Bullying as True Drama

From The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/23/opinion/why-cyberbullying-rhetoric-misses-the-mark.html?_r=2

By DANAH BOYD and ALICE MARWICK
Published: September 22, 2011

THE suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer, the 14-year-old boy from western New York who killed himself last Sunday after being tormented by his classmates for being gay, is appalling. His story is a classic case of bullying: he was aggressively and repeatedly victimized. Horrific episodes like this have sparked conversations about cyberbullying and created immense pressure on regulators and educators to do something, anything, to make it stop. Yet in the rush to find a solution, adults are failing to recognize how their conversations about bullying are often misaligned with youth narratives. Adults need to start paying attention to the language of youth if they want antibullying interventions to succeed.

Jamey recognized that he was being bullied and asked explicitly for help, but this is not always the case. Many teenagers who are bullied can’t emotionally afford to identify as victims, and young people who bully others rarely see themselves as perpetrators. For a teenager to recognize herself or himself in the adult language of bullying carries social and psychological costs. It requires acknowledging oneself as either powerless or abusive.

In our research over a number of years, we have interviewed and observed teenagers across the United States. Given the public interest in cyberbullying, we asked young people about it, only to be continually rebuffed. Teenagers repeatedly told us that bullying was something that happened only in elementary or middle school. “There’s no bullying at this school” was a regular refrain.

This didn’t mesh with our observations, so we struggled to understand the disconnect. While teenagers denounced bullying, they — especially girls — would describe a host of interpersonal conflicts playing out in their lives as “drama.”

At first, we thought drama was simply an umbrella term, referring to varying forms of bullying, joking around, minor skirmishes between friends, breakups and makeups, and gossip. We thought teenagers viewed bullying as a form of drama. But we realized the two are quite distinct. Drama was not a show for us, but rather a protective mechanism for them.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/23/opinion/why-cyberbullying-rhetoric-misses-the-mark.html?_r=2

6 Responses to “Bullying as True Drama”

  1. Angela Says:

    This is a very interesting article. I was bullied throughout my school years, and on into my adulthood. This was done on the basis of my physical, mental and sexual differences from the so-called norm. The active bullies have often been the downtrodden and the oppressed. but the enablers have been the middle classes and the systems they serve. This is a common pattern I think, not only in bullying of individuals but also in the bullying of groups and populations. People with less opportunities than most are encouraged to vent on others with some kind of lack or vulnerability, while the nice people turn a blind eye, neglect to provide support and set up social and legal situations which make the bullying easier.

    I remember the school bus. Children from the local childrens home would lean over the back of my seat to dribble spit on me. The middle and upper class kids who made up the bulk of those in the bus ignored this. In months not one of them ever said a word. The situation was only stopped when I effectively broke down, by which time I was confirmed as a victim and a pariah.

    It is so sad to see this still going on decades later. That a 14 year old will take his own life, in what is supposed to be a free and enlightened society is wrong and it points to a situation which adults have allowed to develop.

    There is a powerful argument for changing the way we treat each other, and having a closer look at the systems which enable this sort of tragedy.

    To take the example of the recent attack on Chrissy Lee Polis by two young black teenagers I think it is the case that if the crime was in part racially motivated then so was the five year prison sentence. I don’t want to diminish what happened to Chrissy, I think that if the two girls had been able to get her outside they would have killed her, and the crime was clearly a hate crime, but not only because of transexuality, also because of a reaction to racism, and perhaps based on disability too. But the crime was based not so much on the actual reality of either Chrissie’s or the girls actual situations, but on the “drama.” The drama became more important than the reality. The reality of both sides situations is probably a lot closer than either side had been led to believe.

    There is an argument for socially normative prison sentencing, but no one has mentioned restorative justice. I know from personal experience that for most people it is possible and practical to produce empathy and understanding. Why is so little attention paid to this aspect of justice? It seems that in the aftermath of this incident both sides have been left with the status of victim/perpetrator, maybe just a swap from perpetrator/victim. Everyone else can sit back, sigh and turn to another page on the paper or another channel on youtube or tv. We need to get beyond this socially enforced dynamic, particularly in these days of global warming, economic change and war.

    • Suzan Says:

      Would five years been too harsh if the attackers had been young black men?

      I have a weird perspective. I’m watching demonstrators get two and three years sentences.

      As for the harshness of the sentences. That’s what the hate crimes laws do, enhance sentencing meaning longer sentencing.

      I live in a state that permits concealed hand gun carry for people with a permit. I feel that I Chrissy had lived in a place that permitted licensed concealed carry and had such a license as well as a gun she would have been fully justified in killing her attackers.

  2. Angela Says:

    Maybe Chrissy would have been justified in shooting, but isn’t that another vicious circle? Who shoots who and who does it first or quickest or with the biggest gun, it’s a race to death.
    As for if Chrissy’s attackers had been young black men I don’t think it makes that much difference except that they would have had more of an advantage in physical strength, so would young white men, or any men.
    But it doesn’t get around the dynamic of bullying, which the NY times article was pointing out. That is that just labelling people as victims or perpetrators doesn’t always help long term because neither are tenable positions for a healthy life and both combined do little to change the mindset of the wider society.

    • Suzan Says:

      The thing is the attack on Chrissy wasn’t bullying, it was aggravated assault with intent to either kill or cause great bodily harm. In that case, if, and only if one is in fear of one’s life a concealed hand gun licensed person can draw their weapon and shoot until the menace is stopped. there are very specific circumstances for the usage of a weapon and very strict limitations upon the usage of that weapon.

      In the 1970s I trained as a martial artist in Taekwondo, Hopkido and Hwrangdo. I developed a a lethal skill set with bare hands or knife. The exact same standards applied to my deployment of the skill set that made me deadly with hands or knife apply to the use of a handgun.

      I had a police officer friend who I occasionally trained with tell me that in a court of law I would probably be better off using an illegally concealed handgun in self defense than my martial arts skills, because the level of physical being I had at that point would always raise the question of retreat.

      FYI Tina and I have taken the concealed handgun permit classes. rest assured hand gun permit holders are not for the most the people who will be waving guns around or engaging in random use of those guns. We know the laws and that knowing the laws and signing papers saying we know the laws opens us to the harshest penalties for violation of those laws. Concealed carry means other peole should never know you are carrying.

  3. Angela Says:

    If I lived where you live I might well do the same as you and Tina. I would just rather live in a world where this is not necessary. We are in such a minority that it is often necessary to defend ourselves. Disabled people are also often at risk, and ts people are also often disabled. We live in a society where it is seen as ok to hurt the different and the vulnerable. Why is this? And what can be done to change it?

    • Suzan Says:

      Where is that world any way? I was raped and nearly murdered in Los Angeles. Something like one in four women will be raped in their life times. I have been robbed and clubbed for my handbag, again in Los Angeles.

      The only people this safe utopia exists for are those who have the money to have others protect them.

      I actually feel much safer here in Dallas where there are many people with CHLs than I did in LA or SF.


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