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To think the term 'bullying' has lost all meaning?

(76 Posts)
Catmilk Wed 01-Jun-11 12:11:40

I just read some model complain that she was bullied at school, being called names like 'Kipper lips.' If that was basically it, is that bullying? (And have you ever noticed how models were always apparently teased for being too tall, or a bookworm, or kids would call them 'skinny-long-legs-big-eyes-shiney hair' or similar... Yeah right.)

Anyway, bullying is clearly a spectrum, from persistent name-calling to being beaten up.. but with the welcome anti-bullying campaigns around these days, it seems every celebrity has to admit to being bullied... and again it seems when pressed it's little more than name-calling. Are there many people here who didn't suffer - and maybe dish-out a little name-calling at school? Were we all both bullies and bullied?

I don't have the answers... but 'bullying' to me means the aim is to install fear in the victim, perhaps to the end that they would give up their dinner money. Frankly, that's what I think of when I imagine bullying - physical threats for sweet money... but I accept it can be more subtle that that, especially with girls. So how do you define it, and do you agree that the modern usage of the word is getting a bit vague?

Birdsgottafly Wed 01-Jun-11 12:17:35

I think that the 'modern' usage is expanding, which is only a good thing. There is a difference between arguing with someone and caling them a name and giving that person a 'nickname' of your choosing and calling them it and making others do so, also, that is bullying.

Name calling instills a fear and dread of going to school, it is unacceptable in the workplace and by senior school, it shouldn't be happening. It is not good for the 'bully' to think that it is acceptable as they will not be able to hold a job as they will have no idea of what is acceptable conduct.

usualsuspect Wed 01-Jun-11 12:17:44

I think that any persistent name calling that makes someone feel uncomfortable is bullying

Punkatheart Wed 01-Jun-11 12:18:49

No; bullying is when you shrink inside and feel as if you don't want to go to school/work. I was called names at school too, one of which was 'paki.' I generally stood up for myself but there were days when it made me feel wretched.

Bullying can emcompass emotional and physical bulllying. Yes, I think a lot of people elicit sympathy for their bullying and yes, sometimes it is attention-seeking and demeans actual bullying. So I do understand what you mean. It is a cliche but bullies are usually the most insecure of people who have problems of their own. A close relative was a bully at school and is still in life. In her opnion, the weak deserve to be bullied...

cardibach Wed 01-Jun-11 12:22:57

I agree that name calling and other subtle attacks are bullying if regular/repeated/constant. I think that is the difference between 'a bit of name calling' and bullying - if it is constant and unwelcome it can constitute bullying.
However, I do think many children (and adults) are now too ready to accuse someone of bullying if they upset them once. Of course, I'm not saying upsetting someone once is acceptable, I just don't think it is bullying, exactly.

I don't think I've been very clear there - I hope you all understand!

lesley33 Wed 01-Jun-11 12:23:52

I agree that bullying doesn't have to be physical. Persistently demeaning someone and putting them down can be bullying.

But yes I agree that sometimes the expansion of the way the word bullying is used, is too wide. So for example, all the children in the class running away from a child, name calling and refusing to play with a child is bullying. Some children refusing to play with your child because they don't like the child is not bullying.

I have also heard people complain about being bullied at work when the real problem is they are crap at their job and so rightly get pulled up on it. This kind of complaining about bullying IME is usually accompanied with a rant about how this is against my human rights.

BTW I am very very in favour of the concept behind human rights legislation, but find it is often quoted by people who are frankly just being unreasonable.

hobnobsaremyfave Wed 01-Jun-11 12:24:59

Agree with you Cardibach (love the name btw). I have heard people saying their DC have been bullied after one small altercation between 2 children. To me it demeans the misery that the victims of true bullying suffer.

LeggyBlondeNE Wed 01-Jun-11 12:26:17

I would say that it is being used more widely now. I recall a friend once saying to me "well everyone gets bullied at school, you've just got to get over it" - which on further discussion meant that she'd been teased by three girls when she started her private school. Versus me being systematically socially excluded by the girls, and teased by some boys, and subjected to regular verbal viciousness from first starting at my Catholic primary (I'd moved schools so was the odd one out) and on for the next 8 years.

Although I suppose by your definition I wasn't bullied since I was rarely physically assaulted.

Many people are teased, a few poor suckers like me however have key vulnerabilities which red flag them for every insecure bully around (in my case I was tall, bookish and wouldn't say boo to a goose so they knew I'd never fight back).

Either way, if enough people children admire get on TV and say "if someone is being teased, stick up for them" then there'd be fewer bystanders and less bullying and that ain't a bad thing. (If it's just 'woe is me' then I have less patience because it's not useful.)

emptyshell Wed 01-Jun-11 12:27:07

The way I've seen it described in a few schools (to distinguish it from petty squabbles) is using STOP - Several Times On Purpose.

Otherwise, especially immediately around anti-bullying week you get the shift from "Miiiiiiiiiiissss Jack's looking at me funny" to "Miiiiiiiiisssss Jack's bullying me" - while Jack's staring at the window behind the child in question with a vacant expression on his face wondering what's for lunch.

AbigailS Wed 01-Jun-11 12:30:11

You won't believe the number of parents that claim their DC is being bullied when a single "friend" doesn't want to play with them at playtime! Yes, it is more serious if that child won't let anyone else play with them, but just leaving the "victim" to play with one set of friends while the "bully" chooses to play with someone else... really!
Also I get "X is bullying my DC" Me to child: "Oh dear, what happened?" "He won't do what I'm telling him to in the game"...
Don't get me wrong. Bullying is totally unacceptable, but people are weakening our attempts to manage it in school by calling every fall out with a friend bullying - and some parents know if they use that word we will jump so their DC gets their own way!

