Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Wondering about Bullies

Whenever I picture a bully, a male bully, I picture a kid from a movie. All that ever comes to mind is a stereotype bully from storybooks and such. He is merely a concept to me. I have never met a male bully.

Whenever I picture a female bully, however, real faces come to mind, real experiences are recalled, and real recoveries are revisited. They are not concepts. They are people who redirected their fear at me.

From the time I was a child until this very day, the only bullies were females, girls like me.

I wonder why the only bullies I've suffered are female.
Is it because I am female?
Is it because I am a certain kind of female?
Is it because I grew up with only brothers in a neighborhood of boys?
Is a simple fact of numbers? Are there more female bullies than male?

Maybe the boys have been beating up all along.

Maybe I just haven't taken them seriously.
—me strauss Letting me be


Ned said...

I have encountered a number of male bullies I regret to say, not as a child but as an adult. When we were children, there were some rules that seemed to be just understood, a boy did not hit a girl. In fact, even I wouldn't hit a girl (and I am one). Besides, I had already beaten up most of the boys at least once. I think female bullies took over in high school, but in the adult world their peer pressure power fades.

But the bullying I see now tends more towards an intellectual stereotyping, those who set their expectations of what they will encounter in a woman and when met with anything that doesn't fit their mold, resort to a kind of bullying that is far worse than the occasional black eye of childhood. Funny thing is, I wouldn't classify myself as a feminist. I am not an anything-ist. I simply think everyone should be regarded as a person first and a gender second and our main concern should be treating everyone that way.

ME Strauss said...

I got another comment this morning from a friend via email. All of the adult bullies she knew were male, but one. But then, I couldn't imagine a woman trying to verbally knock her down or her "getting it" if a women tried to." I find that I tend to bring out the bully in my female boss.

I wish we could just give each other the space to breathe. So many voices I hear have so much fear. :(

Yvonne Foong said...

In my experience, male bullies are often physical. But female bullies torture you in the mind, and that's the worst thing of all.

ME Strauss said...

Hi Yvonne,
I agree. I'm thinking of one who did a great job via e-mail a few months ago. I called her up and called her on it. Surprise was the response.

We are an interesting species--both male and female. That's what keeps me wondering. :)

Mark said...

I was bullied just one year of my life. 7th grade. In hindsight I was a magnet. I wore a pocket protector to school just like my Dad wore his to work. Why did I do this? Because I thought it looks cool. So I had it coming! :)

Over the summer between 7th and 8th grade my older brothers taught me to fight back. One blow to the head the first day of 8th grade and I was never bullied again. I think the bullied put off an endorphin or something that only bullies can smell.

ME Strauss said...

All of the bullies in my life beat me up with words.

Hurt just the same.

I wonder if there's anyone who hasn't been bullied?

Mark said...

Actually words hurt worse than blows. The effects act far longer.

ME Strauss said...

Having not seen both sides of that coin, I'll take your word for it.

moonshell said...

I, too, wonder about bullies. The reason why you’ve suffered only female bullies is that females tend to bully other females and males tend to bully other males. Articles I’ve read show that this is particularly true in children, and that boys’ bullying is physical, but girls’ bullying is verbal.

Girls and women excel in using words to hurt. One form of bullying is teasing that is done purposefully and maliciously. All my life, I’ve experienced another kind of teasing, the kind where things are said jokingly so you never know if the person means it or not. Everyone seems to do this kind of negative joking, saying things such as, “There’s Lily, now I don’t have to talk to YOU anymore,” without realizing how hurtful it is.

I hate being teased this way. It makes me feel so small. I wonder why people make these negative jokes about others, even friends. Maybe it’s because they’re uncomfortable with saying positive things, giving compliments, because that reveals their true feelings about someone. But how nice it would be to know someone’s true positive feelings about you. We so rarely think to tell friends what we think of them and what they mean to us. Instead, we make jokes that make someone feel that we don’t take her seriously, that we don’t appreciate her.

Knowing how much it hurts, I’m surprised at times to find myself teasing someone with a negative joke. Why do I do that? I don’t like myself when I do that, so now I’m making a conscious effort to catch myself from making a negative joke and give a compliment instead.

ME Strauss said...

I'm so glad you came back.
Words can be terribly painful and the scars can last for a very long time. Some people don't know. They think they are being clever or witty. It fills them up and makes them feel bigger while it makes the person they are teasing feel small.

People don't say nice things because they might be rejected. Then THEY would be the ones who would feel small.

moonshell said...

I can't imagine anyone being rejected for saying something nice to someone, particularly if it's a friend. All of us want and need to hear that people think well of us. Just as the scars of painful words can last a lifetime, the joy of hearing someone tell you nice things about yourself fills your soul and affirms your place on this earth. A kind word or a compliment can mean more to someone than you'll ever know. The possibility of giving someone that kind of gift seems to me to be worth the risk of rejection. The risk of rejection is very small, but if someone rejects you for saying something nice, you don't want that person in your life anyway. And you never should feel small for saying something nice. The person who rejects you for that is the one who should feel small.

ME Strauss said...

I agree with you completely. Yet I am just coming to terms with understanding how much fear there is in the world. So many people are afraid to tell the truth about their feelings. They live with defenses they no longer realize they have. They also think that all people live that way, that those who do not are not smart.

moonshell said...

People who are afraid to tell the truth about their feelings are the ones who are not smart because they miss out on true love and true friendship. People who live with defenses miss out on getting to know some truly amazing people.

You don't need to tell the truth about your feelings to the whole world, but you do need to tell it to the people you love and value. They need to know how you feel about them. And it's a given that they will not reject you or your feelings if they're already a part of your life.

ME Strauss said...

Again you are right. But some people are damaged and cannot get past their hurts. I feel sorry for them, because as you say, they are the ones who miss out.

I would rather risk being hurt tham miss the chance to tell someone. It feels too nice to share good feelings not to.

moonshell said...

I'm so glad you would risk being hurt rather than miss the chance to tell someone something nice. So would I. But I don't worry about being hurt because in my experience, when I share my feelings with people, it makes them happy.

You're absolutely right, it feels so nice when you share your feelings and you see how much it means to someone. You both end up feeling good. What could be better than that?

ME Strauss said...

You are right sharing good feelings is a high point of living. It makes the low points worth bearing and lessens the load of everyday life.

moonshell said...

Yes, that's so true. That's why it's so sad that people don't share their true feelings with one another.

ME Strauss said...

It's like the quote from Holst I wrote on the post the other day. "What the mind yearns for most is not to know, but to believe." So many people cannot bring themselves to believe in anything." A friend told me I have two powerful gifts that will always cause me pain--bravery and vulnerability. I recongized what he meant when I looked for those things in the people around me. My friends have those qualities, but most others do not.

moonshell said...

Bravery and vulnerability. A beautiful paradox, but I know it exists for after years of living completely vulnerable, I found courage and became brave. I like being both brave and vulnerable. And as for those gifts causing us pain, I think this quote from Garrison Keillor sums up my own feelings about life very well:

It's a shallow life that doesn't give a person a few scars.

ME Strauss said...

What a lovely quote. I didn't know that one. I do know it's opposite though.

"Deep down inside he's really shallow." I've met a few like that quote. :(