What Stace had to say on Monday, April 19th, 2010
The Cool Kids

I’d planned to post about something else today (Amber Publishing, who are publishing the Downside books in Poland, have posted the cover and blurb on their site, in Polish [of course], which is totally cool), but that, along with the online translation of it, will have to wait. Because I’ve had this post in mind for like a month now, and I want to get it out there. Settle in, guys, this is a long one.

You may have heard of Young Adult Authors Against Bullying, a Facebook group made up of–as the name implies–YA authors who disapprove of bullying. I’m not technically a YA author but I’ve joined, as have a lot of others. And a few weeks ago many writers posted their bullying stories on their blogs. I didn’t; not because I don’t have bullying stories or wasn’t bullied as a child/preteen/teen (believe me, I was, horribly) but because I didn’t learn about it until it was already in progress and I already had this post sort of planned, as I said above.

A lot of this is in reaction to the death of Phoebe Prince, a high-school girl driven to suicide by a gang of less-than-human teenage shitweeds who decided she deserved to be mocked, bullied, teased, insulted, and otherwise abused because she *gasp* dated a guy who used to date one of the aforementioned shitweeds (and the guy later joined in, which just makes me lose hope in the future of humanity, but then, this whole story does).

It reminds me a bit of the Megan Meier case, in which a girl was cyber-bullied not just by kids her own age, but by the mother of one of her acquaintances. A grown fucking woman, who thought it was a good idea to harass and play tricks on a young girl online.

And that’s sort of what I want to discuss. Adult bullying, and the society of mean.

One of the most troubling–of many extremely troubling–aspects of the Phoebe Prince case was the fact that school administrators and teachers knew what was happening, and did nothing. They watched this girl being harassed, and did nothing. Prince’s mother spoke to the school on at least two occasions, and still…nothing.

I’d like someone to explain to me how we live in a world where school administrators seem to think it’s their job to police what sort of food and drink I give my children (even at home), send home letters telling parents their kids are obese, tell me I can’t send my daughter to school with pale pink nail polish on her nails, oversee the moral and/or religious education of my children (whether pro or con), expose my children to the internet over my objections and insist they use it to do their homework, turn my children into salespeople, or encourage my children to lecture me if I have a glass of wine with dinner or a cigarette after, and yet they do not think it’s their job to protect the children in their care and foster a safe learning environment for them.

It infuriates me, but it doesn’t surprise me. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn the teachers joined in, frankly; some of them certainly did with me, when I was in school. I lost count, for example, of the number of times my eighth-grade Social Studies teacher smirked while the other kids in my class picked on me, then gave me demerits the second I opened my mouth to defend myself. Or the drama teacher in seventh grade who decided I was whiny, and encouraged the other kids to make whining noises every time I tried to speak. Just because someone is a teacher and/or an adult doesn’t mean they’re mature and decent; I remember quite a few teachers with malicious smiles in their eyes as they watched me or someone else get picked on, teased, put down. I remember quite a few of them who tolerated or even fostered such behavior in their classes. I remember them playing favorites.

You see, they apparently still wanted to be one of the Cool Kids.

They still wanted to be popular; they still wanted to be liked by that little gang of socs (that’s what we called them) with the money and the fashionable clothes and the perfect hair. And if a few kids got left behind, got their feelings hurt, got destroyed by it? If the only reason some of us didn’t commit suicide ourselves was because we had a cat to take care of? Not their problem, man. Hey, it’s not their job to make people like each other. (NOTE: I want to make it clear that I am talking about a few teachers, the proverbial bad apples who spoil the bunch. I in no way think or intend to imply that all teachers feel or behave this way, okay?)

But it’s not just in schools, you see, that this atmosphere of bullying–this attitude which I feel is a desperate attempt to prove that you are indeed one of the Cool Kids–is present. Not just in the workplace, either, though it certainly can exist there. Hell, we’ve seen it in publishing–particularly epublishing–with authors being intimidated and abused by editors or publishers. We’ve seen it outside of epublishing–though nowhere near as often–with writers being bullied by agents or editors or publishers. In fact, I can think offhand of at least one “industry” blog which seems (to me at least) to exist solely so the owners/bloggers can feel like Cool Kids and make fun of others, using the most inflammatory language possible.

We all remember when Corey Haim died last month. It was a terrible shame, and it was awful to see a man just a few years older than me who’d had so much and lost it all. The night he died Corey Feldman went on Larry King, and the hubs and I watched it. And–it pains me to admit this–I really admired what he said, and agreed with it (yes, I know. A world where I admire and agree with Corey Feldman? Shocking).

What he said, basically, was that Haim had problems, yes. Serious problems. But those problems were exacerbated by a society which seems to think it’s okay to pick on people, to kick them when they’re down. That failure isn’t bad enough; that failure must be made into a joke, and constantly shoved into the face of the one who failed. A society, in fact, which doesn’t just think this is okay, but that’s it’s fun. It’s a good, acceptable thing to do; it shows you’re one of the Cool Kids, if you can think of the snarkiest, wittiest insult for someone who, as Feldman said, “never deliberately hurt another human being in his life.”

