So this article went around Twitter pretty rapidly today, with lots of comments about how heartbreaking it is and how understanding bullies is so important. Not to mention the words “brave” and “honest” in reference to the interviewee.
Yeah… I’m not jumping on that bandwagon. I think this is another example of everyone focusing on the perpetrator and not the victim. Oh the interviewee is regularly crying “Mea culpa!” throughout the piece, but then she also turns around and brags about how cunning she was, how her manipulative behaviour got her through situations where she was almost caught out for the bully that she was.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve got no time for focusing on understanding bullies. I understand them perfectly – they want to make other people feel bad to make themselves feel better, they get away with it, so they do it. Our culture makes excuses for bullies, so bullies continue to behave the way they do.
Instead of focusing on those “brave and honest” bullies (I find nothing brave nor honest about the interviewee of this piece), we should be making it clear that their behaviour is unacceptable, and that they have to take responsibility for their actions. There have to clear repercussions for bullying behavior – social ostracisation to start with. Instead of dredging up sympathy for these people, we need to make it clear that their behaviour is simply unacceptable.
I have been bullied several times throughout my life. I’ve written about my childhood experiences of bullying before. I’ve also been bullied in as an adult, and in that case, it was by someone who had clearly got away with repeat offenses of bullying, and found it perfectly acceptable to continue doing so. It wasn’t until I found the guts to stand up as the victim, (it was a hell of a fight because everyone wanted me to “understand the bully”), and said “This is not acceptable, I will not be treated like this.” It was only that I found the strength to demand that this person take some responsibility for their actions that made it stop. As the victim, I had to be the one to put in all the work.
What is wrong with that picture?
Why are we forcing victims to go through absolute hell to stop the perpetrators? Surely we should be punishing perpetrators, not victims of bullying.
While talking on Twitter earlier today, @VoteGilligan tweeted the following that I just have to share:
I agree. Bullies need to understand themselves – it’s not up to victims to understand them. It’s up to the bullies to do the work. Once they start to look at their own behaviour, and do something about it, perhaps then we can then move forward. It’s not up to the victims to feel sympathy for them.
Why are we teaching our kids how to avoid being bullied and to have sympathy for bullies, instead of teaching them how not to be a bully?
What bothers me most about the woman interviewed in the article is how she repeatedly says that she thinks the reason she did it was because she was being abused at home, because she suffered mental illness and because she felt bad about herself. Lots of us were abused at home. Lots of us suffer mental illness. Lots of us suffer from low self esteem. Some of us, like myself, suffered from all three. But many of us that suffer those things don’t bully people to make ourselves feel better.
The only redeeming quality of the interview in the article is that the interviewee does state that she believes that bullies have to be held responsible for their actions. However, I get the feeling that she has never done so. Oh she feels bad, but her feeling bad doesn’t undo what she has done, nor does it help her victim at all. And I daresay it doesn’t deter future bullies at all either.
So the bully feels bad about what she has done. So she should. She has to live with the consequences of her actions. I’m not going to give her a cookie for doing what we all need to do – take responsibility for our own actions.
Until we take a zero tolerance stand on bullying in every aspect of our lives, it won’t go away. I believe the acceptance of bullying is the root cause of all abuse in our culture. If bullies get away with targeting an individual, they’re going to continue that behaviour on to anyone they believe is lesser than them – be that of class, gender, sexuality, race, size, ability, appearance… you name it. Intolerance and bigotry are just systematic, institutionalised bullying.