Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A National Bullying Prevention Month Rant

Someone pointed out this morning that October is National Bullying Prevention Month and I have a few thoughts on the subject...

(Run now or don't say I didn't warn you.)

First off, let's get one thing straight. If you don't give a flying fuck what other people think of you, they can't bully you. (Unless they're physically assaulting you*)

Secondly, if this culture wasn't so damn set on forcing everyone to like everyone else, then our children could actually stop giving a flying fuck what these bullies said to them.  They wouldn't kill themselves over things these assholes were saying to them on Twitter and FB and other social media sites because they wouldn't care.  They'd be all like "Oh look, John said I was fat. Well, he's kind of an ass, so his opinions don't matter.  Poor sad little John. ROFL"

We really put too much stock in the thoughts of others if their thoughts are driving our children to kill themselves.

And we all worry so much about what other people think, might think or that we think they think that we warp ourselves to some vague image of what we hope they'll like.  It's all bullshit.

I got bullied.  Hell, I suspect most people have been bullied at some point - except for the bullies themselves (and even then, I'm guessing they got bullied somewhere along the way).  But I didn't consider killing myself over it.  Looking back, those times when I was on the edge contemplating a swift end to it all, it didn't have a damn thing to do with what some fucktard said about me.  Mostly what I was thinking about after being bullied was revenge.  Cathartic thoughts of pushing Diane and Rachel in front of a school bus.  Not real thoughts of taking a semi-automatic and wiping out half the damn school. 

Seriously, that's just stupid.  That's like saying 'these assholes are ruining my life, so I'll teach them by REALLY ruining my life - and the lives of countless others along the way'.  Yeah, that'll learn 'em. 

But I digress.

That shit can be stopped, too, if we stop putting so much value on the opinions of others. 

And you know why bullying works?  Because the bullies KNOW you give a huge shit about them.  They're counting on it.  Because the second you stop caring, their fun goes away.  (Once I stopped caring what Diane and Rachel thought, they left me alone.  I wasn't fun to pick on anymore.  And years later, I actually became friends with Rachel.)

Sure, it's harder than it sounds.  The inundation of 'get along' in our culture makes it harder than it has to be.  Hell, any time any kid sticks out from the pack, the pack tries to shove them back in. 

Let's use an example from my own kid's life - which she'll hate, but that's how Mom's blog goes sometimes.  Back in I think it before 4th grade, she was in summer school which was kinda cool for her because she actually got to celebrate her birthday with her classmates.  I bought cupcakes.  There were x-number of kids in her class and she wanted most of them to have cupcakes, but there were a small number of little shits she didn't want to give cupcakes to - because they picked on her.  I told her she didn't have to give cupcakes to the kids who'd picked on her.  The school called me at work it a total hissy fit. 

This was a private school that was supposedly big on the idea that actions have consequences... unless you're a bully and a shit, then you get cupcakes from the kids you've been pantsing all year. "Thank you for making my life hell, here's a treat."

I tried to raise her to believe she didn't have to associate with people who were mean to her other than in a most civil way.  They taught her she had to be friends with everyone - and if she couldn't be friends with everyone, then there was obviously something wrong WITH HER. 

I taught her to be her own person.  They taught her she had to be like everyone else and if she couldn't fit in, then there was something wrong with her.

And they (in the big general usage of the word 'they' which encompasses this weird ass culture we live in) are the ones giving a whole lot of lip service to ending bullying.  But they aren't really doing a damn thing to stop it. 

Stop teaching kids they have to be friends with everyone.  Teach them instead that they have to be respectful and civil to everyone - even to the people they don't like or don't understand.  Stop teaching kids they have to think like everyone else.  Teach them instead to think for themselves.  Stop teaching our children to obediently swallow every load of crap that comes from the culture at large.  Teach them instead to reason and think and be their own person.

Maybe then the bullying will stop.  Or maybe it will go on, but the majority of the kids just won't give a flying fuck and the bullies will wither up from lack of attention. 

One can hope.

*And if these bullies are physically assaulting you, call the police (or have a parent call the police) and prosecute the little jerks to the fullest extent of the law.  None of this 'they were both fighting so they both get punished' bullshit.  No one should get punished for defending themselves - ever.

End of rant note:  You are perfectly welcome to disagree with me - as long as you're reasonable and rational about it. I don't allow nasty comments on my blog, so if you're thinking of leaving one, don't bother.  I'll delete it before anyone else has a chance to see it. 


  1. The Only had a school much like this. Those being bullied weren't allowed to defend themselves. We told Only that if she was hit first, she had every right to defend herself. Well, one day on the bus, her bully bashed her on the head with one of those huge "trapper-keeper" things. Just as we'd taught her, in a very loud voice so that everyone could hear, including the video on the bus, "*RM*, don't ever hit me again!" And then she popped him in the nose. Broke it, too. Needless to say, we were all in the principal's office the next morning. I politely explained that unlike the school's policies, I would not raise my child to be a victim. I then quotes chapter and verse the statistics on date rape and physical abuse teen girls suffered. The school counselor and the principal were stunned. When you teach a girl to "just take it", you take away her right to say no, to fight back, to defend and protect herself. The policy was changed in matters of self-defense and the video/witness testimony showed that the little shit hit her first.

