A positive in every negative?

If you think back on your life, chances are you can come up with one or more instances of being bullied.

Even if you were a well-rounded individual, or a bully yourself, you can
remember a time when those around you put you in a position of
vulnerability.

I was bullied by my father for sixteen years, but that’s a story for another time.

In stereotypical fashion, I was bullied by a senior in highschool. I was
popular from the moment I walked in the door on my very first day of grade nine, and she was jealous. As a “minor-niner” I was hazed and initiated in the cafeteria, in front of the whole school, in what was considered back then as a rite of passage. My punishment for being a freshie was to stand on a table and sing our national anthem. I did it without pause. I was (and am) a horrible singer, and endeared myself to the students of my school by climbing up on that table and belting out “O, Canada” at the top of my lungs until my persecutors laughed and pulled me down, begging me to stop and congratulating me on my confidence.

At the same time, I was lucky enough to live in a cul-de-sac, where my neighbours on all sides were our city’s star hockey players. The VanRooyen boys on the left, the Bell boys on the right, and the Naylor brothers across the court. The older brother in each family played alongside the Great Gretzky’s little brother Keith on our city’s minor league hockey team, the last step before the NHL and the younger in each played in the level below, waiting for their turn to try out for the minors. They were celebrities in our city, whose heart was a hockey puck.

I was the “little sister” in the cul-de-sac of boys and this afforded me special treatment when I hit highschool. One certain senior took an instant dislike to me, upon hearing my first horrendous note of “O, Canada” and her hate-on grew to violent proportions when she discovered that little me was well accepted amongst the sea of juniors and seniors.

She taunted me for the first couple of weeks, but gradually her comments became nastier and her harassment became physical.

But I was one of the lucky ones. My self-esteem and self-respect was such that I recognized her taunting as a way of making up for something that she lacked. But, we’ll get to that in a minute.

I began to talk. I began to speak up. When she pushed me into a locker, I was extremely loud and vocal about how much it hurt. The attention of the entire hallway of students was drawn to the fact that she was attempting to trample my self-confidence. I was indignant, I reacted as if she had just made a fool of herself, I pointed out to the rest of the world that she was the “loser” for having lowered herself to such a degree, where she wasn’t worthy of anything above ridicule and had resorted to such in an attempt to make herself more popular.

Word got around, and eventually, the girlfriends of my “big brothers” caught wind of my situation. My bully’s reign of terror ended shortly thereafter.

Not everyone is so lucky.

Phoebe Prince, for one. Phoebe hung herself this past January after suffering severe abuse at the hands of her fellow students.

The events surrounding Phoebe’s death, and the consequent charges against her classmates, have inspired countless anti-bullying laws across the continent.

And here is where I go against the grain.

Let’s not focus on the bullies. Face it, every bully you’ve ever known thrived on the attention. Every bully feeds off of causing discomfort. They have no remorse, they have no empathy or compassion for those they torment. In their eyes, involving the “authorities” just reinforces their idea that you are unworthy of existence. Ratting just validates the bully’s reasoning, which is why victims generally hold their tongues in the first place.

So let’s focus on the victims.

My children have been bullied. Most recently due to South Park, and “Kick a Ginger Day”. On November 9th, 2009, bullies, en masse, took it upon themselves to “kick” (read: beat up) children with red hair. Two of those children were mine. What began as a quirky cartoon joke turned into an international bout of violence, which hit very, very close to home.

Again, I was lucky.

My children are strong souls, and although their methods may not be acceptable to some, they were able to get their own points across, loud and clear. My son Drew was swarmed during lunch hour that day. After receiving several boots from his attackers he turned on them, calling them pussies….they laughed. Until he declared, “That’s not how you kick a ginger. THIS is how you kick a ginger”, while roundhousing the biggest kid in the bunch. It got him thrown out of the eatery, and suspended from school for the afternoon, but nobody’s kicked him since.

Confidence. Never mind the anti-bullying laws, how about a pro-confidence campaign?

You see, the world needs bullies. Without bullies, we have no Bill Gates. Many of the world’s most powerful people were bullied as children. Bullying has inspired many of its victims to greatness. Greatness that the bullies would never have had the balls to achieve. Bullying stirs the sense of competition, the need to prove oneself, the desire to be better.
Can you look back on a time you were bullied and recognize what it inspired in you?
We don’t need laws to stop the bullies, we need laws to empower the victims.

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17 Comments

  1. Melanie said,

    July 3, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    I have been bullied throughout my life, mostly because i was an outside, and outcast, and now, as i transition, I can’t imagine what’s to come. Sorry for what you went through.

