Friday, December 13, 2013

Issues of Bullying

There were a couple of times, due to news items, I thought about writing about the B word here. But I didn't. But then I read this...article? Blog post? The Bully Too Close to Home. And it bugged me. Because I think we should start using different words for relentlessly targeting people to treat like shit. In that blog post? Yeah, I don't feel that's bully, I feel that's child abuse. Emotional abuse specifically, of the bullying triad (I just made that phrase up, I think, though it might already be existent): emotional, verbal, and physical abuse. But is a parent a "bully"? 

I feel like "bully" is one of those terms that we've kind of outgrown. Bully used to mean, in my mind, a kid at school who roughed you up for your lunch money, stole your homework, etc. etc. Maybe that's the sanitized middle grade novels of yesteryear version of it (like The Bully of Barkham Street, by Mary Stolz), I don't know.


 

I know that I never, ever saw "bullying" of the sort that I read about in the news today. I saw things that would fall in that category, sure, and was even "victim" to it on occasion. There was a kid in my gym class in like, 6th grade, who would make fun of my on occasion. I told the teacher, and the reply I got was "If we don't see it, or hear it, we can't do anything about it." Fair enough. Next time he made fun of me out of sight and earshot of the teacher, I kicked him hard enough in the shin that he fell to the gym floor and moaned there for  a bit. Never heard from him again. Was he a bully? Was I the bully because I escalated?

The other example I've got is a kid whose last name was after mine in the alphabet, so he was in my homeroom, his locker was next to mine, etc.  During homecoming week Freshman year of high school, one of the "themes" was Cross Dressing Day, so I came in wearing a button down shirt and a tie with jeans. I walked into homeroom, and he looked at me and said "Wow, Jen, you really look like a man." I replied "Maybe, but you really look like a monkey." He said "What?" and I repeated myself, to the delight of homeroom. The next time I encountered him, later in the day, he brushed inappropriately close to me as he approached his locker. I forget what he even said. But he didn't even look at me, just opened his locker and leaned into it. My locker was still open. So I hit him with my locker door. Again, never heard from him again. That one, I could see turning into what the "modern" bully is apparently like. However, he was also not a fan of receiving what he handed out. So.

This was before the days of Facebook, though. Would it have been so easy, had somebody taken a cell phone of me on crossdressing day, and made a meme of it, and put it all over Facebook? If I had endured relentless psychological abuse from all sides, from the "cool crowd", from 7th grade on? Neither thing I just related was all that humiliating, really. Those people didn't know anything about me, and tried to take potshots based on appearance. I'm not a Champion Against Bullies, I'm just a thorny bitch. And I didn't have it so bad. If the taunting had gone on, if more people had started saying the same things, if I'd been getting calls at home that also said those things...well, I would've gotten angrier, certainly. But harrying somebody to that kind of degree? That's bullying.

Pervasive psychological manipulation is something that will wear a person down. Self worth is a precious, fragile thing. It's one thing to say to somebody "shrug it off". It's another to live in a toxic environment that never, ever supports or uplifts you and instead only (at best) grinds you down.

Bullying is a buzzword now too, though. It's overused, and applied to too many situations. Words are important, I feel, and to hear a wide range of things, from "abusive" to "socially unpleasant" referred to as bullying diminishes its impact.

I feel like I've run out of steam here, and I wasn't exactly up in arms to begin with. Have I made my point? I dunno.


6 comments:

  1. Hmmm. Interesting points. Maybe a useful distinction would be to use the word bully when one individual does it, but find a different term when it's a whole group ganging up on someone--which is what seems to be happening a lot now with FB, etc. I don't know. I haven't really thought that through. It's just what occurred to me when I read your post.

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    1. It seems to happen a lot, and terribly, with the Internet. Which in a way is entirely preventable with things like parental controls and supervision, and on the other hand kind of worse, because I think people can and will say more horrible things online than they will say in person.

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  2. I agree, I think there should be different terms that more precisely explain the situation. I also think there should be more actions that can be taken against true bullies. I had never been bullied until I was 19. I am still living with her, and there's no way around it until August. It's gotten so bad the police have gotten involved, but because she hasn't threatened me or physically assaulted me, there's nothing anyone can do.

    I wonder how much of it has to do with culture and how much is inborn instincts.

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    1. I'm sorry to hear that your living situation is like that. I hope August comes quickly and safely.

      I do think more actions should be taken, and I believe some states are formulating (or have formulated) bullying laws, though some of them may be cyber-specific since so much of what hits the news seems to come from social media targeted attacks spreading like pernicious wildfire in schools. I can see how it's difficult (and probably frustrating) from a law enforcement standpoint. I guess maybe it would fall under harassment? I'm not even sure what the "rules" are there.

      I wonder too. Some of it seems like it has to be instinctual; some people find it reinforcing, personally, to bully others. They'll go to great lengths, frequently at inconvenience to themselves, to get shots in. That isn't "normal" behavior, and the motivations behind it must, I feel, be inborn in some part. Then there's the cultural reinforcement, when others laugh, and praise the bully, and pile on as well because there's safety in numbers.

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  3. This is interesting..and yes, bullying encompasses a wide range. Some of it is just petty little crap that can be processed and discarded...but sometimes, it's deadly or at least very damaging

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    1. And it's on a case by case basis, really. A person feels how they'll feel about something. What will barely get one person's notice could really wreck somebody else, there's no way to anticipate.

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