Auntie Says…The term “bully” is over-used and doesn’t mean anything anymore.

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Auntie Says…Bully? How about tormenter or bulldozer?—it’s a better fit.

There was recently an article in the news about a school bullying incident that escalated to the point of involving the police. Apparently the Principal and staff could see the situation getting out of hand and chose to use every resource at their fingertips. Bravo. 

The Administrator and staff aren’t miracle workers and realized their own limitations in dealing with a simmering situation. Having outside support is huge in taking a stand against the unrelenting bullying that some students inflict and others suffer.

It was the comments following the article that I found to be most insightful. Many said they were teaching their children to fight back—‘knock the other child down’ they said ‘and then kick them’. While the comments didn’t shock me, they made me sad in that there is a misunderstanding as to what is actually happening in the schools and it makes me think that we need to re-think the word “bully”. 

The word is used to conjure up the image of an overly aggressive kid who pushes a smaller one down and steals the ball. That kind of hands on school-yard posturing hasn’t changed over the centuries and is only part of the picture. Parents telling their kids to fight back are not wrong because they’re giving their kid permission to have a voice. It’s a matter of “how” they fight. Hands on doesn’t work and chances are the kid retaliating will be the one who gets in trouble. We’ve all heard it—he started it—but it doesn’t make a difference. Having someone treat you badly is not ok and screaming bloody murder until an adult arrives (or the aggressor leaves) is an option.

 

Bullying has evolved over the years. It doesn’t necessarily mean hands-on, violent confrontation—it’s become sneakier, slimier, and more silent. Imagine someone walking by your work station every day, several times, whispering, ‘you stink’ or ‘I’m gonna get you’… always out of earshot of any authority figure. What if you were being deliberately ‘nudged’ in the hallway—just enough to throw you off balance—constantly. It’s sometimes done with a smile by someone who’s considered a “good kid” and not necessarily your likely suspects. It can be like a game or power play to them. Imagine going to work everyday and having your co-worker treat you like that. What if, every single day—over and over—you’re told you should ‘go kill yourself’…‘go off and die’…‘no one loves you’? That’s a slow erosion of an individuals self worth and confidence. You might want to punch them in the face in the lunchroom, but then what?

I remember reading about a woman who was the target of an online hate attack. She said that though she knew all the words were false, it ate her up inside. Every time she turned on her computer it was there…mocking her. While computers and phones can be turned off, the hateful whispers, innuendos, the seemingly innocent jabs in the hallway, or the open mocking by individuals, doesn’t go away. The question I ask, is whether or not this nonviolent/hands off bullying is being viewed as being as serious as a bully knocking down a kid and stealing the ball. I’m not sure it is and I think it’s worse—much worse—and frightening.

Maybe we need to change the word ‘bully’ to ‘thug’ or ‘goon’…how about ‘bulldozer’? 

The real question is, what satisfaction do these bulldozer kids get out of making someone else feel like crap? I know one person had commented on the recent bully story saying that the home life of the tormentor needs to be the focus. I totally agree. The focus needs to be off the act and on to the wrong-doer. They’re inflicting life long pain for what we all see as ‘no reason’, but there has to be some pay off. I’d like to know what it is.

If you have a story to share…let’s chat.

Faye Arcand is a freelance writer living in the south Okanagan. Contact her at  faye.arcand@icloud.com or fayeearcand.com

Auntie Says… Not all guys are pigs.

I recently spoke with some young men about the MeToo/Time’s Up movements. They all said that being a guy in todays world meant that they’re basically “scum” (their word-not mine) and no matter what they do they’re left to feel less than appreciated, simply because they’re male.

While it appears that women of all ages are finding the strength and support to come forward to report long time abuses, harassment, and general mistreatment, some guys are left feeling confused.  It’s important to remember that the attention given the MeToo and TimesUp movements is long overdue but, I want to point out that not all guys are pigs.

The comments of the young men made me very sad. MeToo is about the discontinuation of a misogynist culture that allows sexual misconduct to go unchecked—it’s about speaking your truth, ending the silence and stigma of shame. It wasn’t meant to be a man-hate thing, but it’s clear some are feeling exactly that.

This is a perfect time to sit down with our sons, nephews, and other young men in our lives to educate them about what’s going on, as we all experience this powerful paradigm shift. They need to be taught how to respect not only women, but also themselves. The whole idea of ‘boys will be boys’ is not acceptable—it hasn’t been for a long time, but now, even more so (that’s a whole other topic).

The movement has brought about a universal awareness and solidarity that went viral so fast, heads are still spinning. The voices roared loud and the pendulum swung quickly to the side of the accuser . The intensity of the MeToo movement can be overwhelming for anyone. It’s like a fast moving train, driven by a force of long standing pain from those silenced by years of abuse and humiliation. The momentum of the movement illustrates the overwhelming systemic problem that’s been festering but, we must not—I repeat—must not—paint all guys with the same brush.

It seems like every time I turn on the TV, another man is resigning or has been fired from a position because of sexual misconduct, harassment, or rape. For the young men that I spoke with, this was one of the concerns they expressed. The lack of due process and the media frenzy acting as judge and jury. While it appears that many of those accused have stepped down to avoid the frenzy, I’m hoping too that we see criminal charges brought and due process given.

Some of the confusion for the guys comes from not knowing what’s acceptable anymore. No one wants to come off sounding sexist, insensitive, or ignorant. Nor do they want to do something that could be construed as abusive or inappropriate.
Guys ask yourself this—if you’re acting/speaking in a certain way towards a woman, ask yourself if you’d be upset, or offended, if another guy were acting/speaking that exact same way toward your mother/sister/aunt/wife/girlfriend. If you wouldn’t want someone talking like that to your mother…then stop, because it’s obviously an issue. Does that make sense?

Don’t go around thinking that women can’t take a joke or are overly sensitive. You’re not stupid—so don’t act like it. Stop and think. Be respectful. Treat a woman as you’d want to be treated. Simple as that. If there’s any doubt in your mind then it’s probably something you shouldn’t say.

The world has changed and everyone needs to catch up quickly. Even actor Matt Damon got himself into hot water for making comments comparing the severity of different allegations…a pat on the bottom vs sexual assault, for example. The fact of the matter is that they all degrade, they invade personal space, and they cause shame, secrecy, and humiliation. It’s about the bigger picture. Go back to the test…do you want your wife’s boss patting her on the butt…I don’t think so.

Use your common sense. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to compliment some one for looking nice and it’s not sexist to hold the door open for a woman—it’s just kind. You can hold the door open for me anytime and believe me when I say, I’ll hold it open for you too.

Faye Arcand is a freelance writer living in the South Okanagan. Contact her via email or twitter at faye.arcand@icloud.com or http://www.fayeearcand.com  #notallguysarepigs