I posted earlier in the week about The Mom Pledge. Right now, Elizabeth is asking for Moms to write about this topic. (Though the link for submissions is only up for another few hours). I've been wanting to write about this for most of the week, but this is the first time I've had a chance to sit down and do so.
I'm very familiar with bullying. The bullying I had as a child was relatively mild as bullying goes. It was teasing about weight, brains and lack of money. It was pretending to be my friend and talking behind my back. And it hurt. I remember my mom saying how much it hurt her to have me come home crying because kids in my class would say things that hurt. It was one of the reasons I left to live in Florida with my Dad. My hometown was so small there was just those that were in and those that were out. There weren't enough kids to have cliques. When I moved to Florida, I didn't have to worry about the hateful words any more. It's not that I changed or tried to reinvent myself. It was just that there was a larger group of people and I was able to find my niche in a lot of different groups.
As I grew older, I thought that the hateful words, the bullying and the snark would be left behind. I didn't deal with it in college (again, thanks to a wonderful group of friends and the ability to fit in with a lot of different people). Right after, I was semi-isolated because... well, because that's the kind of person I am. I have a hard time stepping forward and making friends. Once the internet came around, I found a lot more friends all over the world. Because I'm a trusting person, I used belief as my default with what people told me. And yet, I still didn't get burned. I don't quite know how I got so lucky. But then again, for all I know, people were talking about me behind my back.
Cowardly bullying came to the forefront when a community popped up on LJ - SDMB Anonymous. The SDMB was a forum I'd spent a lot of time in. In fact, it's where I met my husband. SDMB Anonymous was a place on LJ where people from the SDMB could come in and (anonymously, of course) snark on the denizens of the SDMB that they didn't care for. I saw many of my friends with broken hearts because they thought they were well liked, only to have several people come in and slam them for any little thing that annoyed them. They didn't do it to try to help the people they were commenting on. They did it to help bring the others down.
Some of the people that were commented on were parents and it was their parenting that was called into question. Comments about cleanliness, or the way they raised their kids, or the lifestyle choices that the practiced were all thrown like rotten eggs at the head of the person they deemed unworthy. Some of those parents were strong enough to say, "Screw you! If you can't be brave enough to put your name on it, then your opinion doesn't matter." But not all of them. Some of the people were broken, pulling away from all their friends because they had no idea if they were one of the people who had made the mean comments.
It's the same with the bullies in the Mom Blogosphere. Now, I'll say right up front that I've been incredibly lucky not to have been the target of hateful words on my blog or (as far as I know) anyone else's. But I've heard stories about moms that aren't so lucky. It's hard to put those comments in the rear view mirror, especially when you have your own doubts about your parenting. I have doubts regularly and if I had someone come in and tell me, "You're such an ignorant bitch! You shouldn't let your kids do X, Y and Z. It's just stupid and your harming your kids by doing so." I know that I'd be calling my husband, breaking down in tears because I would wonder if they were right.
I don't know for certain why some moms feel the necessity to come in and spread cruelty like it's apple butter. (Yeah, I'm getting into weird metaphors tonight. Don't ask.) My guess is that they are so convinced that they are right that they feel it's their duty to tell other people how to do things right. Or they are so insecure that the only way that they can feel better about themselves is by pulling down everyone else around them. Or maybe they do have an irrational hatred for the person that they're slamming. It could be any of these reasons, all of them or none of them.
I think it's important for those of us in the Blogosphere to stop it when we see it. Yeah, it can be tough to call someone on negative behavior. How many of us look the other way when we see a fight between husband and wife in the middle of the street, or hear a woman screaming at her kids next door about how worthless they are? For me, I know that I worry that I'm making a mistake by getting involved, that maybe it's just a one time thing or maybe the person that's doing the negative behavior will come after me next. It's straight up fear. And I think that's why so many bloggers and their readers let these kinds of things slide - somewhere, deep inside, they're afraid that it will reflect badly on them or that they'll be making a mistake if they say something. That fear is in me and for far too long, I've looked the other way when I've seen this cruelty.
But not any more. Someone has to stand up and say it's not acceptable. Elizabeth has given us a great place to get together and be strong together with this. She's gotten the ball rolling, but those of us that believe in The Mom Pledge are the ones that have to keep it going. Don't say the pledge and let that be it. Be active. Step up for your fellow bloggers. Listen to them when they're feeling put upon. Sometimes it could just be a matter of misreading things (which is a huge problem with the written word) and it could take a second look to get things on the right track. And sometimes they could be the victim of bullying. Either way, BE there for your fellow bloggers. Get to know them. Read their blogs. Comment on their posts. It's one way to make sure that, should the time come when a bully enters their lives, they don't have to feel like their alone.
For those who haven't read it before, please go take a look at the Pledge. And think about it and how you can help. Because bullying doesn't go away when you get out of school, and it doesn't go away because the person doing so is writing words on a screen.