A friend posted on Instagram about being bullied by a fully gown, 50-something-year old woman yesterday. She disagreed with something he said and reacted by making fun of him and his Tourette Syndrome. Immediately he turned that into a teaching moment.
I did a very gentle cover of bullying in some of these posts, but I feel like we need to go further.
Bullying someone by using their medical condition as fodder is truly shitty. Luckily, he was strong enough to stand up, advocate for himself and others in that moment and say NO, this is NOT ok. We all know that this is not always the case. Sometimes assholes like her get in, especially when they are bullying someone younger, someone still coming to terms with their TS, or someone who has severe TS and is already struggling to handle day to day life challenges TS brings.
Sometimes the end result of this bullying is suicide. Just think about that for a moment. You have a medical condition that people bully to the point you feel the only way out is to take your own life. Imagine if we did that for every medical condition? Zero sympathy or empathy, just bullying until someone says “ok I have had enough”. Tourette Syndrome does see a lot of this happen, because media still not only allows it as fodder but encourages it! It is the cheap, easy laugh, the easiest punchline.
Why is it ok to use something like this as bully fodder? It’s the same as “yer fat” stuff. Yup. How many ADULTS still feel the need to comment, jeer, insult, belittle, and bully fat people. It is absolutely maddening. What shocks me the most is that these bullies will justify their behavior in every way possible because they seem to firmly believe they are doing nothing wrong. YOU are the problem, not them. How is this still ok? “well if she/he didn’t ______” insert random bullshit human did to deserve bullying here. Or the comment “get a tougher skin snowflake”, “the world Is mean, get used to it” etc. just shows how damaged people really are. I want to point out that this is VERY similar to victim blaming, just in case anyone missed that.
Again, this related to getting diagnosed, being OPEN about the diagnosis, and advocating for yourself, your child, others, and teaching our children how to advocate the same way. LANGUAGE is power. Now imagine if this friend was NOT able to advocate for himself or others, imagine that her comments actually got in, imagine how that other path might go. Did I mention he has a wife and kids? Does his life matter more now? Is there less or more justification for the bullying?
Kids learn to bully from parents. Kids learn to be kind from parents. Kids learn to be accepting from parents. Sense a theme? Yes, it goes further than that… but usually the nugget within this what they learn at home.
How do you talk to your kids about differences? What language do you use? Do you challenge them when they say something hurtful, even as a joke? Do you teach them to stand up and stand strong for other kids? What about when they see an adult being bullied the same way? How do you handle it when you are in the grocery store and your child says “hey that person is fat”, “hey that person is making faces”, etc. Do you teach them? Do you know HOW to teach them?
Now, how do you talk to your parents? Your friends? Strangers on the bus or in the grocery store that you see saying something hurtful, even as a joke? Do you stand up and stand strong for others? When you see someone being bullied how do you handle it? We all need to be part of the solution and stand up and say STOP.
Society needs to do better. We need to support each other always. We need to learn to leap in to these uncomfortable moments in public, and say “Hey, that joke you just told really is not funny”, every silence we keep means we might as well be the ones causing the hurt.
SO… please learn the language, and teach the language to our kids, parents, friends, coworkers, and strangers. Stop bullying. Not just for TS, but for everything.
Thanks for reading!