Haim’s crime was to grow older, and not be a cute teenager anymore. Sure, he probably became arrogant and difficult. And maybe if he was, people were justified in turning their backs and not wanting to hire him. Hell, we all know what kind of business the film industry is; if you’re not hot anymore, you’re out. And you know, that’s the way it works and that’s okay. But to turn someone into a punchline because they’re no longer hot? To spend long, happy hours making fun of them, insulting them, laughing at them, because they no longer have a career? That’s not okay. Do you call up your relative who was made redundant at his job and laugh about how he’s a failure, how he can’t support his family, how he’s never going to find another job and he should just give up? No? Why not? It was okay to call Corey Haim a loser online, where he might see it (and in fact did on at least one occasion). Why wouldn’t you call other people losers to their faces?

Corey Haim was a human being. Phoebe Prince and Megan Meier were human beings. Just as we are all human beings, even though some of us don’t act that way.

A discussion has been going on in the PublishAmerica forums at Absolute Write recently where a PA author is claiming, basically, that PA only acts the way it does because some disgruntled writers are meanies and blah blah blah. He was, essentially, accusing those who contribute to those threads of being cruel to PA. This is of course not true; PA is a vanity press with terrible customer service which misleads writers and at times outright lies to them, and that information should be spread. But it did get me thinking about what the difference is between making fun/snarking on and providing a service/warning others. The line is definitely there. I believe the PA forums at AW provide a valuable service to writers. I believe all the threads in the Bewares & Background Checks forum provide a valuable service to writers, as does Writer Beware and many of the reader blogs which will pass on information about publishers treating their authors badly or whatever. That’s not snark and it’s not making fun. It’s exposing a wrong, and it’s the right thing to do, I believe.

So I suppose there is a point where you can say, “So-and-so brought this on themselves.” Certainly when I see writers who go off on readers who left them less-than-stellar reviews, I find myself thinking said writers are kind of fair game; they started it. But even then I find there’s a point after which I think it should stop. It infuriates me when writers behave that way, yes, for a number of reasons. But does one mistake really mean someone deserves to have their career ruined? Does one mistake mean it’s okay for people to pile on in droves and start making fun? I’m not talking about condemning the behavior; I’m talking about personal comments. I’m talking about name-calling and insults. Yes, we all get carried away sometimes, myself included. I’m not perfect. But I regret having been carried away like that, and I resolve not to do it again, whereas I know there are people out there who do not feel such regret, who don’t think about what effect their cruelties and jokes may have had on another person, and just move on, often patting themselves on the back for a job well done.

Bullying is bullying, whether the victim is a celebrity or someone whose name you don’t know and never will.

I’m not the most sensitive person in the world, I’m really not (as many of you probably know). The hubs jokes that I would make a great government assassin. And I think he’s right, actually. Lots of things, feeling-and-emotion-type things seem to go right over my head. But I do know that it hurts when people make fun of you, when they have a feeding frenzy over your cheap clothes or your hairdo or height or weight or glasses or flat chest or big stomach or hobbies or that you said something dumb. I can imagine it feels the same when they’re doing it because you were once successful and aren’t anymore, or had a drug problem, or whatever.

Yes, sometimes people’s behavior should be pointed out as wrong. Yes, sometimes people who bully and intimidate others need to have their actions exposed. And sometimes those people get a taste of their own medicine when they are exposed.

But there’s a difference between pointing out that bullying or intimidation in order to help others, and making the perpetrator an object of ridicule, and encouraging others to make fun of them. The former is, even if there are unintended consequences, a positive act, an attempt to make a positive difference in the lives of others. The latter is an attempt to show everyone, once again, that you’re one of the Cool Kids. It’s a power play; it’s the equivalent of calling all your friends to jump the guy who bumped into you on the street, just because he didn’t apologize (not that it’s okay not to apologize, of course). There’s no public service being done, no aid being given to those who might have become victims. The object is to intimidate, to hurt, to show someone you’re better than they are.

I’m tired of it. I’m tired of seeing it. I’m tired of dealing with it. I’m weary of all the anger I see online these days, everyone furious about something, everyone ready to place blame and point fingers and act like everything is a personal affront. I’m tired of seeing insults and bullying and intimidation. I’m tired of people being treated like objects, tired of their feelings being treated as if they don’t matter, tired of hurting others being seen as sport.

When did we all become so fucking important, so fucking special, that we no longer need to take other peoples’ feelings into account? When did we all become so perfect that nobody else is allowed to make a mistake? When did hurting people cease being something we were ashamed of and started being simply an afternoon’s entertainment?

I’m very opinionated here, I know. And I hope I’m often funny here, and that we have fun. I know I joke about people and things. But I also know that I try not to make it personal (well, yeah, I’ve said some pretty icky things about Madonna and Princess Diana in the past, and yeah, I can think of one person who I’ve always been civil to but who makes it extremely difficult for me to be so, and I have no qualms about being mean to that person because that person is mean to everyone else and it literally makes me see red). But in general I try not to step over the line between joking and cruelty, I try not to be mean. I don’t see the fun in hurting people; I’ve been on the receiving end of those kinds of jokes my whole life, and they generally don’t make me laugh. And yes, the barrier is a little lower when it comes to people who have put themselves in the public eye. They have invited us to have an opinion on them–demanded we have an opinion on them, demanded our attention.

