susanstinson: (Default)
[personal profile] susanstinson
I just saw the terrible news that, in the nearby city of Springfield, 11-year old Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover has hanged himself after enduring anti-gay bullying. Evidently, his mother's attempts to talk with school officials about the bullying did not result in an effective response. Oh, I feel for that child and his family.

It makes my heart ache, it really does, for all of the children who are harassed at school, who have to fight so hard to find the inner resources to get through the attacks, often in isolation. It happens so much around perceived gayness or queerness. It happens around so many things. It happens around fatness.

I experienced harassment around being fat as a little girl and a high school student, and I'm sure I'm not alone in that. Other kids didn't perceive me as queer, but there was no missing the fact that I was fat. I've heard stories of children who have killed themselves in response to fat-related bullying, and a quick google turned up more. I'm not going to link to them -- reinvoking all of that waste and loss and sadness seems as if it might not be helpful.

But, I also heard this week that Massachusetts schools are starting to send reports on students' BMI home to their parents. And, very sadly, I think that this kind of institutional focus on weight and the bullying of fat children is related.

Here is an excellent article linking school programs that focus on fat kids with bullying by Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick, who wrote The Tyranny of Health.

Here is the main page of GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian Straight Education Network, which looks to be doing amazing work against bullying in schools.

Here are strategies around children and weight from Body Positive.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-04-10 05:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] plaid-is-best.livejournal.com
It's horrible.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-04-10 05:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] susanstinson.livejournal.com
Oh, it is. It is. I'm taking strength from the people who are working so hard to shift context that feeds the bullying it.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-04-10 06:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wordweaverlynn.livejournal.com
Oh, how dreadful. That poor boy -- and his family.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-04-10 06:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] susanstinson.livejournal.com
Very, very sad.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-04-10 08:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nerd-dog.livejournal.com
good lord that is heinous...

here is an article with some counteracting (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/05/education/05empathy.html?ref=opinion) good (or at least better) news.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-04-10 10:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] susanstinson.livejournal.com
Thanks for the balance. The cultivation of empathy is one of the things I love about fiction -- for the practice it gives in entering into the inner lives of others.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-04-10 08:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] daisydumont.livejournal.com
what a terrible story. only 11!

i've noticed a serious uptick in outright hostility and hatred of fat people in online venues, like comment threads attached to news stories or health reports. it's bruising to see the comments nasty people make. no wonder that poor child was so unhappy.

(when i was on campus an hour ago, picking my son up from his dorm, i got out to walk to the student union for a bottle of water. a boy driving by called out either "oy" or "oink." it rankles, even though i'm not sure what he really said. my mind supplies enough condemnation to go with the perceived insult.)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-04-10 10:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] susanstinson.livejournal.com
So sorry. That stuff can be so painful.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-04-11 06:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] genievrestela.livejournal.com
Great post and links. A friend is researching the bullying aspect inregards not to suicide but to school shootings, mainly VT, but addresses others as well. For the majority of school shootings the kids were bullied to the point of being social outcasts. Interestingly enough, females are more known for suicide rather than violence and vice versa for males. I did a huge project my first semester in grad school on if fat children would have a lower communication competence than thinner students in school due to the teasing and marginalization. I found that for fat students, while other childre reported fat kids as being "mean", in reality the fat child would pull away and distance themself in some manner. My friend and I have been trying to pull our information together for some time, but even professors keep blaming the student rather than looking at the bullying and teasing that occurs to so many kids and how as a community we allow it. (such as in this case where the parents could not get help from the school-- this has occured before in a school shooting I believe.)

Where is B.A.?

Date: 2009-04-12 07:14 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I am pretty strong and lucky to have a body type that lends itself to lean muscle but until I was in HS I was tiny and picked on constantly. I used to idolize MR. T. on the A-Team because of the special relationship he had with kids. The idea that someone who was so tough being so "down" for the cause of the totally powerless guides me always. He is a saint.

Whenever I have a chance I try to spread the word that "NO ONE has the right to make you feel bad. You have the right to be happy." It may mean that they still have to sit alone at recess but they can rest assured it's NOT THEIR FAULT and that things do get better. It sucks to be alone but I survived to reap the benefits here in a adulthood.

Ben

Re: Where is B.A.?

Date: 2009-04-13 12:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] susanstinson.livejournal.com
Glad that you had images that helped you through tough times in childhood, and that adulthood is coming with happiness and awareness.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-04-13 12:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] susanstinson.livejournal.com
Sorry to hear about the resistance from your professors. Thank you for the work.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-04-15 09:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] maryjholliday.livejournal.com
Thanks for posting the Body Positive link. Just yesterday my GF, a high school teacher, was stressing out about the BMI report thing and we were trying to brainstorm ways to address it with her co-workers and students. I've forwarded the link along to her. :)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-04-18 12:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] susanstinson.livejournal.com
Yay! That makes me so happy!!! Every strength to your gf as she has to deal with this!!!

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