exactly that

I had a high school bully. He followed me around, yelled things at me, made lewd comments about me and what my then-boyfriend were or were not doing, threw things in my hair, and made my life kind of a living hell for quite some time of my Senior year of high school. To add insult to injury, I was, of course, a Senior and he was a Freshman, so I was additionally humiliated. I attempted to ignore him, because I had been long taught that if someone is bothering you a la your little brother then you should just ignore them and they would go away. This idea did not work with my little brother, and it didn’t work with Andrew, my high school bully, either*.

I did, of course, tell people. The lunch monitor in our cafeteria, who only had to see him flash his charm, and then I was the one who got the talking to for swearing at him when I would finally break under the stress, or told to, of course, ignore him, or to move tables, ignoring the fact that I had sat at that table for quite some time before he settled in to start bothering me. I told several teachers, and eventually the principal. The principal decided the best course of action was to pull us both in his office and talk to us, and I am certain it was necessary to bring up Andrew’s father’s golf game or whatever relevant nicety was offered to him. Me, I had no local businessman father to smchooze with the principal, so I didn’t stand a chance. With a smirk and a wink I kid-you-not Andrew was told to knock it off, and we were let go, and not two feet outside the principal’s door I was told that I was “in for it now”.

The last day of school for Senior’s couldn’t arrive fast enough, and I dreaded that cafeteria every day. The set of emotional issues that I was harboring in my childhood weren’t helped by the fact that Andrew had set his sights on me for whatever reason. Before he decided that I, and my then boyfriend who bore a lot of the abuse as well, was a viable target for his bile and vitriol I didn’t know who he was, other than the twin of a girl who played in the marching band with me.

Much like Phoebe Prince, and others like her that we have read and heard about this year, the people whom I begged for help and then gave up on, knowing they would do nothing, did exactly that. Nothing. The last day of school for Seniors rolled around and I kissed my school and most of my town good-bye. Were that I could have done some things better or more nicely, but a lot of years of therapy later and I know that I just had too much baggage from too many layers of abuse and disappointment that I was hauling around with me.

And sadly today things don’t fare much better for our children in schools. But even more surprising to me, is that those of us working in social justice is that things are hardly better online. Internet bullying is hardly a concept that is new to any of our eyes and ears. Many of us are familiar with the concept of the internet stalker, and at this time when Facebook is under criticism for its horrendous disregard for user privacy the thought of internet bullying is even more worrisome.

But heartbreaking to me is the way that we as social justice advocates are willing to stand around and allow this to happen to each other. I am not even talking about how big sites, like Feministing allow their writers and commenters to disenfranchise and abuse marginalized voices. I am talking about how people will sharply criticize in dishonest ways, and then stand in faux surprise when their critiques are taken to task. To the point that they become down right condescending, and don’t even bother to mask their insults. Or, how people offer intentionally dishonest criticisms of others in an effort to further personal agendas against someone again, and again, and again to the point that some of those people have not had to shut their blogs, or as in the case of my friend s.e. smith, close it to comments in order to avoid the constant abuse.

Bullying is real. It is hurtful. It is awful. It kills people. Let me repeat that. IT KILLS PEOPLE. And if I may use the recent vocab lesson that I so graciously received to my drug addled brain from Feminist Review recently (no, I am not linking there, if they thought Google was enough to go on, then so do I) as a jumping point, I will offer that if in fact more feminists or social justice activists, not just those speaking from the marginalized “contingent”** spoke up then I think that people might feel disinclined to abuse and bully us as often. I think that we were less tolerant to allow the bullshit we see happening to these marginalized voices when we are able to step in and say something then maybe we wouldn’t find the loss of spaces where marginalized voices are centered, because contrary to some self-important opinion not all safe spaces are echo chambers. Spaces that advocate for the listening to of the voices oft ignored are not in fact circle jerks. They are rather an attempt to bring to light the voice that is lost in that atta-boy pat you on the back meeting between that high school principal who plays golf with your abuser’s father. You needn’t be worried about centering the voices of people who might possible be racist or transphobic or homobigoted or ableist because the net is completely full of that voice. If you are actually interested in this discourse that everyone is crying so loudly about then how about S-ing TFU and L-ing to the voices that everyone keeps trampling over? Huh?

