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What Bullying is and What Bullying is Not

In the last two years the use of the B word has become explosive. In addition to absolutely every blogger ever claiming geek or nerd status in high school (I was fat/unloved/pimply/awkward/alone) they were also bullied. Relentlessly.

Of course if 100% of the people you know were bullied someone is lying. Because in order to be bullied someone’s got to have power of them. 100% of the population can’t be powerless, can they?

Bullying matters. I think that what we adults forget about the school years (mostly middle and high school but also sometimes elementary) is that the day ended. If you were having a hard time with someone at school, like the time Cym hated my rainbow pocket Dittos and teased me about them all day day, you’d go home maybe have a good cry and then spend the afternoon with your friends or your family. Now when kids go home from school everyone is very plugged in and the day doesn’t stop. It’s relentless for them.

Last month I met a rapper Lil JaXe. Lil JaXe is my daughter’s age and has a stutter. Not a little stutter but a debilitating stutter where I feel myself holding my breath waiting for his next word to come out. It’s the kind of stutter where you hold yourself back from finishing his sentences because you know that too many people have done that before and you know that your stress will only add to his.

When Lil JaXe raps he has no stutter. I was chatting with him for about 20 minutes and was really interested in his story because my daughter had a severe speech impediment until about age 6 but hers was undetectable when she was on a telephone. We practiced speech therapy on pretend phones from ages 2-5.

Back to Lil JaXe. I asked him about his rapping and he talked about the need to educate kids and adults about bullying. I rightly assumed that an adolescent boy with a stutter a beautiful face would take some heat on the school yard but what he told me shocked me. He was bullied by his teacher. The final straw came just a year or so ago when his teacher announced to the class, “I dont’ know what’s more annoying, your stutter or your laugh.” I commend Lil JaXe’s mother. Had it been me I’d be in prison and that teacher would be decaying right about now. So he’s home schooled.

This is the child who stutters. I dare you to not smile when you watch this.

Online bullying is difficult to define. The intent is there but the methods may change. What does need to happen with a bullying in any arena is that there’s an imbalance of power.

defining bullying

Bloggers love to say that they are bullied. Often times someone disagrees with them publicly the dissenter is labeled a bully. That is not bullying.

The weekend’s KFC fiasco quickly morphed into a discussion about how Leah Segedie is a bully. Well, if you’re KFC then yes, Leah is going to be a real thorn in your side. If you’re another blogger notsomuch. The problem with all the shrieking about bullying is that it diminishes the emotional impact of stories from people like Lil JaXe. You see Leah can’t bully KFC, it’s not possible. KFC has billions of dollars (that’s billions of bird beaks kids) and more than six million facebook fans. Leah is a gnat on an elephant’s ass.

When bloggers took a trip from KFC and Leah asked the hard questions about the brand it was time for KFC to answer some questions. It wasn’t time for bloggers to moan that their vacation was being ruined by a bully. Folks, when you take a junket you’re working. Some days work is really easy, other days it’s going to feel like work. When you sell junk food to blogger’s kids on twitter be assured that it will always feel like work. Leah and Kim will always be there asking the tough questions.

When I asked my facebook friends about why people cry bully I got interesting responses.

Del Williams says: People like to be victims. Allows them to shift blame for their fuck ups

Jenny Decki says: People need bigger vocabularies is the main problem. The hash tag thing was classic trolling. People do it all the time but when someone’s feelings get hurt and they feel outrage that you’d dare to question them, they want it to be bigger and more meaningful than it really was to justify some kind of backlash they feel is deserved. Being butthurt on twitter does not automatically mean someone got bullied.

Serena Erlich says: Bullies have the power to activate others against you. That is why many cry bullying. It’s not that one person did it, it the people who were incited into joining in. Power can be measured in many ways these days.

My friend Mark who doesn’t blog:  People in general have become pathetic and weak and can’t take a hit of any kind. They actually believe they have the right to “NOT” be offended. Whatever! Grow up! Take a karate class!

Mary brilliantly states: I think a part of what is happening is the confluence of the personal life with work life. I think Mom Bloggers think of themselves as blogging their personal home life. But then this gets co-opted by companies promoting brands. I didn’t see anything that was bullying. You rightly pointed out the problems with KFC but then the moms took it personally as if you walked into their house and criticized their food choices. It’s pretty clever of KFC.

Is bullying an epidemic or is victimhood just too enticing for some people to resist? How do you explain to bloggers the difference between standing behind their words and bullying? How do you tell a kid like Lil JaXe that someone equated a hashtag on twitter that they don’t like with his very real bullying by a teacher in a room full of kids?