So, anyone not seen a tweet, facebook status or news story about bullying in the past couple of weeks?
It's a pretty important topic in our collective conscience right now. As such, the word is being tossed around by all and sundry. I even wrote on it last week myself.
After I wrote that article I got some harsh comments from someone who:
1. Didn't agree with me about the definition of bullying.
2. Accused me of bullying her when I continued to discuss with her.
I can give you a dictionary definition of bullying, but sometimes the dictionary defintion isn't enough. The semantic meaning is shared by many, especially those who have been bullied.
The dictionary will define bullying as as an act of intimidating another, usually weaker, person. If one took this definition at face-value, a single act of name-calling or shouting down an argument or excluding a person from an event or conversation could be considered bullying.
I think we all know that's not what bullying is. We've all done those things. Even the saints among us are not nice to everyone all the time. Heck, given the dictionary definition I bully my children into eating their supper and going to bed.
Anyone who has ever been bullied will tell you that it's systemic. A single act does not make a bully. An ongoing attack is what defines a bully.
Bullying is not typical childhood behaviour. It's not teasing someone on the playground or not inviting everyone in your class to your birthday party. It's not getting into fights or calling another child a name. Those are normal childhood conflicts.Terming them bullying and intervening in a legalistic way will just diminish our children's ability to resolve conflict in social peer groups.
Bullying is much more than simple conflict. It's a deliberately aimed, ongoing attack to undermine another person. Whether in school, social networks, or adult workplaces, a bully is a person who uses their voice and physicality to squelch someone else's voice and personal respoct on an ongoing basis.
It can be subtle and it can be incredibly obvious. It depends upon the aggresor and the victim.
But here's the thing, bullying must have both an agressor and a victim. Getting into an argument online and being shouted down by someone does not make you a victim, it just makes you the loser of that argument. Calling someone names, whether publically or privately, and then having the same flung back at you does not make you a victim, it makes you a victimless aggresor.
I'm getting tired of seeing people fling the word around like it's the latest fad or coolest slang. Bullying has meaning. It has powerful connotations.
You can ask anyone who has ever been bullied. Ask me. I can tell you how horribly it can destroy your self-esteem, your self-value, your life.
Meaning is important. Keeping the defition of bullying clear is vital to insure that real victims can tell their stories. Muddying the meaning will only muddy the response to the type of bullying that is a true crime - whether in our judicial system or just as a human being.
Please, tell me, what do you think of when you think of bullying? Let's firm up the meaning.