I posted yesterday about a blog post on Marie Claire magazine about the writers feelings about “fatties”. I have found myself unable to stop reading about the blog post, rereading the post itself and watching the comments as they climbed up to almost 1000 this morning. It is fairly timely because many people have called her a bully – and bullying has been on my plate to write about for while.
I have never considered myself a bullied person. However, I like most kids was bullied as a kid at times. I remember the first time someone hurt me by calling me fat. I wasn’t at the time. I was taller than most kids in my class, but I was not fat – not yet. That was 3rd grade. I can say honestly that she was jealous that I had been picked for a team before her and she lashed out at me. But when she saw it could hurt me, she did it again and again. Just to see me walk away from my friends. I was lucky – someone always came after me and he was my own personal hero for the 2 years I lived in that neighborhood. He – a year older and about 6 inches shorter – stood up for me when I could not.
I remember in 5th grade when an argument with my best friend led to her asking all of the girls in my class to refuse to sit with me at lunch. And just as I sat down by myself, the table of boys asked if I would like to sit with them. Again, rescued at the hands of a guy. And then the tide turned. From mean girls to adolescent boys. I remember my first big role on stage in high school and having someone yell out – “get off the stage fat girl”. I remember the kid who felt it was ok during baccalaureate to grab my fat from the sides and squeeze – during the ceremony when I could not react – and spend the next 20 minutes talking about it during the ceremony.
And I remember my time riding the commuter bus when a man sat in the seat behind me and commented to his seat partner – “At least I didn’t have to sit with THAT” pointing in my direction.
Yes, I know bullying.
The article yesterday was not in fact bullying. It was ill-informed, sad in it’s own reasoning and maddening that anyone would still think that weight is an easy matter to explain and solve. But I am not sure I see her article as bullying. Condescending – Yes! Offensive – Yes! Ridiculous in some of it’s assertions -Yes! But bullying – I am not so sure. Bullying is however what happened to the writer who put that drivel on the internet.
I don’t agree with her views. I found them offensive and completely irresponsible. But I believe she had the right to say them. I do not agree with the magazines stand to publish those thoughts – they were better left to her personal blog and not such a public forum and speaks very poorly of the magazine and their editing staff. But I also think that the angry commenters went too far in showing their rage on the article. Some wished she would gain 100 lbs to see what it was like. Some talked about how horrible a person she is to have these thoughts at all. Do they really think she is the only one? One commenter told her to think about what she had done while she was puking up her next meal (the author has battled anorexia and bulimia in the past). Too far. And bullying to be sure.
The writer made some unkind remarks about her personal feelings about a group of people. The commenters turned on her personally – not her ideas. And that is bullying.
A bully, as defined by Websters Dictionary, is someone who treats someone abusively. That is a pretty broad definition and what constitutes “abusive” is subjective in my opinion. A quick look at the Jackass movies will tell you that – what looks abusive to me may be funny to someone else. And that is what makes bullying so difficult. I truly believe that there are kids who are bullies that do not realize the effect they have on the ones they are bullying. I truly believe that there are adults who are not adept enough to read people’s reactions and have no idea how someone may take their words or actions. And I absolutely believe that the internet has made bullying more far-spread because you can do it and never see someone’s reaction. You don’t have to face what you are doing because the only thing staring at you is your own reflection in the computer screen.
I have read about lots of bullying cases lately in the news. You have too I would bet. Kids who chose suicide. Kids who have been jailed for acts against other kids. Schools either admitting or denying they have problems with bullies. And it is easy as adults to say that people grow out of their bullying tendencies. But – left unchecked that is not the case.
Look at the recent suicide of Kevin Morrissey. Kevin, 52, was the managing editor of Virginia Quarterly Review – a small literary magazine at UVA. According to his friends and family, Kevin was bullied by his boss at the magazine. While it appears that no formal complaint was filed against his boss, it appears that Kevin spoke often of his 3 year tenure at the magazine and the stresses of working under his boss. There is a record that Kevin reached out to HR and the EAP as well as the University President’s Office but no inquiries were made after his initial conversations. And so in late July, Kevin put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. An adult victim of bullying.
I am not trying to solve this issue. I am not even saying anything revolutionary. I am just saying….