But the barrier still exists, I think, at least publicly. I believe it should exist for all of us. Hurting people isn’t a game. At the risk of sounding like a “One to Grow On” spot, hurting people doesn’t make you one of the Cool Kids. And quite frankly, if it does? I’m glad I’m not a Cool Kid. Because that’s not the person I want to be.

What kind of person do you want to be? Where do you draw the line? Are you seeing this “new mean” online and elsewhere as well? Please feel free to share any stories of your own in comments (anonymously if you like), too, especially if they relate to adult bullying or adults who bully, or of course the publishing world.

And…if this post made you think, please pass the link on. Please write your own post on the subject and leave the link in the comments. I know I’m coming to this late, but the YA Writers Against Bullying had the right idea, a great idea; let’s make this part of our dialogue, let’s reach out our hands and hope someone who needs it will see it, and grab on, and find a place where they’re accepted.

30 comments to “The Cool Kids”

  1. Jess
    · April 19th, 2010 at 11:36 am · Link

    “a society which seems to think it’s okay to pick on people, to kick them when they’re down. That failure isn’t bad enough; that failure must be made into a joke, and constantly shoved into the face of the one who failed. A society, in fact, which doesn’t just think this is okay, but that’s it’s fun. It’s a good, acceptable thing to do; it shows you’re one of the Cool Kids, if you can think of the snarkiest, wittiest insult for someone who, as Feldman said, “never deliberately hurt another human being in his life.””

    But there’s more to it than that. It’s not to show you’re a cool kid: it’s to pray that it will make you one. Because if you aren’t, then you could be the one failing. It’s a fear mechanism. It could happen to them, so if they’re the one laughing, they aren’t being laughed at. It almost has nothing to do with the person being ridiculed, and everything to do with the person ridiculing and their own insecurities.

    • Stace
      · April 20th, 2010 at 2:13 pm · Link

      That’s very true, yes. It’s trying to BE a Cool Kid, to act like you are one in desperate hope that you’ll be let into the club. Sad, isn’t it, that there are people who actually look up to people who behave that way? And who feel the need to armor themselves not with silence, but with insults?


  2. KMont
    · April 19th, 2010 at 11:37 am · Link

    This is an intensely true post. And I’m terrified of my five year old starting school this Fall. I’m so scared she will one day be bullied at school and no tell us. Or heaven forbid we do know and no one at the school in a supreme position of authority does anything about it. I think my rage wouldn’t be able to be contained. know, if at all possible, I would place my kid in another school where I’d be assured by my own eyes that they were getting more of a fair shot at being able to concentrate on school instead of the shark pit mentality in so many of them.

    As for parents joining in on the bullying, or other influential adults, I know of a young girl, the sweet thing that was the flower girl in my wedding actually, who was in this very position. I couldn’t believe it when I heard parents were bullying too! I don’t think anything was ever done about them either, not by the school.

    The cruelty you point out is sickening, but it IS easy to slip into without realizing. I’m pretty sure I’ve probably done it before, not thinking how something I perceive as trivial might make the target feel. You’re absolutely right. Never hurts to be reminded of the potential consequences of our actions so that we can hopefully avoid them in the future or make amends.

    There’s a lot to chew on here, great post.

    • Stace
      · April 20th, 2010 at 2:22 pm · Link

      It is easy to slip into it, to join the gang. Scarily easy, I think. I try hard not to but like I said I know I’ve been guilty of it in the past.

      And I hear you on being scared for the kids. My Princess (she’s eight), because of her learning issues, is kind of awkward and doesn’t always understand what the other kids are doing/saying, and I know some of the kids in her class are mean to her because of it. We’ve discussed it with her teacher and tried to give her advice, and it seems to have helped some, but…

      I was in her classroom not long ago and heard this one boy make a joke about her, a not very nice joke. I looked right at him and he knew I’d heard (this boy is the ringleader). I told the teacher, meaning just to mention it so she was aware, but she got upset and talked to him and made him come apologize to me. I didn’t accept his apology. When he said he was sorry I replied, “You should be. Does it make you feel good, to make fun of others?” He was a bit taken aback by that, and I don’t suppose it made him think, but I had a point to make. I didn’t want him thinking he could just get out of it by saying sorry, and I wanted him to know that Princess had a mom who wasn’t going to take any shit, who wasn’t very forgiving or nice and he should maybe consider that before he hurts my child again.

      And if I hear of it happening again I’ll call his parents. Hell, I’ll call the principal, I’ll call the police. I’m not afraid of confrontation, not when it comes to protecting my child. And yeah, if I have to I’ll switch schools. My number one job is to keep my children safe and raise them to be good, responsible adults, and I don’t take that lightly, and I don’t buy the typical parental “Ignore them and they’ll stop” crap because I know from experience that’s not the case at all.

      Sigh. Here’s hoping both of our five-year-olds have a good start next year, and that things get better for the older kids as well.

