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April Harvest
April 25, 2009 11:42 AM   Subscribe

Homophobia is still a bully's deadliest weapon.
posted by hermitosis (205 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
And in each case, we have parents repeatedly asking the schools to do anything to step in and stop it, with little or no reaction. Home schooling is starting to seem more appealing.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:49 AM on April 25, 2009 [5 favorites]


bully's deadliest weapon

I want to say blunt tool, twice.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:52 AM on April 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Any form of ignorance is a deadly weapon.
posted by gman at 11:55 AM on April 25, 2009 [4 favorites]


I know this has been a problem for a really long time, but I can't help feeling that there has been some backlash because of the exposure that gay issues have gotten in the last few years. These issues are on so many people's minds and discussed so prominently that it can't help but filter down to kids.
posted by hermitosis at 11:58 AM on April 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Eliza Byard, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, says to be effective, awareness programs need to include education about the harm that can be done by teasing someone about sexuality or perceived sexuality.

"Anti-gay language is really the ultimate weapon for a bully who wants to degrade his or her peers," she says. "And any effective response to bullying has to take that on."


Um... Am I the only one to find it really uncomfortable to read about someone who is supposed to be forging a positive gay identity in society saying that being called "gay" is degrading?

Really? That's fucked up.
posted by hippybear at 11:59 AM on April 25, 2009


"It's not just a gay issue," Walker said. "It’s bigger. He was 11 years old, and he wasn't aware of his sexuality. These homophobic people attach derogatory terms to a child who’s 11 years old, who goes to church, school, and the library, and he becomes confused. He thinks, Maybe I'm like this. Maybe I'm not. What do I do?"

More homophobia disguised as concern. And from the poor dead boy's mother, too.

*sigh*
posted by hippybear at 12:01 PM on April 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


Carl Walker-Hoover's mother, Sirdeaner Walker, talks to Ellen DeGeneres [video | 07:25].

Anderson Cooper: Another Child Bullied To Death With Slurs [video | 07:58].
posted by ericb at 12:02 PM on April 25, 2009


Two of these three children -- Jaheem Herrera and Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover -- were each eleven years old.
posted by anastasiav at 12:04 PM on April 25, 2009


Um... Am I the only one to find it really uncomfortable to read about someone who is supposed to be forging a positive gay identity in society saying that being called "gay" is degrading?

Really? That's fucked up.


I don't really think it's that simple. First, I doubt these kids were confining themselves to using solely the word "gay" as a bullying tactic. Second, even if this was the only verbal taunt used - and I really doubt it - this is usually followed by the typical bullying MO of ostracizing, shoving, vandalism of personal effects and so forth. So whatever meaning the word "gay" has in the outside world, it carries a much different meaning within school when the label brings with it that kind of abuse.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:07 PM on April 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


You know what would help combat homophobia? The President endorsing equal marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples. Just a thought.

That said, is it really likely that bullying would be reduced one iota if we could wave a magic wand and make homophobia disappear? The 11 year old kid in the first link was also taunted as "the virgin" because he was from the Virgin Islands. And if that angle wasn't available, I'm sure cooties would have sufficed.
posted by Joe Beese at 12:09 PM on April 25, 2009 [12 favorites]


Homophobia Is Killing Our Youth.

Watch homophobic teens in action [video | 03:17].
posted by ericb at 12:12 PM on April 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


Um... Am I the only one to find it really uncomfortable to read about someone who is supposed to be forging a positive gay identity in society saying that being called "gay" is degrading?

She's speaking from the point of view of the children involved. To them it is the most degrading type of insult imaginable, which is basically the problem.

That said, is it really likely that bullying would be reduced one iota if we could wave a magic wand and make homophobia disappear?

Of course not. But it would remove one type of bullying. This is a good thing.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:16 PM on April 25, 2009 [7 favorites]


Watch homophobic teens in action [video | 03:17].

More like zombie Christian teens in action. The homophobia is just a symptom of the hate that has been programmed into them.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:16 PM on April 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


Really? That's fucked up.

It doesn't really bother me. If a kid's sexual identity is still forming, then this kind of language is particularly devastating, because there's no way to defend oneself against it with confidence.

Any harassment based in sexuality is effective because of the shame involved. I never told my parents about the bullying at my school, because I couldn't endure the thought of them wondering whether there was truth behind what the kids were saying. The negative stereotypes about gays -- that they're dirty, diseased, perverted, promiscuous, damned, etc. -- persist among the ignorant, and most children are ignorant enough about sex and sexuality that their minds are fertile ground for these ideas.

Gays may deserve to be treated equally, but they are still a minority, which to most kids translates as "other." Unless a kid is confident enough to embrace outsider status and not care what people think (and many kids are!) then he or she will want to do everything possible to fit in and avoid being singled out as seriously different, to avoid becoming marked as "other."
posted by hermitosis at 12:18 PM on April 25, 2009 [8 favorites]


I was just reading some quotes by Cary Grant. He was always dogged by rumors of him being gay, and, on multiple occasions, responded by saying that he was not gay, but did not feel that the accusation was an insult or that there was anything wrong with being gay.

He died 23 years ago, and people are still using the word as an insult? That's not from ignorance. It is because some people find it useful to keep it alive as an insult. The power of hate stems not from a lack of education, but of miseducating, of actively teaching people that something is to be despised.

Somebody is benefiting from keeping homosexuals a despised minority, and while they try to put the face of pleasant public relations on it, the fallout for their careful miseducation is 11-year-old who are bullied to death. Those who forward anti-gay legislation, etc., under the guise of protecting families, or whatever pleasant language they use, are not on the side of angels. They are on the side of, and the inspiration for, murderous bullying.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:19 PM on April 25, 2009 [37 favorites]


> Um... Am I the only one to find it really uncomfortable to read about someone who is supposed to be forging a positive gay identity in society saying that being called "gay" is degrading?

I think what Byard is trying to say is that, as things stand, anti-gay language is the one of the most degrading things kids can fling at each other because many of them perceive the word "gay" (and/or similar variations) itself as an insult. Therefore, the first step in countering homophobic bullying is to change attitutes to a point where being gay isn't considered to be inherently shameful.

/ on preview, what dirtynumbangelboy said
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:20 PM on April 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


More like zombie Christian teens in action. The homophobia is just a symptom of the hate that has been programmed into them.

You've Got to Be Carefully Taught
"You've got to be taught to hate and fear
You've got to be taught from year to year
It's got to be drummed in your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught..."
posted by ericb at 12:20 PM on April 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


*sigh* And the ABC News article makes me want to weep.

That young Eric sounds so much like me in high school... thin, dry wit, studying piano, tortured and bullied daily in ways which ranged from overt physical torment to just the daily small stuff that builds up over time. I had no clue that I might be gay, it wasn't even part of the context in which I grew up.

(Las Cruces, NM still doesn't exactly have a thriving gay subset to serve as positive role-models for young men. But even if that had existed in my time, it wouldn't have helped. I was too high on Jebus to even think about "homosexual" as anything more than a mythical boogyman, a sort of awful fairytale [pun intended?] troll into which naughty young men will transform. But I digress.)

High school slowly became a living hell for me. Nothing made sense. None of my peers seemed to like me, there was so obviously something different about me, but I had no context. The pressures of school and music study and church involvement... ah yes... church... pushing an unnamable guilt on me that must have been fucking with me on a subconscious level...

My parents had gone out of town to a weekend retreat for something they did together, leaving me and my sister alone for the weekend. We were pretty separate children, so she didn't know when I went into my parents' medicine cabinet and finished off a good portion of most of the bottles in there on Friday evening. She didn't know that I went to bed early that night because I had done that.

Thank goodness I was too stupid to do it right -- took something that made me sick a few hours later, although I was still groggy as hell and ended up sleeping most of Saturday and into Sunday. The shame of even having tried something like that was huge, and I spent most of Sunday, and most of my allowance, replacing (and dumping out to approximate correct levels) the bottles and putting them back. I never told my parents until I was in my 30s. I still don't talk about it much.

I think I need a drink.
posted by hippybear at 12:21 PM on April 25, 2009 [33 favorites]


I've dealt with bulling at my son's former school. It seems cliche but it really did seem like administrators have no idea how to handle it or just prefer to ignore it. Our best weapon was to get other parents involved, and threatening the school district with litigation. I don't think I would ever let my kids tell me to back off in a fight like this; they don't have enough perspective to see how important an issue it is.
posted by Brocktoon at 12:24 PM on April 25, 2009 [4 favorites]


Joe Beese is on the right path here. No bullying is "good" bullying. No matter what a particular kid's ailment, disability, or just plain "different" in some way happens to be - bullies will pick on whomever they think they can, for whatever reason seems most suitable at the moment.

As an adult, you come to realize that bullies throughout life are simply projecting their own insecurities onto those they taunt. But, as a kid? Even if you knew that to be the case and said it -- you'd get "ha! listen to this fag!" or some random completely-off-topic comeback.

In some ways, though, I think being bullied builds character. I don't condone it at all, and I'm by no means a stranger to bullying. But, an interesting thing happens when you're the "weird" kid and you get picked on for (seemingly) no reason. You think to yourself "well... maybe I just don't fit in with normal society. Maybe I'm not meant to understand" and you go out on your own and explore an alternate path.

The things most people pursue suddenly don't appeal to you - because you've always been told you were different. Every comedian, musician, and artist I know was bullied heavily in their youth. They used what is now their field of talent to deal with the pressure and/or as a means of escape. While the bullies grow up to be another cog in the corporate machine, following the same worn-down path as everyone else --- those who were bullied end up changing the world, because... at least subconsciously... it's the only way they'll ever feel accepted.

I think it's a fitting punishment for small-minded fuckheads. They're fueling their own mediocrity while fueling someone else's creativity and drive to succeed in spite of the odds.

I'd love to tour high schools and give speeches to the weird kids and tell them just such a thing. But, I'm still too "weird" for the teachers to allow me in to corrupt the youth ;)
posted by revmitcz at 12:30 PM on April 25, 2009 [6 favorites]


All that said, it's shocking to see ABC link the Megan Meier suicide to these other cases.
posted by hippybear at 12:30 PM on April 25, 2009


those who were bullied end up changing the world

Those who make it to adulthood, maybe.
posted by arcticwoman at 12:32 PM on April 25, 2009 [7 favorites]


"We don't believe it's a problem," Maynor told ABCNews.com. "We have a program of anti-bullying education to raise awareness for students about what constitutes bullying and differences among students."

Yeah? Fuck you. A lotta fucking good all that awareness-raising is doing.

I have a hard time staying rational about bullying. For the entirety of my primary education and the bulk of high school, I was the target of damn near every bully in my small-town school. Teachers, coaches, administrators, not a single one of them did a goddamn thing to protect me or my friends from the abuse of more popular, more athletic students. Worse yet, the mere attempt to get help would trigger even worse treatment from the little fucking vipers I went to school with.

In lieu of help, grown-ups fed us all the lies they tell themselves about bullying - "they're only doing it cuz they feel bad about themselves. Ignore them and they'll stop." I never saw my tormenters feel bad about themselves for a second. The sons of bitches just kept laughing and laughing. I tried ignoring them and it didn't do a damn bit of good - "ignoring" them meant I just stopped standing up for myself in general.

And you know what the most ridiculous part of it all was? I was bigger and stronger than every last one of them. The abuse was never physical since they grokked better than I how mismatched any one of them would have been in a fight with me. I got mad, sure, plenty mad - but I could never bring myself to strike them, to give them the beatings they were begging for. I knew I was strong enough to hurt them very badly if I wanted, but I didn't want that on my conscience. Can you believe that? For twelve fucking years of abuse, I extended these bastards the humanity they denied me.

I know now that what I should have done was smash their fucking faces in, knocked them over and followed them to the ground. I should have kept swinging til I was goddamn sure they'd learned their lesson. I should have hurt a couple of them so badly that not one of them would dare cross me again. I should have made them face the anger they forced me to live with. I shouldn't have kept swallowing it, kept taking it, kept hoping just to make it through the day, with or without my pride.

No child should have to endure bullies. That shit gets into your deep structures when you're little, attaches itself right to the spine of your personality. I'm a grown man now and I don't take shit from anyone, but I came to this conclusion too late. Thanks to what I went through when I was little, my basic assumption about myself is still that I'm No Good - too weird, too ugly, too unlike everyone else to be worthy of friendship or love. Were I better adjusted, I'd be thankful for how this made me treasure the friends I have, but it still burns my ass that those shitheads got away with what they got away with all those years ago. I've been in and out of therapy, on and off of anti-depressants, struggling to maintain any sense of self-worth at all ever since elementary school. I've never known any other kind of life.

So when I hear a line of bullshit like the one this mealy-mouthed communications director fed ABCnews, it gets my hackles up in a hurry. Fuck you and your "program," pal - if kids in your care are killing themselves thanks to your unwillingness to act, you have failed - fuck you, your school and every last athlete you let get away with murder cuz those pennants look so sharp on the gym wall. If your child thinks it's okay to treat other human beings as nothing but a punchline, you have failed as a parent. Fuck you and your "boys will be boys." And if you're a bully, you have failed as a human being. It's not "just funning" if you're the only one enjoying yourself. Fuck you with steel wool, you goddamn sociopath.

I don't know and I don't care if any of my bullies were doing it cuz they were down on themselves. All I know is that I've felt bad about myself ever since and am still years away from shaking it. School administration has never given a shit about bullying, nor will they ever give a shit about it. I am disappointed though not in the least bit surprised to see that, over a decade after I escaped public education, the exact same bullshit keeps happening. Students of status are simply more valuable to a school than its oddballs, and as long as officials can will themselves into believing that childhoods being ruined under their watch isn't a problem, they won't do jack shit to solve it.
posted by EatTheWeak at 12:32 PM on April 25, 2009 [126 favorites]


I don't think the problem is homophobia exactly. I think the problem is cruelty and homophobia is a tool that is used in pursuit of it. I wore big thick glasses so I was a fagot. I know another kid who told on people for cheating on a test, he was a fagot too. I'm sure it's bad for people that are gay, but I think that's because gay is one of many differences that aren't allowed. You take away gay as a weapon and the kids will find other words to express the concept, "you aren't one of us and we hate you for it". I would love it if someday gay was no longer an insult, but even if we fix that I expect very little improvement in how many kids kill themselves because they are teased relentlessly and mercilessly by their peers.
posted by I Foody at 12:32 PM on April 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


But, an interesting thing happens when you're the "weird" kid and you get picked on for (seemingly) no reason. You think to yourself "well... maybe I just don't fit in with normal society. Maybe I'm not meant to understand" and you go out on your own and explore an alternate path.

Or, you drop out of school and go down the spout. Or commit suicide. I'm glad YOU didn't, but the "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" argument only really makes sense if you're one of the people who wasn't killed.

I think it's a fitting punishment for small-minded fuckheads. They're fueling their own mediocrity while fueling someone else's creativity and drive to succeed in spite of the odds.

I actually think we could come up with a much better punishment. And that it would be nice to see what gifted individuals could accomplish if they were challenged creatively instead of abusively. But hey, I'm crazy like that.
posted by hermitosis at 12:35 PM on April 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


No child should have to endure bullies. That shit gets into your deep structures when you're little, attaches itself right to the spine of your personality. I'm a grown man now and I don't take shit from anyone, but I came to this conclusion too late. Thanks to what I went through when I was little, my basic assumption about myself is still that I'm No Good - too weird, too ugly, too unlike everyone else to be worthy of friendship or love. Were I better adjusted, I'd be thankful for how this made me treasure the friends I have, but it still burns my ass that those shitheads got away with what they got away with all those years ago. I've been in and out of therapy, on and off of anti-depressants, struggling to maintain any sense of self-worth at all ever since elementary school. I've never known any other kind of life.
posted by EatThe Weak at 12:32PM


er, um... eponysterical isn't quite the right word...

posted by hippybear at 12:36 PM on April 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


> Home schooling is starting to seem more appealing.

I'm almost certainly not going to have kids, but if I did I think I'd take a good, long look at the idea of home schooling before deciding to send my kid(s) off to the social meat grinder that is public school. I wasn't even *that* far down the social ladder (on a scale of 1 to 10 where the kid who got beat up and teased every day was a 1 and the most popular/envied kid in school was a 10, I was probably about a 4.5 between grades 5 and 13), and the vast, vast majority of my most unpleasant childhood memories involve school. Or, more accurately, my former classmates.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:36 PM on April 25, 2009


You think to yourself "well... maybe I just don't fit in with normal society. Maybe I'm not meant to understand" and you go out on your own and explore an alternate path.

