‘Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs’ – Pearl Strachan Hurd

Our actions define us, and in society, we tend to label people or categorise individuals based upon the behaviours they exhibit. For example, we describe people that play instruments as musicians, those that paint we call artists – and although these particular examples are seemingly harmless descriptors of interests, hobbies and careers – they allow insight into the potency and permanence of a label – after all, a musician is still considered a musician even when they are not actively playing their instrument.

In these instances we know that labels such as ‘musician’ and ‘artist’ are not a comprehensive representation of an individual’s entire personality – it is absurd to think that one word could adequately summarise the complexity of human nature. Yet, we very flippantly ascribe limiting and even damaging nouns and adjectives to people, including ourselves on a regular, if not daily basis. If you take a few moments to consider how often a label has actually positively impacted your self-esteem or confidence, you will find more often than not, they serve to be reductive and restrictive, promoting both conscious and unconscious prejudice.

“It is absurd to think that one word could adequately summarise the complexity of human nature”

 

Unlike a noun describing your profession – which is obviously subject to change depending on your employment – labels weighted with negative connotations such as ‘bully’ can be hard to shift. They dehumanise the person behind the word and can permanently tarnish a person’s reputation regardless of whether or not they are actively participating in aggressive behaviours. It implies that humans are incapable of change – an oxymoronic statement, because to be human means to be in a constant state of evolution. ‘Our actions define us’ but we should be aware that the definition is not indelibly inked.

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This is why at Ditch the Label we refuse to call people ‘bullies’ and ‘victims’; although such labels may seem an accurate reflection of their experience at this precise moment in time, by calling someone a ‘bully’ you are implying that is who they are at their very core, that they are inherently ‘bad’, rather than acknowledging the fact, that sometimes, good people do bad things. We are using Anti-Bullying Week this year to spread the message that it isn’t okay to label people as ‘bullies’ or ‘victims’ anymore, because it’s counterproductive.

Just as none of us are born with the ability to draw or sing a song; nor are we born with the ability to discriminate against someone because of the colour of their skin, their sexuality or any other unique factor. We believe bullying is a learnt behaviour, not an identity and although we can’t always identify the exact reason why somebody decides to act in this manner, we do know that those who bully others have issues that are not being addressed elsewhere.

“At Ditch the Label we refuse to call people ‘bullies’ and ‘victims'”

 

One of the first steps we take in helping those that want to stop bullying is to remind them that they are not a ‘bully’ and to stop thinking of themselves as such as it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead of subscribing to villainous stereotypes and persecuting those that bully, we look to address why they are behaving in such a way. Often, we find they are responding aggressively to a stressful situation – for example, a bereavement of a family member or their parents’ divorce. It is also a good indicator as to how the person doing the bullying sees themselves; for instance, if somebody is constantly poking fun at how others look, it is more than likely they are doing so to deflect away from their own appearance-based insecurities. Likewise with sexuality; homophobia is usually a product of insecurity and a lack of education – unfortunately, instead of taking the time to understand or embrace difference, they act negatively towards the unknown.

We must start to encourage those that bully to seek the support they need. In order for them to feel comfortable enough to do that, we need to stop branding people or giving them the impression that they are undeserving of help.

Bullying is one of the biggest issues currently affecting teens and we believe that we can overcome it if we start to think differently about how we approach things. Ceasing to use disempowering labels such as ‘bully’ and ‘victim’ is a great place to start during Anti-Bullying Week 2016.

 

If you are being bullied, or are bullying others and want to stop, you can get help in our community

Categories
Gender Quiz

How Sexist Are You? [QUIZ]

How Sexist Are You?

Gender equality is – and quite rightly so – a topic of fierce debate at the moment. At Ditch the Label, we believe that everybody should be a feminist. You might consider yourself completely free from all underlying sexist attitudes, but are you harbouring sexist opinions or beliefs without even realising it? Take our short quiz to find out…

Meet the GRL PWR Gang, a collective of girls set for world domination.

We interviewed Artist/Designer Elizabeth Ilsley, Photographer/Director Millicent Hailes and Marketing Consultant Jessica Riches; just three members of GRL PWR Gang, a collective of influential women who have joined forces to promote female empowerment and support other women working in creative industries. 

Founded by Kirsti Hadley and Kylie Griffiths, the GRL PWR Gang works together to provide opportunities for like-minded women to come together for girl-chat, media networking, creative support, team projects and sharing of ideas.

Their objective is to encourage and inspire other young women to access the creative industries as a potential career path, and plan to pass on their collective knowledge to the next generation of young girls via digital engagement and live events. They will soon host talks and mentor young girls on body image, beauty, feminism, social media and how to access that dream job!

