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Fandom is not high school.

All schools, nowadays, have anti-bullying policies. Not all schools enforce those policies well, but they all have a formal and public set of rules against bullying. Those rules are enforced by teachers wielding detentions and exclusions, who usually also try to promote positive behaviour and to work with kids to actively combat bullying. In schools, it is a complete and absolute given that bullying is bad.

Of course, in the adult world, it's not so easy. There are no teachers out here wielding the detention-stick to make us behave. In a community of adults, we control our own moral choices. We cannot rely on some outside authority to rein us in, or rescue us, or draw lines for us and tell us not to cross them. We are adults, and we must make those choices for ourselves. We are responsible for our own actions, for the harm we do and, of course, the goodwill we spread. We cannot, as adults, pass the blame for our actions to others, cannot say: the teachers are oppressing me, or I'm fighting the system, or it's so not on that I can't say what I want or if it's so bad, why didn't you stop me?

It's scary, and it's easy to slip back into petulant adolescent ways. The vast majority of us, however, are not children any more, and we shouldn't confuse a safe space with an irresponsible space. Because schools have a lot to teach us about how to tackle bullying. A school reduces bullying by openly addressing and discussing the topic, by making it clear how much harm it does and what is it. You identify the places and times where it takes place, and set up safe spaces in response. You counsel and support the victims, often through peer mentoring, and you work with the perpetrators to change their behaviour (as a form tutor, I do a lot of this, at a very low-level, trying to stop little squabbles and dislikes from growing into something nastier and more persistent).

Most importantly, though, you do everything you can think of to make it unwelcome to the whole community. There will always be bullies, because people have so many reasons for doing it. Bullying is a form of power and control and it will always escalate if it goes unchallenged. Bullying is a social behaviour, designed to shore up the bully's own status and power and secure their own place in a community (this, I think, is why so many victims find their friends vanishing through fear of association). The people whose behaviour you have to change are the people who stand and snigger, the people who watch but don't speak up, the people who turn their backs and think thank God it's not me. A bully's cruelty will always hurt, but with no audience, their power is reduced in their own eyes. Without Crabbe and Goyle, Draco Malfoy is just a frightened little boy.

I looked up some of guidelines for schools on bullying while I was thinking about this post, and I thought I'd repost them here. These are the official learning directives in the UK for primary schools, nabbed from teachernet.co.uk which has all the official documents on this issue.

Years 1 and 2 (age 5-7)


• I can tell you what bullying is.
• I can tell you some ways in which I am the same and different from my friends.
• I am proud of the ways in which I am different.
• I can tell you how someone who is bullied feels.
• I can be kind to children who are bullied.
• I know that when you feel sad, it affects the way you behave and how you think.
• I know some people in and out of school who I could talk to if I was feeling unhappy or being bullied.
• I know what to do if I am bullied.


Years 3 and 4 (age 7-9)


• I know what it means to be a witness to bullying.
• I know that witnesses can make the situation better or worse by what they do.
• I know how it might feel to be a witness to and a target of bullying.
• I can tell you why witnesses sometimes join in with bullying or don’t tell.
• I can tell you some ways of helping to make someone who is being bullied feel better.
• I know that sometimes bullying is hard to spot, and I know what to do if I think it is going on but I am not sure.

Yeah, fandom isn't high school. Sometimes it isn't even elementary school.

So, what to do with all this, with the responsibility of being an adult and the wisdom we can learn from school? I'm not sure. I wanted to ask people to speak up, but I know the awful scars it leaves and how painful and hard it can feel to have any extra demands made of you when you've already been hurt.

I'm going to leave this post public, because I know most of the hurt about this issue is, understandably, locked away. To be honest, although I've been around for years and know how friendly it can be, I'm not active enough in fandom to care if people shit on the floor in here (although if they do, please respond as adults - make icked-out faces at the screen, tactfully approach the perpetrator via a private message if you know them, and no shaming. Ad hominem attacks will also bring out the teacher voice and the banning button - discuss the issues, not the individuals). Those reasonable constraints aside, please feel free to comment, link, debate.



Finally, a pledge:

Bullying is wrong. I will not tolerate it in this journal. If I believe that someone I know is engaging in bullying behaviour, I will engage with them about their behaviour, either through a gentle challenge, a more detailed private message or, if all else fails, by defriending. I will not support, either overtly or tacitly, any behaviour which is designed to undermine, denigrate or humiliate someone on any grounds.

Date: 2011-02-23 07:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] zephre.livejournal.com
Thanks for this! I was just preparing a similar post, myself. Perhaps when I've done it, I could link to yours as well, if you're ok with it.