You do realize this is just one of many, many responses to bullying, right? Apparently some kids commit suicide. I mean that's nice and all, being able to embrace your Otherness, provided you make it that far. But "bullying builds character" is such a tired trope to cover for a parent's or school's laziness, usually.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:37 PM on April 25, 2009 [5 favorites]


I often wonder if that which does not kill me merely maims. Supposedly, adversity builds character. If that is true, well ... *spreads hands* here I am.

After all, nobody said that the character built must be good character.
posted by adipocere at 12:41 PM on April 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


I can never fully comprehend the kind of inherent assholishness that can drive people to harass somebody TO DEATH. How can children enjoy the suffering of others so much? Are we just inherently sadist psychopaths kept in check by society and upbringing?
posted by tehloki at 12:44 PM on April 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


> I think it's a fitting punishment for small-minded fuckheads. They're fueling their own mediocrity while fueling someone else's creativity and drive to succeed in spite of the odds.

That's a comforting thought (and was the premise of a South Park episode), but I would suspect that for every kid whose bullying spurs him/herself upwards and onwards to a rewarding and well-respected career, there are many, many more who are profoundly damaged by it in ways they never fully recover from.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:45 PM on April 25, 2009 [6 favorites]


The two first links are so horrifying that I don't even know how to react. 11 year-olds hanging themselves... I don't even know how to think about it. The third is devastating. 4 kids in one high school committing suicide because they're so depressed about bullying and the school officials appear not to grasp that it's a problem. I'm glad that the school is being sued. I hope the school loses, it's the only way in which other high schools will take notice.
posted by Kattullus at 12:47 PM on April 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'll just say that the average bullied school child goes through far worse torture than anything that was done in gitmo. I came out of high school broken and it took me at least six or eight years before I started to get over it.
posted by empath at 12:48 PM on April 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


> Are we just inherently sadist psychopaths kept in check by society and upbringing?

This book will blow your mind.
posted by you just lost the game at 12:49 PM on April 25, 2009


From the article: "Students are even asked to sign a no-bullying pledge."

Don't these kids get it? THEY SIGNED A PLEDGE!
posted by klangklangston at 12:51 PM on April 25, 2009 [12 favorites]


Or, you drop out of school and go down the spout. Or commit suicide. I'm glad YOU didn't, but the "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" argument only really makes sense if you're one of the people who wasn't killed.

We're definitely on the same page there. My not-so-brief overall point is that I think schools are going about the problem all wrong. I had a principal in elementary school who genuinely took an interest in me, and offered to talk to the bullies in question if I just pointed them out. I, naively, took him up on the offer. That lead to even more bullying - cause now, I was a snitch (or "a narc" they would say at the time).

It only compounds the problem if you're trying to talk to small-minded bullies. If you tell them their bullying techniques are hurting people, they'd just as soon take it as a source of pride - "ha! look what I've accomplished!" -- and that's what they were after all along.

What I think would genuinely help, regardless of what kind of bullying is taking place, is to pull aside the kids being bullied and build up their egos in spite of the bullying. Teach them that being different is GOOD. And, sure, there's always going to be violent oppression from small-minded fuckheads. But ya know what? You're a winner, kid. That's why they're after you. Because they have no talents of their own. They only want to hurt others.

That kind of talk, I think, would go a MUCH LONGER way towards making a difference. Bullying should absolutely be punished, regardless, but it takes astute teachers to recognize the bullies and punish them (without relying on the kids being bullied to "narc them out" for it). Since the people being hurt by this are the ones who think they've done something wrong, somehow, and are being bullied for it -- I think the important thing is to tell them "YOU aren't the problem." and make that very clear to these kids.

Hopefully that clears up some of the confusion.
posted by revmitcz at 12:51 PM on April 25, 2009


Don't these kids get it? THEY SIGNED A PLEDGE!

The problem is, there is no anti-bullying Promise Ring.
posted by hippybear at 12:52 PM on April 25, 2009


Bullying is part of the purpose of institutionalized schooling. It acclimatizes people to try desperately to "fit in," to view any disagreement with the herd as dangerous. It crushes spirits and stunts achievement. In short, it breaks people and produces easily managed sheep. The teachers and administrators are part and parcel of this. Most teachers aren't very bright, and they often judge their students along the same lines as the bullies. Try getting in a group of typical teachers sometime and listening to them talk about their students.

What especially pisses me off, though, is one saying: "High school sucks for everybody." Hahaha! Yeah. It was so terrible for the star running back on my school's football team that he had to take time out of his busy schedule of fucking the hottest girls in school in order to torment me in order to restore his self esteem.
posted by sonic meat machine at 12:54 PM on April 25, 2009 [16 favorites]


I can totally appreciate teaching kids that being different is good. In fact, this idea was reinforced throughout my childhood through Sesame Street, the Electric Company, and plenty of young adult literature. School administrators still represent the sole authority figure in the world your kid spends a fourth to a third of her day in. As such, for them to stand back and do nothing to stop bullying behavior as other children are causing physical and emotional torment is grossly irresponsible at best.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:56 PM on April 25, 2009 [6 favorites]


It's interesting that bullying has become such a hot topic these days. I'm curious to see the long term social consequences once schools take aggressive anti-bullying measures, but no doubt they'll be quite numerous.

I don't believe humanity can predict such consequences effectively, so I support Jefferson's "laboratories of democracy" approach. In this case, I think that means some states adopt extremely harsh anti-bullying measures, others less severe measures, and some little or none.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:58 PM on April 25, 2009


This is in no way appropriate for schools, but I like the basic 'learn how to defend yourself' approach of the Pink Pistols. There's the idea that people might single out gays as being unable to defend themselves when in fact some can kick your ass.
posted by kldickson at 1:03 PM on April 25, 2009


There's the idea that people might single out gays as being unable to defend themselves when in fact some can kick your ass.

See Gregg Araki's The Living End.

Actually, don't. It wasn't very good.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:05 PM on April 25, 2009


> The problem is, there is no anti-bullying Promise Ring.

Well, there was in Britain, but that didn't work out so well.
posted by you just lost the game at 1:11 PM on April 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is way old and many here may be familiar with it, but I only just happened upon it recently:

Voices from the Hellmouth.

Also: Voices from the Hellmouth, 8 Years Later.
posted by metagnathous at 1:11 PM on April 25, 2009 [6 favorites]


I was a likely target for bullies (smallish, carried a violin daily, well read, loquacious) and my father knew it.

My dad was military and both his sons ended up being a little... soft. But it didn't bother him. And I remember what he told me about bullies - same thing he told my brother. "If you feel threatened by someone in school, distract them and then kick them in the groin as hard as you can. When they fall down, keep kicking them until someone makes you stop."

I thought it was pretty psychopathic when he told us that. I couldn't believe it - he was a pretty level-headed guy. But you know what? I only had to do that once. It was in the locker-room, and that particular week all the other guys in gym had started calling me "super-fag." I thought about what my dad had said and finally when one guy pushed me up against a locker and started trying to push me into it, I did it. I kicked him as hard as I could and I jumped on top of him until the coach pulled me off. We both got suspended for fighting but somehow being the aggressor put a quick end to the bullying. My dad had me work outside for the week that I was suspended but didn't punish me too harshly.

I have very mixed feelings about this sort of thing. On one hand, there is never an excuse for violence. On the other hand, I know that violence is sometimes the only option - when the power of people and money are not available to you. So I don't know what I'd tell my son. I really don't know.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:11 PM on April 25, 2009 [41 favorites]


Yes let's try holding the schools responsible for suicide deaths due to bullying. If we do, maybe they'll stop it. We should also try passing laws where bullies can be tried as adults for emotional or physical abuse in the case of suicide. I mean, yes maybe bullying is part of growing up, like kittens learning not to scratch their siblings, but let's try other stuff for a while.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:13 PM on April 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


> We should also try passing laws where bullies can be tried as adults for emotional or physical abuse in the case of suicide.

It's a nice thought, but I doubt trying to prove that sort of thing beyond a reasonable doubt in court would be a very appetizing prospect for most lawyers.
posted by you just lost the game at 1:16 PM on April 25, 2009


Just like there are no tolerance policies for weapons and drugs at most schools, there should be a no tolerance for bullying. The first instance would be expulsion. Very quickly there would be a lot less bullying and better teacher-student ratios.
posted by schyler523 at 1:21 PM on April 25, 2009 [9 favorites]


> On one hand, there is never an excuse for violence.

Sure there is. It's called self-defence. Which is what I'd say your situation fell under.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:22 PM on April 25, 2009 [8 favorites]


Very quickly there would be a lot less bullying and better teacher-student ratios.

...and a whole lot of mean, uneducated children wandering loose without anything to do all day.

Sounds like a winning situation!
posted by hippybear at 1:35 PM on April 25, 2009


On one hand, there is never an excuse for violence. On the other hand, I know that violence is sometimes the only option...

I wish someone had taught me what your father taught you. Instead I only learned the first half of that sentiment, which eventually led to desperate, sublimated fantasies of violence. In 1993, I was actively fantasizing about stealing my father's guns and blowing away my ninth grade English class, "teaching them all a lesson." I thought about this a lot -- I had my entire strategy mapped out, including my own inevitable death. I look back on that time in my life with genuine terror.

A year later, a girl who had bullied me for years followed me around in a store with a pack of her friends, yelling out gay slurs. I grew so angry and so desperate to silence her that when she came out of the store, I attempted to run her down with my car, "just to scare her." I missed her by inches. It scared me worse than it scared her -- and that night, she and her boyfriend called me at home repeatedly, threatening to come over and drag me out of my house and beat me up in my front yard in front of the whole neighborhood. It sounds ridiculous now, but at the time I completely believed them -- no one had ever done anything to stop a bully from hurting me before, why would this time be any different? I begged them contritely to leave me alone, promising I would never try to fight back again. My parents were in the next room, they never heard a word about any of it.

These suicides are tragic, but it can always be worse. The day that the Columbine shootings happened I felt so strange. I had grown way, way past all of that, but my immediate emotional reaction (which I didn't dare share with anyone) was of profound commiseration with the attackers, imagining the torment they'd endured that drove them to this, and relief that I had managed to pull myself out of a hole before I'd steeled myself up to do anything atrocious. I'll never understand how I got out of that place alive.
posted by hermitosis at 1:37 PM on April 25, 2009 [9 favorites]


> Just like there are no tolerance policies for weapons and drugs at most schools, there should be a no tolerance for bullying. The first instance would be expulsion.

A policy this rigid and unforgiving would have gotten me expelled. And I was a grade-A, yellow-bellied, pencil-necked geek.
posted by Stonewall Jackson at 1:38 PM on April 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


The day that the Columbine shootings happened I felt so strange. I had grown way, way past all of that, but my immediate emotional reaction (which I didn't dare share with anyone) was of profound commiseration with the attackers, imagining the torment they'd endured that drove them to this, and relief that I had managed to pull myself out of a hole before I'd steeled myself up to do anything atrocious.

Only problem with that is, the Columbine shooters weren't bullied.
posted by Stonewall Jackson at 1:42 PM on April 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


Sure there is. It's called self-defence.

In cases of physical violence, yeah, that's pretty straightforward. In cases of emotional violence, less so.

I never got beaten up in school, but I got plenty of other kinds of nasty treatment. Some of it might have stopped if I'd hurt one of the perpetrators badly enough, but I don't know if that would have justified doing it.

That's not a rhetorical "I don't know," but a genuine one. I'm getting to the age where I might be having kids soon, and I do wrestle with the same question Baby_Balrog describes.

What I know for sure is, I'm not going to bother with "Just ignore them." Even as an eight-year-old, I saw that for the load of unsympathetic bullshit that it was.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:43 PM on April 25, 2009


Only problem with that is, the Columbine shooters weren't bullied.

At the time we didn't know this. But we do (unfortunately) know that other marginalized outcasts have been inspired by Columbine.
posted by hermitosis at 1:44 PM on April 25, 2009


The reason homophobic bullying seems to lag far behind the greater acceptance of gay people (and I do think we have come a long way since Stonewall) is because it has nothing to do with actual homosexuality and everything to do with policing masculinity.

The reason anti-gay-male slurs are insults is because they don't really mean homosexual-- they mean "person with penis who has lost his manhood due to humiliation and powerlessness, who is now less than human."

This is part of why anti-lesbian insults have a whole different tone to them, female is already seen as less than male and you aren't seen as "losing your womanhood" if you become a lesbian. Not to say that lesbians don't experience homophobia-- far from it-- but anti-lesbian sentiment tends to be about policing masculinity in a very different way.

We should, however, hold schools responsible for bullying because they *can* do something about it. That something doesn't have much to do with anti-bullying programs (though some might help), it has to do with a pervasive attitude in the school that everyone is to be included, empathy is a virtue and that weakness isn't to be taken advantage of or despised, it is to be responded to with help and compassion.

When schools from the top down convey this attitude in everything they do, they have much less bullying and much less drinking and drug problems and better academic performance. In fact, they are better and safer on virtually everything you can measure.

OTOH, when the administration winks at bullying, despises weakness, glorifies the strong, sees empathy as a sign of weakness and teachers partake in the bullying by allying themselves with the bullies and not protecting the victims, the whole atmosphere is exaggerated and far worse bullying takes place.

We might never be able to eliminate it entirely-- it has deep evolutionary roots in status conflicts, which is why proving strength and willingness to be "crazier" than the bullies even just once tends to end it-- but we sure as hell can reduce it and reduce the harm related to it.
posted by Maias at 1:47 PM on April 25, 2009 [35 favorites]


> So I don't know what I'd tell my son. I really don't know.

Though it's more of an AskMe thing, advice for parental pre-emption of bullying would be much appreciated (Baby_Balrog's dad's tactic duly noted).
posted by progosk at 1:51 PM on April 25, 2009


"Just like there are no tolerance policies for weapons and drugs at most schools, there should be a no tolerance for bullying. The first instance would be expulsion. Very quickly there would be a lot less bullying and better teacher-student ratios."

I think the problem probably requires some sort of action regarding the bully. But expulsion doesn't help the problem any more than putting higher and higher percentages of people in prison helps to reduce crime. You end up with a disaffected group outside the system. I suspect one of the real issues with a lot of the kids who bully other kids is their life at home. The schools can't really solve that problem, but they can intervene and provide counseling, if the will is available to provide resources for it. Expulsion should always be a last resort, and piling on the zero tolerance attitude is not going to work for the rest of society which has to deal with these kids who may or may not have minor behavioral issues, which could be gradually nurtured into criminal behavior, or potentially turned to something productive or creative. An issue for most schools is that there simply aren't resources available to adequately deal with the problem, and it's not recognized as a necessity at the moment. But providing the kind of services necessary for a child to integrate into school is necessary, not just for bullies, but for kids who are dealing with all types of problems and who aren't necessarily prepared or equipped to get an education. I don't think it has to be framed as a bully problem, but how we deal with kids who need better support systems in order to develop in a way which allows for education to happen. If we push those kids out at an early age, make them exiles as children, they will likely struggle as more and more doors close to potential futures.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:52 PM on April 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have very mixed feelings about this sort of thing. On one hand, there is never an excuse for violence.

That's silly. I had a similar experience as you and did the same thing and the bullying stopped. Quite frankly, the law of the jungle says you have to stand your ground sometimes. We can argue about whether it's fair all day long, but it is a fact.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:53 PM on April 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


How does an eleven-year-old kid know how to hang himself? The noose, the chair and the jump procedure? I have a nephew around that age and I don't think he'd know.
posted by JHarris at 1:54 PM on April 25, 2009


> How does an eleven-year-old kid know how to hang himself?

For better and for worse, you can look up pretty much anything on the internet.
posted by you just lost the game at 1:57 PM on April 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Marissa Stole The Precious Thing: So whatever meaning the word "gay" has in the outside world, it carries a much different meaning within school when the label brings with it that kind of abuse.

I had a 19 year old that I had to supervise at one point in the past few years. (I'm over 40 now.) The first day of my training this kid at the job, he was using the "that's so gay" method of expressing disapproval for something that he thought was foolish or made no sense. I tried to address it with him as a supervisor addressing a subordinate, "this kind of language is inappropriate here, you never know who amongst your coworkers might be homosexual, etc." This only encouraged him. I had MY superior address it with him, and during that conversation it came out that I am gay, and subsequently, the kid did it even more and more around me.

I fired him. but that's beside the point.

