Dear consumers and families
I know it is tempting. I know it detracts from our mundane and sometimes exhausting lives. Watching and often judging the people who have seemingly more fortune than we do in either talent, or luck it seems. We covet the attention, the recognition and sometimes the riches and we take entertainment from observing things we will never have.
This weekend we all stood to witness what happens when our consumption of celebrity stories, our purchases of media that will do anything to sell them to us, and our misdirected attempts to meet our own needs lead.
Whether, like me, you avoid this media as much as you can, you avoid celebrity gossip and reality TV, or whether you love it, whether you are more directly involved in sharing it, or producing it, we have all taken part. Yes I include myself.
Regardless of what mistakes this woman made, regardless of whether she desired the celebrity life, as many do, she did not deserve to die for it. Yes she made a choice to head into celebrity life, and yes she made a choice to die, but believe me when I say that she did not make that choice without assistance. She was bullied by the very people that created her public life. She was bullied to death. She is not alone. Diana was also bullied to death, Amy Winehouse suffered immense mental torture from being hounded, Peaches Geldoff, and many others as well. Gary Barlow was bullied to the edge of it. Meghan and Harry left this country and the ultimate privilege because Harry would not allow this to happen to their family. We, in the UK, have a very serious and very persistent problem. It is pervasive throughout our society.
A friend posted today highlighting some statistics and information regarding domestic violence and I found it interesting to say the least. You can read her post here. Now I cannot speak to what happened in Caroline’s case. I do not have the facts. I do not want to brush it under the carpet because she has died. It is very serious, and the context of her death, and the cross-over with domestic violence matters. My friend’s post shows that Domestic Violence is a very serious issue but not one that is managed well, or consistently in this society. Although the statistics are clear that domestic violence against women is much much higher, and of higher impact, the percentage of cases brought to trial is significantly higher where there is a male victim and a female perpetrator. Much lower impact incidents (defined by the law) are brought to trial where there is a male victim and a female perpetrator. This is unsurprising as we do not live in an equal society. Only 8% of all cases of domestic violence are brought to trial. What is important to consider here is that the reasons that this case was brought to trial, we can guess with fairly high accuracy was that it was entertaining for us. As a high profile female, it made for lots of clicks and downloads, lots of photos bought and sold, and huge consumption of celebrity.
What we have done is monetise bullying.
It isn’t simple and on discussing it with friends and colleagues whilst writing this, we all agreed I couldn’t do the issues justice here because so many things are intertwined. I decided to try regardless. The major factors working together to create this tragedy are sexism, ingrained and pervasive in our society, capitalism, a system that does not address domestic violence, no support for mental health and a culture of dehumanising people to the point where bullying is widespread.
It happens in the media, in parliament, in social media, in workplaces, in schools and in families. We can blame love island, and the media, and people who buy that media, and people who vote a certain way, and ourselves. We can, and I kind of hope we all feel a little responsibility, because we are all “to blame” to greatly differing degrees. However, what is so much more important, is that we take action and make change now. All of us.
Stop seeing bullying and doing nothing. Stop clicking on links. Stop sharing them. Stop watching TV that belittles other humans. Stop reading and buying newspapers full of hate. Stop telling your children that some people are worth more than others. Stop saying that mental health matters and then ignore people’s cries for help. Stop disbelieving people who say they are being bullied, abused or assaulted. Stop allowing our schools to turn their backs on our children. Stop allowing workplace discrimination to go unchecked.
There are a million more “STOPS” for me to utter.
This is not me being judgmental. I am telling myself too.
And here is the biggest one. We have all been the one causing pain to others. We have all treated people badly, and some of us may have been responsible for bullying behaviour, or at least stood by whilst it happened in front of us. We are all human. We are not always kind. We don’t always bring our best selves.
It is likely that we never intended to hurt, or to bully, but it happens.
In Caroline’s case, without knowing all the facts, and definitely without lessening the importance of domestic violence, we can assume that one of her worst moments was then used against her in the worst possible way. I know I wouldn’t want people to judge me on my worst moments, and parade them for the whole world to judge? Is it right that she face the ramifications of her actions if guilty, yes. But not like this.
We all need to remember that the person we are looking at, talking about, dealing with, working with, caring for, looking up to, or judging, is human. Just like us. They are a human being that can die from emotional pain.
I have felt suicidal. I have briefly considered it, maybe once or twice, a long time ago. I have a family member who took her own life a few years ago. I have a friend who lost her husband recently. I have seen friends attempt suicide, multiple times. I have known many so depressed they are a real concern.
We need to STOP taking part, stop standing by and START taking action. Stand against bullying wherever you see it. Teach your children through your parenting, your actions and words to others, and by how you advocate for them, that bullying is unacceptable. Start open and honest conversations with people around you about mental health, and emotional pain. Start actually accepting and supporting people who are struggling, who regularly have mental health difficulties, who are neurodivergent and who are oppressed in our society. Stand up, loudly and explicitly for people who are being bullied, or abused.
The best news is that as parents, we have the strongest power to make change. We really do. How we interact with the small humans in our lives sets up everything for the future. Some approaches to parenting and relationships rely on control, power imbalances, and even bullying to make children easier to manage. What we see in society now is a reflection of the pervasion of these parenting practices. We can change that.
It takes work. It takes guts. It is also the most rewarding way to have a relationship with the small humans in our life. The science also tells us that it is the best possible way to develop their brain, and have a calmer and happier life.