That’s Not Bullying
[Trigger/content warning: Bullying, threatening language]*
Scene 1: “Hey, you fucking faggot. If I see you in this hallway again, I’m going to take a broomstick from the janitor’s cart and rape your faggot ass with it. You’d like that, wouldn’t you, you stupid fucking faggot!” This was said as I was being shoved up against the wall of lockers, face first, as a crowd of other students gathered around and laughed and cheered. Again.
Scene 2: “Hi. I am going to be running a series of guests posts on a blog about the harassment and hatred directed at women in our community. Would you be interested in writing one?” This was said through a single e-mail.
Clearly, these two scenes are depicting the same sort of event. Right? Well, if you were to go with Thunderfoot’s latest diatribe, he would have you believe so.
Thunderfoot has published a video (it’s getting rave reviews from the MRA blog A Voice For Men) in which he accuses Skepchick Surly Amy of “bullying or cajoling” men into contributing to her awesome series of posts “Speaking out against hate directed at women.” Michael Nugent has a blog post up about it, noting that he was never bullied (or cajoled, which is kind of the opposite of bullying) into writing the article and then reposts the article in question. I’m not going to link to Thunderfoot’s video here, but the link is on Nugent’s post for those with the intestinal fortitude.
I have two major issues with this sort of discourse. First, using “bullying” to poison the well against people because you disagree with them is the exact opposite of rational. And for people in a community that prides itself on rationality and skeptical/critical thinking, there sure is a whole hell of a lot of this kind of nonsense going on.
The second (and more important) concern that I have about this sort of thing is that it has the effect of diminishing the experiences of people who are actually bullied. It lessens the impact of accusing actual bullies. It’s the same sort of shit that these same people complain about with the use of the word “misogynist.” They’re right about one thing—labeling every instance of sexism directed at women as misogyny does lessen the impact that that word has. So stop fucking doing it with “bully.”
Bullying can be defined as “repeated, aggressive behavior intended to hurt another person, physically or mentally. Bullying is characterized by an individual behaving in a certain way to gain power over another person.” Bullying can be direct (such as in physical aggression) or indirect (such as seeking to marginalize or ostracize).
When people do things like use the “#FTBullies” hashtag or accuse Surly Amy of bullying people when all she’s done is ask them to write something, they are making the word “bully” less meaningful. They do this at a time when there is an epidemic of queer bullying, to the extent that thousands of queer kids are killing themselves. Queer teens are five times more likely to attempt suicide than other teens, and this is a direct result of social stigma that includes things like bullying. And they compare sending an e-mail requesting a guest post on a blog to this??
Those who abuse the word “bully” are making light of the very real bullying that people like myself have experienced for being queer. And you’re doing it not because you actually care if people are being bullied or not. No, you’re disparaging the experiences of people who are actually bullied so that you can star in your own fucked up passion play. But it’s not Amy who’s doing the bullying—she’s not the one obsessively making videos and posting them to YouTube accusing you of anything. Or fanatically monitoring Rebecca’s Twitter feed to start shitstorms over seemingly obvious comments about rape culture. If anything, the appropriation of this word is a way to project your own behavior onto others.
We get it—you hate Rebecca and the Skepchicks and feminism. But this has got to end. Find another (preferably more rational) way to disagree. Stop appropriating the word “bully.” Stop belittling the experiences of people who actually do experience bullying.
Oh, and you know what else? Stop actually bullying people, too. The repeated, aggressive behavior intended to hurt—and silence—women like Amy and Rebecca and Jen and Ophelia and others who aren’t taking your shit is, by definition, bullying.
So how about you stop acting like high school students and start acting like the rational adults you claim to be? Get on with the engagement of ideas and the critical thinking and enough with the personal attacks.
*In response to “anon” (how brave of you to put your name to your comment!) over on Michael Nugent’s thread, who claims that trigger warnings are a way of policing language—fuck you. This is a way of alerting people that the content of the post could be triggering or may have uncomfortable content. If you will notice, I have a trigger warning at the top followed by a paragraph containing three instances of the word “faggot.” Yeah, that trigger warning is totally making me use all my PC language, huh!