Date: 2011-02-23 07:46 pm (UTC)
ext_50422: (Default)
From: [identity profile] rosemaryandrue.livejournal.com
Please do :)

It so frustrating to see it here when I have to deal with it everyday at work. It's so poisonous.

Date: 2011-02-23 08:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lolafeist.livejournal.com
This is an awesome post.

Date: 2011-02-23 08:11 pm (UTC)
ext_50422: (Default)
From: [identity profile] rosemaryandrue.livejournal.com
*hugs* Thank you. I've been guilty of ignoring it in the past, because I fly so far under the radar to ever be targeted there, but it's so hateful and seems to be doing more and more harm.

Date: 2011-02-23 08:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ella-bane.livejournal.com
This is a great post! [livejournal.com profile] zephre linked me. Thank you. :D

Date: 2011-02-23 08:48 pm (UTC)
ext_50422: (Default)
From: [identity profile] rosemaryandrue.livejournal.com
I was quietly raging yesterday, when it occurred to me that I deal with all the time offline. Bullying shouldn't ever be tolerated.

Date: 2011-02-23 08:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] faynia.livejournal.com
♥ THANK YOU FOR THIS. I keep reading the posts and thinking that there are ways in which people deal with this in RL that are effective and work. And we need to look at those to address behaviors.

I need to also stay out of middle schools for more than a week because my brain runs on a zero-tolerance to harrassment/bullying policy, which is great, but makes me RAGE in RL when I can't do anything.

Date: 2011-02-23 08:51 pm (UTC)
ext_50422: (Default)
From: [identity profile] rosemaryandrue.livejournal.com
*nods* It's such a horrible thing, and schools don't have a perfect solution either. They have been dealing with it for years, though, and it seemed like a good idea to look that way for some ideas. A culture of silence on bullying does not solve anything.

(Oh, God, so true. Every now I then I get to the point where I'm ready to throw something next time I hear some bit of homophobia or racism or plain nastiness. That's when it's time to go and walk around the school and look at the views for a while).

Date: 2011-02-23 08:44 pm (UTC)
yue_ix: Chibi of Merlin with tentacle arms (!)
From: [personal profile] yue_ix
I adore your pledge.

People underestimate themselves and theirs words all the time. What they say and do have power - power to hurt, power to help. The same way that what they don't say or don't do have power. Calling a spade a spade also has power - what is being done is bullying, and it hurts people.

Your pledge is what I'd consider a course of action, and an answer to everyone who thinks that they can't do anything or don't know what to do. Everyone can personalize it, but it's all actual daily things anyone can do that will slowly facet the world we live in. Speaking up when we see something happening is really hard, and we don't always have the spoons for it. However, I think everyone can try to make their own place a safe place, and we can't fathom how much that will already help.

I've had my head in the sand about this, and it needs to stop. Thank you for your post.

Date: 2011-02-23 08:55 pm (UTC)
ext_50422: (Default)
From: [identity profile] rosemaryandrue.livejournal.com
*nods* I'm not about to go charging over to the meme and attacking people, because that won't work, but the people who post there, in both innocent and nasty threads, are part of the wider community. If the mood of that wider community swings, that may make a difference, in the long term. Even tiny little things can make a difference.

I'm just as guilty of ignoring it. I don't want to get caught up in misery in fandom, which is my happy place. But while I'm contentedly ignoring things, other people are hurting, and if speaking up, even in a tiny way, can make a difference, I should do it.

Date: 2011-02-23 08:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ninja-orange.livejournal.com
Thanks for posting this. I linked to it myself, I'm glad this is here as a resource.

Date: 2011-02-23 09:07 pm (UTC)
ext_50422: (Default)
From: [identity profile] rosemaryandrue.livejournal.com
No problem - I came back after a few days slacking and my flist was full of unhappiness. This is just a little thing, but I hope it helps somehow.

Date: 2011-02-23 09:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] onelittlesleep.livejournal.com
Very clear, very thought-provoking and very right. Thank you. I learned a lot from this. I think we can all by bullies, myself definitely included, and information like this can only clarify that and encourage us not only to look outward with awareness, but inward too.

Date: 2011-02-23 09:27 pm (UTC)
ext_50422: (Default)
From: [identity profile] rosemaryandrue.livejournal.com
*nods* It's easy to do, and easy to tolerate, if you're not on the receiving end. Schools definitely don't have all the answers, but the idea of getting a consensus in the community is very wise. There are other things schools do along those lines - things like getting the kids involved in defining bullying and making it a regular assembly and school council topic which are less transferable, but they all work.

Date: 2011-02-23 10:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] copa-cetic.livejournal.com
I love you. Thanks for this post.

Date: 2011-02-23 10:35 pm (UTC)
ext_50422: (Default)
From: [identity profile] rosemaryandrue.livejournal.com
*hugs you tight* So much stupid in this fandom right now.