Being fresh out of high school, I totally understood what he was doing. He was acting out exactly like he would when he was in school. And he wasn't expecting someone to take his words seriously, and when they were, he thought that would be an angle of attack, a weak point of mine that he could exploit. He just wasn't expecting me to fire him.

My point is, I know how the kids in school are using the term. And to a queer like me, it's ugly and mean spirited even done in a casual way. Nobody would ever say, "oh, I hate that, it's just so nigger." And yet, that is the spirit in which it is intended. For a child who is struggling with his own internal sexual identity conflict, it hits home very deeply.

What I find deplorable is the lack of recognition that using homophobia as an excuse for the death of these children, especially as it is expressed in these articles, enforces the "fact" of how awful it is to be gay. We need to find a way to have this discussion without bolstering, even subliminally, the idea that it is okay to hate someone because they are gay. I don't know if any of these as-yet-unformed people might have been queer. It's the bullying that should be the focus of any discussion; it needs to be about the daily uncoordinated psy-ops torture campaign these kids endure.

I re-read the ABC article again and again, but cannot find fault with it. It never presses the idea that being gay is a shameful thing. It focusses on the bullying. I praise it for that.
posted by hippybear at 1:57 PM on April 25, 2009 [18 favorites]


I don't know what the "proper" response to bullying is, and I never have known what it is, especially when I was being bullied myself. But it seems to me that those who are remembering what it was like when we were in school are missing the point that bullying and violence in schools, and perhaps just as importantly, school administrations' responses to it, are qualitatively different by many orders of magnitude than they were whenever it was that we were in school.

I don't think that whatever worked for us, or whatever didn't work for us, or whatever our parents/teachers/older siblings taught us that we had to do when we were bullied, necessarily applies in the current circumstances. I don't think that telling a kid to jump all over another kid if he starts bullying him and whaling on him until he has to be forcibly pulled off him is going to garner the same kind of response, either from the other kid, from his parents, or from the school administration, that it did when we were in school. It's a different time.
posted by blucevalo at 1:59 PM on April 25, 2009


The reason anti-gay-male slurs are insults is because they don't really mean homosexual-- they mean "person with penis who has lost his manhood due to humiliation and powerlessness, who is now less than human."

Chanting to self -- "that is not how he truly feels about me. that is not how he truly feels about me. that is not..."

*deep breath*

*counts to ten*

*decides to just walk away*
posted by hippybear at 2:00 PM on April 25, 2009


Though it's more of an AskMe thing, advice for parental pre-emption of bullying would be much appreciated (Baby_Balrog's dad's tactic duly noted).

It's not difficult, hit back. Self defense classes help.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:01 PM on April 25, 2009


The Card Cheat: "
I'm almost certainly not going to have kids, but if I did I think I'd take a good, long look at the idea of home schooling before deciding to send my kid(s) off to the social meat grinder that is public school.
"
Right on. I think I've said it here before, but going to high school felt like doing time, right down to the white trash kids taking swings at each other with chairs while nobody did anything. And it's not like the teachers were being role models- one would toss textbooks at kids in the classroom and once shoved a kid face-first in a rosebush.

Thing is, although I was so miserable, I wasn't suicidal. Instead, I had fantasies about rocks from space crushing the school or tearing all my tormenters to bits with a chaingun- which I didn't do or plan on doing because I'm not fucking deranged. I'm pretty sure everyone who wasn't one of those SCHOOL IS COOL suckups felt similarly.

College was so much better.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:11 PM on April 25, 2009


What I find deplorable is the lack of recognition that using homophobia as an excuse for the death of these children, especially as it is expressed in these articles, enforces the "fact" of how awful it is to be gay.

I think it's definitely important that homosexuality - well, all sexuality really - is demystified and de-demonized for kids, and sucking out the impactive power of calling somone "gay" for abusive effect would put a big dent in that sort of bullying. But as others have pointed out, bullies will pretty much use any excuse to pick on you. I got picked on for liking D&D and anime. I had a friend who, as a kid, was picked on because his parents were poor and so his clothes were often perpetually outgrown and out of fashion. Now, we can teach kids that there's nothing wrong with RPG's and anime, and that clothes don't carry that much importance, but I think that we'd be perpetually putting out fires. And again, teaching kids that it's OK to be gay, yes, definitely, definitely do this - I just don't think it will stop bullying.

School administrators are the protectors of our kids for at least six hours a day - longer if they're in any clubs. If you lived in a town where a group of criminals were regularly tormenting townspeople, and the mayor said, "Hey, what do you want from me? Boys will be boys. It builds character to get mugged", this man would be rightly run out of town on a rail. Principals and administrators need to be held to the same standard.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:12 PM on April 25, 2009 [4 favorites]


I am mostly out of words when it comes to this issue. The implications for society are tremendous. Up until middle/high school, many children live in the world as defined by their parents. Then along comes this big ugly truth, and you are going to have to face it. The world isn't so kind. There are people out there, who want to see you suffer for no apparent reason. Worse yet, there are lots of them, and you get to see them 5 days a week. What are you going to do now?

Welcome to the real world, kid. Ain't it a bitch.
posted by mervin_shnegwood at 2:12 PM on April 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


For those of you not involved in the world of education, there has been an explosion of anti-bullying programs in the last five or ten years. Whether it has worked or not, I don't know. Myths like "bullies have low self-esteem" are debunked (at least in the good programs). A decent school staff knows who the bullies are and when bullying occurs; it is seldom necessary for a student to have to be a snitch.

I am lucky enough to work in the most gay-friendly school around. It is an arts school. That helps, as does the hyper-vigilance for the usual bullying.

I work in the city, where diversity in general seems to cut down on the bullying somewhat. In the white suburbs, where I used to sub twenty years ago before I settled down, the kids were brutal to each other.

I don't agree that it's a "normal part of growing up." School is part of the socialization process, and there is no excuse for not improving on the old tolerance for bullying, especially in light of the deterioration of civility in normal social intercourse (excuse me, I have to go, I believe there are some kids playing on my lawn).
posted by kozad at 2:12 PM on April 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


And wow, it would have really helped me get through if I had known eight years ago the turns my tormentors' lives would take after high school.
One has had his licence revoked for serial DUI and at 23 lives with his parents, others are alcoholics who never left town and tool around in their Sunfires with great big ash-stains down the side from all the butts they smoke, and who don't even recognize me anymore when I say hi.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:20 PM on April 25, 2009


The reason anti-gay-male slurs are insults is because they don't really mean homosexual-- they mean "person with penis who has lost his manhood due to humiliation and powerlessness, who is now less than human."

I agree that this is not, in fact, a description of homosexuals, who may or may not be masculine in any traditional sense, in the same way that racist slurs don't actually describe the race being slurred, but instead a hateful social invention of the characteristics of a race. But homophobia is somewhat unique in the way it is applied to people who are not gay, to humiliate them for assumably being associated with the stereotypes of a despised minority, and it ends up being doubly damning, because, in being forced to defend yourself against charges that you are gay, you are placed in the awkward circumstance of suggesting that there might be something wrong with being gay.

It's a particularly malicious kind of bullying, in that it can be so broadly applied, and so cunningly marginalizes homosecuals.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:21 PM on April 25, 2009 [10 favorites]


Only problem with that is, the Columbine shooters weren't bullied.

There is no way in hell those two were never bullied or made fun of. Sure, the article makes Harris sound like a classic psychopath who just wanted to cause mass destruction --- but it does nothing to explain the base problem. And, to believe that guys who looked and acted like they did (wearing black clothes and/or trench coats, listening to "darker" music, taking an interest in the geekier activities of videogames, computers and what-not, etc) weren't even casually mocked by the star quarterback is just an attempt to pretend "well... there's just bad people in this world. Not a thing we can do about it".

Hermitosis and I share a similar mindset. By the time Columbine happened, I was several years graduated from high school, but I felt a sort of intimacy w/their mindsets that disturbed me.

The jocks and popular kids throughout my school years were the ones free to bully the lower-class, and as I said previously, made people like me felt like I didn't belong. By the time high school rolled around, I accepted that. I was different. Whatever that means.

But then the faculty comes on the PA and yaps about picking a class president. And school pride. And this Friday's "big game". And you realize these assholes who treated you like shit all your life for reasons unknown to you are now being rewarded. In a big way. My high school in particular, literally had security guards who would watch you get your ass beat by the football team and if you fought back, would suspend you for fighting. They wouldn't suspend the jocks, because then they wouldn't be able to play... and this school's entire budget relied on their sports teams. I spent the last 2 years of my high school life at a different school, about 5 miles away, that spent their budget on their arts programs. So, ironically, kids from my past high school were brought in by bus every morning to take a class or two at this school before being brought back to the other one.

So, take a lifetime of being treated as an outsider and demeaned by shitheads who, for your entire sub-adult life are being praised for "school spirit" and what-not, and tell me that by the time you get into your middle years of high school, you're not so disillusioned with the system that everyone seems a moronic culprit in the interest of making you seem like an outsider. Hell, listen to John Lennon's "Working Class Hero" and you'll get a brief history of such thinking.

I'm not defending the Columbine shootings, and I definitely agree that those two were fucked up beyond reason and I'm almost offended that anyone's ever said their names aloud. (but that's a different tangent altogether).

The basic thing that bullying creates is a feeling that you, as the person you are through nothing that could be considered a fault of your own, are an outsider and not welcome in this society. Once that mindset is established, these things like suicide, mass shootings, lifelong depression... they're all products resulting from the original feeling that you are not welcome here.

Alas, the faculty cannot say the one thing they should be saying -- school doesn't fucking matter once you leave. You learn social interaction, some basic education about things that you'll likely never use, and getting accustomed to a system of herding. I went to neither of my high school reunions but I've checked in on the people who were praised for their belief in the system (via myspace, facebook, etc) and I've come to find out they're still within about 10 miles of those schools. They're married, have kids, and their careers are pretty much just run-of-the-mill-cog-in-the-machine. They believe in the system that's treated them well and they've become complacent.

I'm not sure what can be done, but I genuinely believe letting the "outsider" kids know, despite all the evidence they've seen to the contrary, that they're not all fucked up in the head is what might go a longer way towards solving the problem.
posted by revmitcz at 2:28 PM on April 25, 2009 [6 favorites]


What appalls me is that behaviour which from an adult would result in serious consequences often results in absolutely no consequences at all for a child. I know that teachers are overworked and underpaid. I know that the ratio of teacher/student is ridiculous. When you have a child dealing with a constant attack by two others (my daughter, year 8), including name-calling and destruction or theft of possessions, and vicious pushing , and she goes to a teacher and the teacher says "I don't have time to deal with the squabbles of girls,"what does it tell her but that she is unimportant, her possessions are unimportant, her physical safety is unimportant. What it tells the bullies is that they are safe.

It seems to me that education needs to start a little sooner than elementary school. Teachers need to be educated about the long term results of bullying, so that they become more committed to dealing with these issues. The public, too, needs to be educated, so that bullies and their families change their acceptance of this behaviour. I'd like to see subtle television plots where popular kids who bully experience dislike and disgust from their companions.

It's funny how the responsibility for dealing with this problem so often rests with the victim and their family. You should act more normal. You should ignore it. You should avoid it. You should tell a teacher. How fucked is that? Bullies need consequences.
posted by b33j at 2:29 PM on April 25, 2009 [7 favorites]


"It's not difficult, hit back. Self defense classes help."

Yeah, that didn't really help for me. I just got my ass kicked harder. What helped was to bully other, smaller or fatter or dumber kids. That way, people who tormented me would join in against the weaker target.

And I still feel really bad about all that, especially the way I treated my younger brother.
posted by klangklangston at 2:37 PM on April 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


Welcome to the real world, kid. Ain't it a bitch.

Middle/High school isn't the real world. The real world is much much nicer. Whenever I see high schoolers on the bus I have to stifle an urge to go up to the obvious outcast and whisper "Don't worry. It gets better. Grin and bear it, graduate, and then life begins."

"If you feel threatened by someone in school, distract them and then kick them in the groin as hard as you can. When they fall down, keep kicking them until someone makes you stop."

You know, when I read this tactic in Ender's Game I remember recoiling in horror, and then thinking "but I bet it would work." Now, hearing that it does work, I'm still conflicted.
posted by arcticwoman at 2:39 PM on April 25, 2009 [4 favorites]


As always, Penny Arcade drops knowledge.
posted by EatTheWeak at 2:43 PM on April 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


I wonder what the percentage is of bullies who grow up to be something other than bullies in their adult lives. In the workplace, on the police force or whatever. I don't know, of course, but I suspect the numbers might not be all that encouraging, somehow.
posted by metagnathous at 2:55 PM on April 25, 2009


It's especially bad when school authorities won't act against bullying because those same authorities have made the kids dependent on them, by taking away all the other tools kids have for dealing with conflict.

Out in the real world, we can move around freely, choose who we associate with, and maintain as much or as little privacy as we want. We can speak up freely if we're being mistreated. If we're having trouble in one community, we can recruit friends and support from other communities, or simply move away.

We use these tools all the time to avoid adult bullies. And, even better, the fact that we could use them if we wanted robs adult bullies of a lot of their power. If an adult insults me, ignoring it does work 90% of the time — but the reason it works is because the other 10% of the time, I'm free to walk away, to go home and lock the door, to speak up and publicly shame the guy, or to head over to the bar next door where for all he knows I've got a dozen burly buddies who'll kick his ass. I know that, the other guy knows it, and so once he sees I'm not taking the bait, it's no longer worth his time.

The reason "just ignore it" is terrible advice for a kid in elementary school is that he can't walk away. He's trapped, the bullies know he's trapped, and they don't care if he's paying attention yet. If he's not, they can make him.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:01 PM on April 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


You know, I re-watched Idiocracy last night. I've seen that movie probably a half-dozen times.

It just occurred to me after reading this thread that I never once questioned that the greatest insult ever in 2505 would be "fag".

Damn straight homophobia is still a deadly weapon.
posted by grippycat at 3:01 PM on April 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


I wonder what the percentage is of bullies who grow up to be something other than bullies in their adult lives. In the workplace, on the police force or whatever. I don't know, of course, but I suspect the numbers might not be all that encouraging, somehow.

"Nearly 60 percent of boys who researchers classified as bullies in grades six through nine were convicted of at least one crime by the age of 24. Even more dramatic, 40 percent of them had three or more convictions by age 24."

Source
posted by mervin_shnegwood at 3:02 PM on April 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Check out Hugh Jackman on how it pisses him off when people gossip about him being gay, not because he is gay, but because it suggests there's something wrong with it. Also, that he observes it as an American phenomena.

As someone who faced this kind of bullying in jr high and high school, it pissed me off from both angles: I was not gay and I didn't think there wasn't anything wrong with being gay--I have an awesome great-aunt who is a lesbian, and came out back in the days when it really could get you killed.

It always felt like a punishment--I couldn't be smart, athletic, and outspoken without facing retribution. And what could they attack me with but a lie? There's no way to defend yourself against that (unless you're Hugh Jackman).

But, for me, at the time, the worst thing was a budding relationship that got destroyed when a "friend" told this awesome guy I was gay. My love life has certainly recovered in the 15 years since high school, but that still pisses me off.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:04 PM on April 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


I would love it if an actor responded to a charge that he or she was gay with, oh yes, I'm super-gay. And then when it came out they weren't, say, well, I just didn't know how to politely turn down a compliment like that.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:14 PM on April 25, 2009 [13 favorites]


I went to high school in Ohio less than 50 miles from where Eric Mohat, from the third link, endured the homophobic bullying and even though it was a few years ago, pretty much the same things happened to me regularly, in front of teachers, right down to the physical harassment in class, and I saw it going on with other kids too. It was a fun sport for the football players, wrestlers, and just plain assholes who filled the school. Once or twice I was scornfully told by a teacher to "Stick up for" myself.

So one day, after school was out and we were waiting for the busses, "M. P." made a loud insulting remark to me to impress his girl and I attacked him, threw him up against the back of a bus, and beat him until we were pulled apart. (I wasn't skinny or weak, just a relative newcomer who was a little "obvious.") "M. P." missed his bus that day and I was not bullied as much after that, but it should not have had to get to that point.