    • July 5, 2010 at 8:08 pm

      There’s two very important things going on for you….one, there was always a strength in you, even if it did take a while to grow. It took some serious, serious courage to take the steps you’ve taken, that strength had to come from somewhere. I think you’ve got more heart, more soul and more bravery then you give yourself credit for sometimes. And fortunately, you have that amazing wife of your’s. Those two things together will see you through all that is too come.
      And if not, I’ll happily come down there and kick some ass for you! 😉

    • Jessica Mullenite said,

      August 20, 2010 at 3:04 am

      Your son is hardcore. I hope my kids stand up for themselves too. I was bullied by a girl when I was younger, and then I found out she was living with a foster family. It made me look at things differently.

  2. Lisa said,

    July 4, 2010 at 12:54 am

    Great post!!! I think getting bullied inspired more empathy in me, plus gives me someething to write about every now and then.
    That was one of the best South Park episodes, but who would have thought it would incite violence?

    • July 5, 2010 at 8:02 pm

      I think being bullied inspired empathy in me too. It sort of teaches you the golden rule…you know, do on to others, as you would have done on to you. Makes you treat people a little better I think. It also provoked a fierceness, which sometimes is a downfall…but more on that another time.
      Ironically, Drew thought that episode was hilarious, but yeah, I don’t think he expected it to head in the direction that it did. I hope there isn’t a repeat this November.

  3. willowbatel said,

    July 4, 2010 at 3:26 am

    Omg your son’s AWSOME. I’m totally sorry to hear he was bullied and all, but he’s super cool. I couldn’t even IMAGINE someone doing that. Major kudos to him.
    It amazes me what things people will do. I mean who could even THINK of doing something like that? Its things like that that start wars and holocausts. It might as well have been “burn a jew day”. The same message would’ve been sent.
    I think bullying, to an extent, is beneficial to the victim. But when it becomes violent and to the point that suicide crosses the mind, THEN there’s a major problem. Not to mention that it shows just how messed up people are.
    I agree that there should be laws to empower victims, but there needs to be more laws around bullying if only to keep our civilization somewhat humane.

    Sorry it took me so long to comment. This is a wonderful post and I’m sorry I didn’t comment as soon as it came up.

    • July 5, 2010 at 7:57 pm

      Although I was impressed with what he did, not everyone thought it was awesome. He actually got in more trouble than the kids who swarmed him. He got shit for “retaliating”, which in our current educational system is worse than “initiating”. But, like I said, no one has kicked him since.
      I agree that there are benefits to being bullied, but it takes a strong mind and a tough soul to overcome it sometimes. I just wish there was more effort in teaching kids to use the problem to their advantage and less focus on the bullies. More often than not, the bully gets away with it, because the victim is too intimidated to tell. I think we need to teach these kids ways of dealing, so that they don’t HAVE to tell, so that they don’t have to rely on the system to fix the problem. I also agree that there has to be reprecussions for bullying, but life might be easier if the bullied kids could learn to handle things to a better degree. Like Phoebe, I really think the system failed her, because she didn’t have the tools, the ideas, the strength. Everyone knew what was going on and no one could stop it.

      P.S. I value your opinion, whenever I get it! 😀

      • willowbatel said,

        July 8, 2010 at 4:07 am

        Should you and I take on the education system of America and try to get them to start teaching kids how to deal with their problems instead of running to the nearest adult? I like Ender’s Game in that regard; they force the kids into really tough situations so they learn from their mistakes and become better people. They all end up trying to rule the world and start several wars just for fun, but they were smart enough not to get picked on. Haha.
        Your sons going to do just fine in the world. I find it really stupid that sticking up for yourself is frowned upon. It’s the same way at my school. Kids can be attack for no reason and be expelled because they tried to defend themselves. I hope you went and gave the principal a piece of your mind, because I know I’d be in there in a heartbeat to whoop some butt. Was your son suspended? I hope the parents of all of those children were informed of how their children were shaping up. That’s disgraceful.
        I feel like if an equal amount of pressure was put on the victims to learn to stand up for themselves, and the bullies to learn how to use their anger to better themselves, the world would be a lot better place.

        • July 14, 2010 at 11:00 am

          I don’t think any of the other kids involved got in much trouble at all. I did bring it to the attention of the school, but basically, policy is policy and he ended up suspended for the day. There was a police officer involved who apologized to Drew the next day for the way everyone reacted, but of course it wasn’t until I made everyone aware of the “kick a ginger” thing…and then that night, it was all over the news, even CNN and everyone got a chance to realize how out of hand it really was. I don’t think the suspension went on Drew’s permanent school record, which was all we were concerned about really.

          I have taken on the educational system sooooo many times over the course my career as a parent. But the biggest problem I’ve run into??? There are far too many parents who see the system as a daycare, and don’t want to get involved. And really, it’s the parents that make all the difference, so when you have a majority of parents who want to leave it up to the system then the system makes all the decisions.

          I think you’re right Willow, an equal amount of pressure should be put on the victims to learn to stand up for themselves, give them a fighting chance…a lot of effort goes into the bullies, when really it’s the victims who need all the time and energy.

