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Not Quite in the Pink

Posted by Dirck on 27 February, 2013

As it happens, I do feel a little bit like I’m coming down with something, but I’m speaking a little more literally than the usual use of the phrase.  Even as I’m writing this, if I understand the daily schedule at home properly, my wife is preparing to shove our son off to his afternoon of formal education dressed in a pink shirt.  I could have staggered off to The Regular Job in a similar state, but I chose not to.

…and for those who aren’t up on this manifestation of public awareness, let me explain.  A few years ago, a couple of high school seniors responded to the hurling of hurtful imprecations at a younger student who had made the mistake of wearing a supposedly gender-inappropriate shirt– “A boy, wearing a pink shirt?  Haw haw haw!”– not by visiting physical violence upon the hurlers, but by appearing, along with as many of their peers as they could kit up, in pink shirts.  This one-off event got reported, and turned into a movement, as so many things do in this age of instant communication.

Now, I’ve mentioned previously my opposition to bullying.  I’m strongly opposed to it, and I hope I can keep my son from joining the tribal mindset that leads to it… but I’m not absolutely certain that I’m in favour of making it a regular, yearly event.

Point one of the uncertainly is that saying, “We devote this day to that thing!” tends to make us all get slightly blind to that thing for the rest of the year.  Christmassy goodwill-to-all, Remembrance Day’s contemplation, Valentinian tender regard… some of us can keep these things in our hearts all the days of the year, but for most of us there’s the terrible temptation to say, “Hey, I thought about that very hard once this year, don’t bug me about it in the middle of Here Comes Honey Booboo.”  Since the bullying is sort of a 365.25/24/7 effort, making a stink about it only once a year is worrisome.

Point two, and this is more of a personal vapour, is that in creating a nice big Anti-Bully tribe, complete with colours, there’s an opportunity for a new and socially-allowable sort of bullying.  Have a look at the image made up for the event:

We're here to stop your reign of terror through mob rule!

We’re here to stop your reign of terror!  Face the power of mob rule!

Big bully picks on little kid, stopped by an assortment of other kids.  Laudable.  It’s the way I keep hoping the UN will act.  I’m right on side with that.  But… here we all are, filing into school in our pink shirts, filled with righteousness and a sense that we are part of The Good Guys.  And there’s some kid wearing a green shirt, trying to get something out of the water fountain.  He’s not of the body!  Let us gather around, point fingers, and chant “Greenie likes bullies!” in the well-known schoolyard rhythm.

Kids are great at generating irony, but I’m not sure how good they are at perceiving it.  I remember from my own days of golden youth the willingness to be on the pointing, chanting side of the equation when opportunity arose, hopeful that this would last and I wouldn’t ever go back to being the pointed-at other.  There are, I suspect, damn few of us that are wholly guiltless in the bullying department, precisely because there are damn few of us that didn’t get some of the treatment, and that the best we can offer is latter-day remorse for youthful stupidity.

This retrospective awareness comes with the realization that the people who worked me over were for the most part doing so for the same reasons I participated, or were suffering from far worse at the hands of monstrous adults in their lives.  My final problem with this movement is the sad knowledge that it can’t really work, because it is addressing symptoms rather than causes.  That’s not altogether a bad thing, of course; I won’t deny that applying a topical ointment can make an itch bearable, but it doesn’t put an end to mosquitoes.

None of which is to say that I’m going to prevent my son from being in the pink-shirted majority, so long as this effort persists.  I certainly won’t thrust him into the role of Greenie in my little drama, and I can hope that the authentic good of the effort against bullies gets into his head– the necessary remaking of society might be born out of little kids being thus programmed, after all.  But I’ll not feel bad about wearing my non-pink shirt… no matter how the other kids point and chant.

Today’s pen: Lamy 2000
Today’s ink: Herbin Lis de Thé

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6 Responses to “Not Quite in the Pink”

  1. That’s the spirit. Boys really get a rough deal with certain things, like not being able to wear certain colors without getting hassled, or crying or being sensitive or being interested in things that are typically “girls’ things”. I hope the pink shirt campaign helps, at least. But it sure would be nice if we could just BE instead of having to risk being bullied. Also, feel better!

    • I guess I get nervous when a spontaneous act like the initial pink-shirting gets codified; there’s certainly room for it to do good, but one can point to other things (the UN, organized religion, Star Wars movies) that either fail to live up to the potential for improving humanity or end up so concerned about the form of the effort that the spirit gets left to one side.

      Just being would be pretty nice indeed… and I’m going to leave it at that, because I feel a political rant coming on as well as a cold.

  2. You know, I’ve heard this sort of thing discussed in regards to activist ribbons – red for AIDS awareness, pink for breast cancer awareness, puzzle pieces for autism research, etc. When you reduce a “cause” to a color or ribbon, you’re not doing much to support the people that the cause is aimed at if you ask me. I’d much rather make people aware of cystic fibrosis by talking about it than wearing a purple ribbon which people may or may not understand the meaning of – and speaking of bullying, why can’t we just teach our children to be nice? I fault a lack of family values for most causes of bullying anyway – I don’t think a pink shirt will come anywhere close to addressing the real reasons kids can be jerks…

    • Bart Simpson runs past, hears only the last four words, and shouts, “We can? Gee, thanks!”

      …but seriously: I do find that I get a little confused by the profusion of ribbons these days, and have started to go blind to them. Without getting onto the political rant I narrowly avoided yesterday, and aware that this stance is easily afflicted by stories of bullies throughout history, I think part of the problem of getting kids brought up properly is the current evident requirement that all parents work at least 14 hours a day to keep up with inflation.

  3. Coincidentally: as I was typing, and my son was toddling along to join his rosy cohort, the Supreme Court was busy upholding the anti-hate component of my province’s free speech-limiting human rights legislation; you can say what you like, up to the point where you start preaching a crusade/jihad/cleansing. On the “just letting people be” front, I’m OK with that sort of limitation.
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/story/2013/02/27/pol-supreme-court-whatcott-free-speech.html

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