But not everyone can safely speak up in these spaces, because obviously it has repercussions. My high school bully found his second wind after I went to the principal, and believe me I never tried anything so foolish ever again. When people tried to tell me there must surely be two sides to that story, I can assure you there was not. I never knew Andrew before the first time he cat called me and told everyone at his lunch table that I was giving my boyfriend blow jobs in my car. Sometimes to speak up is to set yourself up for more abuse. Like Anna said, ignoring it doesn’t work. Launching the contingent isn’t ideal (even when that isn’t what we are doing), because that will inevitably cause us our own personal backlashes, so what do we do now?

Some of the best learning experiences and most meaningful friendships I have found in a long time have sprouted out of places like Shakesville and FWD, safe spaces, those so-called echo chambers. FWD/Forward has been one of the most positive experiences of my online life. What people don’t see are the things that happen behind the scenes (and admittedly due to my 13 hours of time zone difference I don’t see a lot of it) and a lot of that is the bullying that takes place, the shit storm of people who are all up in arms over our attempt to make it a safe space, not only for the community there but for us as well. No space is ever entirely safe, and people will never be fully pleased with the results. Those people have become as important to me as any real life friend I have ever made, as some of you who read my blog and have formed similar friendships with me know, Bloglandia friendships have a way of being just as important as Meat World friendships, and then some. I am fiercely loyal to them, my co-contributors. To hurt them is to hurt me. I will not tolerate people who openly bully or hurt them. I will not participate in work with you if you foster an unsafe space with a bully to them. If you hurt them, do not come to me for harbor.

*No, as a matter of fact I don’t feel the slightest bit bad for using his real name. This kid made my life a living hell. I was AFRAID to go to lunch. School bullying is A REAL THING. It isn’t just “kids pick on kids”. It hurts. It causes real pain with real scars that takes real time get over. Ass wipes who feel no remorse over causing that pain for shits and giggles do not deserve pseudonymous privilege at my blog. I might reconsider if the jerk seeks me out and apologizes after all these years. I am easy to Google, as I can see by the hate Google hits I get to my blog.

**I would like to note, as lauredhel pointed out, that at the same time the “Evelyn/Evelyn” review went up at FR, Mandy contacted some of the FWD/Forward staff about providing content for FR, ensuring that many of us would see that review. Her position that we engaged in some kind of “organized brigade” is dishonest at best. I also have heard that other contributors to FR have received final versions of their pieces from editorial staff before it was published, so Natalie’s claim that “I didn’t know those links were there” is disingenuous, I believe. Apparently they don’t need the readers or the writers having “over 150 contributors”. The whole gig seems suspect to me. At this point with all the shit sandwiches being handed out I don’t know if anyone over there can be believed or if I am about to be handed a smallpox blanket if I comment again.

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Comments on: "They don’t go away…" (12)

  1. You are so right that this doesn’t just go away. You are brave to share your story and I guarantee it does help save lives to share your story and our experiences with others. Biofeedback is a very powerful process to help others feel they are not alone. I have similar stories I share on my website at http://bullyinglte.wordpress.com to ensure that others also know they are not alone and that there are long-term effects from bullying.

  2. Word to this entire post. It’s like, when it is SO OBVIOUS that some people do not get that *they* can be bullies even if they do not *intend* to (bah there’s that ridiculous excuse again), where do we go from there? How do we tell them that they are, in fact, reifying their (abled) privilege and power without making them go WAT NO U R SO MEEEN?

