history’,” she said.
“I came to school and everyone was looking at me and I just felt so alone. And then I kind of just had to get over it myself because no one was really there for me.”
She went on to describe a kind of “secret bullying” that is made possible via the Internet. Explaining the detrimental effects that social media has in building a culture of bullying, she states, “Yik-Yak, Formspring and all forms of social media enable rumors—words that they wouldn’t use in person.” She described her experiences of utter hopelessness in the face of the weapon of social media. However, her story does not end there.
“A month later someone made an anonymous fake email account and sent a video of me chugging a Breezer to the whole school. To teachers, counselors, principals, students.
“The accumulation of both videos just hit me hard. I felt so targeted. I felt like everyone hated me, that no one would feel bad for me or they’d say that I was always trying to seek attention,” she said.
“It was really rough because I didn’t get any support from anyone. I was being bullied by someone faceless and I thought it was an invasion of my privacy. I didn’t know who it was and I still don’t know who it was.”
When asked why she thought bullying exists at SAS, the source replied, “I felt like bullying is such a huge problem because people are trying to fit under one category, and if you’re not in that category, or you are in that category, you just try to put down other people.”
She went on to say, “I think everyone has the same mindset: if you’re skinny, you’re anorexic. If you’re bigger, then you’re fat. I think bullying at SAS is an issue, but it’s not noticeable. I bet so many people feel like they’re being bullied, but aren’t sure, because it’s not the ‘normal’ type of bullying.”
I knew how she felt, although the bullying I experienced was more overt. On the first day of school in eighth grade I walked with feeble confidence into my new school: the Singapore American School. I thought it would be a fresh start for me and I thought that perhaps people would accept me for who am I am.
Little was I aware of upcoming months of hell that would unfold. Being different was hard. I was taunted incessantly.
Instead of a friendly “hi” or “hello,” my daily greetings were homophobic jeers, crude and nasty things written about me, and of course the phrase that saturates the vocabulary of every teenage boy: faggot. It was possibly the worst two months of my entire life.
But then, something changed. I think it’s when the “I don’t care” phenomenon kicked in. And it took a lot of inner strength and a lot of courage for me to find that. Once I accepted myself for who I was and was content with myself–the bullying stopped.
That doesn’t come overnight, and I’d count myself quite lucky. I have realized that as much as there will be the lonesome bully whose sole purpose in life is to make you feel miserable, there will always be someone who loves and accepts you for who you are.
As our source suggests, “If you ever feel alone, please talk to someone you feel comfortable with. Don’t wait for time to pass it by because there will always be someone there for you.”
SAS takes bullying very seriously. This story was part of our school-sponsored Anti-Bullying Awareness Week, where we try to bring to light issues related to bullying that many schools try to keep in the dark. We believe that the more we talk about it, the less we’ll have to talk about.
If you’re being bullied or know someone who is, there are steps you can take today:
1) Talk to an adult. Your counselor or a teacher you trust is a good place to start. All of the adults at SAS will totally support you and help you figure out the next steps to take. You do not have to deal with this alone.
2) Surround yourself with people who care about you. Their genuine appreciation for you will help to neutralize the bully’s hateful words.
3) Stop giving energy to what they say. If they don’t get a reaction, they will lose interest.
You can also visit reachout.com to learn about more strategies.