Archive by Author | jeanniegrant

Hairs a thought about bullying

Today pink shirts were hauled out of the depths of wardrobes (or closets) and worn with varying degrees of comfort and style. I heard from someone that a group of boys – maybe 9-10 who wore pink shirts to school today were called names and that no teachers responded or challenged this. That in my books is an epic fail. I also know my 8-year-old daughter (at the same school) has struggled with boys understanding that cutting her hair short does not actually, miraculously turn her into a boy. Actually, I don’t think they believe that either, but she feels pretty down that none of her friends will stick up for her, or the teachers. She also just wants to get on and not make a big deal out of it, but I’m kind of on the edge of going parental supernova. It probably doesn’t help that I am also a counsellor…so I’m going to let her tell me what support she would like. I get to dress up as Wolverine Sunday and do the mud run at the school, I’m tempted to see if the boys are there and to have a chat to them in full character…but I wont…claws sheathed.

My dilemma is I want her to feel safe, happy and accepted for who she is, not the length of her hair. Why is this society still insisting on such strongly defined ways of being correctly male and female – it’s hair! So while pink shirt day points to the idea of femininity being wrong for boys (symbolically indicated by the pink shirt) there is no ‘shirt option’ of the reverse for girls, but hair length is.

So how about a cut your hair short day to go with pink shirt day? Could be a great way for hairdressers to get some training for their apprentices – free cuts in solidarity.

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Think Pink

So it’s Pink Shirt Day tomorrow. It occurred to me just how much meaning the colour pink has gained over the years. Wearing a pink shirt tomorrow is replicating the act of solidarity shown by a bunch of mates when their mate had homophobic comments made after he wore a pink shirt.

That’s probably the bit that is missed, the action of solidarity after because I think it is a little unrealistic to think that wearing a pink shirt tomorrow is solidarity, I think symbolic and that’s not quite the same thing. I like the word solidarity – it has ‘solid’ in it….and ‘arity’ but that’s not really a word. To be firm, grounded, real, present…to matter. Because people could wear a pink shirt tomorrow and challenge no-one about mocking people for being gay. Solidarity doesn’t need a shirt it needs action…from everyone…pink or no pink shirt.

Actually, it would be good to destigmatise the colour pink and not have it attached to gender or sexuality, so if anything we need to think where we see and don’t see pink. Let’s put pink in its rightful place, back in nature and not on every single girl’s toy (if there is such a thing) and bit of clothing…toothbrush…hair brush….you get my point.

Talking bull

This week is bullying awareness week, well, unofficially and Pink Shirt Day is Friday 20th May. So how to start a conversation about bullying that hasn’t already been done a thousand times….

There are plenty of bullying stories out there, and stories of people who make a stand it against it. There are lots of ideas on how to stop bullying, and schools put in punishments to make it clear it’s wrong to bully. There are also plenty of groups willing to come in and do a presentation, performance share a personal story to help ‘get the message out’ about how bad bullying is. How is that in spite of all this education, it still happens?

I think some of the reason is we go looking for a kind of person or action that we can identify. But is there such a thing as ‘a bully’ does this type of person actually exist? Because I get a bit confused when I talk with people about ‘bullies’. If I ask a range of people about a student from parents, teachers, friends, coaches I get different responses – I never have everyone say ‘yeah they are a bully 100%. So one shift I think needs to happen is to look at bullying not IN people – but BETWEEN people. Anyone can bully or be bullied, there is no ‘type’. You can also be bully and bullied at the same time, which is perhaps why it gets a little confusing.

Another thing I find interesting is the idea that people grow up and grow out of being bullies, I’m not so sure about that. Adults bully that’s a fact, our family violence statistics back that up. Family violence is about control and the use of fear to maintain that control. Bullying is similar. Anyone can bully because everyone feels vulnerable, scared and powerless at times. Bullying is a form of social event – no – I don’t mean it’s something to promote, but people form connections. People make sense of themselves and others through these actions, they give entry into groups. If we look at it this way then anyone can become involved because everyone needs to feel connected, a sense of belonging.

One good example is mocking, put downs, teasing. Humour and laughing are something all of us enjoy. The thing about humour is in order for it to work there has to be some form of shame attached – otherwise it doesn’t work. Friends can sometimes do this with each other. If someone has to say ‘naaaaa jokes’ to convince you that you shouldn’t be offended then it’s likely to have been intended to shame, hurt or humiliate.

Bullying and humour can be an uncomfortable fit. Both can pick on difference, or a sense of wrongness about that difference, this is something we all need to challenge. Laughing together at circumstances or even ourselves is good and healthy. Humour can help us understand the strange ways we are expected to be in the world based on our gender, culture, age, sexuality or functioning. But pointing and laughing at someone is not joining with them in a sense of understanding, it’s alienating and isolating.

