On Wednesdays (and Fridays) we wear pink

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As written for Auckland university of technology

May 20, 2015

 

In year seven, I got into my first knock-down, arm-wrangling fight with another student. It was our first year in high school and a new setting for the both of us. I was an insensitive, hyperactive child. He was a prickly, bombastic jerk. We both fancied ourselves hot shit. Our friends hung back in shared embarrassment as we inexpertly made like Bruce Lee’s poor cousins, tugging each other to pieces.

In the weeks leading up to this, we had bullied each other relentlessly about anything from the way the other looked, spoke or even the friends we kept.

Bullying is not a new phenomenon, though it now has more guises. It is commonly defined as repetitive acts that intend to harm or intimidate, and where there is an imbalance of power. Bullying is not always so obvious. My scrap with that student was the culmination to a semester of mutual harassment, a juvenile tug of war for power and control.

At university, I’m blessed to have never experienced it, but I know others who have due to their academic history, family situation, gender, religion, sexual orientation or the colour of their skin. Research shows us that people who experienced or engaged in bullying often flowed between the roles of victim, perpetrator and observer. And of course, bullying is not just physical, especially in 2015, and especially at university. By far, more common is cyber bullying, or harassment by way of the internet and social media. Research also shows that this form of victimization is just as harmful.

There are many things you can do if you or someone you know is being bullied. Most importantly, never face it alone and don’t remain silent. But we seldom stop what we can’t see. We cannot see what we haven’t learned to recognise, and we can’t recognise what we don’t understand. Discrimination and intimidation thrive in a culture of silence, ignorance and inaction.

This is why on Friday, May 22, you may observe a rise in pink threads around AUT. Started in 2007 when students wore pink shirts in a show of solidarity for their schoolmate who had been bullied for wearing pink the day before, pink shirts identify you as an ally. Pink Shirt Day celebrates the fact that we are richer together for our differences. It recognises the natural right for every person to be safe, respected and valued. Pink Shirt Day and its allies reject the idea that bullying is a necessary life experience. Bullying is not permissible anywhere at any time.

Three years after that fight behind the local pool, my adversary and I sized each other up at our high school graduation formal and realised how none of that drama mattered in life’s grand scheme. We hugged and wished each other all the best for the future. We’ve remained good friends to this day and pity the silly children we used to be with the gift of hindsight.

There are better ways to tell the world that you’re hot shit: be an ally. Wear pink on Friday, May 22. Wear pink all week if you want. Life is too short to be terrible to one another and there is too much important work to be done.

If you are being bullied by another student or staff member at AUT, don’t remain silent. Your safety, health and wellbeing matter. Your contributions are valid. You are important. You belong here at AUT, bullying and harassment do not.