Let’s Hear It For Jen McKen, Saying No to Bullies
High school clichés are what they have always been. Jocks, stoners, cheerleaders, punks, Goths, study buddies, etc. We all fit into one, although many of us don’t admit it and instead say something like “I had friends in all the groups.”
I was the girl in black with blue nails who leaned against walls, wrote zines and thought things about you. I wore my brother’s old boy scout uniform as a top, and thrift store clothes for effect (and also because we were poor). I don’t really remember much about high school. I do remember the cliques.
I also remember the mean girls. There were these cheerleaders who went after the three punk chicks for their hair and nails and clothes. You know, the thing that Mean Girls always attack other girls for. The exterior. The punk chicks were pretty cool, and I liked them. So, when this started, I thought, oh ho, this might just be a fight I need to get involved in. I hate bullies. And we all knew not to go to the adults. They wouldn’t do anything.
So when photographer Jennifer McKendrick found a high school Facebook page dedicated to slamming fellow students, she decided that she could not spend two hours with those girls pretending not to know how absolutely ugly they were. She emailed them and canceled their session. Better yet, she told them WHY. When I read about this on Facebook myself, I literally cheered and threw my hands in the air. I was loud. I disturbed the cat.
Here is Jen’s FB post for August 16th.
“I came across a page on Facebook that was created (by someone under a ficticious name) thats [sic] purpose is to bully, ridicule and say mean and hurtful things about their class mates. While visiting the page, I found several teenage girls that have scheduled sessions with me for their senior pictures. I am emailing them tomorrow to cancel their shoots. I do not want them to represent my business and I am beside myself at how MEAN and CRUEL they were on that page.”
And she did. Not only did she email them, but she also emailed their parents to explain why she was not willing to make their exterior prettier than their interior. She said she got two emails back from the parents apologizing and that they would deal with the matter. They also said they were shocked by the behavior.
A different post acknowledges that canceling her session would not make them better people, but she did not want them representing her business. That, to me, is job integrity and is more beautiful than shrugging your shoulders and saying “oh well, they will grow out of it.” Because sometimes, they don’t.
What really disturbed Jen (and me) is that this was not just the typical mean girl “your clothes are ugly” and “get a haircut” that is so common face to face. Instead it was attacks on their character and sexuality. This confuses me. There has been so much news coverage of kids who have committed suicide over this kind of cyberbullying. Their names are etched in my brain as sadness: Megan Meier, Tyler Clementi, and most recently, Pheobe Prince. (And these are just the ones that got media attention). There is even a National Crime Prevention Council trying to prevent it.
In these economic times, sending money back on a principle is hard to do. Watching someone bully someone else is even harder. I would like to think that if I came across this I would do the same thing. I have a side business helping kids navigate the college application process, and I am pretty sure I will follow Jen’s lead. It is the adults who need to stand up to the mean girls here, because in high school, the less socially powerful can’t.
To all the mean girls out there: nobody thinks you are pretty.
You can like Jen on Facebook by clicking here. Send her a note.
Photo Credit: rgkomoto