Saturday, April 26, 2014

Confessional: Little Shark Girl Was a Bully!

Hear, hear, Georgette.

Georgette shared an insightful perspective on rape culture.

In years past, bullying was treated similarly. The victim of bullying was blamed. He or she was told how they should protect themselves from bullies, or retaliate. Or they were told what they should do to not become a target of bullies. Dress a certain way. Speak a certain way. Look at people a certain way. Never be alone.

Back in my day and community, it was considered appropriate for people to make fun of others for their differences. If someone looked or acted differently, then they should be able to “take” the criticism. If they didn’t like it, well they could stop acting so weird. I am not proud of the bullying behaviors I know I participated in when I was younger. I’ve said some terrible, hurtful things to people who deserved my respect. I have reflected much on why I, who consider myself a good person, would have said or done such things. Honestly, at that time I didn’t feel like it was wrong. I never physically hurt anyone! I knew that was wrong! And other people did the same thing, so I felt entitled. I’m not making excuses for Little Shark Girl. I take full responsibility for my 14-year-old actions. I have learned and grown a lot since then, and I promise if I meet you, I will be accepting and tolerant, no matter how fringe you are!

Not that kind of fringe! But I promise, if you are wearing these, I will keep my goddamned mouth shut--no matter how hard it is!

In our schools today, education around bullying focuses on getting the community to be intolerant of bullying, to call out bullying, and to make "bully" a negative word. People are still taught ways to keep themselves safe and not become a target of bullies. But children are encouraged to speak out against bullying and to stand up for people who are being bullied. Does this eliminate bullying? Not at all. People can still hide behind their computer screen and bully away. There are subtle forms of bullying that cannot be seen by onlookers. It does create an environment that is less forgiving and fertile for bullies. It shows “good” people what those “grey” behaviors are so they are less likely to engage in them. If Little Shark Girl had known how hurtful calling someone “gay” was, or how she made that girl whose name rhymed with “vagina” feel, I like to think she would have kept her mouth shut.

The culture we have now can sometimes glorify and condone rape, and I bet there are many "good" men out there that I love and respect that have gotten caught up in the grey area of rape, just like Little Shark Girl did with bullying. Sometimes I think that's why some people protest so much. They are good people, not rapists, and if that grey behavior was rape, well, they have to redefine themselves as a "bad" person. Believe me, it took Shark Girl a long time to come to terms with her past-self's inner bully. This is the first time I've spoken about it in 30 years.

We do both men and women a disservice when we do not educate the entire community about rape. After all, it is not just a woman's or a man's problem. It affects all of us. It is not just a male vs. female problem. It can happen in any combination. To call it a feminist issue is reductionist. It is our issue. And if the way we are dealing with it isn’t working, then we have to try something else.


Of course, there will always be people who will do the wrong thing, but when the larger community actively and publicly scorns a behavior, "regular" people who consider themselves "good people" will not engage in that behavior, and maybe others will think twice. It is clear from the comments Georgette received that our larger community is not at that place yet. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm much delayed in writing my thanks for your lovely comments... a bjj injury plus degenerative changes in my cervical spine combined to make my real job (sitting in front of a computer all day, typing and mousing) excruciatingly uncomfortable, so just now am I able to do much more than swype a bit on my phone. Thank you for helping get the word out!!! :)

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