    And yeah, the timing of the FR thing seems incredibly suspect, as did Natalie’s claim that she had never heard of me or my writing (even though she admitted that she knew of the TBD piece, HELLO, and even named it in her review!)–except I deleted my comment to that effect because I thought it was TOO MEAN of me to question her. Had I known what was going to come next, I would have left it up. Because I have explained my position several times in places around the internet, and if she and Mandy fail to get it and still want to write my stuff off as coming from a “supernova of rage”, well…

  3. Thanks for this post. I have the privilege of never having been cyberbullied myself, but that comes with a lot of ignorance about the nature and reality of cyberbullying. I unfortunately have seen two bloggers stop blogging and s.e. closing ou comments in a two-week timeframe, both due to bullying, and that is sad. Is there anything uninvolved people like myself can do to prevent this? Like, I realize a lot happens in moderation queues, etc., but I do wonder whether my privileged ignorance is making me blind to outhright bullying of others.

  4. […] She is another to add to the list. I told you, they don’t go away. […]

  5. Thank you so very much.

  6. So, FR has a Google Alert that sends us a notice when our name pops up around the web, like in this post. Instead of speculating and spreading rumors (which is another kind of bullying, btw), one could ask questions directly to resolve conflict instead of keeping it going. If you’d asked, you’d know that FR has been collaborating w/ several social justice bloggers–Gender Across Borders, BFP, and Frau Sally Benz, for example–for over a year and had invited several bloggers to collaborate that same day, not just FWD bloggers. The timing was completely coincidental, though I can understand why to FWD bloggers it may have seemed otherwise without the broader context. The invitation is and has always been open to speak to me or ask questions via email (infoATfeministreviewDOTorg). I’m happy to speak further about concerns people may have, and I am also open to simply listening if that is what one prefers. Just let me know whether or not you would like a response.

    One more thing: I should have made it more clear in the comments on FR that my opinion on the Palmer album/project is actually closely aligned w/ Annaham et al’s opinion. (I thought I’d made that clear, but this post and comments seem not to differentiate b/t my opinion and Nat’s opinion on the matter, which are actually quite different.) Perhaps this has to do w/ my own identity as a PWD (not to mention my belonging to other overlapping ‘marginalized’ groups: woman, queer, working class, etc.). Perhaps it has to do w/ my ideas about the boundaries of art and social justice. Perhaps this has to do w/ Palmer et al’s really f*ed up response to valid critiques. Perhaps it’s a little of all of these things. Either way, I prefer to come to a resolution rather than continue this conflict, and I think it’s possible if y’all want to talk directly. If not, that’s your choice to make.

    • It’s funny, then, Mandy, that despite this post being almost two weeks old that it took you so long to trod on into my house and drop all your names as if it means anything to me after your stellar performance of blazing privilege ignorance on That Thread. I am guessing you only came over here b/c you didn’t like what I had to say over at Bitch and you were finally able to put two and two together, or you were finally too nosy. Because I was able to predict that you would be here within a day, after I remembered that you were that Mandy.

      If you have something to say, Mandy my dear, say it. Wide open, because I stand firmly behind what I have written here, and the shit that I saw on behalf of you and Natalie there was nothing but disgraceful. The fact that you keep up the ridiculous ruse of “Oh my stars and garters I had no idea you would be offended when you came to our blog when I invited you to check it out!” is insulting. I don’t appreciate your invitation to “take it in the back room”. I think I will keep everything right here in the open where every one can see your abuse, because frankly I think enough people have been abused by you and your ilk already, thank you very much. Since you stormed in here, insulting me, you will do things on my terms if you wish to continue this “conversation” (which, let’s be honest, My Dear Friend Mandy, it never was one, it was Mandy being condescendingly abusive and claiming faux surprise that people were upset at her and Natalie’s behavior and anything anyone else did was inappropriate irrespective of the points we made, while the two of you name called us and used every anti-feminist/ableist/racist rhetoric that could come at us). I will not continue anything via email. I don’t trust you.

      Let me repeat that.

