Portrait of an Adoption. The reality of bullying hit home for her when her daughter was relentlessly teased for having a Star Wars water bottle, which, as I'm sure you know, is only for boys. Goldman posted about the situation on her blog and the response was astounding. She was flooded by messages of support and many, men and women, shared their own stories of being bullied. Realizing that she had stumbled onto a pressing topic, she began talking to anyone and everyone about this multi-faceted problem. The result of her research is Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher and Kid Needs to Know about Ending the Cycle of Fear (2012, Harper One).
This is an exhaustive survey of experts, moms, kids, and survivors of bullying (both the bullied and the bullies). Goldman rolled up her shirtsleeves and followed every possible thread she could think of. After sharing her daughter's story, she outlines groups that are at high risk for peer victimization. These groups include those who don't conform to gender stereotypes, those with physical or developmental disabilities, and GLBT youth. In this section she also addresses the unique challenges faced by girls in an age of slut shaming, sexting, and cyberbulling as well as addressing the physiological affects of bullying on the brain.
Goldman then address the many ways that we can take active steps to decrease the incidences of bullying. She places this responsibility in the hands of parents, schools, toy retailers, clothing marketers, and society at large; a tall order. In short, her message is that in order to curtail these negative behaviors we have to nurture acceptance of diversity, respect, and empathy from the very beginning. It is easier to take corrective action in the elementary school years when kids are still rapidly developing and more difficult as they enter adolescence when behaviors and mindsets are more deeply ingrained.
The most valuable work that Goldman has done is to synthesize all the disparate information sources to come up with a comprehensive examination of the problem and a plan of action that is based in what has been proven to work. Her critique definitely stays within the mainstream, though, and stays mostly at the surface. While I agree with her frustration at retail stores who group toys by gender (thus increasing the likelihood of bullying because the notion of "girls" and "boys" toys is reinforced), the solution of just creating "gender free" toy aisles in such stores seems short-sighted. I equate it to the push in the 1990s to create equality in race representation in advertising. Sure, having more minority faces in ads may seem like a step in the right direction, but such a quest fails to address the larger issue of the proliferation of advertising into every facet of our lives. I see the same problem here. While placing dump trucks on a shelf right next to the Barbies may seem like an improvement, it does little to address the inherent problems in those toys themselves or the consumerism they promote. Consumerism and the perceived need of kids to be the "haves" rather than the "have-nots" seems to be the larger problem.
Overall, though, Goldman speaks from the heart and it's very obvious that she feels the sting of the insults that kids hurl upon one another and she wants to be proactive in making it stop. She suggests actions that you can take today if your kid is being bullied (or is the bully) as well as more long term investments to change the culture.
This book is currently on tour with TLC Tours. You can read what other bloggers have said here.
If you would like to connect with Carrie Goldman, you can do so on Twitter.
My review copy was provided courtesy of Harper One.