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Posts Tagged ‘bullying’

– An interesting take on Godwin’s Law: the Nazis weren’t that special. And nor are Americans.

– Wow. Some state representatives have a lot of spare time in which to write people angry, incoherent, idiotic, hand-written letters.

– The Governor of Ohio wants to make it illegal for your car to have a “secret compartment”. There doesn’t even have to be anything in it. You’re probably only going to fill it with drugs, so you can’t be trusted with the responsibility.

– Read this. “Bullying is about as valid a rite of passage as female circumcision, and no less its spiritual equivalent.” Read it now.

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Browbeating you into health

A healthcare association in Atlanta have been pushing a major advertising campaign lately, targeting childhood obesity.

Or, more accurately, targeting overweight children.

The ostensible goal of the campaign is straight-forward enough: healthier children in the state of Georgia. But it’s worth listing the various things these ads don’t do to achieve this.

They don’t offer medical advice of any kind. They don’t discuss or explain the health issues associated with any particular kinds of diet, or the benefits that can be derived from a healthier lifestyle. They don’t offer children a vision of a positive, attainable future if certain health advice is followed. They don’t offer parents any practical tips on simple changes that can be made to the way they look after their children.

What do they do? Well, they emphasise that being overweight is bad. That “fat” is an awful thing to be. That you should, and inevitably will, feel bad if you look like this, or if you let your children look like this.

That fear and shame is what’s being pushed more than anything about health or well-being. You’re expected to just look at them, realise they’re fat, and know that that’s bad. Just look at them.

This is what these ads make very clear. And they do so in a way that children can understand. Children who have problems with their own weight, and children who’ve already been tempted to make fun of the fatties in the playground.

The video spots they’ve made, if this monstrosity is anything to go by, are even worse.

In all dimly lit black-and-white, a kid (who, frankly, seems barely even chubby to me) sits opposite a notably large woman, and asks: “Mom, why am I fat?”

The woman sighs and hangs her head in sorrow and shame. A caption tells her and fat women like her to “Stop sugarcoating it”.

For fuck’s sake.

That video has far more likes than dislikes on YouTube, and it’s clear that not everyone feels the same visceral repugnance to it as I do. But it’s hard to explain in detail just what it is that seems so self-evidently inhumane about actively spreading shame and compounding the guilt people already feel about themselves.

Here’s my main problem with this whole campaign. Have you ever seen an overweight child in a movie, or a TV show, or a documentary, or basically being depicted in any form of popular culture either factually or fictitiously? Because the impression I get from them, just about every damn time, is that they’re already pretty fucking clear on how ashamed they’re supposed to feel about their bodies without you hammering it in any further.

If you’re going to claim, as a health agency, to have children’s welfare at heart, then maybe try taking a different tactic in motivating them to change their behaviours than the bullies a lot of them deal with every day of their lives.

At least one of the children starring in the ads says she feels “really good” about herself, and doesn’t seem to be the pit of self-loathing that Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta seem to want her to be. I only hope their failure here is part of a much wider trend.

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Okay, this is finally starting to really piss me off.

For the benefit of morons, here is a complete list of every situation in which calling a 16-year-old girl a “stupid bitch”, “not human”, “garbage”, and a “fucking worthless cunt”, and praying for her to be punched in the face, curb stomped, raped, and burn in Hell, is acceptable:

End of list.

Clear?

Talking to anyone like that is a clear indicator that you’re either pointlessly obnoxious or have no control over your temper, and that you don’t have anything to say which deserves to be listened to. But this is a sixteen-year-old girl these people have never met.

Specifically, this is Jessica Ahlquist, a high school student in Rhode Island. She took objection to a banner with a prayer on it that hung in her school, and she responded by filing a lawsuit to have it taken down as a violation of the principle of separation of Church and State.

Some people have, in turn, taken objection to her actions, and they responded by threatening her with death, rape, and torture.

Seriously. She’s a young girl who tried to get her school to stop doing something illegal. Counter-arguments would be one thing, but people have gone insane over this. She was recently described as an “evil little thingby an elected state representative. What the hell is wrong with you people?

I just want to point out two things about the wording of the banner itself. First, the text is clearly identified as a “prayer”, which opens with “Our heavenly father” and closes with “Amen”. This isn’t just overtly religious, it’s specifically Christian. If you’re okay with this hanging in a public school, but would complain if they changed the wording to “O Great and Glorious Allah”, then don’t pretend you’re not trying to impose a theocracy on the rest of us.

Secondly, if you pay any attention to the words in the prayer, you’ll notice it talks about moral values like compassion and generosity. It emphasises being “kind and helpful” as a worthy aspiration. It encourages us to “smile when we lose as well as when we win”. It says very little about violent abuse of teenagers in revenge for a petty infringement on your privileges.

This is what lends an almost darkly comic air to the whole business. The banner was praying for things we can pretty much all get behind. Atheists don’t generally have a problem with the values it describes. The God part isn’t something that state-funded establishments should be promoting, but that can seem like a minor worry. The effort to have it taken down wouldn’t have necessarily seemed like a fight especially worth pursuing, in the grand scheme of things.

And then the hundreds of religious maniacs came out of the woodwork, and the spitting hatred that lurks just beneath the surface was brought to the boil, and suddenly it seems vitally important that people keep fighting this kind of bullshit whenever they can and Jessica Ahlquist looks like a fucking hero.

Not enough people have been on her side with this. For what it’s worth, I’m joining the crowd.

(Addendum: Something else I support are the protests against SOPA/PIPA. I’m not holding a blackout myself, because nobody gives a shit what I do, but it’s an important cause. If you want to know some more about it, Wikipedia’s explanation for their own black-out is a pretty good place to start.

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Well, this weekend and I are getting on just fine so far. Just a quick post tonight, because I’ve been at the movies and am far too lazy to get anything useful typed up with the rest of my day now.

First, go see the new X-Men film. It’s great. I know they kinda went downhill in the past, but they actually got talented people to make this one, rather than just cashing in quickly while the interest was hot, which is what I understand was much of the motivation behind the previous film in the series (full disclosure: I didn’t see that Wolverine spin-off movie and I enjoy judging things unfairly).

Secondly – and I honestly didn’t realise that these were somewhat a propos until I started typing this paragraph – Hayley Stevens posted an open letter recently about not fitting in, which is worth reading. I should try and write about the thoughts it induces in me at greater length sometime. You may understand if you read it, and some of the comments, why it’s the sort of subject that might inspire strong feelings.

Anyway. If you’re reading this as it goes up, you’re missing Doctor Who, and it’s one of Moffat’s episodes this week so it might actually be worth catching. Off you go.

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