Monday, March 25

Bullies should not be glorified

“Mean Girls”; the movie that commanded incredible popularity in 2004. The movie was so loved that, in fact, Feb. 25, 2010 was National “Mean Girls” Status Day on Facebook. The fact that a movie that portrays bullying, backstabbing and aggressive behavior to be trendy among the social elite is alarming.

Whatever happened to the Golden Rule: treat others the way you want to be treated?

We need to drastically redefine what is considered “cool” behavior. Society is encouraging bullies and labeling their destructive and disrespectful behavior as acceptable, and even admirable.

On Jan. 14, 2010, 15-year-old Phoebe Prince committed suicide after almost three months of being victim to intolerable verbal and physical abuse by some of her peers.

Her crime? Dating a popular, senior athlete at their high school for a short time.

What’s disturbing is that her attackers, now dubbed the “Mean Girls,” and their antics were common knowledge among the school’s administration and many classmates.

Yet no action to follow school policies on addressing bullying was taken to put an end to their degrading routines. One has to wonder if it’s because these “Mean Girls” were well-liked, attractive and athletic ““ archetypal female superstars that many females aspire to become.

“Bullies are often popular and respected: they are considered the “˜cool’ kids,’” said UCLA psychology Professor Jaana Juvonen in a news release. And teenagers tend to emulate behavior comprehended as favorable.

UCLA research studies on early adolescent bullying from 2003 and 2008 support her claim.

An online survey with 1,454 teenage participants showed that 41 percent of teenagers reported witnessing or being part of one to three bullying events over a year; 13 percent reported four to six incidents and 19 percent reported seven or more incidents. Such mistreatment of peers is very common.

As college students, we may think we’re above such immature conduct, believing that bullying ends the day we leave the chaperoned halls of high school.

But this sort of domineering practice is ubiquitous, dwelling in actions that we may perceive as innocent or simply as playful banter.

Even at UCLA, bullying exists.

When visualizing bullying, I imagine the blatant and ostensible type: a small, helpless child getting physically beaten to a pulp by a bigger, coercive predator. However, bullying doesn’t only entail physical abuse but also psychological harassment such as teasing and ostracizing others, gossiping and authoritative oppression.

Victims of bullying commonly show symptoms of depression, loneliness and social anxiety. And being enduringly subject to such threatening exertions by peers can lead to a high risk for developing psychological problems.

It’s easy to lump yourself with the masses when it comes to opinions and outlooks, and I understand that being on the other side of majority can be terrifying, no matter how out of line the majority may be.

But in such cases, we should contemplate these incidents in more personal terms. What if the sufferer was your sister or brother? Your daughter or son?

My dad taught me that what’s popular may not always be right. Regardless of the reasons for bullying, the need to treat others with respect is a cardinal rule that we have no doubt learned since we were young.

Whatever idiosyncrasies someone has, whatever differences you and someone else may have, we need to remember that everyone is a human being like you and me.

E-mail Lee at [email protected] Send general comments to [email protected]

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