Excuses for Bullying

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I just saw an amazing video about bullying. It’s a short promotional ad for a French show about bullying at school. The video is here. Basically it shows a businessman subjected to the kind of abuse, assault, and humiliation kids live with and ends with (in French, of course) the message, “A day at work does not look like this. Why should a day at school?” It’s an important question and it became very meaningful to me in the past few days. Here’s why:

I saw a woman, a person whose opinion I normally respect, comment on an article about schoolyard bullying, and her comment shocked me. She said, basically, that it’s no big deal and that she misses the days when “boys were allowed to be boys” and this kind of thing was just “normal.” She brushed bullying off as harmless and talked about how kids have been dealing with it and not making a fuss for ages.

She was not the only one to express that opinion, and that is horrifying. It’s important to understand why, so let’s take a look at the situation.

In this woman’s commentary she really came down hard on kids who get bullied and then complain about it. It’s shocking to hear a woman do something like that because that is exactly the same mindset they hear from men who blame rape victims for having been raped. It’s a tragic error in judgment to blame a victim.

She also downplayed the severity of bullying as if it was nothing more than a bunch of harmless pranks. It’s not. The woman who made that comment probably never suffered severe bullying, and she, like many who downplay bullying, grew up in a different time. Even as little as 20 years ago kids could escape bullying by going home. In the information age, however, there is no escape. Bullying follows you via cell phones, social media, and more.

Kids can be crushed, and easily, by the intense and never-ending, slow-grinding-down of modern bullying.

There’s another aspect of it many people forget: kids are much, much crueler than adults. They are that way for a simple reason: they lack the adult capacity to weigh the consequences of their actions. This is one of the reasons many African warlord types kidnap children and beat them viciously during indoctrination into their armies of child soldiers, requiring them to murder another person as part of the process. As one such warlord famously said: Children know well how to inflict pain.

We need to stop making excuses for bullies. We must not downplay the severity of bullying. We must not allow ourselves to fall into the trap of saying, “It used to be different, kids were tougher and dealt with bullying better, so we need to go back to that and stop making a big deal out of bullying.” Remember, just because something used to be different does not mean it was better. We used to own slaves. We used to deny women the right to vote. We used to tell black people to drink from special water fountains. None of it was good just because it happened in earlier times.

The only way to mitigate the horror of bullying is to take it seriously and treat it as the critical problem that it actually is.

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6 Responses to “Excuses for Bullying”

  1. Tanzigirl says:

    I am not saying we should just allow it, and that there is never a time for adult intervention. What I am saying is there is kids picking on kids which usually can be resolved by some conflict skills, then there is bullying. And I think at this point it has all been thrown into one category. I did not read the comment we are all talking about, but she is right, boys are not allowed to be boys anymore. Kids get very little outdoor play or recess time. When they do go out, their actives are not what they used to be. No dodgeball someone may get hurt, no climbing a kid might fall, they are not expected to be kids. They are expected to be robots all day in classrooms without the physical breaks we got as children. They don’t even have gym every year, and when they do, it is far from what we had as an experience. This all builds up, and in the end the kids prey on each other. Kids need to be kids, not given so many restrictions where they have no where else to turn but each other; and adults need to take responsibility for what happens in their schools and at home.

    • Andrew says:

      I am not sure that the actions behind “boys being boys” is something to dismiss so readily. What used to be called “boys being boys” actually WAS bullying – and it carried all the harm bullying does. Excusing it as just boys being boys is to allow the bullying to continue. I question whether the behaviors of “boys being boys” are something we should consider harmless.

  2. Tanzigirl says:

    Well, I am a mother of two, and was quite bullied in school. I was bullied to the point of being hit and followed on a daily basis in High School until the person was expelled. With that said, I am going to agree with your “friend” who commented on your post, to an extent. I think like everything in this country the pendulum has swung completely the other way. Kids do need to learn to deal with confrontation, and problems on their own, or with the guidance of adults when necessary. Now kids are too often just separated and adults take care of the issues that come up. This does not teach kids how to handle anything themselves. Kids DO pick on each other, they CAN be very mean, they CAN also be more loving and trusting than adults. The issue is where is the line, what is acceptable, what is so far over the line you should have the police involved. I agree bullying is a problem, and never the victims fault (well in most cases, some of these cases are kids harassing each other than the one that gets the worst of it is called a victim); but on the flip-side where are the parents in all of these cases of extreme bullying. Why are these kids left in a school to be bullied, why don’t these kids have blocks on their computers so this does not follow them home, and why don’t the parents take the cell phone or change the number if the cell phone proves to be an issue..this is not just about the kids, it is a societal issue that goes deeper than Johnny punched David and threw him into a locker this week. Start digging deeper people, this is not just about what happens between two kids on the playground.

    • Andrew says:

      Thanks for commenting.

      I see your point – kids do need conflict resolution skills – but since the consequences of bullying is frequently lifelong psychological damage at best, and school shootings at worst, wouldn’t it seem wise to err on the side of caution in this matter?

  3. YesI'mGayGetOverIt says:

    The commercial is exceptional. Every single Christian church should be FORCED to show this video or lose their tax free status. Screw them. I am TIRED of them wrecking our society with their HATE towards me as a gay men, women, minorities, the handicapped, kids who are different, and just plain anyone who is different. They are waging a deliberate culture war against MY life, I’m not going to shut up and do nothing. If they want civil war, so be it!

    It is NOT wrong for Drew, or myself or anyone else to go after “Christians” for living lives of hate and promoting hate, in FULL, BLATANT, DIRECT violation of everything Jesus Christ said and stood for. If this is how these people act, they deserve NO consideration.

  4. YesI'mGayGetOverIt says:

    Well, another nice thing is people who say stupid things on the internet can be confronted, and thousands of others can help confront her so she GETS it. Perhaps someone can post 50 stories about bullying victims committing suicide, or her comments can be shared with some parents, relatives or friends of 10 bullying victims who are dead so they can educate her. I think those would be GREAT ways to educate her.

    http://www.elisabethhubert.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/REALITY_SLAP_L.jpg

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