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Saturday, 19 April 2014

Quitting Because of Bullying? Maybe We Should Just Quit Bullying



This month a couple of writers quit because of online bullying. I don't want to re-hash all that - I'm sure Google will oblige you if you don't already know. What I want to comment on is the people criticising these writers for their decision.

Most of that criticism has been in the vein of 'If you can't take criticism, you're in the wrong business'.

I want to be clear - criticism of their work is not why these writers quit.

Criticism of the work is part and parcel of the job. When we talk about bullying, we are not talking about impersonal criticism of the person's work, but of them as a person, unrelated to their work. We are talking about harassment, death threats, personal insults against one and one's family, and online stalking. One of the attacks stated that the writer shouldn't be breathing. I've seen attacks that stated a writer deserved to be raped. I've heard of attacks levelled against a writer's young child.

And this is not limited to self-published writers. Other incidents of cyber-bullying include:

  • BioWare writer Jennifer Hepler quit writing for Bioware in 2013 because of online death threats against her and her children;
  • Feminist Frequency's Anita Sarkeesian received rape threats because of her Tropes v. Women video series;
  • Rebecca Marino quit tennis in 2013 after tweets saying she should 'burn in hell' and 'just die' contributed to the depression that robbed her of any happiness in the sport.
  • Bullying on Goodreads against authors (and even against fans of authors) is well-known. Dare to contradict the bullies (even by asking an innocent question) and you could be subject to threats of assault, rape, or death.

Yes, we can say that people in the public image have to expect they may be a target. Yes, we can say they shouldn't let it get to them, and yes, maybe there is an element of truth in that.

But wait - aren't we tacitly condoning the bullying behaviour by advising people how to deal with the bullying rather than taking a stance against bullying all together? This is not borderline behaviour - we are talking about extreme attacks that are obviously wrong to any right-thinking individual. There's no shades of grey when telling someone they deserve to be raped.

You can walk a mile in someone else's shoes. You can go through the same experiences. But you can't go through those experiences as if you were them. We are all our own people, and two people in the same circumstances may not deal with that situation the same way. Not one of us can understand the anguish of another's soul.

So I'm not going to tell someone to just ignore it, that they made the wrong decision. It's very easy to tell someone what they ought to do when you don't have to wake up in the morning and deal with the outcome of that decision. It's easy to be brash when it's not your life. 

Maybe this is a win for the bullies. But at what point does it become more important to consider one's own health, one's personal relationships, one's marriage, one's children, instead of a scoreboard?

There is a known online bullying problem. There is a known offline bullying problem. If you look up bullying statistics, you'll see a horrifying number of people have been bullied or have seen it happen. Our children are learning this behaviour from somewhere, and sadly it's from the adults who engage in it, who condone it, or dismiss it.

We have a problem. Stop denying it, and start doing something about it.


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13 comments:

Hyacinth Alagos said...

A child with a good sense of humor and who knows how to talk his way out of a difficult situation will often manage well. As what they say Actions speak louder than words Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself. Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.Keep safe and protected bring protection with you at http://bit.ly/1nctEuL.

A.M. Guynes/Annikka Woods said...

Quitting because you're being bullied sometimes is the only way to escape the bullying. It's sad and terrifying that people would do this to other people. I spent a good portion of my life being bullied as a child and as a teenager. Not so much as an adult but it's still happened. It sometimes makes me a little afraid to keep pursuing writing but this is something I want to do.

Hyacinth Smith said...

Whoever said words can't hurt was never the pariah of a group of teen girls. From the clothes I wore to the chest I lacked, I was told daily how ‘ugly’ I was. My parents helped me see I had the power to just walk away from my bullies. And I learned that life does get a lot better. Bullying a willful, conscious desire to hurt another and put him/her under stress. Actions speak louder than words.No one deserves to feel worthless. Participate check this out at http://bit.ly/1nctEuL.

Angelo Guerra said...

In verbal bullying, there is no actual contact, but the harm done can be just as large. In these cases, the bully says derogatory things to his/her victim, who usually becomes too intimidated to respond, and ends up taking repeated abuse. In social bullying, a person or people of greater social status excludes someone else. So I suggest a safety application that your child could use if he/she in trouble. It really help me, and I hope this will help you also. http://safekidzone.com/#!/page_home

Valkiez said...

In my own opinion, the true bravery cannot be measured on how you fight physically. But it is how you help other people willingly. And in line with this I wanted to suggest this site where I got the safety of my child. It’s a mobile safety App that has a relentless protection offers to all families. Check it here: http://safekidzone.com/?a_aid=52f12fafd5de8

Valkiez said...

The problem of children bullying each other is not new. Most of us have encountered a bully at some point in our lives. Usually parents worry about their child becoming the victim to a bully in school. It is often quite a surprise for parents to find out that their child is the one doing the bullying. As upsetting as it is to discover this behavior, you must stay calm. To successfully help your child, you must go about resolving the problem the appropriate way.Luckily, after reading articles online, I found a perfect solution that has been working perfectly for your children and the rest of the family. Check this link: http://safekidzone.com/?a_aid=52f12fafd5de8

Ciara Ballintyne said...

I agree - at what point do you decide it's not worth your health to try and fight the good fight anymore? Sheer exhaustion can defeat anyone. I worry that it might happen to me as well - it seems so senseless and anyone can be a target. My life is already so full that even the slightest bit of extra pressure might be too much.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

I agree that something like this can be invaluable for kids if it works - I don't know enough about it to comment on that aspect. Sadly, in this instance we are talking about adults bullying other adults.

Calvin Sanders said...

The best way to address bullying is to stop it before it starts. Bullying can threaten kids physical and emotional safety at school and can negatively impact their ability to learn. We must also take action on the eradication of this issue in our community. Giving also additional protection to kids is not bad, monitoring their location would be very great here a safety application on the phone that parents can use to help and add safety to their children. Check this site out for information:http://safekidzone.com/#!/page_home

Angelo Guerra said...

I always have heard and seen people or children who are bullied. Threatened, hurt, verbally abused, etc. It`s really hurt seeing people get hurt. "haters will say what they want, but their hate will never stop you from chasing your dream". I suggest a safety application you could use if you are in trouble. check this out for more info. http://safekidzone.com/#!/page_home

Dan Hanks said...

Nice post, Ciara. Totally agree with you. Absolutely crazy what happens online these days - and what seems to be condoned in the name of free speech.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

Thanks Dan. I can't decide if I'm more depressed by the bullying or the things people say in the wake of the bullying to either justify its occurence or brush away its consequences. I was taught to treat others the way I would want to be treated but that kind of attitude seems thin on the ground these days.

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