          • willowbatel said,

            July 15, 2010 at 3:08 am

            At my school, if there’s even a hint of a fight, you’re suspended. So at least he got a good kick in. I feel like if I’m going to be suspended for something, I might as well do what it is I’m getting suspended for.
            The teachers at my school are really annoying in that they think it’s up to the students to handle everything. Which is stupid because the teachers always have more authority. So thank you for being an involved parent. There are a ton of parents that agree with the teachers and think their students should handle it all on their own. I’m fortunate to have a mom that will waltz into the principal’s office and throw the word lawsuit around to ensure things get done. Because whenever I ask, I’m brushed aside. Or I was, until my mom went in for the second time, and now I’m pretty much guaranteed whatever I want. Haha.

  4. Sarah Baram said,

    July 6, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    Your son should be proud of himself, that is a fantastic way to fight back. My younger brother went through a similar instance over a magazine. He was jumped in the bathroom, of course the school hardly handled the matter and it escalated. He was jumped again in a stair case and fought back. Of course, he got suspended also but nothing happened again after.
    There isn’t much schools can do to handle bullies. There are so many possible outlets for children to go after one another, especially with the creation of the internet. So many threats and sayings can be done off of school grounds, bringing forth the question, should the school take action when bullying takes place outside of the school’s walls?

    • July 6, 2010 at 10:18 pm

      Hi Sarah!
      Up here, the school board does take action against any type of bullying/fighting/confrontation etc that happens outside of school hours or school property. The students in our provincial board are expected to uphold the standards, regardless of the event (Have you ever heard of The Virtues Project? You can Wiki it here . Ontario is a HUGE advocate in the project [I have my own views which I’ll write about at another time] and all of the public schools participate in the program.) Even if the problem happens on the weekend, the students are still held accountable and can be suspended or whathave you….but, like you said, there are so many possible outlets that it’s virtually impossible for any help to have an impact. Victims really are at the mercy of the bullies. This to me, is very unbalanced.

      Like my son, and your brother, kids are often left to taking things into their own hands, and then THEY are punished for dealing with the problems, in terms of “last resort” because the authorities really can’t do much about it. And sometimes those “last resorts” have everlasting consequences. I’m quite proud of my son (and your brother also) for standing up for himself, but wouldn’t it be great if there were other options for them?

  5. Nic said,

    July 11, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Such a profound post!

    Pro-confidence. That’s definitely the sort of campaign needed!! The “just tell someone” answer to bullying is NOT enough. From personal experience, you need to stand up for yourself and your beliefs, otherwise you’ll never be independent and confidence to move on and enjoy the brilliant things in life. In a strange way, if it wasn’t for bullying I don’t think I would be as assertive as I am now. However, bullying can have terrible consequences, this must be addressed!

    by the way, well done to your son!! kicking someone for their hair color is very primitive!!

    • July 14, 2010 at 11:07 am

      Thank you, Nic, and thank you for stopping by!
      A lot of people who were bullied believe that it made them more assertive in the end. I’m sure the person I am today is a result of circumstances I went through growing up…it did teach me independence, being bullied. From my experience as a parent the “just tell someone” approach is about as dangerous as the “just ignore it and they’ll go away” approach. These things don’t work, they just set the victim up for more harrassement.

  6. July 11, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    I don’t really know how to solve the problem of bullying, but it’s pervasive. I think part of it is our historical habit of pretending that humans are somehow “not animals”, when genetic and psychological evidence proves that we ARE. Because we are animals, we need to create better ways to resolve territorial conflicts and manage behaviors stemming from dominance hierarchy instincts.

    As serious as most of the post is, I loved reading about you “changing the game” at your initiation. There’s a scene in “My Best Friend’s Wedding” where Cameron Diaz’s character is set up to look foolish by singing karaoke, but she’s so brave about singing terribly it makes everyone love her more.

    • July 14, 2010 at 11:28 am

      My rendition of O Canada was a huge eye-opener for me as a kid. That was the point that I learned how my own embarrassment could be my downfall, or my salvation, depending on how I played it.

      Mikey, you make a very strong point about the animal instincts…I actually see it every day in my chicken coop. There is a hierarchy there amongst the chickens, as odd as it sounds, and every now and then, one becomes a bully picking on and plucking the feathers of the other chickens. In the end, we physically separate the bully chicken for a period of time from the others. This causes a shift in the hierarchy and gives the victimized chickens a chance to re-establish themselves. When the bully is re-introduced, she’s lost her dominance and the flock is at peace.

      Perhaps the answer lies in finding a way to take the bully “down a notch” in a way that settles their territorial instincts, without establishing resentment.

  7. webmistress said,

    August 12, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    I think everybody has been bullied at one point or another, there is always somebody bigger and badder than the next. I was bullied in kindergarden made to give up my toys and lunch money till i decided i would’nt take it anymore. Getting up the guts to fight back is hard, but once you do you will be on the right path from them on out. Those situations makes up stronger as we grow and readies us for at a younger age for a bigger fight down the line…called life.


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