Saturday, April 24, 2010

Think About What You Say

Okay. Time to get all serious. I know I'm usually pretty joky and fun and light on this blog, but tonight something happened that really made me want to speak out - not only as a YA writer, but as a teenage girl who has experienced her fair share of name calling. This is for teens, adults, and all.

Tonight I was hanging with a group of friends when we came across the topic of graduation ceremonies, specifically, where we were sitting at graduation. One of the boys made the off hand comment that he was "only one seat away from sitting by the gorilla" at his ceremony. Upon this statement, we all asked him to explain.

He went on to tell us that "the gorilla" was a girl he knew. According to him, she had "ape shoulders" and played lacrosse and had some unflattering facial expressions that led him to dub her "the gorilla."

Of course, everyone in the room was disgusted. I turned to the girl beside me and muttered, "Gorilla may be worse than DUFF." Luckily, I wasn't the only one feeling angry because another person spoke out and actually told the boy that that was really mean. To which he replied that he never called her that to her face, so it's okay.

But it's not.

It's so, so, so not.

I won't lie. I've done it, too, when I was younger, but I am here to tell you that just because you don't call someone a name - like DUFF or Gorilla - to their face does not mean you can have a clear concience. Because, believe it or not, word can very easily get back to that person. Even if they never know it was you who called them that name. They will still hear it, and it will still hurt.

Yeah, maybe this girl did look like a gorilla. Maybe she was mean and scary and made everyone miserable. Maybe she was a TERRIBLE person. I don't know. I never met her. And I respect that those around her have every right to think, in their heads, "Oh, she looks like a gorilla" - but saying it out loud crosses a line.

I'm all for freedom of speech. But that kind of speech and scar a person for life. What if you found out people were calling YOU "the gorilla" behind your back? Even if you didn't know who said it, wouldn't it hurt?

Another thing I want to point out is that criticizing a person's appearance is incredibly low and cheap and DIRTY. I understand if someone is not likeable. I still think mocking their personality is wrong, but I am less forgiving because personality is something that a person can either be happy with or work on. Physical appearance is not. This girl may have known she had "ape shoulders", but what can she do about it? Criticizing her is just mean, because that is not something she can fix, nor should she need to to satisfy anyone else.

Cruel names concerning a person's appearance lead to eating disorders. To low self esteem. To some seriously messed up self perception.

Can you live with yourself if you contribute to that?

And how does a person's appearance really affect them AS A PERSON?

If you want to tease me for my habit of talking too much, fine. I'm comfortable in knowing that if I didn't want to talk so much, I could change that part of me. It's a fair reason to getted annoyed with me. It's a fair reason to even dislike me if you wish. If I agree, I can change. If I do not, I can say "forget you" and walk away.

But if you choose to tease me for the crease at the top of my nose wich makes me look like I have a pig snout - which I do have - then what can I do? How does criticizing that part of me make you or I any better? I can't fix my nose (I can, but frankly, I'm terrified of plastic surgery/needles/pain, so I won't) and even if I did, would that make me more likeable? No. So why mock me for that?

I guess the point of this rant is, watch what you say. I can't control what goes on in everyone's head, but I hope this will make you consider what comes out of your mouth. This goes for all ages - I have heard some adults participate in name calling behind other adults' backs, and it upsets me to no end.

But teens - I beg of you, think twice, be kind. Before you say something about another person, no matter WHO they are, ask yourself "If I found out someone had said this about me, how upset would I be?" Maybe that will help you reconsider the words you use to describe your peers.

It has definitely helped me change my ways.

So that's it. That's the end of the rant. Think twice. Be kind. Care.



Remilda Graystone said...

Great post! It's so important to remember this. It's not hard to be kind or watch your words. In anger, maybe it is, but in everyday situations? Where your anger isn't involved? Just to pick on someone for something they can't control? It's very easy to keep your mouth shut.

Thanks for this wonderful post! :)

Anna Scanlon said...

You're so right. I'm totally guilty of this too.

Amna said...

This is an absolutely fantastic post.

Its important that people step back and think about the consequences of their words.

Kaitlin Ward said...

Great post.

Words do hurt, and they do mean something.

Bee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bee said...

You are so right. Name calling might not mean much to the one indulging in it, but may scar someone else for life. It's outright mean.

Laura Pauling said...

Great post. You've got a wonderful message to get out there. And just wait, having children in school is like entering middle school all over again! There's the group of rich snobby moms, there's the group of....etc. The good thing is that this time around - I don't care! Wish I knew that in middle school.

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

you never know how what you say can impact a person.

Misty said...

Hi Kody,

I hear where you are coming from and I'm sure everybody can relate to having been the object of ridicule. But I think there is also another way of looking at this.

Ignorance and crappy comments will always be out there. A lot of the time they have more to do with the aggressor's own inner conflicts than the person he/she targets. Even so, instead of allowing ourselves to focus on the hurt and the pain and to assume that any of the garbage talk is true, I would love to see people take a different approach to the criticism.