I guess my challenge is to groups of friends. How do you respect each other’s differences when having a laugh? How do you laugh in public together-including in digital spaces? Is someone potentially getting their way of being in the world made wrong in the moment? How can you in that moment shift what you do to create a safer more respectful and ethical form of action? Because while you might not be doing the action that gets defined as bullying, your response will either be part of the acceptance and normalising of that or it will challenge it. I’m also interested in challenging homophobic put downs and harassment. Even if it’s amongst friends it can hurt but making it unsafe to be gay or transgendered. Sexuality and gender are unique human qualities we all want others to value. Feeling safe in who we are as people is a fundamental human need.

And just for the record, I think the worst examples of bullying are from adults not young people. It’s also why I love animals, they are just straight up about how they feel about you and they don’t really care about what their friends think if they are friends with another species.

Sign of the times

I came across two media posts today about sign language. The first was regarding technology translating sign language into English (although I suppose it would have to just be English), and a feature on a chef in Christchurch who managed to find an employer open to functional diversity. It was interesting to hear that staff he worked with had started to learn sign language. Now that shouldn’t be shocking, it is an official language here but actually how often do we see sign language represented as a way of communicating?

Schools offer languages and part of me is curious to know how many offer sign language as an option. I know there is a form of international sign language, and wonder why this isn’t compulsory for everyone! Think about it if you needed to talk to someone in a different language, or you had a group with multiple languages, signing would be a simple and easy way to communicate quickly.

Now, as a cyclist I have been communicating through hand signals for years and it is satisfying to have someone understand you in a short series of gestures rather than the messy vocal stuff that I often want to say but usually try and keep in my head. So I reckon signing has to be one of the most useful skills anyone could have actually. Think about all the places where you can’t have a conversation or want to communicate something across a room. Heck rugby for a start could do with some signing, how many times does the hooker put a hand to their ear at the start of a lineout to try and hear what the call is! Players could communicate instantly across the field. Not so sure about underwater hockey and water polo though, might look like everyone is just waving at you.

So perhaps if you are looking to learn a language pick sign language and if your school isn’t offering it, ask why not? Or better yet if you have someone at your school who is using sign language just give it a go, for a start there is nothing hard about smiling, putting your hand up to say ‘Hi’. Check out the New Zealand Sign Language Online site.

I’m going to be spending some time there – adding to my cycling vocabulary.

Earth Day a bit craycray

Did you celebrate Earth Day on the 22nd of April? I think I did but I wasn’t sure how to. I could go online and get lots of ideas about how to do my part to look after the planet, or see how the way we live impacts on the environment, or how technology can save us and make it all better.

So I am officially confused by Earth Day and I am ok with that. Because I think my confusion keeps my mind open to why we even need an Earth Day and to keep asking questions about the future of the planet and EVERYTHING on it.

How do other species celebrate earth day? Be good to include them in the picture. I have one idea that is a bit weird. What if those gazillionaires instead of taking their holidays in pristine untouched beautiful parts of the world got a ‘Matrix Moment’ – as sort of ‘welcome to the desert of the real’ and someone flicks the switch on their view to see the open cast mining and the people scrambling around in the mud searching for small fragments to sell for enough money to stay alive for another day, or perhaps the deforestation of jungle and the displacement of endangered species for the growth of the palm oil industry so important for cosmetics (now that Whale hunting is kind of unfashionable).

Maybe we all need a similar reality check when we crave the next iPhone and ask why there might be suicide nets on the outside of the building where they are made. I like what Morpheus says in The Matrix when Neo realised how much the real world sucks: ‘I didn’t say it would be easy I just said it would be the truth’.

My Earth Day wake up truth is we are still addicted to stuff we don’t really need, and the real price that is being paid by species that get turned into handbags, shoes and lose their habitat for human consumption.

That is why I think many people prefer The Blue Pill.

Knee jerk reactions

I remember my Mum telling me how they used to make the girls at school kneel down to check the length of their skirts. That was in the 1950’s and times have changed – or have they?

When I read about Henderson High School enforcing the knee length uniform rule I was transported back in time for a moment. If skirts are such a problem and knees are such a distraction then why not just get rid of skirts all together?

I suspect schools want to put their fingers in their ears and go ‘nanananana I can’t hear you’ if someone tries to point out the teenagers are sexual beings. So I make a plea to young people in schools of all genders, if your school does not have choice available ask why not? Start a conversation with your health teacher about how guys and girls are similar rather than different. Challenge statements from teachers that say ‘all guys or all girls’ are like that.

Why are schools so determined to keep boys and girls so clearly defined through uniforms? What might happen if students all wore the same thing? What if ALL schools had the same uniform?! Now that is a question schools probably want to skirt around.

Group dynamics

Yesterday I remembered how useful it is to have a group if you want to have a group discussion.It’s interesting noticing how arriving at a venue for a workshop or presentation first, can be a little weird. My theory is that less than 5 it’s way too intensely personal and at 8-10 it’s starting to feel ‘groupy’.

