I’ve done a lot of analysis recently on bullying. Some of these thoughts involve intersectionality and “otherness,” for I think that we “othered” tend to be more likely victims, but those thoughts are not well-formed enough to articulate yet. However, this is what I believe separates bullies from the ordinary population of decent people who may have occasional bad moments.
I recently did some deep reflection on the single time I can remember bullying someone. I was really awful to her. She’s a superstar now, and getting in touch may look like I’m just doing it because she’s famous, so I probably won’t. By the way, Kimberly Perry’s music is great – I recommend checking her out – though I only really like it live, for it’s over-produced for my taste. I guess that can be my amends to her – encouraging folks to check out her music, when it’s relevant. And if she ever releases a live album, I’ll buy it.
But as for my cruelty to her, I will say this: it was short-lived. Her parents did the smart thing and transferred her to another class mid-year. We never really spoke again, but we did see each other, and without her constant presence, I let it go. Completely forgot about bothering her, in fact.
And I’m pretty sure I was done at the point I made her cry. That’s the last of it I can recall, and my long-term memory more than makes up for my short-term lack thereof.
That’s the difference.
That’s the difference between kids who engage in ordinary childhood cruelty, of which I am confident we all have a tale or two to tell that leaves us looking bad, and true bullies. As well as with the adult version — the difference between yelling at a salesperson in a bad moment or throwing a tantrum — and relentless harassment campaigns.
Normal people, even if they don’t hold themselves accountable, walk away when their bad moment is over.
And normal people, when they know they are making someone cry, stop.
I have thoughts as well on how bullies are not unlike rapists. Rapists live in the realm of bodily trespass, while bullies live in the realm of social trespass.
Rapists and bullies isolate their victims.
They both paint their victims as the transgressor, as mentally ill, or asking for it.
Further, rapists often, like bullies, wander in packs.
And bullies, like rapists, do not stop when someone cries, or asks them to stop.
I suspect that bullies, like rapists, exist at a rate of about 1 in 25 in the population. I wonder what social evolutionary purpose this serves. Can bullies, properly channeled, protect vulnerable populations? Are they capable of doing so? I doubt it, for they tend to prey on those weaker than themselves.
Is “bully” just a more modern term for “sociopath”?
There are more commonalities:
Society blames the victims of bullying more than the bullies themselves.
The focus is on how to protect oneself from bullying, rather than shaping social environments not to support bullying.
The victims of bullying, like victims of rape, are far more likely to commit suicide than the general population.
And they are further both far more likely to become addicted to alcohol or drugs.
I will say this for myself and bullying: I do not truck with it. I will not put up with it. If it occurs in my presence, I do what I can to put a stop to it.
If more people were just willing to take a stand, perhaps it would make a dent in the bullying culture most of us have become accustomed to living in.
And the same goes for rape culture.