Amanda Todd, More Than Bullying (Part 1)

antidote network, illustrations by Eva Campbell.

By Jo-Anne Lee, in collaboration with Sabina Chatterjee.

Dear antidote members and friends,

By  now,  you  have  probably  heard  about  Amanda  Todd’s suicide. On  behalf of antidote,  I wish  to offer  our deepest sympathy  to  her family  and friends.  The premature  death of  a child  is  something  that  no  parent or family should  ever experience.

Amanda Todd was a beautiful  girl  who  took  her own life  at 15  years.  She was of mixed heritage:  Chinese and European.

This  information  came  silently  and  stealthily  into  my  world and  once revealed, shattered my complacency. How  did  I not know  this?  Was  it true? I rushed  to my computer  and  easily found  her video and  photos. Through my sobs, I scanned hundreds  of  Internet  images.  My  stomach churning,  I realized that  the circumstances of  her  death  was  not  simply  a matter of  childhood bullying  gone bad  as narrated  in  news reports. This young  girl  had experienced  racialized and sexualized harassment  and violence to such  extremes that  she  had  taken her own  life.  Shaken  to  my core,  I  sat  silent  and alone with  my  grief  for several days. Amanda  could have  been my own daughter.  She  could  have been  a gurrl member  of antidote.

A  few  days  later,  after  reaching  out  to  antidote and sharing  my  feelings with some  members,  we  realized that we were  all  affected,  triggered  and traumatized  by  reading  about these events. Even  more  so when we realized that Amanda could  have been  a  member  of  our  gurrls’  group,  a  member  of our family  or  friend. In  antidote,  we  have  heard many  similar  stories  of racialized, sexualized and  homophobic harassment, violence,  isolation,  and self‐harm. We all knew someone  close  to  us  who  had  attempted  or succeeded in committing suicide.  Although  specific  circumstances differed, there were  also  many  similarities.

We  concluded  that  something  was  very  wrong  in  how  the  media and  experts have  framed Amanda Todd’s suicide. Why  has  a blanket  of  silence  covered  Amanda’s  ethnic and racial background? Why is  her  death being  reported as bullying  and not gendered,  sexualized and racialized violence?    We  cannot fully answer these questions, but what we  can  and  must do is speak  out  about how this naming  affects  us  and  harms our work,  and  why  it  must  stop.

This  issue  concerns  everyone  wanting  to  stop  violence  against girls  and  women generally  and  specifically, girls  and  women from  minoritized  communities.

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