It sucks to hear that high school in northeastern Ohio hasn't changed.
posted by longsleeves at 3:15 PM on April 25, 2009


But homophobia is somewhat unique in the way it is applied to people who are not gay, to humiliate them for assumably being associated with the stereotypes of a despised minority, and it ends up being doubly damning, because, in being forced to defend yourself against charges that you are gay, you are placed in the awkward circumstance of suggesting that there might be something wrong with being gay.
posted by Astro Zombie


Hm. Good explanation. This is exactly like the whole thing where my grandparents kept claiming Obama was Muslim.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 3:24 PM on April 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not to excuse bullying, because that's the last thing I'd want to do (I was bullied myself), but could it be part of a developmental stage? My nephew is now 6, and his whole life he was encouraged to be as feminine as he wanted to, to explore gender roles however he wanted, to wear a tiara and prance around the house in little heeled sandals (in the nude), and when he said things like he wanted to marry a COUPLE, his parents didn't even tell him otherwise. But now, after growing up a little and spending time at school with other boys, he's very clear about "boy stuff" and "girl stuff", and is very careful to stick to boy stuff. He insisted on getting his hair cut (no more beautiful golden curls!), firmly rejects anything that might be seen as a girl toy, etc. We know that kids are working out how the world works and how they fit into it, and have much more rigid rules than we do; they are black and white, not grey, in the way they perceive things, and are constantly sorting things into categories.

Could it be that kids are so committed to their categories that it creates this kind of peer pressure and bullying?

I'm sure there's a way to fix it, and I guess it would have something to do with normalizing sexuality in general. Also gender roles, since that's what it's really about, all this anti-gay bullying. Do we fit the definition of masculinity to fix it?
posted by Hildegarde at 3:26 PM on April 25, 2009


Could it be that kids are so committed to their categories that it creates this kind of peer pressure and bullying?

That might be a reason why kids are susceptible to becoming bullies, yes.

But, man, I was about as compulsive as you could get when I was a kid about having everything just-so and neatly categorized, and I never beat anyone up over it — or even shamed anyone publicly, that I can remember. You can be "committed" to categories and still not be an asshole about it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:43 PM on April 25, 2009


No, I wasn't excusing it. I was just pointing out that kids tend to take categories very seriously. Not about being neat, that's not what I meant. Lots of kids are messy. It's about the categories of people and what they should and shouldn't do.
posted by Hildegarde at 3:50 PM on April 25, 2009


Hildegarde, I think that's a risk that really good parents (like your nephew's) take, and I think it's really unfair that they're put in that situation. They put a lot of good effort into helping him explore and discover and come to his own conclusions, but I bet unconsciously he now doubts the validity of that experience, and may even feel tricked or misled by his parents. I really hope that their thoughtful cultivation of him will endure, preserved beneath the surface of the life he must unfortunately adapt to in the short term.

Most parents (and schools) aren't trying to raise good people. They're trying to raise good young men and good young women. If they just raised good people instead, sexuality would assert itself naturally in due course, but not very many parents understand that ot trust it -- why should they? It's not how they were raised. May not feel like it sometimes, but our society has changed so rapidly in the last several generations, faster than we can adjust.

Despite the capacity issues we're running into on Earth, most of humanity is still obsessed with fertility -- with turning "viable" wombs and testicles into beautiful babies and vice versa. And as long as it is, gays, lesbians, and even straight people who opt not to reproduce will be regarded with a degree of suspicion -- Atwood's "unmen" and "unwomen" -- regardless of any logical or compassionate argument. This is also why gay rights and reproductive rights are at the forefront of our political debates, even though everyone knows there are more urgent matters. It's an appeal to our animal nature, even as we stand at the threshold globally of discovering what it truly means to be human.
posted by hermitosis at 3:54 PM on April 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


that's a risk that really good parents (like your nephew's) take, and I think it's really unfair that they're put in that situation.

Eh, kids tend to like boundaries. Assuming roles that concretely say "This is a man" and "This is a woman" probably works for most people. This doesn't excuse bullying and doesn't help those who don't fit into those categories, but it's easy to see most kids liking.

most of humanity is still obsessed with fertility -- with turning "viable" wombs and testicles into beautiful babies and vice versa.

It's the biological imperative to mate, most species have it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:19 PM on April 25, 2009



No, I wasn't excusing it. I was just pointing out that kids tend to take categories very seriously. Not about being neat, that's not what I meant. Lots of kids are messy. It's about the categories of people and what they should and shouldn't do.


Sorry, I was using "neat" metaphorically — and yeah, I understand you're not trying to excuse bullying. Lemme try again.

It sounds like you're looking for a cause of bullying behavior. Not an excuse, just a cause — someplace to start in figuring out how to prevent or fix it. And I agree that the desire to live in an orderly world with clear-cut categories and rigid boundaries between them, while it's a totally natural desire for kids at that age, is probably one contributing cause.

I'm just saying that it's not the only one, or even the crucial one. Some people who REALLY LIKE categories and boundaries are still — I dunno, humble enough, maybe? — to accept that they're not in charge of policing those boundaries. Other people take it into their own hands. So it's not just love of categories. It's love of categories plus.... well, arrogance, or anger, or self-control problems, or some extra causal factor.

(And maybe that's consistent with what you were trying to say too. In that case, we're just agreeing VERY LOUDLY. Go us.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:40 PM on April 25, 2009


I got picked on for liking D&D and anime

In my grade school, that would have been called "gay."

It doesn't matter if the object is actually gay or not. It's used by irresponsible children the way things like "child molester" might be used by irresponsible adults when they just want to slime someone.

By which I mean the truth-or-not is irrelevant. That wasn't the point.
posted by rokusan at 4:54 PM on April 25, 2009


How is this homophobia if none of the victims actually identify themselves as gay?

This has nothing to do with the actual sexuality of the victims, and gays are co-opting the bullying of non-gays to increase their own influence. Homosexuality is used as an insult because homosexuals are perceived as taking the roles of women, that is, submissive to male domination. If reflects the sexual obsession of the bully more than the supposed orientation of his victim.

The more schools lock down, the worse this will become, because it is a reaction to a strict dominance hierarchy. The more you make an insecure male suffer his station, the more he will transfer that suffering to anyone he can place beneath him. And we are selecting for teachers and administrators who see nothing wrong with these policies, who are either so stupid as to be oblivious to the effects, or who are themselves vicariously participating in the sadistic status game and enjoying their position as top dog and disseminator of punishment.

The zero-tolerance policy exists to protect the bully, not his victim, because punishing all violence equally disincentivizes self-defense far more than it does bullying, which does not require physical violence at all, only the threat of it.

The disturbing thing is that our culture is adopting this mentality wholesale, affecting ideologies across the political spectrum, driving them to the very caricatures they have for each other. If they're not getting riled up over their guns being taken away, they're getting riled up over the guns that others have no business having, with the core of each ideology a sexually oriented fear, what I will simplify by calling it a projection of either castration or rape, and I don't think either side understands that they're afraid of both.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 5:00 PM on April 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


...gays are co-opting the bullying of non-gays to increase their own influence.

Oh my. I'm speechless.
posted by ericb at 5:08 PM on April 25, 2009 [8 favorites]


Thank you for that link, mervin_shnegwood. I'm looking forward to seeing what it has to say.
posted by metagnathous at 5:09 PM on April 25, 2009


Wow, I'm sure glad that bullying was never a problem in the schools I went to.
I read that this is a serious problem in japan too, in Tokyo Damage Report's Dictonary Of Awkward Japanese under Ijime:
Ijime - bullying. Not like wedgies or getting your milk money took. Japanese bullying has driven more than a thousand children to suicide. The hatred of anyone "outside the group" combined with the cultural ethic of "if something bad happens, ignore it," allow groups of kids to deliberately target a random kid for destruction, and the rest of the school just looks on, or even joins in because they are afraid they'll be next on the shit-list. The schools cover it up because of that awesome Asian concept of "saving face." Did I mention how much I hate face?

It starts in kindergarten with kids being isolated and shunned. Not suprisingly kids denied the chance to develop social skills then become easy targets in elementary school. At the other end, bullying ties neatly into mob activity, with wanna-be gangstas extorting junior high school kids with organized beat-downs, and even passing part of their earnings on to their mob bosses.

If you live in Japan, chances are a lot of your friends either were bullies or the victims of bullies. Either way, the ghosts of it will affect them for the rest of their lives. In my experience, the symptoms of somone bullied to almost the point of suicide are, an inability to look at you in the eye, and a nervous laugh, and continually belittling themselves.
posted by kolophon at 5:09 PM on April 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


Homosexuality is used as an insult because homosexuals are perceived as taking the roles of women...

A lot of "homosexuals" are actually women. See: lesbian.
posted by ericb at 5:10 PM on April 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've been called a dyke more times than I can count, been bullied in school a couple times and even on one occasion harassed anonymously online. I'm not sure what spurs this other than an occasional short haircut and feminist outbursts.

I think the only thing that stopped it for me in high school was when a greasy stoner kid called me a dyke on what must have been a really shitty day for me. In the middle of a class, after he muttered the slur under his breath, I whipped around, grabbed him by his hair, and yanked down his head so that he had a clear view of the floor and my knee. Then I demanded, "What did you call me?" When he just stuttered and refused to repeat the "insult" I asked again. Again, he stammered. The whole class was watching, including the teacher. Figuring I was was probably in deep shit by this point anyway and had nothing to lose, I pushed him away and yelled "Fuck you" as loud as I could. My teacher told me to take a walk. He got a talking to, I returned to class with no consequences. I don't remember being harassed again.

I know for a fact that I was lucky and had I not been in liberal Seattle or been in that class room with the ex-commune-living "Heath and Human Sexuality" teacher, the situation would have turned out much differently, probably with our punishments reversed.
posted by piratebowling at 5:11 PM on April 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


...gays are co-opting the bullying of non-gays to increase their own influence.

All part of the gay agenda!
posted by ericb at 5:12 PM on April 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


that was one ignorant comment, 0xdeadc0de.

Homophobia is still homophobia when the victim is straight, you know? Just like killing second-generation assimilated christians who had a jewish grandmother was still antisemitism on part of the nazis. It has nothing, really nothing at all to do with the self-identification of the victim, and everything with the mindset of the perpetrator.
posted by kolophon at 5:19 PM on April 25, 2009


0xdeadc0de: "How is this homophobia if none of the victims actually identify themselves as gay? [...] Homosexuality is used as an insult..."

Q.E.D.
posted by CrayDrygu at 5:21 PM on April 25, 2009


After an admittedly quick skim of that pdf it looks like it's concerned largely with bullies who grew up to be outright criminals. I was wondering more about those who have grown up to find themselves in supervisory capacities, or in law enforcement.

In other words, people who are generally considered to be successful in the context of society at large, but who have retained many of their bullying attributes and rely on them to this day, with similar consequences for those they're in authority over.

I would imagine that the numbers are pretty similar. I doubt there's much out there on that subject, but I'll do a search or three.
posted by metagnathous at 5:33 PM on April 25, 2009


Every time I read one of these threads, I think to myself, "Damn, you people went to some really crappy high schools".

I mean, Jocks, Popular kids, it's like something out of a bad 80s teen movie.
posted by madajb at 5:35 PM on April 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


...gays are co-opting the bullying of non-gays to increase their own influence.

Yeah, that's why I got glasses at the age of thirteen. I wanted to advance the four-eyed agenda as quickly as possible.

It's all I ever thought about.
posted by metagnathous at 5:38 PM on April 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


The persecution of these children has nothing more to do with the persecution of gays than the fact that masculine insecurity drives both. Your Godwinning applied to this framing of the issue is like saying the Nazis murdered Gypsies because they might as well be Jews.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 5:40 PM on April 25, 2009



Re: Columbine and bullying. I just read the new book, Columbine, on which the recent articles claiming that Columbine had nothing to do with bullying were based. Color me unimpressed with the author's evidence for that. (The book in general, however, was quite good).

He *admits* that bullying was intensely prevalent at Columbine and that the principal couldn't really see it. But he seems to think that because the shooters had friends and were themselves bullies as well as sometime targets, bullying wasn't really part of the problem.

I disagree: while it's certainly possible that psychopathic Harris would have killed people no matter what, Klebold seems as though he could have been OK if he had been at a school where he felt safe enough to seek help/ go to the authorities.

The author is right, however, that focusing on weirdos and scapegoats isn't the way to stop the next shooting. But wrong I think in not recognizing that the tone of a school as either nurturing or super-competitive has nothing to do with whether or not it is at risk for shootings.

All of the schools that have had shootings have had an excess of bullying. That alone isn't enough-- but if you eliminate that, aside from eliminating or reducing many other problems, you massively reduce the risk of shootings not only by making kids less angry but also by making them feel safe reporting kids who are talking about planning attacks.
posted by Maias at 5:45 PM on April 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


The persecution of these children has nothing more to do with the persecution of gays than the fact that masculine insecurity drives both.

So the fact that they're being called "gay" as an insult, and is in all likelihood being used to justify the bullying, this has nothing to do whatsoever with how marginalized and undesirable gay people are considered to be by these self-same bullies?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:50 PM on April 25, 2009


0xdeadc0de, you're mistaken. If someone has prejudices against another ethnic or social group and chooses to victimize someone else based on a perceived association with that group -- however subjective or erroneous that association may be -- then that victim is as much a casualty of the attacker's hatred as anyone else.

If I, a white man, murder some other white man for marrying a black woman, then I am a racist and that crime was a hate-crime. Do you see?
posted by hermitosis at 5:53 PM on April 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


The persecution of these children has nothing more to do with the persecution of gays than the fact that masculine insecurity drives both. Your Godwinning applied to this framing of the issue is like saying the Nazis murdered Gypsies because they might as well be Jews.

Well, sure. Any difference at all is going to be something a bully can use to torment another kid. But surely you don't believe that the current conflict over same-sex marriage can't help but filter down to the kids at one point or another. Much of this ugly behavior is learned in the home.
posted by metagnathous at 5:57 PM on April 25, 2009


Also:

The more schools lock down, the worse this will become, because it is a reaction to a strict dominance hierarchy. The more you make an insecure male suffer his station, the more he will transfer that suffering to anyone he can place beneath him.

What? Schools sitting on their hands and not intervening clearly isn't working. And you won't find a single child development specialist who recommends that school officials don't intervene in proportion to the level of bullying being displayed. I have a hard time even understanding where you got this theory. My guess is watching OZ.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:58 PM on April 25, 2009


If someone has prejudices against another ethnic or social group and chooses to victimize someone else based on a perceived association with that group -- however subjective or erroneous that association may be -- then that victim is as much a casualty of the attacker's hatred as anyone else.

Exactly.

Case in point: Jose Sucuzhañay. He was the "straight" Ecuadorian man who, walking arm-in-arm with his brother, was beaten to death by a baseball bat attack in Brooklyn, New York last December. The perpetrators thought the brothers were gay and yelled "ugly, anti-gay and anti-Latino" slurs at them. It has been deemed a hate crime.

But, maybe, just maybe, gays are co-opting the killing of non-gays to increase their own influence!
posted by ericb at 6:06 PM on April 25, 2009


They're not being accused of being attracted to their own gender, they're being accused of being weak and submissive, of being in a position subservient to the bully. That is "gay" in the mind of these cretins. Don't be angry at me for pointing out the elephant in the room, be angry at the people who perpetuate the stereotype, who partake in d/s play and themselves glory in gender roles, even if they do mix them up a bit.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 6:17 PM on April 25, 2009


The persecution of these children has nothing more to do with the persecution of gays than the fact that masculine insecurity drives both.

This is true to an extent, but for the fact that women can certainly be homphobic, bullies, or both, it's obviously a bit simplistic.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:19 PM on April 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


They're not being accused of being attracted to their own gender, they're being accused of being weak and submissive, of being in a position subservient to the bully. That is "gay" in the mind of these cretins.

I'm quite sure the bullies are aware what "gay" means, in every sense of the word. I think anyone who's been called it by a bully can attest to that.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:23 PM on April 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm quite sure the bullies are aware what "gay" means, in every sense of the word.

Yes, but how insulting is that part of it, really? "Ha ha, you prefer to have sex with guys, just like my mom."

The slur is saying "I accuse you of assuming the role of women, and that puts you beneath me, and therefore I can dominate you like one."

It is status anxiety, and it is tied up with violence and sexuality because reproductive competition is why it exists. (If I haven't already hijacked this thread, let's talk about evolutionary psychology! *grin*)
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 6:35 PM on April 25, 2009


0xdeadc0de, I'm well aware that someone might call me "fag" regardless of whether he perceives me to have actual homosexual tendencies. But what makes him choose that word to begin with? It's more than just dom/sub behavior.

If a kid starts tormenting another white kid by calling him "Nigger," then racism is involved in the attack regardless of the circumstances around it. By adopting hate-speech, the aggressor makes it about hate, even if he or she is too ignorant to realize that. If hate-speech has become so deeply ingrained into a child's vocabulary that he or she no understanding of its context, that's really sad, but it doesn't mean that child isn't responsible for what he or she says.