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DTL: Our research revealed that 35% of teenage girls believe that their gender will have a negative effect on their career. What are your thoughts on this, based on your experiences?

  • Jessica: It’s true. But if you’re prepared for that, you can be aware of it. Call it out when you see it, know your rights, educate yourself and join any organisations or unions available to you for extra support.
  • Millicent: It’s really sad. There have been shoots in the past where I have been mistaken for the assistant, and my male assistant is assumed to be the photographer, just because he’s an older guy. This has happened before we’ve even set up or spoken to anyone, so it really is based purely on gender, and who is perceived to be the most ‘capable’ or ‘powerful’. It frustrates me, but ignorance isn’t going to keep me from furthering my career.

DTL: Did you ever experience bullying? If so can you tell us what happened and how you dealt with it?

  • Elizabeth: Unfortunately, like a lot of people, I experienced bullying throughout primary and secondary school. I had ginger hair and have a prominent mole next to my mouth, so kids used to tease me constantly about my appearance. I was in such turmoil during that time; I tried to cut my mole off with a razor when I was in Year 8, after a group of boys wouldn’t stop calling me ‘moley’! But my god, I am so glad I never had it removed – having a noticeable mole on my face makes me unique, and it has become one of my favourite features now!
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Elizabeth Ilsley
  • Millicent: One of the many times I was suspended at school, was for not intervening in a situation when I was aware that a girl was being bullied. Maybe the teachers thought that, because I was outspoken and confident, I should have stepped in and helped the girl. My mum always tells that story to my little brother and sister who are just starting secondary school – the tale of when their older sister was a coward. I still feel really awful about it now.
  • Jessica: All you have to do is go online to see the disgusting abuse directed at people – particularly women, LGBT+ people and ethnic minorities. I work with a number of bloggers, journalists and celebrities on their personal profiles online, and it makes them want to give up their platform. All you can do is tell them to focus on the people who are positively impacted by their words; they far outweigh the cowardly, unhappy few.

DTL: What advice would you give to someone who may be experiencing bullying right now?

  • Millicent: Tell somebody right away – a problem shared is a problem halved. Don’t isolate yourself, situations seem worse when you feel alone, there are people out there who are going through the same thing as you. More than you think.
  • Jessica: You are not alone. If you can’t get a support network in real life it will definitely exist online – Ditch the Label is a great example of this. You can visit their website and access support at the click of a button if you need to.

DTL: If you could go back in time, what one thing would you tell your younger self?

  • Elizabeth: You are not ugly. You are as funny and important as everyone else at school. There is no one else like you and life will get really, really fun as soon as you turn 18. Also, stop worrying about the colour of your hair and the socks that you wear.
  • Millicent: Embrace who you are. Wear weird clothes, watch weird movies. You’re great and don’t give a s*&% if someone says otherwise.
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Millicent Hailes

DTL: What are your most prominent challenges, and how do you overcome them?

  • Jessica: Being taken seriously as a young woman in business is hard. So many people have said to me ‘you’ve done so much for a girl so young’. They’d never say anything like that if I was a man.

DTL: What is it like to be a woman in 2016 and what needs to change?

  • Jessica: I have a very specific experience of being a woman in 2016, as a straight, white, cis-gendered woman with a degree and a middle-class background. I deal with sexist comments disguised as compliments, and have probably lost out on some income as a result of this – but I’m one of the lucky ones. There are lots of mainstream movements to make life better for women in 2016, but the majority of movements still need to broaden, listen to, and represent the needs of all women, not just those like me.
  • Millicent: Even in 2016 it’s important to remember how far we’ve come together, and how far we still have to go for gender equality and women’s rights.
  • Elizabeth: I want to keep this positive so, to be a woman in 2016 is…fun! Not in every aspect, of course, but in the main, it is incredibly fun! We are free to express ourselves, and there are opportunities out there for us – you just gotta find them.
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Jessica Riches

DTL: Is there anything you would like to add?

  • Millicent: I’m always available to speak to anybody that needs my help or advice. I might not be as good as Ditch The Label, but I’m still here!
  • Elizabeth: Enjoy being a woman – it’s a blessing, but don’t hate on men. Men are a blessing too!

Learn more about GRL PWR Gang here: Girls Girls Girls

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Read our full Gender Report here: https://www.ditchthelabel.org/gender-report-2016/

Whether you are being bullied, or you are aware of someone who is, Ditch the Label is here to help: https://www.ditchthelabel.org/get-help/