Thursday, October 28, 2010

Another View on Bullying

I encountered this article a few weeks back.  I agree with most of it, though I think the "It Gets Better" phenom isn't as pointless as he think it is.  Here's a highlight:

Maybe we shouldn't have too much sympathy for bullies. But at the same time, there are some problems with the current rhetorical climate. For one thing, Heathers, the comic masterpiece about adolescence and suicide that makes a good case for the dangers of a John Hughes morality. Adults like to think that teenagers are innocent creatures, free of sin, and that if we could just remove all pressures on our precious youth, they could frolic in peace. That's one theory! But there are others, too.

As much as we feel like we're doing good by painting a Hitler mustache on bullies, it's not like it's a problem that no one was aware of before. And one that wasn't, at least mildly, improving. There's no evidence that going to these rhetorical extremes will force improvements any more quickly than what people are already doing to fight the problem-whereas there's ample evidence that allowing ourselves to think about social ills with a crisis mentality degrades our ability to embrace the difficult, gradual solutions that most long-standing problems actually require. We paint social conflicts in these terms only because we can't stand the thought that we might not be doing everything we can to make things better for everyone.

Meanwhile, we're telling kids that it gets better. Which means we're pretending that adults are far less terrifying creatures. I've known enough friends who've gotten gay-bashed as adults that I know bullying doesn't stop at graduation, and that seems like a far bigger issue. (Technically speaking, I once got my nose broken for being gay, but that's a story for another time.) It's hard to escape the feeling that things like Dan Savage's "It Gets Better" project, National Coming Out Day, and this nightmare have only been successful because they make straight people such as myself feel better about ourselves, like we are doing something to help the cause of equality, even though we're not really doing anything substantial.
What do you think?

As a side note: I did actually push back against one bully in my life who was also named Jason.  We were in eighth grade and he was messing with me as usual.  I got fed up and pushed him into the lockers.  He looked at me with a stunned look.  We fought a bit and it didn't amount to much, but he never did mess with me again.

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