  3. janicu
    · April 19th, 2010 at 11:58 am · Link

    All these bullying posts make me sincerely hope that I’ve minimized the amount of harm I may have caused other people in my life. I didn’t have much bullying in my childhood. The kind from one or two people, and it shocked me at the time, but I understood what their problem was so I just ignored them; but I think if it was coming from a group of people, and if it came from teachers, and if I didn’t have the support system that made me self-confident to be myself, I wouldn’t be so blasé about it.

    I also agree with what Jess said above. God, I’m SO GLAD I’m not in HS anymore.

    • Stace
      · April 20th, 2010 at 2:26 pm · Link

      I know! I can’t imagine what kids these days have to face.

      And I’m sure you’ve done a great job helping others. Honestly, I think just the fact that we worry about it says something, at least I hope it does.

  4. Josin
    · April 19th, 2010 at 12:23 pm · Link

    Bullying exists because either someone lacks the power to strike at the one who’s hurting them at home and therefore strikes out at someone weaker, or because someone refuses to get into the box someone else decides they should live in and they try and force them into it.

    Kids who are conditioned to believe that they’re the top of the ladder can’t process someone “below” them who performs better or refuses to accept their position as somehow less. They try and make them less and make them accept that position by highlighting flaws – real or not -so that the object of their consternation will only see themselves as those flaws.

    I’ve seen teachers single out the kid getting picked on and put THEM in the disciplinary class because there are so many kids participating in the abuse (yes, it’s abuse) that it’s easier to remove “the cause” of the problem. (yes, they called this child the cause rather than the focus. How’s that for reassigning blame?) I’ve also seen school principals and administrators RUN for their offices to lock the door when parents come to school to discuss problems with their children. They don’t want to deal with it.

    I think part of it is that term “picked on”. It sounds so trivial, like it’s just a bunch of kids being kids, but it can be serious and violent. People don’t think about it in those terms.

    It’s policy in most schools to not let kids defend themselves. As the principal here pointed out :One student hitting another is an attack, once the other student hits back it’s a fight. We don’t allow fighting. And, yes, he was dead serious.

    It’s also policy in most schools to look the other way when those who donate the most do something wrong. That “courtesy” is usually extended to their friends and people who threaten the district with lawsuits.

    Zero Tolerance has made schools lazy. They can shrug off anything without bothering to check into the circumstances. What they don’t seem to understand is that even if they got rid of all the kids the “cool kids” didn’t like, they’d still have the same problem because the ones left would eat each other alive.

    • Stace
      · April 20th, 2010 at 2:34 pm · Link

      Yes!! I’ve seen the one being abused or bullied get punished so many times; it happened to me, as well. In my case I don’t think it was necessarily a “Let’s remove her from the situation” though; certainly with some of my teachers it was genuinely that they wanted to join in, the kids doing the bullying were their special pals. (I agree with you that “picked on” sounds mild; I hadn’t thought of “abuse,” I was just trying to find a term for different levels of bullying. Not that I think you were criticizing or anything, I don’t. Anyway.)

      And yes, Zero Tolerance is a joke and has made schools lazy. Like I said, I know there are a lot of good teachers out there and a lot of administrators who really care. And I know they have difficult jobs, the ones who care, when so many parents abdicate any responsibility for teaching or socializing their children. But I think there are also quite a few who don’t care, who can’t be bothered, who suck up to wealthy/powerful parents and let the others twist in the wind. And that makes me ill.

  5. Lisa Spangenberg
    · April 19th, 2010 at 12:26 pm · Link

    There’s a “grown-up” version of bullying, that’s increasingly common at the workplace, and online. Read about “mobbing”:


    Also: the workplace version of mobbing:


  6. Jess
    · April 19th, 2010 at 1:20 pm · Link

    Definitely agree with Josin. It’s too easy for people to say, “That’s how it is.” That may be true, but it doesn’t HAVE to be! And it’s cyclical: being the person to say, no this is wrong, brings people down on you, because change is equally scary, and then they have to look in a mirror, too, heaven forfend.

    Also, one thing Stacia talked about really snagged at me, so I wrote my own post: http://www.jessicatudor.com/?p=1833 “Where Do You Draw the Line?”

  7. Moonsanity (Brenda H.)
    · April 19th, 2010 at 3:02 pm · Link

    Wow, Stacia. You said things better than I could ever have because I get so emotional and angry on the subject it’s hard for me to write clearly on it. Thank you.

    I do have one thing to add as a mom of teens. I worried about this too, and I can give a little advice on kids. Talk to your kids from the time they are tiny, watch them on the playground when you take them to parks or in museums. Ask them about things they do, or what they see other kids do. If you see someone acting badly, then explain WHY it’s wrong. Listen to your kids and always ask them how their day went at school and mean it. Listen carefully. One of my biggest “proud mom” moments was when my son told me that two “jocks” were corning one of his friends in the hallway, picking on him, and he went up to both of them and told them to lay off, and grabbed him away. There have been other moments like this through the years. I tried SO hard to teach my kids that NO ONE should be picked on.

    I can’t say enough how much bullies and unfair treatment of any kind pisses me off. All kids deserve to feel safe and loved. That they aren’t is beyond horrible.

