Throughout my many years of blogging I have witnessed several instances where youth are feeling hesitant to wear their Star Wars apparel to school because they're afraid of being bullied. If this sounds surprising to you, please know it's a very real issue that both boys and girls are facing today. No one at any age should be made fun of or feel ashamed for outwardly expressing themselves by wearing their favorite Star Wars clothing and accessories. I've seen tons of fans stand up to encourage these kids to be themselves because everyone is different and therefore they enjoy various things. But here's a question I have for you, is our Star Wars online community projecting this same message out there the way that we should be? I don't think so.
Within this online community I have been told that the gap between my two front teeth make me look ugly, that I shouldn't have recorded a Star Wars reaction video without any make-up on, that some of my closest friends can't be my actual friends because I only know them "online", that because my husband doesn't normally watch the new Star Wars trailers (to avoid spoilers) with me he's not a real fan and I should be with someone else. These are just some of the hurtful and ridiculous statements that have been made towards me. I don't want to focus too much on my negative experiences because with the anxiety I deal with it's easy to get wrapped up in them all over again if I think too much about it. I just want to remind you that behind those articles, podcasts, costumes, videos, and social media posts are real people and we are all going through something whether big or small even when we don't seem like we are and being bullied makes it worse. Think before you speak and contemplate before you write.
So many of us, including myself, are quite passionate about supporting the youngest generation of Star Wars fans by encouraging them to wear their Star Wars apparel to school no matter what anybody says and reassuring girls that Star Wars is for females too. However, I find it baffling that we send this positivity their way only to go right back to our negative ways amongst social media by making others feel bad for liking something we don't and questioning whether or not a female's love for Star Wars is real. This has gone too far! We need to start living out what we're preaching because one day those kids are going to be blogging about Star Wars or writing for StarWars.com, they'll be Podcasters, YouTubers, Cosplayers, etc. and if we let the online Star Wars community continue in the direction that it's going in they're going to be living their childhood struggles all over again. Yes, there will always be those bumps in the road because people are just mean but the least of those struggles should be in an online community that was once much more positive and exciting to be a part of. We're supposed to be a Star Wars family and there's no room for bullying in a family.
I consider myself the biggest Star Wars fan but I don't wholeheartedly love some of the movies in their entirety like Rogue One and The Last Jedi and that's ok. I can enjoy Star Wars however I want to and because I've developed a rather thick skin over the last seventeen years I don't let anyone tell me that I'm wrong or bully me over it though some still definitely try. In fact, I was recently told that by being a Reylo fan I am what is part of the problem with the Star Wars community. Though I quickly but gently responded I honestly felt slightly offended. You know what the REAL problem is? The fact that some people make up rules for Star Wars fans on what is ok and not ok to like and that if your particular preferences don't fall under their made up categories you're wrong and they're going to have issues with you. To be clear, this is what I'm hearing, "You should wear your Star Wars shirts to school no matter what anyone says but this is how you should be a fan." What a double standard! These kids look up to us and we need to be better. I choose to celebrate what I love about Star Wars and lift others up each and every day. I'm not saying I'm perfect. I'm sure I could do better on some days but this is what I ultimately strive for. If you think you're too far out in your negativity to start making adjustments, I think there's still hope for you. You can be the change this Star Wars community needs. Are you ready?
1) Refrain from aggressively putting an element of Star Wars down in a conversation with a person who truly loves it. There are ways to have calm and respectable discussions about what two people like and dislike. Stop and listen. It can be interesting to learn about what makes that character or moment in Star Wars so special to that person. Agree to disagree if you must.
2) Don't question whether ANYONE is a "real fan" or not and let them fanboy or a fangirl the way that they want to.
3) When a new piece of Star Wars information or trailer for the next movie drops talk about the things you are interested in or are excited about rather than bashing what you dislike about it right off the bat. Don't let your first response be a negative one. Chances are if you're allowing yourself to respond negatively with a franchise you love you're probably doing this with other areas in your life too. Be positive!
4) Give people compliments when they reveal new Star Wars projects they've worked hard on or when they've acquired a new collectible they're excited about. "Liking" Tweets and Instagram posts are always nice but when was the last time you took a minute to leave a comment? Be a human, not a robot.
5) Stop acting like a bully and learn to stand up for others who are being bullied. I once went through something very unpleasant online and while I received countless private messages of support very few people chose to openly express their support on their own platforms. It wasn't that I expected it, I try to never expect anything, but through that experience I definitely felt like I was drowning.
Lastly, I do want to touch a little more on the issues of our youth.
If you're someone who has young ones in your life please never stop encouraging your kids to openly share their love of Star Wars. Tell them if they're too scared to wear their Star Wars shirt or backpack to school that they should just DO IT. Remind them that Luke Skywalker made a choice to become a Jedi even though he knew his Uncle wouldn't approve. It was a difficult journey but it was all worth it because it made him happy and he became one of the greatest Jedi! Rey was scared, for a very long time, but she finally decided to embrace who she was by choosing to let the Force guide her and by doing so she felt she had purpose. She felt alive! We have so many characters within the Star Wars universe to reference when having these discussions about being yourself with our youth. Even if you're not someone who is around children very often you can still make a difference. The next time you're out shopping or at the movie theater and you see a kid wearing a cool Star Wars shirt give them a compliment! It's little moments like these that give them that extra boost of confidence to continue to be themselves.
It also helps to use your own examples of trials you went through. And if you don't have one, there are many who would be willing to share. I actually had a moment of second guessing myself not too long ago.
As a thirty-two year old Star Wars fan I can tell you that I am always confident wearing anything from my wardrobe that is Star Wars related. However, when the "decorating your backpacks with buttons and pins trend" started a while back I was actually hesitant to do it. I LOVED the idea but I wondered if it was too much of a youthful look for a woman of my age. I already struggle with my outward appearance and age not exactly matching. I receive unwanted comments from complete strangers more often than you think. But then I realized how silly I sounded mostly because I am ALWAYS telling people to wear what they love. I knew that I liked this idea and had always wanted a creative way to display my favorite buttons and pins and so I did it. And you know what? Since day one I have received endless compliments on my backpack and collection of buttons and pins. They've sparked conversations with people that I have truly enjoyed and wouldn't have otherwise had. It makes me happy and I wanted to share this because whether you're a teenager, someone who is my age or even older I just want to tell you that I think it's very important to be yourself because you won't experience full happiness otherwise. It may be difficult in the beginning but I promise you it's always worth it!
Thank you for taking the time to read this. Starting today, please take action! Stop the bullying. Let people be themselves. Be kind. Be positive. Be a light.
What other steps can we take to make the community a happier place? I'd love to know your thoughts. Leave a comment below or send me a Tweet!
With all my love,