    And yes, kids (and their parents) put too much stock in what others think. At the same time, authorities don't seem to take incidents seriously until something tragic happens. I really worry for the generations to come. :(

  2. I understand where you're coming from, but I disagree with some of your points. Sure, a huge part of the problem is the fact that our society expects us to care about what so-and-so thinks about us, and I agree that we shouldn't care. But I think bullying is bigger than that nowadays. You can't simply tell your kids, "Ignore that they say. Their words don't mean anything." Obviously their words shouldn't mean anything, but that's not the way to deal with the actual bullying going on. If their words have no change on you, they WILL find something else--physical or otherwise.

    Cyber-bullying is now a widespread epidemic. Back in the day you could leave those bullies at school or at the playground. You could escape their harsh words and mean comments by going home and avoiding the places they frequented. Nowadays you can't. They have your email, your cell phone number, your Twitter account, and your Facebook account. They are EVERYWHERE. Sure, you could just delete all of those things, but aren't they winning that way then? Why should you have to give up all of those fun, modern conveniences because of a bully? On top of that, a lot of universities and jobs look at your social media accounts to see if you are an active, social individual. If you don't have those accounts, then what? You'd think that would be a positive thing (since that means you're not "wasting your time", but it's not). My husband's 16-year-old cousin is currently in the midst of preparing for college. She has to join clubs, keep up an active social life, and keep her image "clean" and active online, just so colleges will even look at her. Yes, she needs good grades too, but the schools she wants to apply to require more than that. Plus, again, why should you be disconnected from the entire world?

  3. Bullies now can reach you no matter where you are--at the mall, at your grandmother's house, and in your bedroom. I've heard horror stories of friends accounts being hacked, naked pictures being posted, and constant bullying going on. The reason kids are committing suicide now over things like this is clear to me: They simply can't escape the bullying.

    Our society doesn't accept it as a real form of abuse (although that's slowly changing), and quite frankly, how many kids committed suicide when you were younger and you simply didn't know the cause? Or it was kept quiet? Suicide and bullying are still taboo subjects, so it's not hard to assume they would have been taboo 20+ years ago.

    I am, in all of my 23-year-old glory, going to go out on a limb here and say that bullying now is worse than ever before. If people think I'm naive for saying that, then so be it. I grew up in this cyber world as a teen. I know what it's like.

    Sure, bullies are all the same any generation you look, but their outlets are more creative, more widespread in this day and age. Something you do when you're fourteen can haunt you until you're in your 20s due to social media and the internet. You can move, you can leave everything behind, and it'll still catch up to you. Isn't that what we always say about the publishing industry? Watch what you put online cause that crap never leaves us? Same thing with bullying nowadays. You can't escape it, and society still does not accept how dangerous and life-altering it can be. When people say that kids don't understand, they are wrong. THEY don't understand what the kids do: that once it's out there, it's out there for good. That's why police and the court systems are stepping in. This is dangerous, and by saying to just ignore the issue, you minimize the pain those kids (and their families and friends) went through. Rather than diminishing the issue by ignoring them, we should be standing up and fighting against bullies as loudly as we can.

    In my experience, silence is the most dangerous choice of all.

    Sorry if this is ranty, or if you don't want to post it, but this is a touchy subject to me and my family. I was never bullied, but I know many who were.

  4. First off, good for you, Silver James for teaching your child not to be a victim. You make me proud. I wish more parents told their kids it was okay to fight back. It seems to me there are legions of kids (and adults) who are always looking for someone else to protect them.

    BE: What you say is absolutely true. Bullies are looking for a reaction. If you feed it, it makes them stronger.

    I hate to see people looking for someone to come out and "save" them from the bully. At some point you have to stand up for yourself or you'll always be at the mercy of others.

  5. It's a horrible issue, isn't it? And, as Natalie says, in the expanding world of social media it's becoming a global epidemic. It's hard to say I don't care that you've posted a compromising picture of me on Facebook or Twitter, as happens with revenge bullying, to 650 of your best friends. It hurts because we're human. Very few of us have the skills to defend against such direct and concentrated attacks. But what you say is also true, B.E. As often happens with school yard and workplace bullying, the victim is often forced to sit down and negotiate with the person who is bullying them. And sometimes that's works and sometimes it doesn't. Often it means the bully has won yet again. Standing up to bullies takes more than believing in yourself. When your emotional or physical safety, or both are threatened you shouldn't have to fight back on your own. Even the most confident and strongest among us would start to dissolve under the constant and persistent degradation of being bullied in today's cyber world. There are no easy answers. I wish we could all just leave each other alone and get along. World peace, isn't that what we all wish for? Let it start on the playgrounds.

    1. Well said, Karyn. I agree 100%. It does start with our children, and until we make them a priority, the rest of our society will reflect our mistakes.