  8. Amanda
    · April 19th, 2010 at 3:37 pm · Link

    I was bullied/harrassed in jr high and high school and the effects still linger on some things. It is NOT something that should be tolerated, by ANYONE. And it angers me beyond anything that parents and teachers, and other students, allow this to happen and turn a blind eye to it.

    It’s not just kids being kids after a point, and the effects can linger long after graduation.

  9. synde
    · April 19th, 2010 at 5:26 pm · Link

    WOW great post…We should talk more about adult bullying..
    I am still bullied by customers who think because they shop in the store they can call sales associates names and treat them like shit..It’s just an adult form of being the cool rich kids and it’s rude. Adults need to be called out too..andas for malcious teacher…wow..I had a bunch..(being jewish and from a poor family…they had a field day..when does it stop?

  10. Moonsanity (Brenda H.)
    · April 19th, 2010 at 5:49 pm · Link

    I talked with my son about this when he came home from school today. It’s been on my mind since I read Stacia’s post this morning. I was so lucky not to get bullied and the only reason I didn’t was because both places I lived as a kid I got lucky and the girls I made friends with protected me. I’m small, and was very shy. Once a girl told me she was going to beat me up because I liked her x-boyfriend and my friends wouldn’t let me be alone so she couldn’t.

    synde: people are idiots. I’ve never understood why people act like they are better than retailer workers, waitresses, etc. Who are any of us to treat another person like they are of less worth than we are?

    • suzie
      · April 19th, 2010 at 8:13 pm · Link

      This is a fantastic post. I was partly horrified yet partly unsurprised at the bit about teachers.

      As a former high school English teacher, I witnessed teachers who would bend the rules for kids who were considered “cool” and who seemed to be more focused on reliving their own high school popularity/glory days than in actual teaching. I never saw teachers actually bully a student or allow it to happen, but I can picture it. And the grade inflation and double standards were enough to make me sick and drive me to a career change.

      My favorite part of this post though, is when you mention “I’m weary of all the anger I see online these days.” I’m tired and weary of it as well. Why are we as a society so angry about so many little things? When did it become more socially acceptable to complain and rant and put the successes of others down than to celebrate all of the intensely wonderful things we should be thankful for?

  11. J.L. Anderson
    · April 19th, 2010 at 9:25 pm · Link

    I had a few of those “bully teachers”. In 6th grade my mom actually removed me from one class. In 8th grade I had a math teacher that didn’t like me say that I was “at risk” and would amount to nothing (boy was that woman pissed when she found out that I went to college two years later and became a pro comic artist some years after). I still to this day don’t understand why she was that way towards me. I never did anything bad other than draw pics on my math notes. By 10th grade I ended up not caring and was just apathetic. Bullies got bored and teachers either loved or hated me.

    I see bullying in the art community, even among professionals. Snark seems to be the cool thing to do. I’ve had to deal with bullying editors as well, and I’m talking just RUDE comments about my gender, how I shouldn’t like something because it isn’t cool to them, or the fact that my friend dyed her hair. Just extremely unprofessional things that had nothing to do with work.

  12. Cate
    · April 19th, 2010 at 9:38 pm · Link

    I’ll give some thought to doing a post on this and link back to you, but I was somewhat thinking while I watched all the coverage on that girl… ugh.

    One of my sisters was bullied in school, and all it took was for my parents to see her broken eyeglasses and bruises to figure out something happened to her, even if she refused to tell them at first. This was a few years back, but even then the school had no interest in amending the situation or getting the bullies (NINE YEAR OLDS) to stop going around and randomly beating up girls. They wanted to brush it off and wound up turning the whole thing around and blaming my sister for not being assertive enough to tell them to back off. Or something. That was all it took for my parents to yank my sister out of that particular school system, and they’ve always been resentful of our tax dollars going to pay those belligerant teachers’ salaries (different rant altogether) while they paid out of pocket for my sister’s private school education.

    About regular bullying with adults online … I’m not sure. I see some rather nasty opinions coming from some people. Or some people really come across as bitter and #itchy. But because they are online and generally ‘outsiders’ it is very easy to ignore them. Is that bullying if you exclude people like that?

    Then there is the ‘perceived victimhood’ effect, if people feel like they are being deliberately ignored and complain about it all the time. The whining and complaints unfortunately do rub people the wrong way so people really do start to ignore them.

    I guess what I’m saying is that people might feel bullied on online forums and websites, but it kinda makes light of the real problem.

    A person can always stop hanging out at X forum or Y forum, especially if they’ve successfully kept their current online life seperate from their ‘real’ life.

    It’s different when you are forced to encounter the same horrible people every single day in real life – as that girl was. Same thing when you hear about kids using social networking to ruin the reputation and lives of their classmates. The bullying becomes something you can’t escape or avoid, and that’s when you have kids totally flipping out and either striking out at their ‘attackers’ or giving up on life.

  13. Lee Taylor
    · April 20th, 2010 at 12:52 am · Link

    I was bullied until my teens it happened really bad when i was seven, you see i am half Canadian (native american) and half British, when i was seven i moved to canada for a year, I had such great dreams even back then of what a brilliant place Canada would be.

