By: Amber Leventry
“It’s just words, folks. Just words.” That’s how Donald Trump defended his comments about grabbing women by their vagina. Or in other words, how he laughed off describing the way he is able to sexually assault women because of his money and fame.
Anyone who supports Trump, through like-minded thinking, fear, or ignorance, is also supporting the perpetuation of abusive behavior. Anyone who is trying to deflect the topic of his character by pointing fingers at others before taking an honest look at themselves or Trump is just skirting the real issue at hand: Donald Trump is a bully and if you vote for him, you are just as bad as he is.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month and I would like to prevent our nation’s most celebrated bully from being elected as POTUS in November.
I would love to pretend Donald Trump isn’t the Republican presidential nominee. While I am at it, I could pretend millions of people don’t agree with his explanation of the sexist, rape culture nurturing comments he spoke to Billy Bush in 2005. I could continue my fantasy by pretending that this man and all others who objectify, harass, and assault women, children, and men will be held accountable for their actions. But pretending won’t solve the problem; the reality is that Trump is a selfish, abusive, and privileged man who will never understand how words can affect another human being.
The word bully may elicit memories of school days filled with teasing, shoves into lockers, or endless rumors started by the cool kids. It may seem like a childish word, one that describes the mean kid on the playground, a word that can be laughed off as easily as “locker room talk”. But words are powerful, people, and being described as a bully carries the weight of depression, anxiety, isolation, and suicide.
I am not suggesting that words are the only way in which kids bully other kids, but I am suggesting that they are a HUGE part of it. I am also suggesting that bullying is a pretty big fucking deal and it needs to stop.
The National Center for Educational Statistics indicates one out of four students report being bullied throughout the school year. This is one of the many reasons The Center for Disease Control calls bullying a public health issue. Students who are bullied are at a much higher risk for depression, poor school work, physical injury, and emotional distress. And another study by the JAMA Pediatrics Network reported that 80% of the youth who commit suicide do so because of bullying and peer victimization.
It’s not just the kids being bullied who are harmed, either. The kids who are doing the bullying are at greater risk for mental health problems, poor relationships, and suicide-related behaviors. Kids who are treated poorly or who are taught that it is okay to treat others poorly will continue the cycle if we let them. Those kids grow into teenagers with decreased empathy and desensitized attitudes toward bullying and an increased risk for criminal activity. Those kids grow up to be adults. Adults who sympathize with rapists, adults who believe “boys will be boys”, adults who sexually harass their female employees and coworkers, and adults who think it’s okay to shrug off comments about touching women without their consent.
Our kids are watching what is going on this political season. They are watching the commercials, the debates, and social media’s reactions to all of it. But we need to turn their attention to us. They need to watch us be more than bystanders. They need to see us look them in the eye and tell them it is not okay to talk to anyone with such hate and bigotry. It is not okay to describe women as playthings. It is not okay to make fun of others because of our differences. It’s not okay to pass off blame by claiming words are just words.
Words are everything. They tell stories. They tell our truth. They speak to our character. And when words hurt us, when words turn into triggers for events that have happened to us, words can be therapeutic. Words are persuasive. Words incriminate. Words liberate. And words linger.
It’s so much more than words, Donald. It’s about stopping the cycle of belief that people are entitled to bully their way into a position of power.
Photo Credit: Reuters