Katy Butler may only be 17, but the Michigan teen has already learned how to have her voice heard on a national level.
Butler took on the Motion Picture Association of America when it slapped an R rating on the documentary Bully and now she is asking President Barack Obama and Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney to take a stand against bullying by wearing purple on Spirit Day which falls on 19 October.
‘Because of the visibility Spirit Day has helped bring to bullying, things are different,’ Butler says on a petition she has launched through the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
‘I’m asking President Obama and Governor Romney, who’s from my home state of Michigan, to wear purple on October 19th for Spirit Day to show voters and countless young people that, no matter your politics, bullying just isn’t acceptable,’ Butler says.
Spirit Day was founded in 2010. It’s a day when people wear the color purple to show support for LGBT young people who are victims of bullying. Promoted by GLAAD, many Hollywood celebrities have worn purple on this day to show their support and many websites have added a prominent purple shade to their design.
Butler, who is a lesbian, shares on the petition that she was bullied as a seventh grader.
‘They called me names and asked me why I even bothered to show my face at school because no one wanted to go to school with a lesbian,’ she remembers. ‘I tried to ignore them because I was afraid of what else they might say – and who else they might tell – if I stood up to them. When I went to leave, they pushed me against the wall. Then they slammed my locker shut on my hand, breaking my finger. I held back tears while I watched them run away laughing. I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t know whom I could talk to about being gay.’
Because of her experiences, Butler wanted everyone to see the film Bully to give people a better understanding of what some kids put others through. She launched an online petition on Change.org demanding that the rating be changed to PG-13 which would make it easier for the film’s intended audience – middle and high school students – to get into the movie. An R rating meant they must be accompanied by an adult if they are age 17 and under.
The film was released unrated into six theaters and went on to gross just under $3.5 million at the box office.