LeggyBlondeNE Wed 01-Jun-11 12:30:22

hobnobs - yep v true. When one of my bullies years later complained that her little sister had been teased the previous day I was splutteringly speechless!

lesley33 Wed 01-Jun-11 12:32:00

In fairness to the OP, when I was a child bullying amongst boys did seem to largely include a physical element to it. But amongst girls it tended to be more verbal. But I don't think it breaks down nowdays so neatly between the different genders.

MumblingRagDoll Wed 01-Jun-11 12:37:24

grin at "Skinny-long-legs-big eyes shiny hair"!

I'm gonna get you at break you skinny, full-lipped, elegant freak you!"

pozzled Wed 01-Jun-11 12:40:06

Bullying doesn't have to be physical, but it does IMO have to be ongoing , and have a serious effect on the child's self-esteem and well-being. It can cover all sorts of behaviours, from (persistent, malicious) name-calling, isolating the child (by not allowing to join in games, refusing to sit near etc). IME physical bullying is quite rare, at least at primary school, it's usually more subtle.

I do think though that now that the issue has (rightly) been given a high profile, there is a tendency for children and their parents to label something as 'bullying' which really isn't. I've had to deal with complaints about 'bullying' which are actually one-off incidents, like an argument, or one incident of name calling which the child promptly apologises for, friendship problems which are ongoing but both parties are equally to blame and just not communicating well. Or sometimes, where the 'victim' has actually provoked and antagonised the 'bully' until the child responds angrily, but the 'victim' still genuinely believes that they are in the right and the other child should accept all the blame.

So, yes, I agree that we should perhaps be a bit more careful about how the word is used.

Birdsgottafly Wed 01-Jun-11 12:54:04

pozzled- agree with most of what you said accept that to be bullying it has to have a serious effect on self esteem. I think if a person or child is bothered to any extent by what is happening then it is still bullying. I have worked in environments that have been very uncomfortable because of ongoing comments made (which were racist and now wouldn't be allowed), they did not damage my self esteem but were a form of bullying as they were made for my benefit in the hope that they upset me.

takeonboard Wed 01-Jun-11 13:01:12

I have noticed how many celebs have been bullied it almost seems to be fashionable these days but I'm not sure it does any harm to bring the subject into the limelight TBH.
In my opinion bullying is repeated behaviour solely aimed at upsetting or making another person feel uncomfortable - whether that be name calling/ physical abuse/ exclusion /cyber /whatever, it is the repeated and deliberate which make it bullying rather than teasing or banter which are part of everyday life.

Bucharest Wed 01-Jun-11 13:10:50

I agree that the word (and by extension the act) is becoming de-valued.

How many times in a single week on here, on MN do we see accusations of bullying thrown around? When all that has happened is that someone has disagreed with an opinion. It's actually a bit pathetic. And it does a great disservice to the thousands and thousands of children and adults (but mainly children) who are truly truly on the end of real, disgusting bullying. Because me disagreeing with you, and you getting all uppity about it on a forum, is not and never will be bullying.

Bucharest Wed 01-Jun-11 13:11:05

(generic "you" btw!!)

greencolorpack Wed 01-Jun-11 13:14:25

Bucharest, someone having an opinion and then the next person disagreeing is not bullying, but one person having an opinion and then someone else disagreeing, and then ten more posters coming on also disagreeing, and also poking fun at the OP, taking the piss, making light of whatever it is they're taking seriously, isn't that bullying? Sorry for getting all uppity on a forum.

youngwomanwholivesinashoe Wed 01-Jun-11 14:04:04

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

JamieAgain Wed 01-Jun-11 14:10:13

I think it's a good thing that the meaning of bullying has expanded beyond physical threat or actions. I think that bullying can be "mild" but is sustained to be called bullying. At school, a child can't escape from bullying so it takes place over a period of time. I don't see that happening on MN.

greencolorpack Wed 01-Jun-11 14:13:23

Sorry to hear of your work problems.

I think it is possible to be bullied on forums, and it's not really all that easy to quantify "my suffering is bigger than your suffering therefore your suffering is not suffering". We all have to walk in our own shoes. I couldn't possibly say if forum bullying is better or worse than real life suffering, who knows. It depends on the people involved and what transpired.

youngwomanwholivesinashoe Wed 01-Jun-11 14:17:09

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

limitedperiodonly Wed 01-Jun-11 14:18:23

Given that on reality TV everyone has to have a 'journey' I don't blame the girl for possibly over-egging her experience.

But maybe she wasn't.

OP, have you ever been bullied? Because your post reminds me of the 'degrees of rape' debate we had a week or two ago.

Bullying is not, as you believe, a 'spectrum' from 'persistent name-calling' being the least severe to being beaten up being the worst.

Like pozzled I'd class bullying as a sustained campaign against one person designed to lower the victim's self-esteem and her or his standing within a group.

I also agree with her that physical bullying is less common than psychological.

I'd add that it's a myth usually mouthed by people who've never experienced it that boys only ever wallop their victims while girls stick to psychological games.

Both genders are perfectly capable of either.

What angers me is that people seem to think if you're being isolated or ridiculed that's better than having seven bells knocked out of you.

You used the word 'persistent' - that's the key.

Another key is that it always done by an individual acting with others. Some of the others might share the bully's malice. Others join in the bullying for lots of reasons, not least because they've become convinced that somehow the victim deserves it and it's not that bad really.

Bullying can only thrive if it's a group activity. If there were more people willing to stand up for victims and fewer people talking rubbish about 'spectrums' the world would be a happier, shinier place. IME, of course.

xstitch Wed 01-Jun-11 14:32:40

Well said limited

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