    I was kind of relieved, as in Britain i was mocked and ridiculed for being different and so the other kids would make the whooping noises from the spaghetti westerns. and i would get in fights and arguments all the time.
    And when i finally got to canada i thought i would be accepted as a part English native American, i was mistaken. i was put in a class, where i was singled out as the new kid to the class. Being British to boot meant that nearly everyday i was given a bloody nose, i would always eat by myself for lunch. My mom said that i should tell the teacher, i didn’t want to, so she came in with me to discuss the situation, the teacher said that my class mates were just excited, as they have not had anyone from outside of Canada in their class before. And that is would all blow over soon, she had warned them to start behaving. Accepting this my mom thought she could rest easy, and she left. i sat in my seat at my desk ready for everything to change it didn’t. i remember one occasion i asked to go to the toilet, and everyone laughed, some calling out abuse like i wasn’t there, “Can you hear that moron?” , “he sounds so stupid!”
    i was embarrassed and humiliated, i didn’t want attention i just wanted to be accepted. i decided the smart thing to do was maybe change the name, in an attempt to avoid ridicule, so i asked to go to the bathroom, they all still laughed and the teacher chuckled and just looked at me with a smirk. ‘okay what about washroom, can i go to the washroom please?’ i was getting more frustrated by the day, my mom concerned kept inquiring, the teacher always said its just a phase, and that it wasn’t that bad i was just looking for attention. i felt hurt, i thought the teacher was my friend. when i went back to school the following day a new kid had started, and already they were taking the piss out of him, i felt relieved and sick at the same time, i tried to get to know him. telling him not to worry about them, they would get bored and stop, we started to get attacked more physically now, i remember it was his third day there, the teacher was telling us to flick through our Tucan covered maths book. and he put his hand up to ask a question and one of the kids threw an eraser at him, the teacher didn’t say a thing, i felt anger building up in side of me. now i couldn’t describe what i was feeling everyday of that elementary school. but now on reflection it was just like Chinese water torture, the small comments made each and every day several times, may not of hurt at first but over time over months i felt turmoil, my friend left the following day, his mom gave me a thank you note for being his friend and invited me over to play mega drive too. the next day i was hurt even more, not only was i still being bullied but my best friend had left because he couldn’t take being bullied any longer, i started to ask the teacher, why is she letting this happen. i was echoed and then had a pencil sharpener thrown at me, and i lost it, i tried to be reasonable, as much as a 7 year old could, and after months it all came to an end of me taking the abuse quietly i picked up my snow boots in a tantrum and threw one at my teacher, ‘why won’t you help me!?’ and another towards one of the perps, i then stormed out side and started to walk home bare foot in the snow, i stopped after i got out of my school gates and sat on a bench, shuddering and crying. i didn’t take the abuse any longer, i couldn’t.
    i don’t really know what the point of saying this was, other than me venting but yeah kids can be cruel, teachers can have favoritism and parents can be closed minded this was all when i was 7 i’m still only young i am now 22. and i take great pride in who i am and where i come from, i see life like this ;
    Life is hard, It can be turbulent and unfair in non understandable ways, but if you picture your self as rock traveling down stream then with every knock and blow along the way, it may leave you hurt and scarred but have faith and know that it is making you, ultimately a polished marvel. never give up, and don’t take un needed shit, but don’t become a bully in the process.

  14. JDG
    · April 20th, 2010 at 5:26 am · Link

    Oddly, I suppose, I am grateful for the bullying I got as a kid. It formed me, and I value the perspective and insights it’s afforded. Having said that, it was an act of kindness from someone, a young man I admired who was everything I wasn’t. Handsome, athletic, confident, popular, Scotty reached out and befriended me.

    Without that kindness, I’m not sure I’d have had the strength to turn the bullying into something truly wonderful. Life is hard, and people have always been cruel to others they perceive as different or weaker. I’m not advocating bullying, but I don’t think it can be stopped.

    What can, and must be done is to reach out to those who are being hurt and helping them find their strength. To show kindness. Not everyone can be handsome or athletic, not everyone can sing or dance, or tell a joke have a quick wit, but everyone can be kind.

    I wouldn’t trade the bullying I got as a kid for anything. I value it because it has given me so much more than it took. Teach people how to find that strength, and turn the bad into something good.

  15. Muckraker
    · April 20th, 2010 at 9:53 am · Link

    The culture of the United States is ripe for bully creation and propagation.

    Some of our favorite television shows are like thinly veiled recruitment videos for bullies. Take American Idol for example. The first few weeks we see the entire viewing audience banding together to make fun of and trash the untalented freaks and the mentally unstable at the same time we are getting little previews of the pre-selected and talented cool kids that we will grow to love in the coming weeks.

    This “weed out the losers” format is so successful we see it used in a wide variety of programming.

    Then we have the “cool kid makeover” format where someone that is more qualified to be you informs you of how poorly you dress, horrible your manners are, or how you failed at the prevention of ugly.

    And tied in with both of those formats we often have the “showcase the freaks and the fallen” format. Are shows like Celebrity Rehab, Celebrity Fit Club, Jerry Springer, or Judge Judy really there to enrich our lives? I think not.

