Friday, November 2, 2012

Taking a Stand ... in Pigtails

There are many aspects of mothering a teenager that feel repetitious. I mean, how many mornings do we struggle to get our beloved offspring out of bed? How many evenings do we have to cajole the apples of our eye to finish their homework? How many times do we have to lovingly chide our child to "Get off your cell phone. Now. I said, 'Now!'"

Um ... a lot.

In writing Lovin' the Alien, I try not to repeat myself. But, this week I feel compelled to revisit a topic about which I recently posted: hair.

Several days ago, a high school student named Maisie was picked on by another high school student. It was the last straw in a series of bullying gestures, and while there was no physical injury involved, there was pain and humiliation.

Maisie's own mother advised her to let it go, but she couldn't. That evening, she posted the following on Facebook:

“There was a incident today, and I was really upset about it.  A girl who has been bothering me all year, saying rude, hurtful things to me, said something that just topped me over, and I’m ready to get this Over and done with. Today she was behind me going up the stairs and commented on my hair that was up in pigtails (for a sport) commenting to her friend

Saying “who wears pigtails still? Are we in kindergarten?” as nonchalant and innocent as this seems, it’s been one of a few comments at me and about me and my group of friends said in hearing range of myself. I am asking you all to understand that this hurt me beyond reason (partially from PMS, and partially because this has been a tough week for me), but mostly because it was wrong, i cried. This was the last straw for me. I know pigtails are ridiculous looking and often don’t look the best on 15 and 16 year olds, but please if you could help my cause and do so many other girls who have had hurtful things said to them; wear pigtails tomorrow. If you can’t or won’t, please tell others about my experience, and ask them

To please wear pigtails. 

Thank you so much for reading, and sharing.” 

The next day, hundreds of students (girls and a few brave boys), as well as a handful of faculty, showed up in pigtails. The bully called in sick.

This episode struck close to home for us. Literally. The high school that the victim (and the victimizer for that matter) attends is my daughter's school.

My daughter hasn't worn pigtails for years, but she certainly recognizes injustice when she sees it. She's also a kind-hearted and compassionate young person. (Or so other mothers tell me; it's not always so apparent in our mother-daughter dialogues.) Most of all, my daughter has an acute sense of justice. I think most teenagers do. The reaction to Maisie's post and the solidarity that other students showed her proves this. 

One of the exciting things about all of this is that the rest of the girls see a peer making a difference. She is getting quite a lot of media attention and the high school is buzzing with rumors of upcoming television appearances. What's particularly great is that Maisie is being noticed and commended, not for competing on a talent show or making a sex video. She is being recognized for a small, personal gesture against a bully. The people who support her are not star-struck, they are trying to do the right thing.

As mothers, we don't want our daughters to be bullies. We don't want them to be bullied. But, sometimes we do want them to wear pigtails.

To join the conversation, you can "Like" Maisie's new Facebook page: Pigtails4Peace.

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