On Wellness Wednesdays, I post on a wellness topic.
I wouldn’t say that my high school had a bullying problem. We were a small, rural school. And yet I was bullied for my weight in high school. One of my friends was bullied for the way she looked as well. I recently wrote a story about bullying, and a friend of mine, who has been out of high school far less time than me, said, “That’s not how it works anymore. Now, it’s the fat black gay kid who’s the popular kid.”
I had seen this trend in the new 21 Jump Street, but I wasn’t sure if it was for real or not. When I asked another friend of mine about it, she said that it has gotten better, though it’s not quite like my other friend said.
I know that bullying still exists. I know this because I still see online articles about kids who have attempted or completed suicide based on how bad bullying gets. I’ve seen adults bully other adults, so I know it doesn’t just come out of nowhere.
Recently, I read an article about how Planet Fitness revoked a woman’s gym membership for not following their “No Judgement Zone” policy. The woman reportedly got upset when a person she thought was a man entered the locker room. The person in question is actually transgendered, and identifies as female. The customer who objected returned to the gym multiple days to tell other gym members that Planet Fitness allows “men” in the women’s dressing rooms, which was what ended in her having her membership revoked.
I’m actually not here to weigh in on that particular issue, but I provided a summary of the story to set the tone for what I do want to talk about. This article was published as a link on Facebook, and I was curious about the comments. There were the expected arguments on both sides. One woman stated that she agreed with the woman who didn’t feel safe with a “man” in her dressing room, and that she would never go to Planet Fitness as a result. She expressed herself in a logical and appropriate manner. Other people attacked her, calling her names and telling her that she was being “intolerant.” They put her down and said things about her that they couldn’t possibly know, saying that she was a bad Christian (she never mentioned religion).
Several times, this woman responded and defended her views, saying that she has the right to feel the way she feels about it, and each time, she was met with a barrage of negative statements from others.
This woman was bullied.
I’m an LGBTQ ally. I believe that everyone should have the same rights. BUT, when someone disagrees with my opinion, I don’t have the right to bully them, and neither does anyone else.
There is a big difference between expressing an opinion by stating that you won’t patronize an establishment because you don’t believe in the way they do things and saying that you wish harm to a group of people. The former is an adult reaction to something that offends you. The latter is extremist, childish, and just plain wrong.
True acceptance means that we accept the respectful opinions of everyone. It does not mean that we agree. It does not mean that we bully. It means that we allow others to express their opinions. If we want to have an intelligent, adult discussion with dissenting opinions, that’s wonderful. That’s what it’s all about. Acceptance does not mean that everyone has to “accept” your opinion as correct.
By bullying the woman who expressed her opinion, all commenters did was cement her opinions. People don’t change their minds because other people put them down or shame them. People change their minds through open and honest discussion, along with respectful arguments that make them think differently.
Next time someone gives an opinion you don’t agree with, listen to them, respectfully and without judgement. Then give yours. I believe that this respectful meeting of minds is the way that we can truly promote peace and equality.
What are your thoughts?