We recently caught up with Jen Unbe, who wrote the song Bully (link below). We love her talents and energy, and her deep compassion. We want to introduce her to you as an example of someone whose creative drive has helped her keep pushing to grow, while her empathy and compassion keep her connected to and helping others. She’s a great example for girls and all young artists. You’ll love her as much as we do!
Hi, Jen. Tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
Jen: I’m a singer/ songwriter/ model/ designer and artist. I’ve been an artist and musician for as long as I can remember. I love expressing myself through my music, art, modelling and clothing. I was an ECE (Early Childhood Educator) for many years and my work with children allowed me to incorporate my love of the arts into my teaching.
What lead you into music?
Jen: I’ve been a ham ever since I was little and I’ve always been hyperactive. I was constantly singing and dancing to get my parents’ attention and organizing elaborate variety shows at their dinner parties with the other kids.
Then my parents put me into piano lessons when I was 8 yrs old. I hated it, to be honest. In hindsight, however, all those years of piano gave me a solid background in music and theory. When I was 14 yrs old, I heard The Ramones’ Blitzkrieg Bop, I picked up the guitar and taught myself how to play. I haven’t looked back since. Their songs were reminiscent of the oldies I grew up on (except faster and cooler) and their attitude was so chill and normal. They made me think I can do what they do.
What lead you into bullying prevention?
Jen: I was an ECE for a long time. I worked with children from nursery school to middle school age (5 mo- 12 yrs). I dealt with varying degrees of bullying on a daily basis, in every age group. The bullying varied from excluding a child from a group of friends to the sexual abuse of a peer (that was pretty dark and a really hard one for me to deal with).
What inspired you to create the video Bully? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnOrBhFlPNw
Jen: I wrote Bully because of the bullying I was experiencing when I started my pop punk band, Unbelievers. While I loved being in a band and playing music I also had to deal with the fact that it was definitely of a boys’ club. I had to prove myself as a ‘female’ musician and songwriter more than my male peers. This was on top of Unbelievers having to prove ourselves as a new band in the Canadian punk scene.
What advice would you have for girls aged 10-18 who would like to prevent or are dealing with bullying?
Jen: It’s about doing the right thing and probably going against the status quo. If you see bullying happening you have the power to stop it by saying something or telling an adult. You do not have to stand back and watch and feel powerless. If it’s a situation where there is the potential of physical harm you absolutely need to alert an adult or the police. If you are being bullied you need to tell a teacher or adult you trust.
Your bully thrives on the power and control they have over you. Once you tell someone what is happening, that power starts getting taken away and you can begin getting the help you need.
In your opinion, what’s a root cause of bullying? What can we do differently to change or eliminate that problem?
Jen: My experience with bullies is that it’s about power and control. Bullies bully because they are insecure in themselves or they themselves are being bullied and are acting out that behaviour on someone else to regain power and control in their own lives.
Self-confidence is important when we talk about bullying. Someone who is confident in themselves and their abilities has no need to put down someone else and steal their power.
Perhaps a bully could benefit from having an outlet to express and have control over their frustrations and emotions. Art and music are great outlets for that kind of release. There have been times when I feel upset or frustrated or angry and my music has given me a way to let it out in a positive way. By turning a negative feeling into something positive like a song, I deal with my emotions and I also feel happy, accomplished and proud of myself, on top of having a sweet new song for my setlist!
What can parents and teachers do differently to help stop bullying?
Jen: I believe bullying behavior and habits start at an early age. These habits can and do continue on into adulthood. I’ve seen adults (and very unfortunately, teachers) bully children. I’ve seen adults bully each other in the workplace. Let’s start by watching what we as adults say and do before we try to tell kids what they should say and do.
Great guidance, Jen. Rely on and stick up for your friends. And while it’s never good (or right) to be on the receiving end of bullying, there will be ups and downs in life, and being resilient (like writing a new song, finding inspiration to help others, or exercising and meditating to keep your body strong through stress) helps us find the strength to get through.
Keep us posted on your next chapter!