It is not always an easy skill to master, but when harsh words surface, I'd love for a victim instead to be so strong in themselves that they recognize that harsh words CAN'T hurt them. Not unless they choose to believe the trash themselves. That's where it gets dangerous.

For example, if someone were to call you a 'purple cat' it'd bounce right off because it's ridiculously not the truth, right? Well, love your nose, my girl. Love it and when someone calls it a pig nose, recognize it instead as what it REALLY is: a gorgeous masterpiece of God, a cute button, a stream-lined, air sniffer. The thought of it being worthy of surgery is as ridiculous as any purple pig.

Likewise, I can relate more to the Guerilla Girl. I have broad shoulders and had similar comments growing up. However, I welcome the name. Baby, do you know how strong guerillas are?? Grown men, weight lifters even, are ants in the face of guerilla strength. I'm a karate girl myself and I've been told my punches can pulverize my opponents. As for the 'Guerilla Girl' commentor, I say, "Bring it, baby."

So maybe instead of trying to stop what is as old as the world, how about we instead arm ourselves to handle what can't be change? After all, we CAN change ourselves.

Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Gorilla is an animal.
Guerrilla is a soldier.

Kody Keplinger said...


I completely understand where you are coming from, but what you are suggesting is so much easier said than done. That takes A LOT of inner strength, and I think even the most confident people have some sort of self doubt. It only takes a cruel nick name to fester that self doubt into something more.

IF we could all be strong enough to push those insults aside, the world would be perfect. But the wolrd is so not perfect, and should we punish those who DO NOT have the inner strength it takes to move on? I don't see how that is fair at all.

Isn't it easier to ask people to just THINK for a minute before they talk? I think it's easier to stop an insult from leaving your mouth than it is for a person to move past the insult. I think we all have the responsibility of thinking - the responsibility to care enough about others to just takea second and STOP the word "guerilla" from leaving your mouth. That takes only a second - to NOT say something. It could take years to move past it after hearing someone call you that.

And, for the record, I"m not ashamed of my nose. As a kid, when people did pick on me for it, I was incredibly hurt and at 10 wanted a nose job. Now, at 18, I know it's a "German Nose," and while it can still get annoying - and I do not LOVE it - it isn't hideous. But I'm older now and CAN do that. Some people will never have that ability, and children are especially at risk.

So yeah. Why not just think before you speak? It really isn't THAT difficult if you try.


Anonymous said...

I think you mean "gorilla", as "guerrilla" is a war term.
But yes, it is a terrible thing. Words hurt.

Kody Keplinger said...

Thanks for the spelling fix, guys! I wrote this at like 1am or something last night - my mental spell check was not working well.

Lisa and Laura said...

Great post Kody. I think we've all been guilty of this at one point or another and everyone would be a lot better off if we stopped to think before we speak.

Joanna said...

Here, here, Kody!

Amanda J. said...

Thank you for speaking up. <3

Elizabeth Briggs said...

I think everyone is guilty of this sometimes, even those of us not in our teens. Sometimes the work place can feel just like high school all over again. We all need to think about how we treat others. I know I can be better about this myself!

Jess said...

Fantastic post, Kody. I feel like women are particularly guilty of criticizing other women's appearances. I know I've definitely participated in that sometimes and then felt bad later. Practicing kindness is so important.

Emilia Plater said...

This is phrased so perfectly. :) You have definitely reminded me to always be kind when it comes to unchangeable traits. Great post, Kody!

Melissa Dean said...

Amen, sister!!! Fantastic Post, Kody!! This is why we all love you so much! Fun and joking, yes,but also for your humanity!

Meredith said...

This is a really great post, Kody, and I think it speaks to a lot of people. Grades 4-7 were hell for me because I had a bully. And she even got physical once, not just verbal. Some of the things she said still haunt me, even now. I don't think people realize just how mentally traumatizing bullying can be. Words hurt. And we all need to remember this when we say things to or about people.

Meredith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laura Marcella said...

Wonderful post, Kody! Bullying is getting out of hand, and it needs to be stopped. It starts with people talking about it like you are. Good for you and your friends for standing up to that boy!

Jess said...

Hear hear!! Great post!

Rockie said...

This is an awesome post...

Like most of the people said on here: everyone is guilty of this. As I am too...

I been though name calling and have low self esteem, but that's another story and something I have to work.

Great job for speaking up about a situation like this! <3

Kierah Jane Reilly said...

I think people need to watch for online bullying as well. I've seen some really hurtful things posted anonymously (cowards) and it makes me so sad. Bravo Kody for sticking up for someone you don't even know.

Kristin Jr. said...

<3 you, Kody. :) (((hugs)))

Misty said...

HAHAHA- I totally blew the whole gorilla/guerilla thing! Oops! Ah well, thanks for mentioning it, guys!

Lisa_Gibson said...

Like my mama always said, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." There's enough negativity in this world without someone trying to perpetuate it. I'm sure one positive thing could be found about a person...any person. Why not mention that instead. Attitude is contagious, so isn't it better to promote a positive outlook.

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