25 October 2010

When is bullying acceptable?

A few days ago there was a campaign to get people to wear purple to show their disapproval of bullying of gay people. I agree with the sentiments of my Facebook friend Joseph Slonović when he said Facebook (1) | Joseph Slonović:
I don't own a single item of purple clothing. And really, I don't want to. But do take a moment, folks, to reflect on the disgusting bullying and intolerance that has led so many gay teens to resort to suicide -- especially lately. It's terrible, and it should be taken seriously.


But I disagreed with him when he went on to say

And as my friend Lucie pointed out: "can we stop calling it 'bullying?' The term seems too benign. Let's start calling it what is is - bigotry, homophobia, gay-bashing, an epidemic of hate crimes. These aren't the actions of a few rogue 'bullies.'"


I disagree about not calling it bullying. Bullying is bad, regardless of who the victims are, or the reason for it. By not calling it bullying you create a perception that certain kinds of bullying are socially acceptable, or at least less socially unacceptable than others.

Is calling it "bigotry" an improvement?

Bigotry is intolerance of any ideas other than ones own, especially about things like religion, race or politics.

I would say it was quite a big and serious step to pass from bigotry to bullying; from rejecting another person's ideas to actively hurting, persecuting or indimidating them (which is what "bullying" means). In what way can that be described as "benign"?

Calling it "homophobia" rather than bullying singles out one class of victim, and makes it easier to ignore other classes. Can one have a scale of phobias? If bullying is too "benign" for homophobia, is it acceptable for xenophobia? Is it more evil to bully homosexuals than to bully illegal immigrants? Or to bully Somali immigrants just because they are immigrants, regardless of their legal status?

I think bullying is bad, no matter who the victims are. And creating a hierarchy of victims smacks of, well, bigotry.

3 comments:

gay guy with a brain said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gay guy with a brain said...

I like your definition of "bigotry" ... it beats my dictionary definition! ... in that it introduces a social element ... not just intolerance and prejudice ... but a close-mindedness to others' ideas.

Not so sure about your definition of "bullying" though ... seems more like you're describing antisocial / abusive behaviour ... bullying is meant to have additional elements such as a power differential and continued targeting ... etc ...

then again maybe thats pedantic ... most people seem to understand bullying the way you do...

Daniel Clark said...

A key aspect would also be the association with mental, emotional and physical violence that bullying evokes which is not so clear with other terms

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