The Youth Voice Project, which surveyed more than 13,000 students in grades 5-12 at 31 schools around the country, seems to bear out the appearance piece (it doesn’t distinguish between genders in its results). The Project also shows that marginalization at school echoes marginalization of all kinds at the societal level. It found that 55% of kids who’d experienced moderate-to-very-severe mistreatment cited “looks” as the focus of mistreatment and 37% “body shape.”
After those focuses came “race” (16%), “sexual orientation” (14%), and “family income” (13%). ["Moderate" was defined as “bothered me quite a bit”; "severe" as “I had or have trouble eating, sleeping, or enjoying myself because of what happened to me”; and "severe" as “I felt or feel unsafe and threatened because of what happened to me.” About a fifth of all students surveyed had experienced regular victimization (2 or more times a month) and of that one-fifth, a little more than half were experiencing moderate-to-severe mistreatment. Here's my post on the study .]
From recognition to compassion
What to do? Well, a significant first step, I think, is recognizing what underlies the problem and responding intelligently to that. To begin to recognize together the “ideals” we’re all conditioned to have and the pressures on everybody – male, female, young and older – to “fit in” and conform to them is huge. Right there, we have cause for compassion (for ourselves, too) and empathy. At the school level, it’s clearly going to be social-emotional learning, or social literacy, that really gets to the underpinnings of bullying (in social media environments, social literacy is logically just as essential to functioning effectively as media literacy and digital literacy). What we gain in social literacy we gain in safe, constructive activity in social-media as well as home, classroom, and workplace environments.