If you start making fun of a kid with big ears by calling him "Mogwai," that's pretty generic bullying. It hurts, and it also kills. But it's not exactly the same as the cases in the post, and acting like you're able to see something that nobody else here can isn't going to make that distinction vanish.
posted by hermitosis at 6:37 PM on April 25, 2009


The slur is saying "I accuse you of assuming the role of women, and that puts you beneath me, and therefore I can dominate you like one."

If it's that simple, what about the example I mentioned upthread, where I (a male) was bullied with gay slurs by a female?
posted by hermitosis at 6:39 PM on April 25, 2009


In the same way that telling a boy that he "throws like a girl" doesn't actually mean that he is a girl, but rather that he is weak and unathletic, of course calling a kid "gay" isn't (usually) an accusation of being a same-sex-loving 'mo. Of course it's (usually) about gender expression, or perceived physical weakness or other "non-masculine" traits (liking to read, being good in school, not liking sports, etc. we all know what they are).

But to say that gay people are "co-opting" this form of bullying for our own agenda is incredibly offensive. Has it occurred to you that more than one now-adult gay person right here in this thread was also subjected to these taunts? Back before we knew anything about our own sexuality?

be angry at the people who perpetuate the stereotype, who partake in d/s play and themselves glory in gender roles, even if they do mix them up a bit.

No, I will not. This is bullshit. You think you can stop homophobic bullying by making more kinds of gender/sexual expression unacceptable? Offensive and illogical to boot.
posted by rtha at 6:40 PM on April 25, 2009 [4 favorites]


It's hard for me to express how this makes me feel. Before I became a dad, this story would have sickened and angered me but I would think I had some sense of proportion about. That I could put it in it's proper place and context, a sad story but what can you do the world is full of sad stories. No no no no.

Now that I'm a parent I read stories like these and I'm so overwhelmed I don't even know what I feel. It really feels like something just broke inside and I'm going to just have to step away from the computer for a few hours.
posted by nola at 6:43 PM on April 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yes, but how insulting is that part of it, really? "Ha ha, you prefer to have sex with guys, just like my mom."

The slur is saying "I accuse you of assuming the role of women, and that puts you beneath me, and therefore I can dominate you like one."


And you honestly cannot see how the slur of being "beneath" someone = "gay", from the mouth of one who knows what it means in the sexual sense, is insulting to homosexuals?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:45 PM on April 25, 2009


Hypermasculine dominance is really just not the source of this problem. Gender binarism is much more to blame, as anyone with female bullying experiences or cross-gender bullying experiences can attest.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:47 PM on April 25, 2009 [4 favorites]


If I haven't already hijacked this thread...

Well, you HAVE shown up in a thread about three children who committed suicide and contributed a lot of condescending, borderline-offensive generalizations. What did you set out to do?
posted by hermitosis at 6:49 PM on April 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


Let me add: physical aggression is a component of bullying which I would not divest from the hypermasculinity of boys. But bullying can be devastating without any physical aggression.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:49 PM on April 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well, you HAVE shown up in a thread about three children who committed suicide and contributed a lot of condescending, borderline-offensive generalizations. What did you set out to do?

Disrupt a cult of victimhood that is claiming these children to be martyrs for their cause. Get people to look deeper at the motives for bullying, and understand that the best way to protect children is to teach them to assert themselves, not by wringing our hands about horrible it is that they were called an inaccurate prejudicial slur.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 7:26 PM on April 25, 2009


Disrupt a cult of victimhood that is claiming these children to be martyrs for their cause. Get people to look deeper at the motives for bullying, and understand that the best way to protect children is to teach them to assert themselves, not by wringing our hands about horrible it is that they were called an inaccurate prejudicial slur.

Interrupt what was already a substantial discussion on how we can prevent bullying, claim a gay agenda is at work, making spurious law-of-the-jungle claims that school involvement would mean *more bullying*, and using emoticons.


Fix'd.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:32 PM on April 25, 2009 [9 favorites]


Disrupt a cult of victimhood that is claiming these children to be martyrs for their cause. Get people to look deeper at the motives for bullying, and understand that the best way to protect children is to teach them to assert themselves, not by wringing our hands about horrible it is that they were called an inaccurate prejudicial slur.

Actually, it is the idea that weakness and empathy are contemptible (tacked onto species-typical dominance hierarchies) that produces bullying-- not having sympathy for victims.

If you believe that asserting yourself and your independence and strength is the only way to have value, you will devalue people who for whatever reason aren't strong, dominant and assertive. In doing so, you support bullies and bullying.

The truth is, we're all weak and victims sometimes, much as we hate to accept this and would often prefer to pretend to be responsible for everything but be failures so that we can say "I could have done otherwise, I just didn't want to" and retain a sense of power. That way, we can say "they asked for it" and not have to *actually* take responsibility for our interdependence and learn to value nurture and kindness.
posted by Maias at 7:41 PM on April 25, 2009 [5 favorites]


I can see where 0xdeadc0de is coming from with regard to the balance of forces at work here, homophobia and bullying. However, both are at work here, and there's nothing wrong with using this as yet another example of how homophobia kills.

Bullying kills, homophobia kills, they kill in concert.

That we attend to the homophobia in this bullying phenomenon and incorporate bullying into our big, gay agenda may be because homophobia seems to be the more treatable of the two ills.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 7:45 PM on April 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Let me just chime in and agree strongly with much of what has been said, particularly to agree with what Eat the Weak and hermitosis have said regarding their own experiences (along with all the others that have been on the receiving end of bullies).

Same thing here when I heard of Columbine-- I immediately thought "well, finally someone did it," though I do note that we did not know whether bullying played a part at the time; I simply assumed that it did, as I too had seriously considered doing something like that-- I had lists and everything.

It is a miracle I managed to get through high school without doing something horrific. I don't know how it didn't happen.

I too am still suffering from the deep and profound effects of those years. I have tried to move past it, and to some degree I have, but I hold deep grudges, and there are some people from junior high and high school . . . if I saw them today I'm unsure I would restrain myself from hurting them. I mean, like breaking their arms and all of their fingers and stuff.

And it runs really, really deep-- I'm 35 now, and I still always sit with my back to a wall, I have to see the entrances and exits to rooms always, I am hyper-alert and conscious of my surroundings all the time, and while I'm not constantly adrenalized, all it takes is a little tingle of something "off" to send me into attack mode. It's sometimes tiring being so vigilant, although sometimes it's a very "zen" feeling; completely relaxed and aware of everything around me.

I will never allow someone to physically or emotionally victimize me again.

The emotional part is easy-- I'm confident, happy, and understand the multiplicity of selves that I consider "myself" at this point in time. The physical is a little bit harder-- self-defense skills and a sharp backup in the pocket.

It's not something that dominates my consciousness, but it's certainly there, and it is certainly a part of who I am. It's a shame, really.

Look, even though I might sound like Bernhard Goetz (and I'm really not at all like that) I'm a nice guy, caring, sweet, and the MOST IMPORTANT VALUE in my life, the source from which I take the most joy, is the idea that humans can come together and have meaningful connections. But some people made that really difficult earlier in my life, and the effects still resonate for me now.

This whole rant , shorter:
I wish that things had been different then, and those people had been taken to task for their actions.
posted by exlotuseater at 7:54 PM on April 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


not by wringing our hands about horrible it is that they were called an inaccurate prejudicial slur.

How do we know they were inaccurate? How do we know whether any of these specific boys would have turned out to be homosexual? We will never know. Their parents will never know. And implying that whether or not they were is irrelevant is insulting to the torment they endured, because I can guaran-fucking-tee you that each of these boys spent many long days and nights wondering what it was in themselves that the attackers saw that made them say those things, wondering if they were true, and despairing over what to do about it.
posted by hermitosis at 8:07 PM on April 25, 2009 [4 favorites]


be angry at the people who perpetuate the stereotype, who partake in d/s play and themselves glory in gender roles


Are you serious? Seriously?
posted by mountain_william at 8:15 PM on April 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


.
posted by NoraReed at 8:23 PM on April 25, 2009


What do y'all really care about, anyway? That three children killed themselves, or that they were so ashamed of being called "gay" they felt they had to?

Are you going to remove the source of that shame by getting school administrators to tell bullies to stop using the word? Yes, let's give the bullies sensitivity training. Let's emphasize the weakness they so ruthlessly exploit, by appealing to the empathy they are so obviously lacking. Let's make sure they understand just how effective this particular weapon is.

And when the awesome power of the fully armed and operational Gay Agenda™ is brought to bear on this issue, which I assumed you, hermitosis, are invoking with this post, what will that do to those children agonizing over why someone would make such an assumption about them?
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 8:47 PM on April 25, 2009


... and gays are co-opting the bullying of non-gays to increase their own influence...
Disrupt a cult of victimhood that is claiming these children to be martyrs for their cause...

0xdeadc0de - I accuse you of being a homophobe. You see children killing themselves after persistent bullying, you read to many stories here of people who were bullied themselves and who contemplated suicide, or lashed out to try and make it stop, or contemplated murder in a desparate attempt to handle their fears; and you launch into a diatribe over the gay agenda??

I too was bullied at school. I was a big lad, and got taunted over that, being a ginger, being a teacher's pet, being gay, you name it, whether it was true or not. Eventually, after something trivial like trying to trip me in the corridor, or push me from behind, I'd snap, and turn on my attacker. They would of course gang together and claim I'd started it, and I'd be one punished and getting stiff talkings-to over being a bully. It became a sport - how hard would they have to push me before they could make me explode?

Some of teachers used humilation in their classrooms, and I was one of the favourite targets of a couple of them. They never went after the bullies.

It took me years to learn to handle my temper properly, and to think of myself as anything other than an unloveable lumpen nerd, and today I'm happy with my life and my love, despite them.

The problem is bullying itself, and that schools tolerate it or actively encourage it to keep students in line, and the bullies themselves learn their hateful little approach to life, and dislike of anything 'other' from their intolerant and homophobic parents.

The more you make an insecure male suffer his station, the more he will transfer that suffering to anyone he can place beneath him. Yes, those poor bullies, being told to stop it. The idea that bullies are secretly insecure and suffering themselves is complete horseshit, they took great joy in making other people suffer, it was *fun*.

And your response to the problem? That adult gays are using this to push their agenda, and garner sympathy for themselves.

Don't be angry at me for pointing out the elephant in the room, be angry at the people who perpetuate the stereotype, who partake in d/s play and themselves glory in gender roles

They're not the problem. People like you who blame the victim are.
posted by ArkhanJG at 9:08 PM on April 25, 2009 [8 favorites]


Are you going to remove the source of that shame by getting school administrators to tell bullies to stop using the word? Yes, let's give the bullies sensitivity training. Let's emphasize the weakness they so ruthlessly exploit, by appealing to the empathy they are so obviously lacking. Let's make sure they understand just how effective this particular weapon is.

Every child, without exception, should be taught not to hate. Personally, I don't care if bullies possess empathy or not. If they will not change, they need to be removed from the school. If they can not change, then they need medical attention. And to be removed from the school. School comprises a very significant fraction of a child's life. Physical and emotion abuse has no place there.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:10 PM on April 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


I wasn't aware any thinking adults still believed there was such a thing as a gay agenda.
posted by EatTheWeak at 9:21 PM on April 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


If there was a gay agenda, it would be pink and shiny, and it would only have pages for weekends in it.
posted by Hildegarde at 9:25 PM on April 25, 2009 [10 favorites]


And when the awesome power of the fully armed and operational Gay Agenda™ is brought to bear on this issue, which I assumed you, hermitosis, are invoking with this post...

Honey, we're here, we're queer. Wanna suck my engorged cock? Come on, I know you want to.
posted by ericb at 9:39 PM on April 25, 2009


If I could favorite EatTheWeak's comment fifty times, I would.

That is all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:41 PM on April 25, 2009


I wasn't aware any thinking adults still believed there was such a thing as a gay agenda.

An oldie, but a goodie.
The Gay Agenda
8:00 a.m. Wake up. Wonder where you are.

8:01 a.m. Realize you are laying on 100% Egyptian cotton sheets of at least ‘300-count,’ so don’t panic; you’re not slumming.

8:02 a.m. Realize you are actually in your own bed in Dupont Circle (for a change). Wake stranger next to you and tell him you are late for work, so you won’t be able to cook breakfast for him. Mutter ‘sorry’ as you help him look for his far-flung underwear. You realize that you tore his boxers off him last night, so you ‘loan’ him a pair of tighty-white briefs, but not the new 2Xist ones because you never intend to see him again.

8:05 a.m. Tell the stranger, whose name eludes you, ‘It was fun. I’ll give you a call,’ as you usher him out the door, avoiding his egregious morning-breath.

8:06 a.m. Crumple and dispose of the piece of paper with his telephone number on it when you get to the kitchen.

8:07 a.m. Make a high-protein breakfast shake while watching CNN. Wonder if the stories you’ve heard about Anderson Cooper are true. Decide they must be.

8:30 a.m. Black or grey suit? Decide to go with black, the only shirt that is clean and the ubiquitous red-striped rep tie.

8:45 a.m. Climb into BMW, trying not to look too much like Barbie driving one of her accessories, as you pull out of your underground parking. Chanel or Armani sunglasses? Go with Armani. Save the Chanel for Rehobeth this weekend.

9:35 a.m. Stroll into The Russell Senate Office Building.

9:36 a.m. Close door to office and call best friend and laugh about the guy who spent the night at your condo. Point out something annoying about best friend’s boyfriend but quickly add ‘It doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks, just as long as you love him.’

10:15 a.m. Leave office, telling your secretary you are ‘meeting with some of your boss’s constituents.’ Pretend not to notice her insubordinate roll of the eyes (or the cloying ‘poem’ she has tacked to her cubicle wall).

10:30 a.m. Hair appointment for highlights and trim. Purchase Aveda anti-humectant pomade.

11:30 a.m. Run into personal trainer at gym. Pester him about getting you ‘Human Growth Hormones.’ Spend 30-minutes talking to friends on your cell phone. Cardio for 30-minutes; lift weights for 20.

12:50 p.m. Tan. Schedule back-waxing in time for Saturday party where you know you will end up shirtless.

1:05 p.m. Pay trainer for anabolic steroids and schedule a workout. Shower, dry and dress while taking ten minutes to knot your red-striped rep tie while you check-out your best friend’s boyfriend undress with the calculation of someone used to wearing a ‘g-string thong’ and having dollars stuffed in his crotch.

1:40 p.m. Meet someone for whom you only know his waist, chest and penis size from Manhunt for lunch at the ‘hot, new restaurant.’ Because the maître d’ recognizes you from the The Crew Club, you are whisked past the Christian heterosexual couples who have been waiting patiently for a table since 1:00 p.m.

2:30 p.m. ‘Dessert at your place.’ Find out, once again, people lie on Manhunt.

3:33 p.m. Make your way to Capitol Hill. Make sure the senator for whom you are an aide votes ‘lock-step’ against your personal interests.

5:00 p.m. Take a disco-nap to prevent facial wrinkles from being so ‘terribly witty.’

6:00 p.m. Open a fabulous new bottle of Pinot Grigio.

6:47 P.M. Bake Ketamine for the weekend. Test recipe. Call ‘Juan’ to score some ‘X’ and ‘White Lady’ (really, just for friends) tomorrow before heading to Delaware for the weekend.

7:00 P.M. Go to Abercrombie & Fitch and announce in a loud voice, ‘Over! So way over!’

7:40 P.M. Stop looking at the A&F photographic displays and the ‘hottie’ retail-boys and go to ‘cool store’ to shop for a new bathing suit (“Does this make me look fat?”) for the weekend in Rehoboth.

8:30 p.m. Light dinner with ‘catty’ homosexual friends at a restaurant you will be ‘over’ by the time it gets its first review in the ‘Washington Blade.’

10:30 p.m. Cocktails at JR’s, trying to avoid alcoholic queens who can’t navigate a crowd with a Stoli in a cheap plastic cup. Get plastered. Invite one of the alcoholic queens home with you.

12:00 a.m. ‘Nightcap at your place.’ Find out that people lie in bars, too.”
Rinse-and-repeat.*
posted by ericb at 10:01 PM on April 25, 2009


Yeah,

.

I saw that headline on CNN and I just didn't even want to look at it.
posted by XMLicious at 10:17 PM on April 25, 2009


What do y'all really care about, anyway?

Y'all? As in, "you people"?

