Sticks and Stones…and Words That May Harm You: Disempowering Bullying

racist reality TV showTurns out reality show contestants on Big Brother have been saying some mighty damning things (homophobic, misogynist, racist, sexist, and more) on webcam, verbally bullying their show opponents. CBS has edited these statements out of the broadcast show.

Professor Ragan Fox from Cal State, Long Beach, and former Big Brother contestant stated in The New York Times article, “What’s the point in casting gay, Asian-American and African-American characters if producers are going to edit out the racism and homophobia these contestants deal with while playing the game?”

After digesting this discourse, I was reminded of the old adage: Sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never harm you. My 12-year-old daughter taught me a new axiom they learned in school, “I’m rubber you’re glue, your words bounce off me and stick to you.” Meaning, these contestants on Big Brother make them look bad, not the people they’re talking about. Considering that one bad-mouthing contestant lost her job and another a modeling gig, I think the rubber and glue adage has some truth to it.

I’d rather reflect on some awesome work empowering young people to embrace their LBGTQ identity using social media and technology — a safe way to discuss issues that are still considered mainstream shameful and embarrassing. Venton Jones’ slides review a survey of young Black gay men’s social media use and provides insights for using digital media as a tool for engagement. Viraj Patel is doing some really interesting work with young African American and Latino gay men in NYC using their own online social networks. And YAHAnet (Youth, the Arts, HIV & AIDS network) is working on collective youth action through arts and digital media globally.

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