Bus Monitor Bullying Reveals a Deeper Problem with Our Society

Image from cbsnews.com

By now, most people have heard the story of the bus monitor in Greece Central School District in New York who was bullied by four seventh graders. The bus monitor, an older woman by the name of Karen Klein, was taunted by these four students during a bus ride in which they largely made fun of her because she is a heavier set woman. The students were heard calling Klein a “fat ass” several times during the ride, and it is reported that one student responded to Klein visibly showing that she was upset by claiming, “She probably misses her box of Twinkies.” One of the most hurtful comments made by the students was to tell Klein that she did not have any family because “they all killed themselves because they didn’t want to be near [her].” Though there has been a fund set up to send Klein on a vacation and although several of the students have issued apologies, this case continues to shock many people. I have read many different articles regarding this case, and one really stood out to me. In an article from the news source Jezebel, the author states that the problem with this case is that Klein was being bullied because she is what many people in America would consider fat.

We are indeed a country that is obsessed with body image. We as a society idolize people for being thin, while we often mock those who are heavier. And it doesn’t just stop at weight. Our society is obsessed with critiquing people for all sorts of things; they’re too heavy, they’re not pretty enough, they don’t wear the right clothes. Many people blame the media for this problem. I don’t argue that the media has a role in how we as a society view our bodies; this is especially noticeable when it comes to way that the media portrays women. Women in commercials and ads are often models or pretty darn close. They are thin; they have a perfect tan, perfect hair, perfect makeup. Most of the women and girls in our society feel that they have to live up to these unattainable standards in order to be a ‘perfect’ woman. And I find that those women who strive so hard to live up to these standards often only succeed in making themselves more unhappy and more self-conscious about themselves.

However, I don’t think the media should have sole blame. Our society tends to condone behavior such as openly mocking ‘imperfect’ people. For us, it’s not enough that some people don’t live up to our society’s standards of beautiful. We feel the need to critique them when we decide that they are lacking. Most people are fine with openly mocking others that are heavy, not pretty enough, or that don’t have nice clothes. People tend to have a cookie-cutter image of what a person should be, and we avidly condemn those who do not fit into the mold (even if that constitutes most of our society). This type of behavior really just creates a vicious cycle and ultimately ends up hurting everyone. Of course, those who are mocked and tormented are hurt the most. They are made openly aware that they are not ‘perfect,’ and they must deal with the blows that this delivers to their self-esteem. And though the tormentor may not think so, this open mockery does not help them either. It is most likely that they mock others to cover up their own insecurities, but making fun of others doesn’t do anything for them. They are not made a better person because of it.

Incidents such as an elderly bus monitor being mocked for her physical appearance reveals a much deeper problem with our society. Not only do we have a narrow version of what makes someone beautiful, but we tend to find it acceptable that people are mocked for how they look. In a society so obsessed with body image we judge people right away. Most people know that old saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” I think that’s a pretty appropriate lesson for most people in this society. We dismiss so many people based on their physical appearance. It’s time to stop this cycle. Mockery does nothing but hurt the self-esteem of others and ensures that the mocker looks like a total jackass (excuse the language). It’s time we take a serious look at a society in which students feel that it is okay to mock an elderly person because of her weight.

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