Say what you want about me and my agenda, friend. At least I have the guts to put my real name and identity next to everything I say in this community. If you're so sure that what you believe makes you a good person, then why hide behind a sock-puppet or otherwise anonymous profile?
posted by hermitosis at 10:40 PM on April 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Um... Am I the only one to find it really uncomfortable to read about someone who is supposed to be forging a positive gay identity in society saying that being called "gay" is degrading?

She's is saying that the status quo where being called "gay" is degrading is part of the problem, and that any effective solution has to take that on. I think she's wrong about this, because I have my doubts that even full-on endorsement of homosexuality by 100% of the adult population would solve it, but I think it's pretty clear that she's not saying that the term "gay" should be derogatory.
He was 11 years old, and he wasn't aware of his sexuality. These homophobic people attach derogatory terms to a child who’s 11 years old, who goes to church, school, and the library, and he becomes confused. He thinks, Maybe I'm like this. Maybe I'm not. What do I do?"

More homophobia disguised as concern. And from the poor dead boy's mother, too.
I'm not sure how one can tell she's homophobic from that excerpt. She is, however, probably on the right track regarding the motivations of the bullies and the impact of invoking sexual language of any kind. Other people have touched on this in the thread, but I think it bears repeating: this probably has little to do with general antipathy towards gay people. It's a combination of the fact that bullies generally use confrontation about sexuality against kids who barely have an identity as a sexual being (which of course can make kids nervous) and the "otherness" that's inherent in being a minority sexual orientation. We can work on the later issue -- I think mitigating the hardwiring and cultural issues that probably lie behind hostility towards differences is a really, really good idea -- and on bullying in general, but I doubt there's any way to address the general tie-in between bullying and sexual language. It is, as they say, not about sex, but power.

But that's my opinion. No matter your particular perspective on the topic, I think everyone can agree that bullying is a problem that could use more serious attention, and that this case is horrifically tragic, and it's unacceptable to have anybody meet Jaheem Herrera's fate, no matter what happens to be different about them.
posted by namespan at 10:46 PM on April 25, 2009


They're not the problem. People like you who blame the victim are.

I blame the people who teach children that violence is not acceptable, even to defend yourself when it is perpetrated against you. I blame the people who reinforce the notion that being sensitive, or effeminate, or artistic precludes one from being assertive, vengeful, or strong. I blame the people who reinforce the notion that gender and personality fit into neat little categories, and then lay claim to the victims who are placed in those categories despite the fact that the unjust categorization and all the psycho-sexual baggage it carries is perhaps the strongest weapon in their tormentors arsenal.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 11:16 PM on April 25, 2009


Just wanted to thank EatTheWeak for mustering the rage that I'm so incapable of accessing.

As for how to help your children avoid bullying: I survived on a diet consisting entirely of isolation. I worked the system, and found that it was outfitted with just enough loopholes for me to escape bullying. I learned to play an instrument. And then another. And then another. And I was safe in tiny soundproofed practice rooms.

This experience was bully free, but that doesn't mean it was a happy one.

I came out at 16 - disemboweling their insults with a bored and impatient, "Duh?" That worked pretty well. But by then I had so thoroughly checked out of their world that it didn't even matter. They couldn't have hurt me if they had wanted to. The damage was done when I realized that theirs wasn't a world I was welcome in, and that I had better start working to create my own little world where I would be safe and protected and loved. Even if I was alone.
posted by greekphilosophy at 11:35 PM on April 25, 2009 [9 favorites]


The 'hit them back' strategy was correct in the 1980s when I went to high school. Depending on the location now, that might be grossly irresponsible advice.

You just cannot attack a prominent member of a gang (whether formal or more nebulous, like "the jocks," etc) causing them to lose face in front of their friends, and not expect it to come back on you later, escalated. Maybe they'll bring 12 guys to beat your ass, or maybe it will involve weapons, which are not nearly as rare* as they were back in our day.

You also, of course, can't just keep being submissive and expect anything to change. That leaves the school or its security force in the spotlight. The days of "they'll work it out amongst themselves" are gone.

*yes, weapons existed, but it was not acceptable to use them in a fight with honor the way it is now. The whole concept of a "fair fight" seems to have disappeared.
posted by ctmf at 12:15 AM on April 26, 2009


I was both bullied at school and abused at home---and I wish like hell that I had known self-defense and that something like Hollabacknyc existed at the time (I graduated high school in 1986) "Just ignore it" didn't stop it. "Sticks and stones" resulted in having things thrown at me. In 9th grade one girl decided to loudly harass me sexually: "Brujita, my love! Brujita, I want to suck your succulent cunt!", and the like. The dean knew, but didn't do anything. A boy in my class claimed she wanted to be friends with me. Funny way of showing it. Things became somewhat easier after I joined the school paper junior year, but I found out after the fact someone was talked out of asking me to the prom. I suppose the justification was: "why would the class psycho want to go?"

A few weeks ago I was in the subway when some kids (who looked like they were receiving a good education) described something as gay. They shut up when I asked "how can an inanimate object have gender?"
posted by brujita at 12:58 AM on April 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why are you people feeding the troll? 0xdeadc0de doesn't actually believe the deeply bigoted and homophobic viewpoint he's expressing. He's just trying to stir up shit because he's a powerless little boy who's probably been bullied just as much as anyone in the thread.

This is how he makes himself feel more important, more powerful-- by provoking a backlash, by gaining himself some attention. "See," he says to himself, "When I pull the strings I make the internets people dance! I really am somebody!"

We should be pitying him (or even empathizing with him) rather than excoriating him.
posted by dersins at 1:19 AM on April 26, 2009


0xdeadc0de

:What do y'all really care about, anyway? That three children killed themselves, or that they were so ashamed of being called "gay" they felt they had to?


The first part.

I am going on record here to say that you are part of the problem.

Are you going to remove the source of that shame by getting school administrators to tell bullies to stop using the word? Yes, let's give the bullies sensitivity training. Let's emphasize the weakness they so ruthlessly exploit, by appealing to the empathy they are so obviously lacking. Let's make sure they understand just how effective this particular weapon is.

It's not OK to torment kids who are diifferent. Do you get it yet?
posted by longsleeves at 2:42 AM on April 26, 2009


Why don't we send info to schools to help them out - and let them know that this is an important issue.
action resource Trevor Project
[I have no involvement with this org.]

Ijime

"A more concrete description provides a picture of an individual who
diverges from the ‘average’ or the ‘majority’, in other words, who does not conform to
the group norm, is targeted by a group of peers. Japanese students accord high respect to those who can foster group harmony. Simultaneously, they disrespect
and disapprove being different from others. Japanese children exhibit this favouritism to
those who can conform, by their strong rejection, often expressed by indifference and
sarcastic attitudes, towards those who stray from the group standard."


Sound familiar?
posted by hooptycritter at 4:26 AM on April 26, 2009


0xdeadc0de, where in your male-centric universe do lesbians and female bullies live? Try being a tall athletic girl with poor social skills, and see how often you're called a dyke, by boys and other girls, teachers and parents alike. Where does that scenario fit into your nice little theory?
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:40 AM on April 26, 2009


Apologies for feeding the troll. It wasn't until I was accused of invoking the awesome power of the Gay Agenda that I realized what I was talking to.
posted by hermitosis at 8:23 AM on April 26, 2009


I think my male stripper name will be Jay Aggenda.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:25 AM on April 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wasn't gay. I wasn't fat. For that, I was beaten up pretty much daily, and between beatings there was the verbal abuse. The worst, absolute worst was gym, especially when it was time to 'change out' from normal clothes to gym clothes and back. I remember guys pissing on their hands, holding me down, and giving me what I believe where called 'Five Stars', where they'd slap me as hard as they could with their piss covered hands. Although those pleasantries didn't start until around jr. high, I'd say I was unpopular k thru 12. For those who've admitted that they day dreamed about killing classmates... I brought my father's small .22 to school once and put it in my locker. This was in 9th grade.
Later that day, I was sitting on the curb outside the pricipal's office wondering if I could really do what I had planned - to walk up to that little part of the hall by the cafateria where all the 'cool' kids in their many segregated classes hung out. Cowboys and Gangstas and every other stupid genre of asshole who all seemed to hate me because I had an extra 50 pounds on me. I started crying on the curb and I buried my head in my cheap, Pennies hoody that was years old and tired thin. I probably should add that beyond just being fat, my family was poor, I lived with a single, abusive alcoholic father (who is now in jail for being a pedophile). Moments before I made up my mind, another boy my age who wasn't very popular named Pat came and sat down beside me. We had barely talked even though we had gone to school together for about 8 years at that point. He put his arm around me and later, introduced me to a few other guys. We called ourselves 'The Loser Club' ala Stephen King's kids from IT. Pat saved my life that day and maybe a few others, although with a 22, who really knows.
After I met Pat and made those friends, I stopped carrying about what everyone else thought and said. I grew my ego from the few friends I had that, like me, either were too fat, noses too big, freckled and cursed with crazed red hair, and all the other little things that seem to irk the oh-so-awesome. We were our own cool club, and thank god for that. If I could go back, I wouldn't change a thing.
posted by Bageena at 9:16 AM on April 26, 2009 [16 favorites]


I should probably mention I'm 28 and still in therapy and am currently celebrating 3 years without cutting myself, so I don't want to downplay the damage bullies did. Or, for that matter, what was going on back at home. But thank god for the few friends I did make. They gave me the life I have, which I'm grateful for more than not.
posted by Bageena at 9:17 AM on April 26, 2009


Thank you for that story, Bageena; it's a vivid reminder that sometimes our only defense against intolerance and cruelty are little gestures of compassion and friendship.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:29 AM on April 26, 2009


Funny, I thought I was making light of ericb's use of the term, who obviously has much to learn about being provocative. It is so much easier to call me a troll rather than address the truth or potential untruth of what I say. (And yes, I have ignored female bullying, but it is still a matter of power relationships. They use dyke to mean you are undesirable to men, which in a mind that has idealized the feminine stereotype, is their only source of power.)

There are far more bullied children than there are gay adolescents. This isn't a gay issue, and to make it such hurts these children more than it helps them, because it reinforces the idea that gays are weak and weak boys are gay. There are plenty of people who believe bullying is part of a natural hierarchy, and telling them that "gay" can't be used as an epithet isn't going to change their minds. Save this particular outrage for actual anti-gay hate crimes, and gods' sakes, butch the fuck up, regardless of your gender or orientation. Putting bullies down stops bullying, not applying the wussification theory of human nature that believes you can make aggressive and domineering people docile by reprimanding them into the kind of people they dominate. They laugh at your detention and ASBOs and just get meaner and more deluded about the extent of their power.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 9:50 AM on April 26, 2009


A big thank you to all who have shared their memories of being bullied in school. I can relate to all of you. It's comforting, in a way, to know that so many others who went through that kind of torment know what a toll it can take on you, but it's more than a little disturbing to look back and remember just how bad things could be. I'm 48 now and, at times, it still seems like it all happened yesterday.

I quit school altogether due to bullying. I took my dog and headed for the hills, spent all day there running around. Of course, I missed out on some of my education because of it. That's something that educators should really be concerned about: that bullying can drastically interfere with a kid's ability to study and learn, to benefit from school. That is if the pure wrongness of bullying behavior isn't enough to get their attention, in and of itself. Sadly, it often isn't.
posted by metagnathous at 10:01 AM on April 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


butch the fuck up

Take it to MeTa if you must, but get the hell out of this thread.
posted by hermitosis at 10:12 AM on April 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


My point is, I know how the kids in school are using the term. And to a queer like me, it's ugly and mean spirited even done in a casual way. Nobody would ever say, "oh, I hate that, it's just so nigger."

hippybear: it sounds like that to people who aren't queer, but who also aren't homophobic. A straight friend of mine complained to me a few years ago as well that he hated working in an office where two young women kept saying "that's so gay;" it was like listening to racial slurs all day. Unfortunately, he didn't have any authority over them, and didn't know what he could do about it.

He did lose it one day on them, when one asked the other whether she was going to go to the Gay Pride Parade (big thing in Toronto, for queer and non-queer people). And the other responded, "I don't know, it's kind -"

"Gay?!" he yelled. "That's what you were going to say, right?"

I play boardgames online, an environment which isn't nearly as homophobic in its language as online RPGs or first person shooters. But you do get that unthinking use of homophobic language. Fortunately, I've found that most people respond well when you just react as if they had ignorantly (rather than maliciously) used a racial slur, by asking them not to use derogatory language.
posted by jb at 10:18 AM on April 26, 2009


I was a really bullied kid (typical fag, you know the drill), and at one point I "stepped up" and fought back - kicked one guys ass, his 3 buddies just watched. When a teacher ran up, they scattered, me and the "victim" got suspended.

Two days later, I took a two by four in the back followed by a beat down that put me in the hospital.

Fighting back isn't a solution.
posted by disclaimer at 10:23 AM on April 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I still wonder, to this day, why 3 guys needed a two by four to kick one little guy's ass. They thought *I* was a pussy?
posted by disclaimer at 10:27 AM on April 26, 2009


I am having a terrific problem following you, 0xdeadc0de, and the only reason I am responding is because I do not believe that you are trolling, but attempting and failing to make a point that you see as valid. Nonetheless, what I am getting from you comments are as follows:

1. Homophobic slurs used by bullies are not, on fact, homophobic, because they are not necessarily directed at homosexuals;
2. These sorts of slurs are a direct response to the fact that there are people who behave like sissies, and therefore invite it; and
3. Some nebulous gay characters, never directly named, have unfairly latched onto these facts to promote the idea that they are victims.

Since I cannot imagine that these are actually the points you wish to make, I though I would phrase them as simply as I could, to show the case that you appear to be making, and to give you the chance to clarify. Because it seems you are speaking out of a genuine compassion for and desire to help bullied children, but the points that you make, from my point of view, actually provide justification for further bullying, in that they suggest that there are, in fact, gay people who deserve bullying.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:29 AM on April 26, 2009


No, I wasn't excusing it. I was just pointing out that kids tend to take categories very seriously. Not about being neat, that's not what I meant. Lots of kids are messy. It's about the categories of people and what they should and shouldn't do.
posted by Hildegarde at 6:50 PM on April 25 [+] [!]


I agree with you; I think that reactions like this are part of that stage in development. Kids that age are just finally figuring out that there are ways to do things, and ways not to do things, and are beginning to understand gender roles (not biological sex, but societal gender). They love to correct how you colour, for example - that's the age when they start to care that skies should be blue and grass should be green. Or to fuss about the rules in a game. They are learning how things work, but they don't yet understand how things can be flexible. It just seems to be breaking the new rules and categories they are learning (often from peers).

I tutor a seven-year old, and the other day she told me that my clothes were "boy's clothes" and was perturbed that I (a female) should wear male clothing, and she didn't liike that a girl in a story was wearing a hat that she thought was a boy's hat. Just to make me laugh, I was wearing the first woman's suit jacket I have ever purchased; before that I had always worn men's suit jackets or coats. I tried to say that it's fine for girls to wear boys' clothes, and boys to wear girls' clothes, but I don't know if she understood. Also, I'm just her tutor, not her family; I don't know how her family explains gender roles to her.
posted by jb at 10:33 AM on April 26, 2009


Fighting back isn't a solution.

Not always, no. I think it can depend on how far things have gone before you fight back the first time. It tends to work best if you do so very early on. Once you've been established as the Victim, the worse it is for you the later you defy the place others have assigned for you. The best defense is nipping that crap in the bud before any permanent ideas take hold in others' minds.

Regardless, I still contend that school is your child's "society" for about a third of their day. As in any society, it only functions as well as other people are able to get along with each other. School administrators represent the ultimate authority in that world. For them to stand idly by as some children physically and emotionally abuse others is nothing short of incompetent and negligent. Teaching all kids compassion is the groundwork, sure, but kids and parents should not have to beg for help in the event the empathy-free are running rampant; administrators should be stepping right in, immediately, to put an end to the abuse.

There's been an unfortunate amount of strawmanning in this thread, but for the most part I think its been very enlightening, for me, to read how others here have dealt with bullies, and what they wish had been done.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:36 AM on April 26, 2009


Some nebulous gay characters, never directly named, have unfairly latched onto these facts to promote the idea that they are victims.

Well he did name me...