    Add some catalysts to the mix – anonymity and constant, instant communication – and we have the vitriolic mix that is American Culture. Did you ever look around while sitting at a stoplight and wonder who all the folks on cell phones are talking to and what they are talking about? Ever sit at the mall and wonder what the all the Tazmanian-Devil flurries of thumbs are texting about?

    They’re talking about you and your unruly cowlick. And you can rest assured that an iPhone snapshot and Youtube video of you and your stupid hair will be on some website and a mob of the virtual anonymous will shred you from existence like a school of pirhana taking a cow carcass to bone.

  16. Kate Pearce
    · April 20th, 2010 at 10:30 am · Link

    I got bullied terribly at school when I was about 12, and I didn’t ‘do’ anything to provoke it-that was the hardest part to accept and the most bewildering. It took me years to get over it and reach out to people again -I think everyone needs to take a stand against bullying and work together, not blame one set of individuals.

    • SLY
      · April 21st, 2010 at 5:36 pm · Link

      Great post. I think adult bullying is often overlooked but leaves such an effect that more attention should be paid to the subject. Working with teen girls I see first hand the need to give them tools and outlets that enable them to deal with the reality that they live in a world that can be quite cruel.

      Finding ways to build their self-esteem and giving them an outlet (like creative writing) is a start. Truly changing the way people interact means starting with ourselves and letting that energy affect others in positive ways.


  17. Betsy Dornbusch
    · April 23rd, 2010 at 8:21 am · Link

    In a way I’ve been glad I was bullied, because without it I wouldn’t have stood up to Lisa who tormented me in 7th grade (one “I’m over it” comment, and she never glanced my way again) or had the guts to quit on asshole bosses or pushed back so many times against people who needed a solid shove.

    And I too loathe reality TV. I’ve long called it Syndicated Bullying. I’ve never wasted a single moment on “American Idol” or “Survivor” or any of that trash. All it does is glorify shitty behavior, as far as I’m concerned.

    I believe I know the blog you mentioned and I think it’s a damn shame, made worse because there’s some value there too sometimes but it’s ruined by poor attitude. And yeah, I see some of that attitude firsthand. Now that I sell some erotica, I’m seeing a teensy bit of bullying from some “real writers.” (Most though have been absurdly supportive, so I must run in great circles.) Having run up against derision before, I know instinctively when to push back and when to ignore it. Lisa, the bitch from 7th grade, gave me that. So thanks, Lisa, where ever you are…

    Good post.

    • Chris Eldin
      · April 24th, 2010 at 1:23 pm · Link

      I’m over from Bernita’s… Unfortunately I’m on my way out, but I agree with everything you say here. We do have to be accountable for each other’s feelings. Have you read the book “Nineteen Minutes?” It’s a hard read, but it explores the very gray area of when a victim turns into a victimizer.

      On a different note, I think bullies hone their skills as they get better at it, and it’s harder to be caught –they do this behavior when no teachers are around, or they make themselves invisible by being part of a larger group of bullies so no one person can be blamed.

      Good post.

    • Chris Eldin
      · April 24th, 2010 at 1:23 pm · Link

      I’m over from Bernita’s… Unfortunately I’m on my way out, but I agree with everything you say here. We do have to be accountable for each other’s feelings. Have you read the book “Nineteen Minutes?” It’s a hard read, but it explores the very gray area of when a victim turns into a victimizer.

      On a different note, I think bullies hone their skills as they get better at it, and it’s harder to be caught –they do this behavior when no teachers are around, or they make themselves invisible by being part of a larger group of bullies so no one person can be blamed.

      Good post.

  18. VSEPR
    · July 3rd, 2010 at 3:12 pm · Link

    After 25+ years as a Computer Systems Engineer, I went back to college, got a degree in Chemistry, and taught this subject (as well as Physics, Geology, and Biology) until my recent retirement in a diverse high school setting (about 40% White, 50% Hispanic, and 10% Black or Asian) in a distinctly blue coller suburb of Chicago. Here are some of my observations which may have a bearing on the Phoebe Prince tragedy and its aftermath.

    Being the low man on the totem pole and a distinctly nonconfrotational individual by personality, my classes were occasionally the dumping site for students that other teachers for one reason or another didn’t want to have to deal with. Not all of these transferred students were disciplinary problems by any means. My last year, I received in a trade a frail fifteen year old young lady who turned out to be the most awesome individual which I haver ever had the privilage to teach. She was very intelligent, artistically, talented, had an incredible work ethic, and an affable, engaging personality. She also was bald; frequently left the class mid-session to visit the nurse, guidence counselor, or the social worker; was frequently absent for a week or more, was sometimes visibly in pain, and was allowed to snack or rest during class at her discretion. You see she had been diagnosed with aBLL (Acute Bilineal Leukemia) an extremely rare and very aggressive form of Leukemia with but a 15% long term survival rate. This girl had the capacity to touch one’s soul and when working with her, one had to consciously stop tears from forming. While she could have been a prime candidate for teasing by her fellow students, it didn’t happen. She was friendly with everyone and a few students even shaved their heads in solidarity with her plight. I only encountered one complaint by a student as to why she was allowed to eat in class and I answered that question with the statement: “you don’t ever want what she has”. Suprisingly, most of the heartless reactions to her plight came from a minority of teachers and administrators.

