Content warning: this story describes forms of cyber violence against women and girls
Listen to Luka’s story
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As a girl, I was bullied just because I had shorter hair and liked to dye it different colours. One of my classmates said I was a boy and another that I was gay. One even called me a hermaphrodite.
All our school life goes on in one big online chat room. So all these stories, with pictures of my hair, popped up in there and went viral. Some boys didn’t even bother to hide their names. Some girls wouldn’t stop. They even posted stories about their “better” long hair.
One day, a particularly nasty boy brought a skirt into school and teased me with it – he left it on my desk, stuck it on my locker and then more hurtful memes were added to the online chat room. I was confused and angry. Of course, I tried not to pay attention. But later, after school, a flood of super-imposed pictures of me wearing the skirt went viral in our class chat room. I felt so alone, nobody wanted to talk to me. No one stood up to the bullies. The only responses were smiley face emojis and a flow of cruel comments.
I was excluded from walking with the groups of girls. They would whisper about their plans to hangout after school loud enough for me to hear. I knew I wouldn't be a part of it. Girls said I’m not like them and I should be one of the boys. They taunted me for knowing nothing about makeup. Again, our chat room was full of bullying makeup tips: boys turning their faces into Halloween ghosts, and girls posting pink lips. It would go on for days.
But that autumn, a new teacher arrived at our school. She taught music and was a bit of a local star. On her first day, she noticed me because of my hair. She thought it was cool. We talked a lot and she told me her story, which was similar and sad. She had also been bullied in the past. From her experience, she helped me to understand right from wrong. And she told me that at times we have to stand up and fight.
I realised then: we all know that bullying is a terrible thing. But we’re never really taught how to respond. She inspired me to become the singer in an all-girl band, called "Short Hair”. We start all our small performances with a “NO BULLIES” message. I’m doing this for myself and for the rest of the girls and boys at school.
— Luka, 15 years old