I respectfully disagree, AZ. I think he is trolling. Plenty of people have asked questions or provided counter-examples that he has ignored in order to keep making the same points, which have become increasingly peppered with anti-gay rhetoric. If he felt any sort of real compassion for the world's bullied children, he'd be more interested in the stories of those here who were bullied than in making some nebulous and offensive point justifying abuse.
posted by hermitosis at 10:40 AM on April 26, 2009


most of humanity is still obsessed with fertility -- with turning "viable" wombs and testicles into beautiful babies and vice versa.

It's the biological imperative to mate, most species have it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:19 PM on April 25 [+] [!]


Biology might drive sex, but gender is decidedly a social/cultural phenomenon. Across cultures, gender roles differ substantially. In 16th century England, for example, women were often believed to be more sexually driven than men; by the 19th century, this belief had reversed.
posted by jb at 10:43 AM on April 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Save this particular outrage for actual anti-gay hate crimes, and gods' sakes, butch the fuck up, regardless of your gender or orientation.

So the straight Ecuadorian guy who was attacked and killed by men who called him anti-gay names was NOT the victim of an anti-gay hate crime because he wasn't gay?

"Butch the fuck up"? Really? Maybe you should go back to Stonewall and tell the drag queens and flamers to butch the fuck up.

Do you understand that your message to kids who are not "butch" is exactly the same message that the bullies are sending? That the fact that the victims are not butch is what the problem is? That it's their fault for being bullied, because they don't fit whatever your ideal of masculinity is?

I "butched it up" all through elementary and high school. I still do. (I was a tomboy who grew up to be a lesbian.) I got called names as a kid (though the bullying I endured was fairly mild and short-lived compared to what many here have suffered). To alleviate this, should I have worn skirts and dresses? Make-up? Simpered and giggled about boys?

I'm furious, but I'm also interested in what you have to say about points I and others have raised here. You don't seem interested in addressing them. If you're not, if you only want to continue to be a jerk, I ask that you stay out of this thread as well.
posted by rtha at 10:44 AM on April 26, 2009 [7 favorites]


perceived physical weakness or other "non-masculine" traits (liking to read, being good in school, not liking sports, etc. we all know what they are).

I agree that somewhere over the last century being literate and academically successful has gone from being considered a masculine (think of how women were excluded from higher learning) to a non-masaculine trait, but this is something really serious aside from its connection to homophobic bullying.

What does it mean for boys and young men in our society if they are being "told" by that society that being literate and academically successfull - things that are a big part of future adult success - is unmasculine? This is bad for everyone with a Y chromozone, or who loves someone (son, brother, etc) with a Y chromozone.
posted by jb at 10:56 AM on April 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


You may be right, hermitosis; the reactions do seem increasingly shrill, and the "butch the fuck up" line was immensely odd. Perhaps this is concern trolling in order to forward an anti-gay agenda. If this seems to be the case, as it increasingly does, I shall not respond to that commenter again.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:58 AM on April 26, 2009


In middle school, I too was fat and had a best friend, and we were relatively geeky "white boys" in a predominantly black school. In high school I lived in a white-bread community and was able to observe how the majority herd picks on the "other" and was fortunate to see things from both perspectives; I gained a real understanding of how absurd racism and homophobia really are, as these tendencies ran rampant in both environments.

My middle-school pal and I hung out constantly, and thus were "faggots." Even back then I realized that most of my tormentors were jealous that my friend and I didn't need to belong to their anti-intellectual circlejerk in order to "belong to something." My dad attempted to teach me how to fight, but I wasn't interested. I knew the drill -- stand up for yourself, and get "jumped" after school by 5-10 people. I was bullied on the bus by people who only lived a few blocks from my home, so I wasn't really interested in escalation. I just wanted to disappear into the margins and be ignored. I called my middle school "the big house." My favorite teacher knew I felt this way but didn't really do much about it. You were safe during class but had to move quickly between periods in order to avoid humiliation and possible beat-downs. Somehow I managed to avoid getting my ass kicked by simply laying low.

The funny thing is, we were also bullied by another pair of geeky best friends who existed largely in isolation from the larger herd. They too called us “fags.” I was willing to stand up for myself against them, and in doing so we assimilated them and they assimilated us. We learned their secret handshake and spent various nights at each other's houses, played with nunchaku and telling scary stories.

The thing about bullies is that they run along a complex continuum. Many bullies are insecure and terrified of their own potential for self-awareness. Many are perfectly happy with themselves and are downright narcissistic or sociopathic. Many turn out to be complete losers who never achieve anything beyond their fleeting high-school fame, while others use their sociopathic tendencies to scrap and climb their way to the top.

I'm going to go out on a limb and blame conservatism for most of this, if only because it really is the predominant world view within the United States. Perhaps that's too charitable; I would go so far as to say that herd mentality itself is at the heart of conservative thought. It's what conservatives seek to "conserve." That old way "we" used to think about the world, where "we" is very specific subset of the population. If only we could go back to the good ol' days, where "we" were happy and could pull ourselves up by the bootstraps, because "they" were kept at arm's length and were unable to compete with “us.”

As we all know conservatism isn't a monolithic concept; it's complicated. You have social conservatism ("them fags 'n sluts are going to hell anyway, so if we can torment them sufficiently perhaps they will repent or off themselves before they contaminate the other sheep") and you have your libertarian Social-Darwinist Randroid fiscal conservatism, which is amusing since the majority of social conservatives don't believe in biological Darwinism...

What I observed through school was a strong anti-intellectual streak. Being smart and paying attention in class was "gay." In the case of my predominantly black middle school, many black kids who spoke up and participated were called "Oreos" for being white on the inside. I believe that anti-intellectualism is largely a social conservative trait. Granted, fiscally-conservative Randroids praise genius and innovation, but you can only stand out and be amazing if the majority of the population is not, and what better way to maintain power than to manipulate the herd's fear and ignorance against its own self-interest. For the ambitious, the herd mentality is beautiful thing not only because you can manipulate the herd using its worst attributes, but you can absolve yourself of much of the guilt and anguish that comes with causing pain and suffering at the individual level, and that way lies insane, insurmountable power.

The underlying assumption is that most of the population is doomed to inferiority or mediocrity, and that any attempt to change that status quo does not fall in line with your rational self-interest, and would be a pointless and hopeless effort.

It only takes a little bit of thought to accept that gay people aren't a threat to civilization, but social conservatives will not afford themselves the luxury of thinking about things that make them feel less than comfortable.

The great thing about being human is that we can tweak the software that runs in our brains. Evolution is a bloody, miserable, painful process that is driven by survival and death.

Social Darwinists would have you believe that it is perfectly acceptable to continue along this path, as if we simply cannot transcend our animal nature, and that's ok, because the cool kids running the show have got things under control. Who needs the FDA and the EPA and so on and so forth -- once a few cows die from taking medicine "X," the rest of the cows will avoid it.

I will concede that any "ism" implies a herd mentality to some extent and that my perspective is significantly skewed due to seeing fiscal conservatives completely ransack the United States by exploiting the ignorance of the social conservative horde during the entirety of my lifetime.
posted by aydeejones at 11:18 AM on April 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


What does it mean for boys and young men in our society if they are being "told" by that society that being literate and academically successfull - things that are a big part of future adult success - is unmasculine? This is bad for everyone with a Y chromozone, or who loves someone (son, brother, etc) with a Y chromozone.

I figure this is how we ended up with most of the makeup of the Republican Party. Thinking = socialist nazi EVIL.
posted by Bageena at 11:21 AM on April 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Bageena: ! :)
posted by aydeejones at 11:24 AM on April 26, 2009


And when the awesome power of the fully armed and operational Gay Agenda™ is brought to bear on this issue, which I assumed you, hermitosis, are invoking with this post, what will that do to those children agonizing over why someone would make such an assumption about them?
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 8:47 PM on April 25


Save this particular outrage for actual anti-gay hate crimes, and gods' sakes, butch the fuck up, regardless of your gender or orientation. Putting bullies down stops bullying, not applying the wussification theory of human nature that believes you can make aggressive and domineering people docile by reprimanding them into the kind of people they dominate.

It's a good thing you're posting on the internet because if you said a word of that bullshit to my face you'd get a real quick lesson in putting down bullies, you worthless motherfucker.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:31 AM on April 26, 2009


For Astro Zombie, I will repeat myself one last time: Passivity is not a solution to be taught to children. It does invite the abuse, immaterial to whether or not anyone deserves it. And a giant "Hellmouth" style group hug does not advance anything, and will do nothing to protect these kids.

I don't know what I can do now to protect these kids. I am deeply ashamed that while I never bullied anyone, I didn't protect those who were, and I internalized the pecking order imposed on my friends from outside. I also wonder at how I, skinny, nerdy, effeminate, and so socially inept that I went entire days without talking, was not a target for bullies. And I know. The rage I feel, and my irritation at people trying to conceptualize this as a "gay" problem, is the reason. My disgust for the "macho" masculine ideal inhibited me, but it couldn't contain the defiant rage.

The point I want to get across is that bullies feared me while I am very much like these kids and the rest of you. I am not a person to be emulated, but I have spent a great deal of time thinking about these issues, and I have wisdom you need to hear: and that is when you are pushed, you push back. You cannot remove these aggressive instincts, and when you try, you only defang those who already get along, who are not normally aggressive, making them food for the wolves. You punish the bullies, but you do not punish violence indiscriminately. You do not promote an ideal of weakness and dependence on authority. It gives bullies freedom to operate, as it legitimizes the pecking order.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 11:34 AM on April 26, 2009


For Astro Zombie, I will repeat myself one last time: Passivity is not a solution to be taught to children. It does invite the abuse, immaterial to whether or not anyone deserves it. And a giant "Hellmouth" style group hug does not advance anything, and will do nothing to protect these kids.

Would you please stop trotting out this strawman over and over again? Who the fuck is talking about group hugs here? What I've been reading in this thread is that a) the school officials need to clamp down more and b) yes, fighting back can help. Other people have offered their own personal experience, however, of fighting back not helping much at all. I haven't the slightest idea why you keep spouting this crap about how we want our children to be "defanged" in any way.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:40 AM on April 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


0xdeadc0de, I feel nothing for you. Nothing. No anger disappointment or sadness.

But I want you to know I live to protect and defend and nurture other people—children especially but not exclusively—from individuals such as yourself.

I tell you this just to give you a heads up if you ever happen to be anywhere on the island of Key West, or you happen to find yourself somewhere in the company of a somehow unusually-noticeable person named Mike Mongo.

That's me. And from here on out, I am your huckleberry.
posted by humannaire at 11:47 AM on April 26, 2009


I am a little late to this thread, but I thought I would interject something positive.

My son, who has always been big for his age, and more confident than anyone has the right to be, has a heart of gold. From the time he was young, he has always stood up for smaller, nerdy, geeky, fat, etc. kids who have been picked on and bullied. He has gone out of his way to make other children feel accepted and included. This started in kindergarten.

Now he is a senior in high school, and is one of the most popular kids around. It is still a defining trait of his that he will stand up for others, even when he has no reason to get involved. As a popular child that other children emulate, he has made it 'cooler' to leave those generally bullied alone. Bullying, in his mind, is incredibly stupid, and you couldn't possibly be 'cool' if you are picking on someone else.

Not long ago, one of the guidance councilors at my son's school told me that my kid (poor student, not much of a team player, doesn't work up to his 'potential') has been nearly single handedly responsible for a drop in bullying at his school. Putting a stop to bullying isn't just reprimanding the bullies harshly and insuring stricter enforcement by school staff, I think that we also need to focus on those children, like my kid, who have the power to influence other kids into being less horrid.

Yes, when the guidance councilor told me that, I did tear up a bit.
posted by msali at 11:58 AM on April 26, 2009 [13 favorites]


Putting a stop to bullying isn't just reprimanding the bullies harshly and insuring stricter enforcement by school staff, I think that we also need to focus on those children, like my kid, who have the power to influence other kids into being less horrid.

An excellent point, msali. Definitely not enough white knights in school these days. It certainly helps. My frustration arises from the blasé attitudes of the school officials mentioned in the links. The responsibility is ultimately theirs, in my opinion, and they shouldn't be counting on kids to police themselves.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:04 PM on April 26, 2009


Well, since 0xdeadc0de doesn't seem inclined to address any of the actual points raised in this thread, I guess I'll drop arguing with him from my agenda. Next, on my oh-so-gay agenda: brunch! Unless brunch is only for passive weaklings, in which case I'll butch it up by calling it lunch. Yeah.
posted by rtha at 12:15 PM on April 26, 2009


How about bro-unch?
posted by hermitosis at 12:18 PM on April 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Unrelated, but whenever I see your name, rtha, I think "read the what?? article?"
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:19 PM on April 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Homophobic, of course.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:21 PM on April 26, 2009


Honking maybe? Halitosic? Hilarious?

Please don't make me get the dictionary.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:40 PM on April 26, 2009


You cannot remove these aggressive instincts, and when you try, you only defang those who already get along, who are not normally aggressive, making them food for the wolves. -0xdeadc0de

Wow - so it's a wolf eat queer world?
You are trapped in a hall of mirrors reflecting a very cramped and ugly view of the world - hope you don't profess to be Christian, or Buddhist.
You are confusing nonviolence with passivity.
And then you conflate passivity and effeminate men, piling stereotype on top of ignorance, on top of omission. Your method does not lead to any wisdom, it's an irrational and illogical closed loop.
You are confusing the status quo an law of behavior.
I have fought people who have tried to bash me and I have walked away. I made individual choices. But bullying in school is a social problem that affects individuals. Just as racism is a social problem.
By your logic Martin Luther King, Jr. should have taken armed people to Selma, and Birmingham and elsewhere. And Gandhi should have advised his people to take up arms against the British. So this is your wisdom?
posted by hooptycritter at 12:52 PM on April 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Our beloved Public School System; part 3,119. When the outrage and favorite fest has passed, will anything change? Or will next weeks OMG different this has happened again rule the headlines?

Olympus makes some quality recording devices; and they work so well that they can record a quality signal even when inside a backpack pocket. That would be something for a school board meeting, news-screw crew, courtroom or lawyer. Fight the schools in the pocket book and this will end. Lots of words online do not seem to be changing much; this news item is on a regular loop.

This is a tragedy for all involved. Not unlike police going wacko; it is our taxpayer dollars in public school form going wacko and to naught. Very unpleasant.
posted by buzzman at 1:05 PM on April 26, 2009


Don't really see how discussing it online and taking action are mutually exclusive, but point taken.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:10 PM on April 26, 2009


Am I alone in thinking that teaching kids to respond to bullying with escalated violence is like telling adults that the best way to fight sexual harassment is to go ahead and have sex with the person harassing them? Sure, maybe some of them are just frustrated losers who just need to get laid, and fucking them hard enough will shut them up, but most of them aren't.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 1:36 PM on April 26, 2009


One sees the attitudes and habits of the bullies/bullied being played out in adult life, too. And that shapes society, which in turn shapes the nation and its role on the world stage.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:15 PM on April 26, 2009


Unrelated, but whenever I see your name, rtha, I think "read the what?? article?"

It's a banding (ringing, if you're a UK birder) code for redtailed hawk.
posted by rtha at 3:11 PM on April 26, 2009


Me, 6th grade: new kid in school, dressed weird, bad at sports, straight-A student. The bullying was mostly verbal, and only rarely physical, but I was so scared of going to school that I would get stomachaches every morning. One day a guy said something to me (I don't even remember what, and I think it was relatively mild, but it was just the last straw), and I punched him. So I'm in the principal's office, explaining how the other kids made every day pretty much nonstop torment, and the she says, essentially, yeah too bad, that's no excuse to hit people. Which I suppose is maybe true, but I wish that the incident would have been enough to open the school's eyes to what was going on in its halls and locker rooms and buses. Instead, I got detention, and the bullies continued to bully. Fighting back is not really an idea I put much stock in.

Another thing that sort of sucks about this is that somewhere around this time I went from being a loser kid who at least had perfect grades (and a modicum of self-esteem from my academic achievements) to a loser kid with mediocre grades. Once I realized that teachers weren't going to do anything to protect me, they became just another enemy, and schoolwork therefore was just another thing imposed on me by obnoxious assholes, so I stopped doing it. Which really didn't hurt anyone but myself, in retrospect.

I'm 25 now. I think there are some good things that came out of me being a weird, different kid, but I also wonder how much my current depression/anxiety issues can be attributed to middle and high school experiences - I guess there's no way to know. Sorry this has all been sort of a tangent (I'm a girl, the times I was called a lesbian were not many and don't stand out as being especially traumatic) - just wanted to add my 5 cents that bullying doesn't necessarily make you stronger, makes other parts of your life suffer, and isn't as easy to stop as telling your kids to fight back.
posted by naoko at 4:42 PM on April 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


A thought.

