DEAR KELLY: There is a boy at my school who always calls me BBW, which he says stands for big black woman. I really don’t like it and have told him to knock it off, but he keeps calling me it. When I post a picture on Instagram, he puts #bbw under all my pics. It’s really starting to annoy me. How do I get him to stop?
Every time I walk by him at school, he says, “Hey, BBW.” When people ask what is means, I have to tell them and they usually laugh. People think its funny. Because I’m not some super skinny girl, I think he’s like calling me fat or large. When I told him to stop, he acted like I was overreacting and told me it wasn’t a bad thing to be a BBW and I shouldn’t be so defensive. My friends said to ignore it and it would stop, but it hasn’t. Not sure how to handle this.
DEAR SHERISE: No one likes to be made fun of, especially when it is followed by my two least favorite words – “just kidding.” Insulting someone, then playing the “just kidding” card, is a cheap way to say something mean, then take no accountability for what was said or the hurt it caused. It’s like punching someone, then asking why they are bleeding.
When we don’t take responsibility for what we say, it leaves the door wide open to all kinds of meanness. Your feelings are valid and it’s time to speak up and put an end to the verbal bullying this joker is doing. And I am not kidding.
Calling you BBW is inconsiderate And inappropriate. And hurtful, regardless of whether or not he intends it to be.
You tried the ignore tactic and it didn’t work. What about the I’m-giving-you-one-more-chance-approach where you walk up to him and say, “I really don’t like that name and I really want you to stop calling me that. My name is Sherise and I would appreciate if you called me that.”
If that doesn’t work, be direct: “I don’t like you calling me that, so please stop. If this doesn’t stop, I’m going to have to find an adult at school who can help get the message through to you.” If he tells you not to be so defensive or sensitive, tell him not to be so rude or insensitive to call you a name you do not like.
If he doesn’t listen and that approach doesn’t work, go talk with a teacher, school counselor or school administrator and ask them to mediate a conversation with him so he hears you loud and clear to stop calling you (and hash tagging) that name. If he doesn’t respect your words, perhaps he will respect the words of an adult who reminds him that what he is doing could result in school discipline.
Have you considered simply blocking him from all your social media? That sends a pretty loud statement. Some people (and this is no excuse) do not have the sensitivity needed to evaluate their own words and see that what they think it harmless teasing is more like harassment and ridicule. It’s a social skill and someone people fall short on the basics around common courtesy and respect.
Don’t let anyone make you feel less than or embarrassed. He doesn’t deserve that power in your life. Stand up for yourself. Speak up if you don’t like his words. And if he doesn’t listen to you, get help from someone he will listen to. You don’t have to be a victim of his lack of social awareness. You are a strong woman who can speak up and be direct when someone says something hurtful.
Don’t let him shame you by telling you to lighten up. Tell him to listen up and be straightforward about how rude you feel calling you BBW is.
Take the high road. In this case it means speaking up and defending yourself, not through insulting him back but by letting him know what his words are hurtful and you will not allow him to make you feel bad with his insensitive choice of words. It means letting him know what he doesn’t have a right to call anyone a name they don’t like, even if it is followed by “JK.”
It means not tolerating disrespect and having the courage to use your voice. It means looking in the mirror and reminding yourself that you are a beautiful woman who can do anything she puts her mind to and that no one has the ability to make you feel anything less.
Taking the high road means not being victim to his mean comments but rather a bold, beautiful woman who takes control and doesn’t let anyone treat her disrespectfully because she knows she is worth more than that.