Bullying: Not Just for Children

no-bullying-circleWhen I was in grade school, it was not uncommon for kids to duke it out on the playground, get into some minimal amount of trouble with the principal, and find everything returned to normal within a few days. In junior high school, I remember slapping a boy in the face who had grabbed me in a compromising place, and that was the end of that. Today, you’d both be hauled into the principal’s office, and both suffer some combination of write-ups, detentions, in-schools, etc.

I’m happy to see the trend is to crack down on violent altercations and bullying. Bullying especially has rightfully received national attention in its various forms, racial, sexual orientation, cyberbullying, and so on. I recently heard a middle school principal explain bullying as involving several individuals engaging in bullying over a long period of time. I’m willing to bet she might reconsider her definition to include one-on-one bullying. I applaud the quick and no-tolerance responses of which I’m aware in the middle school setting. However, children also need to learn to stand up for themselves, both girls and boys, because the principal won’t always be there to regulate injustice for you. This is considered one of the potentially positive side-effects of exposure to a bully. And for good reason–you will encounter bullies all your life. Adults make some of the meanest bullies, because the power they wield may come from an upper hand at a job you need to keep or in a relationship that is not so easy to step out of.

One of the most onerous forms of bullying is born out of jealously, but parades as the moral high ground. The first thing a bully does when you call them on it is run to the principal and accuse you of the very thing you have called them out on. I have been disappointed that the law harbors bullies. I understand that we all have the right to be a bully, but that doesn’t make the behavior ethical.

I stood up to the bully the other day. She hid in her battleship galactica SUV, looked furtively at me and away again (no, I do not have snakes in my hair), and I told her she was a bully in so many words and to stop acting as if she were in my or society’s good graces. She ran to her attorney and said I attacked her car. Anyone who has seen my diminutive stature would laugh. :)

The balance of power is shifting. The children are no longer the pawns. I no longer have to ignore the intimidation tactics. I can call out the bad behavior (and its source, envy) for what it is. Not only is this personally gratifying, but it is important to show children that you cannot allow a bully to mistreat you. If you do not show children that they have to stand up to a bully (and teach them there are many ways to do this; I’m not advocating violence), you run the risk they might  be bullied in relationships themselves or become bullies even.

Ironically, the term bully apparently comes from the 15th century old Dutch term boel, which meant “sweetheart”! Alas, the bully I know takes issue with my right to just that term of affection and calls me a paramour instead. 😉 A bully can also be a “fine chap,” “a hired ruffian,”and a “blustery browbeating person, especially one habitually cruel to others who are weaker” (all definitions courtesy of Miriam Webster online). “Bully” as an adjective can mean “excellent,” but it’s also pickled or canned corned beef. Wow.

The kind of bullying Americans have focused on of late is the use of force or coercion, either by groups or one-on-one, in the context of an imbalance of social or physical power, often involving techniques of intimidation motivated by envy or resentment, sometimes personality disorders and self-image issues.

As a witch who strives to do good (think Bibi Blocksberg or Pipi Longstocking), it feels good to call out the Witch of the West. She can fly to her lawyer all she wants. It’s time to flush out every last winged monkey.




  1. Jenn says:

    Brilliant. Like Pippi, your power to do good comes from being good; and, hidden within that diminutive stature is amazing strength. As extensions of the Wicked Witch, the flapping, flailing, jumpling, screaching, winged monkeys don’t stand a chance.


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