Perhaps calling this kind of thing "bullying" is our problem -- in the minds of many, "bullying" is a minor thing, kind of like dipping pigtails in inkwells. So the thought of trying to prosecute "bullying" seems like an overreaction.

Which is why I'm wondering if, in the cases of things like this:

What appalls me is that behaviour which from an adult would result in serious consequences often results in absolutely no consequences at all for a child. [...]When you have a child dealing with a constant attack by two others (my daughter, year 8), including name-calling and destruction or theft of possessions, and vicious pushing , and she goes to a teacher and the teacher says "I don't have time to deal with the squabbles of girls,"what does it tell her but that she is unimportant, her possessions are unimportant, her physical safety is unimportant.

If a child is doing things that would be called "assault" if an adult did them, maybe we should call them "assault" when kids do them too.

And you handle assault by going to the police.

So maybe, if the teachers aren't going to do jack shit, then you file a police report.

Mind you -- I am NOT IN THE LEAST suggesting that kids should be have an arrest record for this kind or thing, or should be prosecuted as an adult. But -- while we don't prosecute children as adults for other felonies, we do still call them for what they are. This maybe should be the same way.

At least maybe it would get school administrators to wake the fuck up about the fact that "some of these are severay steps beyond 'girls' squabbles' or 'boys being boys', some of this is NOT GOOD."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:00 AM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Bully threads tend to be my soapbox for promoting these guys.

I wasn't bullied, but by all rights I should have been. I was different. Hell, maybe I was bullied, but I was way off in my own universe and wore a big fuckyou smile most of the time and didn't really care if you bullied me or loved me, 'cause you sucked. I was pissed off and in people's faces about it in high school. And I remember this one time when I was 13 and it was snack day in study hall and I had a 6-foot sub delivered to class, 'cause hey, it's snack day, and I'm hungry. And there was the time in gym class when this one kid was saying some other kid was gay, and I pointed out the Tommy Hilfiger-wearing athlete clique and how they wore clothes branded with the logo of a dude who wears square-frame glasses and puts on fashion shows and takes his inspiration from the gayest. sport. ever. I wore a black trenchcoat right before Columbine too, and read books about guns (they're pretty fascinating pieces of machinery is why). I dunno. I never really noticed the bullying, and I felt a lot of support from a lot of people who seemed ok and happy that I was different. That's why I've got the guts to be different today.

It was really those guys above, though, who validated what I knew about the system; that it was fucked and there were better ways to do it. The fact that they existed at all was enough to let me know that, hey, people are out there, they agree with me, and they are powerful enough to institute changes.

That's some powerful knowledge, isn't it? So why is no one taking the time to tell the 11-year olds of the world? Why don't we have homosexual heroes in our curriculum? Why don't we learn about gay legends in school? Why are people who are different, or even who just disagree with the way the system works, like me, forced to wait until we're older to find out that we're valid (and not only that, but have powerful advocates fighting for us) no matter what we are? Why? If we really "embrace our diversity", why aren't we learning about people who are different from the get-go? I'm sorry, but that's the kind of omission you don't forgive.

I say this every time I post about this, but dammit, to get into that school, I had to become a truant. It's not difficult, you just stop going to school for 6 months. AFTER that, after I had cops knocking on my door, they finally decided to tell me, "You know, we have this one school over here, it might be more what you're in the market for..." Well fuck you and thank you for not telling me sooner! I went through annoyance - I can't even imagine the horrors gay people have to go through growing up. All this trauma and hatred and bullying could be avoided if we'd just straight up tell our kids that there's more than one right way to succeed/love/copulate/whatever. But we don't. We just let them tear at each other until they figure it out. Fuck anybody who believes it should continue to be that way.

Another thing we need to make clear to children is that it's ok to rage against the machine. It's allowed, expected, normal, and usually the only way anything gets accomplished. I didn't even care if I was bullied, because I knew what bullying was a part of. I don't remember, at all, and can honestly state I suffer no trauma from such. The divorce that gave me the RAGE gene, well, it was what it was. I think we should encourage a little righteous fury in our kids, because when they understand that the world is stupid sometimes, stupidity is easier to bear.
posted by saysthis at 5:22 AM on April 27, 2009


I was going to type out a long post about this, but I figure I could sum up my views best as 'Children are little shits.'

I make no apology to the parents on this thread.
posted by kldickson at 6:24 AM on April 27, 2009


Okay, I'll type out a long post, because SOMEONE is going to have a problem with the fact that I can't stand children.

Yes, I hate the little fuckers, but does that mean I advocate for their mistreatment? No. One of the reasons, albeit not the primary reason, that I'm not having children is that I would not want to raise one in this environment which is probably not going to change in my lifetime. I have been tempted to forcibly physically separate some children from the children they're bullying and give them a stern warning about juvie if they torment someone anymore.

I was bullied as a kid, myself. It still goes on for modern kids even though, as an adult, I do a pretty good job of defusing and righteously humiliating the shit out of people who make unconstructive criticism - not the same as the blatant abuse of my childhood - at me, and I see that many kids got it worse than I did when I was a kid. (I was probably bullied for being the youngest kid in the class, since I skipped a grade when I was a child, and for having the best grades, let alone the fact that I got thoroughly humiliated in front of the entire class at least once for having popped one of the bullies at least once. I am definitely not fond of K-12 teachers and hope as a professor that one of the things I can do is disabuse some college students and perhaps some grad students of whatever idiot preconceptions they may have had about life when they were children.) I cannot well and truly fathom what makes some children into sociopathic little shits; the silver lining to my situation was that it taught me in some ways that unconventional was better than conventional because conventional was mean, and I later learned to be assertive, and that about half of the people who bullied me ended up in jail. For the record, I'm female.

One thing I suppose people need to remember is that the apple does not fall too far from the tree with respect to this shit.
posted by kldickson at 6:35 AM on April 27, 2009


Not that I've had much contact with kids who bully other kids, because I don't have much contact with kids at all by choice and via the fact that I'm a college student.
posted by kldickson at 6:37 AM on April 27, 2009


I've been thinking of mentioning it throughout, saysthis, but what you're talking about is exactly the concept behind the controversial, yet successful, Harvey Milk School in Manhattan.
posted by hermitosis at 7:12 AM on April 27, 2009


Oh dear. I'm late to the party. Typical faggot, I suppose. :-P No, but really, I read a bunch of this yesterday, and more today. I fear my fingers will run away with the keyboard, as my story is really complicated.

I was always one of the biggest boys in my class, often enough, bigger than the older boys. In grade school, this meant that I was the one that always got in trouble when play got rough (they always called it "fighting", even when it was just horseplay). So I was taught that I must not fight.

This set me up great to become a victim, latter. A bit too fat, a bit too smart, and I refused to have anything to do with football (my dislike became loathing, due to all the shit I took for being a big kid that wouldn't play football). So I learned that the authorities were completely full of shit. First they beat (literally) in to me that I must never "fight". Then they stood by while I was harassed unendingly. It is no surprise that I ended up quitting school as soon as I turned 16. It amuses me to note, however, that I sucked the right cock (department dean) and got admitted to college the following fall term.
posted by Goofyy at 11:16 AM on April 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


With the exception of this bizzare "Gay Agenda(tm)" outburst, I have to say I think 0xdeadc0de is right, albeit not doing the best job of selling the position.

I was bullied in elementary school for being an overly-sensitive kid who was too into reading, not in touch with a lot of pop-cultural stuff, disinterested in sports and no doubt any number of other things that were considered freakish by the bullying class. I got called faggot sometimes, and I think this is where 0xdeadc0de is most completely dead-on: I was called faggot not because it was a devastating insult - though no doubt they thought it was - but because that's the association we had for people who didn't fit into the pre-conceived gender roles.

I've got no argument with stopping verbal abuse when it's seen, but I think the throwing around of "fag" and "gay" is a problem that's going to go away on its own. There's no shortage of open homosexuals in public life that break these traditional expectations. They're still marginalized, comparatively, but it'll soak into the culture enough eventually that this whole image of lesbians as necessarily short-haired & butch and gay men as flouncing fancy dressers will fade.

But kids will continue to be abused by bullies for breaking the gender roles. That's way more cemented in our culture. Take a look at any of this media madness over Susan Boyle. Not only is her fame 100% about the disparity between reaction to her looks and grooming vs her talent, but the aftermath is a huge amount of blather about whether she should get "made-over." Meaning "made to be more like a proper pretty woman."

So when 0xdeadc0de says "There are plenty of people who believe bullying is part of a natural hierarchy, and telling them that "gay" can't be used as an epithet isn't going to change their minds" I think that's exactly right: kids are nasty little bundles of aggression and hormones, so convincing them that there's nothing wrong with being gay - if you can really accomplish that via classes and banning the use of the word as an epithet - will at best just cause them to find another word. Bullying is Us vs Other, and changing the word for Other... well, I got called 'freak' and other fairly non-denominational words too.

Bullying and abuse isn't a label problem. Kids like categories. Perhaps it's an inevitable result of their trying to figure out the world. They're going to slot people into them, and while having classes of people who it's viewed as acceptable to malign may make it worse it's not at all a necessity. Bullying is a problem of proto-people treating other proto-people shitty. It's a problem of marginalizing ANYONE.

The other thing that 0xdeadc0de has right is that this has to be significantly addressed by dealing with the capacity of the people being pushed around. We should certainly create a culture that's intolerant of abuse and we should stomp it out wherever we find it - regardless of the label being used to marginalize people - but in the end the only people who are always going to be there when bullying happens are the people being bullied.

I tried to involve the Authorities when I was being mistreated as a kid, and some were very thoughtful and tried to be helpful. But they're not always there to help, and even if I'd had perfectly credibility you can't solve a problem by mopping it up afterwards. In the end I solved my own problem by drawing the line at getting physical with me, but I wish I'd somehow been empowered to deal with it before then. The physical is the least of it, on average. School bullies rarely do much to leave permanent physical debilitation, but I can spot the impact of being jerked around as a kid in how I instinctively react to conflict.

The Card Cheat accurately called bullshit on the idea that the bullying is eventually a net win because it drives victims to success, but I'd expand on his response and say that it can be both: someone might be driven to succeed AND be permanently damaged. Success isn't a salve for all wounds, and I'd choose to be unsuccessful and happy over being some of the fucked-up successful people I've met over the years. I'd rather we just worked on letting people find ways to exit childhood without having spent time being altered by being a victim or a bully.
posted by phearlez at 11:56 AM on April 27, 2009


So when 0xdeadc0de says "There are plenty of people who believe bullying is part of a natural hierarchy, and telling them that "gay" can't be used as an epithet isn't going to change their minds" I think that's exactly right: kids are nasty little bundles of aggression and hormones, so convincing them that there's nothing wrong with being gay - if you can really accomplish that via classes and banning the use of the word as an epithet - will at best just cause them to find another word.

The thing is, I haven't really seen anybody saying that bullies can be reformed, taught how to care and share or whatever. But we have rules of conduct in school, as in society, not just to provide guidelines to follow, but also to provide a framework for what's acceptable and what isn't. Someone who cannot or will not stop acting cruelly and abusive towards other kids needs to be removed.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:20 PM on April 27, 2009


There's a reason I hold a handful of you guys (especially the one I thought was a girl, before he stole that precious figment from my imagination) close to my heart. I just want to go on record that, while there's no point in trying to get everyone else to do a big group hug, I wish I could just organize a big Mefi group hug. I think some of the brightest, kindest, and most awesome people on the net are collected here in our ranks. I have never told anybody the story of me taking my dad's gun to school, and the letters and comments I've recieved have been nothing but positive, which I actually didn't expect. I should have known that others here would be able to relate, but I didn't know how many. So yeah - I love you guys. Let's hug it out.
posted by Bageena at 1:11 PM on April 27, 2009


With the exception of this bizzare "Gay Agenda(tm)" outburst, I have to say I think 0xdeadc0de is right, albeit not doing the best job of selling the position.

I think Maias said it best, since she managed to make her point without blaming either the victims or the grown-up gay people.
posted by rtha at 1:43 PM on April 27, 2009


Agreed, but I think there also has to be a personal empowerment aspect that 0xdeadc0de elaborates and Maias did not address. Additionally, 0xdeadc0de explicitly identified what I think of as unhelpful "whack-a-mole" thinking and solutions that simply address one popped-up aspect of the real problem.

I also don't think 0xdeadc0de blamed the victims. There's some poor phrasing in there and some of his terms (butch up) are uncomfortably similar to the kinds of things said to these kids who are harassed for being effeminate/weak/whatever, but I went back and read all his posts one by one and I don't think the words or content really blame the victim.

I read his position as being that these kids who are being tormented MUST be told (and empowered) to stand up for themselves and reject the bullying, that a system that honestly addresses the problem cannot simply punish both the tormentor and the self-defender equally.

0xdeadc0de overtly rejects that he's blaming the victim and identifies who he does blame and later says that it's immaterial whether a problem and the way of dealing with it is fair or not. And, sadly, he's dead right: there is a style of behavior that attracts abusers. That in no way makes it okay that they are abused.

Nor does the fact that it's not all right prevent it from happening. There are women who repeatedly pick spouses who hit them. Saying that they should alter their choices so that they stop picking spouses who hit them is not saying that it's okay for anyone to hit their spouse. It's not saying that abusers should not be punished. It's saying that solving the problem of spousal abuse requires coming at the situation from multiple angles.

Solving the problem of bullying is no different. We cannot magically erase millions of years of competitive behavior, nor can we monitor children completely and continuously. There will always be kids who are different and if we do not help teach them to stand up for their difference and say leave me alone there's nothing wrong with who I am (and believe it when they say it) then all we do is create a system where the abuse will continue when we're not looking.
posted by phearlez at 2:32 PM on April 27, 2009


Just in case it isn't clear: teaching these kids who are being pushed around to say leave me alone there's nothing wrong with who I am isn't the same as teaching them to say leave me alone there's nothing wrong with being [blank].

The abuse isn't about [blank], it's about being different, or simply vulnerable. Making [blank] okay or stomping mercilessly on hateful talk about [blank] just means it's time for the jerks to move on to a group other than [blank]. Or, more likely, pick on the same group and just call them something else.
posted by phearlez at 2:42 PM on April 27, 2009


You see though, phearlez, I don't think anyone in particular objects to teaching kids to stand up for themselves. In fact, quite a number of people in this thread have said just that. Others have recounted a different experience with fighting back. 0xdeadc0de was, in other words, strawmanning. Just like when he was talking about group hugs for bullies.

Of course kids need to be taught to stand up for themselves, and of course there will always be sociopathic little shits who won't change for all the sensitivity training in the world. That still doesn't change a damn thing about the school administration's responsibility for DOING SOMETHING about physical and emotional abuse that goes on in the school.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:33 PM on April 27, 2009


There's no shortage of open homosexuals in public life that break these traditional expectations. They're still marginalized, comparatively, but it'll soak into the culture enough eventually...

It's important to look at the history of how homosexuality has been viewed over time. This pendulum has swung back and forth over and over again. Just when things seem to be getting better is not a time for complacency. Things will most likely get worse, too, at some point in the future. Don't wait until then to show support.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:40 PM on April 27, 2009


you handle assault by going to the police

Oh, I have a story about that.... When I was in junior high, I used to walk from school to the elementary school that my sister was in, pick her up, and then we'd walk the rest of the way home together.

At some point, a group of girls started harassing me. I've blocked the actual insults out of my memory, but I do remember vividly the day they threw my viola (in its case, thank goodness!) into the middle of the street.

I never argued, never fought back, never said anything to anybody, just kept my head down and waited for them to go away, which usually happened at the elementary school.

But one day they kept following me and my sister, and my sister (who has a VIVID temper) just started screaming at them, mostly for them to leave me alone. One of the girls came up and started strangling my sister. With her bare hands. Leaving bruises. They left, finally (again, the details are vague in my head) and we went home. Sis promptly told mom what had happened.

Mom called the sheriff, who took pictures of my sister's neck. Then mom and the sheriff and I went to see the dean (?) at my junior high, then the girl in question got told (later) that she was cruising towards juvie the way she was going. I was MORTIFIED by mom getting involved, but they left me alone.

Way later, in high school, I heard through the grapevine that the girl in question had been totally freaked out by the experience, and was afraid to so much as look at me. (Or something like that.) So I guess it worked: even if there was plenty of other pretty obnoxious harassment, the most severe stuff got squelched.
posted by epersonae at 11:25 AM on April 28, 2009


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