It kind of got me thinking what it’s like to be in a class of 20-30, how young people in schools become familiar with ways of sitting in groups or ‘put into groups’, left out of groups. Like standing in lines – being in groups is a bit of weird thing anyway. However a group of 7 means individual participation is magnified and what surprised me was how in spite of this awareness people kept offering their thoughts, observations and taking that focussed energy and dispersing it, sharing it around and refracting it through stories or laughter.

By the time we’d munched our way through hot chips, discussed our favourite movies and books and watched Katherine Schulz talk about being wrong the number 7 had grown in size and presence, the depth and complexity of diversity was not just a topic of conversation it was being lived in the moment in a swirling mass of whiteboard scribbles, punctuated by plenty of giggles.

Blowing the horn on porn

Well I’m not sure how to bring this up but sex is everywhere. I think the leap in technology has the generation gap about as wide and deep as the Grand Canyon or the Mariana trench (bit of a geography lesson on the side). Problem is parents and young people get a bit awkward talking about sex anyway, so talking about pornography is probably right up there with topics likely to induce a heart attack. Realistically the statics say 90% of boys and 60% of girls have seen porn. Now back in the day like maybe 20 years ago, people had to buy magazines or hand over their ID to a video store. These days it’s the click of a button away and with cameras these days people are sharing more and more images, including themselves (I talked about this in my other blog).

Funny thing is no-one really talks about horniness or being ‘turned on’ by stuff. I don’t think people watch pornography for the plot, drama or suspense so let’s get real, sexual urges are normal for girls and guys and everyone else in between. But porn doesn’t always show what is realistic, kind of like driving cars and street racing isn’t like it is in The Fast And The Furious.

If you have mates that are into it and you think they are about to jump in and put the foot down without realising what they might really be getting into, send them to It’s Time We Talked. It’s got stuff for young people, parents and schools to think about.

There might be a bit of a generation gap happening with technology but some things like respect, trust and support are timeless. If you are not sure and need some help you can talk to netsafe anonymously.

 

shedding light on the rainbow

If you are at student at a secondary school in New Zealand there is a good chance you’ve been taught health. I really like the idea of Hauora – total well-being, our being is more than just our bodies. I remember health when I was at school but sex education will be forever etched in my mind as nothing but awkward and I’m pretty sure I came away with the impression that sex would result in some terrible disease or pregnancy or both. But what I also remember is not much was said about sexuality or gender. I think the words lesbian and gay were mentioned but that was it. But I think I was lucky to even hear that.

So there was nothing for anyone questioning gender, sexuality or even the idea that you might not be entirely sure. But there is now a great resource, it’s called Inside Out and it is free to download and use. It explains and sheds light on all those places some teachers never go, like intersex, transgender, bisexual and does it with simple straight up real people. If your school hasn’t found their way to this fantastic resource send the link to your teacher and ask them to take a look. Or ask rainbow youth to pass it on. Knowledge helps to reduce fear and ignorance and sometimes that is all some people need, a chance to ask questions and get a bit more understanding.

I know many young people who find who they are is never acknowledged or represented. My experience is that while sexuality (lesbian gay and to some extent bisexuality) is talked about transgender and intersex is not and we need to open up the conversations, let’s get this rainbow full spectrum.

Finally if you really want to test your teachers knowledge ask them what a gubernaculum is. It’s also a really great scrabble word.

Back to the future

In 1989 Marty McFly travelled to the future. The mysterious date was 21st October 2015. That date has arrived. No hoverboards and no self lacing shoes, but plenty of other tech was spot on. Some of the fashion looks suspiciously 1980’s but with sheen and shine added. I was also a bit excited yesterday about the new Star Wars movie – The Force Awakens trailer being released. I think I freaked a few people out at work with the intensity of my enthusiasm.

When thinking future I imagine technology. I imagine what humans might be wearing and sorry Star Trek fans – it isn’t a lycra onesie. But I hope gender kind of breaks down in the future that clothing is about what works, does the job.

So how is functionality defined in clothing? Movement? Comfort? I’m not really sure anymore after talking to some insightful young people at school. They came to me about wanting the uniform reviewed. It seems we kind of got stuck back in time with dresses and skirts and this strange third option called culottes. Think skirt but with a parting in the middle, so it looks like a skirt but is supposed to ‘function’ like shorts…yeah right.

My point is no-where in any future movie do you see culottes. I don’t think Daisy Ridley will be taking down storm troopers in culottes in The Force Awakens. Culottes are a bad compromise sometimes you have to pick a side – the middle is not comfortable. To offer truly functional options there needs to be shorts and pants as well as skirts, dresses, tunics and multiple shirt options – short and long sleeve.

But maybe the really radical future idea is no uniform. At the very least not prescribing uniform based on someones hormones, chromosomes and those bits only health teachers get to talk about.