Girl 'Star Wars' Fan Bests Bullies With Support From Online Geeks Across the Galaxy
Katie Goldman is a 7-year-old with a very big fan club.
A first grader in Evanston, Ill., Katie carried a "Star Wars" water bottle to school every day, until a few weeks ago, when, out of the blue, she asked her mom if she could take an old pink bottle to school instead. The sudden change of heart surprised Katie's mom, Carrie Goldman, since Katie is obsessed with "Star Wars," just like her dad, CNN reports.
When pressed for an explanation, Katie tearfully told her mom the first grade boys at school were making fun of her because they insisted "Star Wars" was only for boys. She thought they would stop teasing her if she brought the pink bottle instead, according to the network.
Goldman says her heart sank when she realized what was going on.
"Is this how it starts?" Goldman writes on her blog, "Portrait of an Adoption." "Do kids find someone who does something differently and start to beat it out of her, first with words and sneers? Must my daughter conform to be accepted?"
Goldman writes that she was confused, because these weren't random mean boys bullying her daughter. They were good kids whom Katie often plays with.
"But when you put the boys together in a pack, maybe they start to feel vulnerable and insecure, which causes them to do unkind things, such as tease my daughter for carrying a 'Star Wars' water bottle," she writes.
Though her mom told Katie it was OK to be different, Katie insisted she was already different enough: She's the one who was adopted, wears glasses and needs to wear a patch for a lazy eye, Goldman adds, noting that being different is a complicated topic.
"I see people publicly lauding diversity and privately attacking those who are different," she writes. "It trickles down to kids teasing each other for the types of toys they prefer. So it starts now, with a couple first graders and a water bottle. Right here, right now, we as a community need to recognize the slippery slope of bullying those who are different. We need to show our support for each other's choices, as long as they do no harm."
With that, Goldman issued a call to action that has ricocheted through the Internet, eliciting unexpected responses and acts of kindness from thousands of people.
"I would love to be able to show Katie that she is not alone, that other females appreciate 'Star Wars.' If there are any female Star Wars fans reading this, please feel free to show your support for Katie," Goldman writes. "I will let her read your messages or comments, and I think she will be surprised by what I suspect is a vast number of female fans."
A few days after Goldman's Nov. 15 blog entry, Jen Yates wrote about Katie on her blog, "Epbot," a place for "geekery, girliness & goofing off."
"My fellow geeks, I need your help," Yates writes. "I just read this article about little Katie being bullied by her classmates for carrying a 'Star Wars' water bottle to school. She's only in the first grade. This, my friends, cannot stand."
And to Katie, Yates writes: "I think I speak for every Epbot reader here when I say: Don't let the scruffy nerf herders get you down. You rock that water bottle with pride, and know that there are thousands of other fans out there (myself included) who would be proud to share a lunch table with you. Oh, and may the Force be with you."
Yates asked her readers to leave a comment in support of Katie on Epbot or on Goldman's blog and to help spread the word.
And that's when Katie's tale went viral. In a tremendous outpouring of support, the story of the little girl who loves "Star Wars" spread on Twitter, Facebook and tons of blogs, including the official "Star Wars" blog.
Traffic on Goldman's blog exploded, CNN reports, with 1,200 people leaving messages there, while more than 3,300 comments were posted on Yates' blog. There were also links from "Star Wars" message boards, parenting blogs, tech sites and a Twitter hashtag #maytheforcebewithkatie made its way across social media sites.
Online retailer ThinkGeek sent Katie a lightsaber. The cast of "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" sent "Star Wars" merchandise. Ashley Eckstein, the voice of the female Jedi Ashoka Tano, sent Katie Her Universe clothes for girls. And Tom Kane, who voices Yoda, escorted the Goldman family to a screening near their home, CNN reports.
One fan even created a Facebook event suggesting people wear "Star Wars" gear on Dec. 10 in support of Katie. The Goldmans also asked participants to donate to "Star Wars" charities for the holidays and nearly 35,000 people signed up.
And, also on Dec. 10, Katie's school hosted Proud to be Me Day, where kids were encouraged to wear something that shows their interests -- whether it be princesses, sports, animals or anime, CNN reports.
"What strikes me is how these individuals who were once so isolated are now part of a very tight community," Goldman writes on her blog. "They have found each other; they are plugged into each other, and they have each other's backs. Now they have Katie's back, too."
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.