Going Out

WEB EXCLUSIVE: Jeremy Dias on The Bully Project, homophobia, and respect

By Scott Kennel

In advance of the Ottawa premiere of The Bully Project on Wednesday, March 28, we talk to Jer’s Vision founder Jeremy Dias about the new documentary. The hot-button nature of this topic has resulted in a sold-out event, but those who didn’t get tickets for Wednesday’s can email the organization at Win@JersVision.org to get their name on the waiting list. To find out out more about Jer’s Vision, visit www.jersvision.org

Why did Jer’s Vision choose to partner with The Bully Project?
Jer’s Vision was approached by Alliance Atlantis, who was gathering support for Bully. Dealing with bullying is always a community effort. It requires relationships with may different people and organizations.

Do you think films like Bully are an effective avenue for anti-bullying campaigns to take?
I think every avenue available is a useful one, but this project is exciting because it covers the full experience of what bullying really is. We’re noticing that, for the most part, bullying consists of many small instances that add up together. Once you report it, the administrator says, “Well you know what? He called you a fag, it’s just one name, so deal with it.” But this isn’t just one name. Were not talking about being on the football team, throwing the ball wrong and someone saying, “You’re an idiot.” We’re talking about people making fun of you, calling you names, and being disrespectful all the time. That’s really challenging and that’s what this movie is about.

What should viewers expect going into this film?
People can expect a revelation of the experience of bullying and an understanding of what bullying is culturally for our community. This movie is a documentary by Americans who have been working with bullying for a long time, and it’s a first step towards understanding bullying in our community. I think it’s going to spark a dialogue for sure.

Jeremy Dias of Jer's Vision.

Do you think this is going to be a difficult film for some people to watch?
Absolutely, a lot of people will see themselves in this film, but many might not see themselves as the victim. They might see their own actions are very similar to those of the person who is being disrespectful. I think a lot of people are going to walk away realizing that some of their actions, things they don’t think about, can really have a terrible impact on one person’s life.

Bullying has been going on a long time. Why do you think it has become such a common subject in the last several years?
A major difference is that now we have volunteers and organizations going into schools every day, doing workshops on bullying, and discussing this problem with people who might otherwise not understand it. I think we’ve realized that people can be disrespectful, and that homophobia is happening in our schools, but we have also realized that we can change. Not only do parents want to change bullying, but youth want to change as well. Youth are giving bullying the attention they need to make a difference.

Where do you think the solutions to bullying lie? In institutions or is it the responsibility of children and parents to deal with it?
I think were noticing that it’s a collective responsibility. Stopping bullying is not about punishing people. Everyone is a bully; everyone is disrespectful. The solution is to ask ourselves how we can create a culture where, if Joe’s on the football team, he can come out and say, “I’m here I’m gay and I’m part of the team. I want to be respected.” And it’s not impossible, it’s not just dreaming. Don’t be lazy. At a school bullying workshop today one kid came up and literally said to me, “I had no idea.” It’s not that these kids hate gays; it’s not that they want to hurt other people. These kids literally have no idea. Teaching them to understand each other will make this change.

Jeremy Dias is a Canadian leader in anti-bullying and anti-discrimination efforts in Canada.  He is the founder of Jer’s Vision and the international Day of Pink, and works to eliminate bullying and discrimination among youth.