      I. Don’t. Trust. You.

      So say what you have to say, you have an approved comment now, so you have crossed the gates of my personal blog, for now. I supposed I should feel honored or some shit to have a High and Mighty Editor who can drop so many names on my humble blog…

      But do abide by my comments policy, my dear friend, Mandy, because I do so love those “echo chambers” you abhor. I don’t allow ableist, racist, and other hate speech on my blog that you value as a ways or means to proper “discourse”.

      And I don’t give two fucks what your opinions on that review were. Your opinions on that piece were pretty much never the point. You just keep pounding it home like it matters. But that is what bullies do, Mandy. Whether you want to admit it or not, that is what you have become. A bully who is chasing people down because she doesn’t want to be accountable for the hate she and her writer have spit out, and you think you can scare us into some back room, cloak and dagger discussion that better suits you and your need to talk down to and get the nice Native Lady to be Nicer.

      • Yeah, I guess dealing w/ my mother’s newly diagnosed terminal illness is just more important to me than immediately responding to your blog posts and comments. I have no idea what you’re talking about regarding Bitch, but you probably won’t believe that. I’m also not surprised by any of your behavior. Unfortunately, it’s all too predictable. Your utter lack of compassion and outright venomous response is too much for me to handle right now given my recent personal devastation. Whatever you’re getting from demonizing me, I’m not interested in feeding any longer. So, thanks but no thanks for further convo “on your terms,” which seems to mean stripping me of my humanity and, conversely, you of yours. I’ll focus my energies on people who see me as a human being and speak from a place of building love rather than the hate you claim to detest so much. It’s really a shame. But I’m fine letting it be your shame, not mine.

        • Totes cool with me, Mandy.

          My condolences for your pain right now, because we all have shit that sucks going on and I can empathize, and I wish you the best in that.

          But it doesn’t give you pass to behave like you have here or anywhere else. Or to reassign your behavior on to me, or to throw a tantrum because I didn’t agree to your terms. I will just leave this comment up here so everyone can see how, once again, it was the All About Mandy Show.

          You have a history, my dear, of not engaging marginalized voices (especially WoC) in good faith, and the fact that you would behave thusly at a PWD/WoC blog just furthers my mistrust. I wish you well in life, but don’t come here and reassign your bile to me as if I did something wrong. I am not the one who invited someone to a party only to flip them the bird when they arrived. Don’t try to wiggle out of what the fuck you have done and try to throw personal shit around like it gives you a “get out of wev free”, and certainly don’t project that crap on me. We all have shit going on, most of us just don’t storm into other people’s spaces waving it around and then demanding that our atrocious behavior be excused in exchange for over sharing.

          Do take care now.

          *waves*

          • If you knew anything about my personal and professional history, Dan, you’d know this is totally bogus. But you don’t know anything about who I really am, just your false notion of who you’d like to think I am b/c it serves your egocentric purposes. And your snarky, snotty, pseudo condolences aren’t appreciated or desired.

            Bye. For good.

            • Please remove my last name from your tumblr post. It showed up in my Google Alerts and my mother does not want her personal business about her illness broadcast across the internet.

              [Mod Note: I did this for you because I am a nice fucking person even though I didn’t have to do work for you, but maybe next time you should be more careful about what you publish on the internet. You have a pretty well known name, having a big blog and internet presence like you do, and I am under no obligation to cover up your fuck ups for you. I mean, you comment under your full name in several places for fuck’s sake, and just because you omitted your last name here while being an arsehole doesn’t mean that everyone doesn’t know that you are That Mandy.]

    • One further point, Mandy, is that this post was not completely about you or your precious blog. So you can go crow all you want on your blog or tumblr. It’s part of why I didn’t link directly back to FR, because a blog war is not in anyone’s best interest, and this post happens to be about a broader conversation, about which you happen to be only a drop in the bucket (I know, that is hard for you to grasp, that you are not the center of EVERYTHING EVAH!) and at the time of writing, the most recent event. But I like that you made it ALL ABOUT YOU!

      Go ahead and run around and call out my lack of integrity and claim that I fabricated stuff to make myself look right. You will only make my case for me.

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