I saw your posts, hon, but I'm very behind. I'm glad you liked Winchester, even at this miserable time of year :)

Date: 2011-02-23 11:46 pm (UTC)
scribblemoose: default dw icon (Default)
From: [personal profile] scribblemoose
Here via Zephre - and thank you for posting this. I work with 16-18 year olds and the issues and actions are just as you've outlined in our college - and they work. I think things as simple as the pledge there, and awareness-raising, are immensely valuable and helpful.

Date: 2011-02-24 12:01 am (UTC)
ext_50422: (Default)
From: [identity profile] rosemaryandrue.livejournal.com
*nods* I teach 11-16 year olds, in a very small school, and this is what makes the difference. Silence doesn't help.

Date: 2011-02-24 02:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pandarus.livejournal.com
I'm seeing this all over my flist, and I don't even know what the anon com in question is called to go and check it out - but that's probably good for my mental health.

Ack. This is such corrosive shit. I'm really sorry to hear that 'Merlin' fandom has this going on, and I think your post is very helpful. (Was GUTTED last week to discover that one of the handful of girls in my Year 8/9 class was being bullied by the other 3. Gutted. It's so horribly disappointing, and takes my respect and liking for them and sullies it, even though I know it's partly about being young, and insecure, and carving out your own niche and all that jazz. But they still KNOW BETTER, Goddamn it.)

I can see that these anon communities have the virtue of allowing people to express their ideas without a hierarchy, perceived or otherwise, and I understand that for people who feel marginalised in fandom, that can be an empowering thing.

But it always seems to entail some of the people being utter, savage, contemptable SHITHEADS because they've got this mask of anonymity. And that's vile, and inexcusable. If you are pissed off about somebody or something in fandom, then OWN YOUR IRRITATION and say it under your own name. Say it under flock, or in private messaging if it's something you have to vent about, or say it in your goddam journal and take the consequences. Because there are always consequences - it's just that if you say it anonymously, you're condemning some other poor bastard to deal with ALL the consequences, and poisoning their whole fannish experience because they don't know which of their friends or acquaintances said the shit you said, and suddenly they can't trust anybody.

Seriously - if you saying this thing under your own name will lead to people calling you on it, or defriending you, or losing respect for you, then THAT RIGHT THERE IS YOUR MASSIVE CLUE that you should maybe not actually be saying it. That you are being a dick. If you still think it needs saying, then have a little integrity and say it under your own name, goddamn, and take the consequences.

Argh! Man, I just HATE this shit.

Date: 2011-02-24 02:42 am (UTC)
ext_50422: (Gwen)
From: [identity profile] rosemaryandrue.livejournal.com
Don't look! Just stay away! It's vile and it's horribly compelling because it's so vile, which is what gives it power. I've only glanced over there a couple of times myself and it was enough to get a sense of the place. Some threads are innocent discussion, but they're the minority. There's a lot of deeply unpleasant stuff there - not just the usual jealousy over some writers being more popular than others, but persistent racist, sexist shit about both the cast and about fellow fans.

The problem is that the things that happen there spill over. I've seen a few people today say that the solution is not to look at it, but I think that's disingenuous. Poison spreads.

*nods* It's nasty when it's teenagers, but they're kids and they will learn better, especially if people call them out on it. Adults don't have that excuse.

Date: 2011-02-24 03:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pandarus.livejournal.com
Racist and sexist shit too?

DDDDDDDDDDDDD:

I mean, not that bullying fen about their skills or personalities isn't contemptible, because, hello, CONTEMPTIBLE - but I'm staggered that there's overt sexism and racism going on.

Holy fuck.

What? I - that really isn't what I thought 'Merlin' fandom was about. Holy fuck.

DDDDDDDDDDDD:

Date: 2011-02-24 03:41 am (UTC)
ext_50422: (Default)
From: [identity profile] rosemaryandrue.livejournal.com
Constant Gwen!bashing, recently comments about fans' weight and appearance, which is what kicked off the current backlash, vicious attacks on any girl seen near Colin or Bradley. It's horrible.

Yeah, I always thought this fandom didn't have a dark side. Turns out it's all concentrated in one nasty little community.

Date: 2011-02-24 03:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pandarus.livejournal.com
THEY ARE BASHING GWEN? THERE IS RACIST GWEN/ANGEL-BASHING???? OMGWTF?

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

::speechless::

Date: 2011-02-24 03:52 am (UTC)
ext_50422: (Default)
From: [identity profile] rosemaryandrue.livejournal.com
Yeah. I'm not going to quote stuff because I don't want to bring the poison here, but yes, pretty much. It's mostly implications and insinuations, but the cumulative effect is unmistakable.

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