The Backbone Zone, a campaign stemming from Maine Coalition
Against Sexual Assault (MECASA), helps students recognise and stand
up to to homophobic and sexist abuse.
Many students are forced to deal with insulting, derogatory
remarks, words thrown around without any understanding of the
effect they could have; and children all over the world fall victim
to harassment because of their perceived masculinity or
Those made subject to this abuse find that their safety, and
ability to learn becomes jeopardised. Fifteen per cent of students
in Maine High School said they didn't agree with the statement, "I
feel safe at my school". This figure is quite likely representative
of students across the world - Stonewall confirms that 35% of
UK school pupils would agree.
The team at the Backbone Zone work hard generating measures to
ensure homophobic and gender-based crime is reduced. The first
step: teaching students to recognise the changes they can make in
the world. Homophobic and sexist comments do affect people; but by
simply changing the words students use, they can put an end to
gender-bullying and sexual harassment.
Secondly, encouraging students to become active bystanders when
witnessing verbal abuse persuades them not to stand and do nothing,
but to intervene, find their backbone, and use it.
Whilst the posters appear light-hearted and humorous,
juxtaposing an insulting phrase with a picture of its literal
meaning, they convey a powerful message.
Cara Courchesne, a Backbone Zone representative, told DIVA: "We
know that engaged bystanders can shift the behaviour of those
around them. This is especially important regarding gender-based
bullying and sexual harassment. The Backbone Zone encourages
students (and everyone really) to change the world they live in by
giving very concrete examples of what one can do to be an engaged
Backbone Zone's posters and other material that supports the
campaign are affordable and can be found here: www.mecasa.org/backbone/materials.html