#notthisgirl: Michaela Loukas
After enduring ongoing bullying in school, 10-year-old Michaela wrote and delivered a version of this speech in a public speaking competition at her school (Sydney, Australia).
by Michaela Loukas
Unicorns, rainbows, giggles—life as a little girl starts out happy and fun. Each school day brings the excitement of spending time with our friends. We tell each other we’re going to be best friends forever.
Life can’t get any better.
And then, almost overnight, everything changes. We get to Stage 3*, and the friend who used to run up to us in Kindergarten for a big hug every morning now runs away and hides from us during recess because she thinks it’s a funny prank. Yeah. What can I say? Absolutely hilarious.
As we get older, we’re taught many life skills such as stranger danger and online safety. We’re taught about bullying and our bully-buster program trains us to stop kids who are hurting someone verbally or physically. But when we speak up about bad behavior from our own friends, we’re told, “Oh, that’s not really bullying. That’s just girls. Girls are mean.”
Well, you know what? Enough is enough. Let’s stop making “mean girl behavior” acceptable. Not all girls are mean or that other word starting with a “b,” which I’ll get into trouble if I say now.
Any behavior which makes you feel rejected, humiliated, or isolated is outright bullying even if it is done under the radar. It’s NOT a normal part of being a girl and if we keep making excuses for it, it will never go away.
Psychologists call this undercover bullying “social or relational aggression.” When it happens, it feels like a slap in the face and can make you feel shame and confusion. It happened to me, when this year I found myself in a class without any of my close friends. On the first day, I put my pencil case on a table and was about to sit down when a girl next to me said, “Oh, sorry, you can’t sit there, we’re saving that spot for our friend.”
Remember the ice bucket challenge? In that exact moment, I felt like someone had poured a massive bucket full of freezing water on my head. It. Was. Terrible.
And if it was just that, I might’ve survived the fifth grade unharmed. But there was more. All the parties and playdates I was excluded from. The silent treatment and death stares that came my way. The rumors about me. The mean jokes, followed by “just kidding.” Each episode was like a wood axe chipping away at me, at my confidence and eventually at my academic performance, which was always so good. And each night, when I cried in the shower, I looked up at the falling water, asking, “Why? Why are these girls so mean to me? What did I do to deserve this?”
But I now know that this is learned behavior and it’s time to unlearn it. Most of the girls who do it have learned it from adult role models. And the victims have been taught to accept it because the same adults have told them it’s normal girl behavior.
Enough. I’ve had enough.
I refuse to let them hurt me in Year 6**. I am NOT going to be a mean girl. I am NOT going to be a victim.
Girls, we need to work together to stop this now, before high school, where social circles become more important than our own family. We need to stop being mean to each other and start acting with kindness and compassion. We need the tools and support to leave toxic friendships and to speak up if we don’t like how we’re being treated. And most importantly of all, adults need to stop saying things like, “That’s just girls.”
Because that’s NOT girls and it’s definitely not THIS girl.
*Stage 3 refers to the fifth and sixth grades in Australian Elementary Schools
**The school year in Australia commences at the end of January each year and the author has recently started the sixth grade.