    I actually first met this girl about six months ealier when I was tutoring individuals who had failed a class. She stuck out like a sore thumb (mentally and physically). I asker her what on earth she was doing there and she replied: “my gym teacher failed me for not dressing the required number of times and because my oncolgist was late in providing the required excuses”. I was aghast. What a heartless B******. Fortunately, the Principal later intervened and corrected her grade (probably afraid of a successful lawsuit). She couldn’t do the regular gym curriculum anyway because her intense chemotherapy had fried the tendons in her upper arms.

    On the other hand, many of her teachers were quite accommodating. Her Algebra teacher told her that she could do the homework or not, sleep or snack in class as she needed, and would be graded simply on the results of her final exams (which were both an “A”). Her English Teacher had lost a child of his own to cancer and was more than helpful. He even shaved his head in sympathy. A few others, however, complained about the interruptions which had to be tolerated and the accommodations which had to be made for her because of the extra work that was involved. Also, I almost lost it once with an administrator. I was discussing why I avoided calling on her in a class that he was evaluating. I told him they she had requested that I not do so because she desperately wanted to fit in and didn’t want to be labeled a nerd (she had an uncanny grasp of molecular geometry and general chemistry that would put many college students to shame). He responded: “I don’t know why her parents don’t just pull her out of school and let her die at home where it doesn’t have to be witnessed by the faculty and students?” I did not say what I was thinking and can’t repeat it here because of obcenity restrictions, but I lost a great deal of respect for this individual as a consequence.

    So students, teachers, and administrators, as you might expect, are a very mixed bag when it comes to sensitivity to student problems. I remember only one instance of outright bullying occuring. I ended it by bluntly tell the parties (a boy and a girl both of whom I liked) that if I hear one more word, the responsible party was going to the Dean’s Office and it apparently worked. In most schools without a mandatory reporting requirement, there are structural disincentives to reporting bullying to the office. Short of criminal behavior, you are expected to solve these issues in your own classroom unless you want it to reflect negatively in your performance review. So I can fully understand why patterns of bullying are missed when individual teachers only encounter one instance. The administrators want it that way and have to take some responsibility for a pattern of bullying not emerging. I guess ignorance is bliss until someone dies and the whole house of cards collapses upon them. Then its time to lawyer up, circle the wagons, keep the media out, deny any culpability, and hope it all goes away. Disgustingly, this usually works.

    I am happy to relate that the young lady with the aBLL is defying the odds initially arrayed against her and has entered her fourth year of complete remission. At Christmas, I sent her a card, some digital photograpy equipment that I no longer use, and a copy of Photoshop Elements 8 (she is heavily into film and digital photoraphy). In the card which I received from her in return, was a current photo. She has gained weight, gotten most of her hair back, and has turned into a stunning beauty (per my wife). This young lady richly deserves to be in this world and I hope all goes well for her and that she will be able to remember her high school experience fondly. Rumor has it that she now has a regular boyfriend – BRAVO!

  19. bookwench
    · July 4th, 2010 at 1:57 am · Link

    “If the only reason some of us didn’t commit suicide ourselves was because we had a cat to take care of?”

    …this comment made me shake. It was me, too.

    Fucking 35 years old and something like this can still come up and give me chills. Thank you for posting this.

  20. Lisette
    · October 4th, 2010 at 4:47 pm · Link

    I am a beginning writer who went on the aw site only to be made fun of, chastised and bullied. This is common as I see by a bunch of moderators who not only allow this but encourage and support one another in this. If you don'[t belong to the populars on the board you will get bullied

    • Stace
      · October 4th, 2010 at 5:08 pm · Link

      Hi Lisette,

      Speaking as a moderator on the AW site, I’m very sorry to hear you feel this way. I have no idea what your name was on there or what happened; if you’d like to contact me privately to discuss it please feel free to do so.

    • Stace
      · October 4th, 2010 at 8:16 pm · Link

      Hi “Lisette.”

      Having looked up your information on AW, I’m afraid I must completely disagree with you. You were in no way made fun of, nor were you put down in any way. You were chastised, yes, when you repeatedly ignored moderator requests to quit asking the same question over and over and ignoring the attempts of people to help you. No one made fun of you or bullied you, and certainly no one encouraged others to do so.

      I was one of the people who attempted to help you, in fact. I replied to your fourth or fifth thread asking the same question with suggestions and a link to the long thread made of all of your other threads asking the same question. I even gave you the benefit of the doubt, and told you, when I posted the link, that I understood perhaps you weren’t able to find your prior threads.

      You were given good advice and suggestions, all of which you ignored. Now you show up on my blog and claim you were treated badly, when what you actually did was to treat others badly and to be disrespectful of our time and advice? And now you come here to be disrespectful directly to my face?

      If you want help from people, it’s usually good not to start by demanding it and then pouting when you don’t get the answers you want. It’s especially good not to start by showing up at the blog of someone who genuinely TRIED to help you, and basically telling me that wasn’t good enough and I’m a bitch. Oh, sorry, an elitist bitch.

      Good luck with your future endeavors.


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