OK. Now for part 2 let’s talk about bystanders and all that. (Part 3 should be a detailed account of my mild bullying as a younger child. But it’s long so it’s taking me a while, as I explain lots of things too much in it.)
Now, I really want to write about this now because of a NEW Amanda Palmer blog post. If you don’t want to read it, here’s her own summary of the New York Times article she’s talking about.
“ in steubenville, ohio, a very drunk girl was allegedly raped by members of the local football team. they allegedly fingered her, urinated on her, left her topless in the street after she vomited, and dragged her unconscious body around from party to party….while bystanders in their wake allegedly twittered & face-booked pictures and videos of what was going on.”
Now, once more, in the comments there’s an uproar of indignation, especially at those bystanders who didn’t do anything to help the poor girl, this Jane Doe.
(I want to also address the way we can make a difference, how Anonymous picked the story up, and of course all the love from the comments, but that’ll have to wait. This will be a very long series.)
It made me think even harder about being a bystander – I don’t think we can use the word innocent bystander, because we all agree that it’s wrong to stand by and watch someone be abused without stepping in and speaking up.
All of us un-bullied people are full of bravado, saying that if we were bullied, we’d definitely tell someone, we’d not stand for it, we’d hit the bully, we would do so much to not be a victim. And it’s true that that’s what we’d be wanting to do, undoubtedly, but until we’re put in the actual situation we can never know how we’ll react.
Actually, here’s something I have the tiniest amount of experience with – I was an avid reader, and always scoffed at characters who didn’t tell people when they felt they were being bullied, or when people were mean to them. Then, when I was upset by how people treated me in Year 5, to the extent that I’d start crying as I left my classroom then struggle to remove the evidence of tears from my face before I got to the library, where my mother worked. I didn’t tell my parents how upset I was until someone told them how they saw me crying every day. (I was a crybaby. I think I still am.) And it never occurred to me that I’d done that, the exact opposite of what I’d always said I’d be, until I was thinking about it years later.
My point is, our intentions may be good but we don’t always carry them out. And this definitely applies to being a bystander too – we promise ourselves that we would have attacked those footballers if we saw them doing what they did, then in the actual situation, we hide behind others and explain that there were too many hostile people there for you to be successful and you saw no point in trying when it would just end up with more people getting hurt.
This isn’t wrong, or evil – just human. But having said that, it also needs to stop.
I’m not saying that’s what happened in this situation, mind you. But it is still a factor of why bullying keeps happening – we know it’s wrong but we’re scared of what will happen to us if we try to stop it. This is entirely reasonable because evolution teaches us to look after ourselves first, and we should.
I feel like I’d have attacked anyone I saw attacking Amanda Todd, and maybe *I* would have, because I am rather violent, and prone to rage. Then again, maybe I’d have been too terrified. I know that just watching people interact with one another at my school, I feel hyperaware of bullying, but I worry that I’m overly sensitive. That I think this person is suffering but they’re not. Because I see guys trading insults with each other and wrestling each other to the ground and I can’t tell if they’re best friends, or if yeah, actually, one is a victim here.
That’s another reason we don’t always step in – we don’t know if we’re overreacting or not. So we opt to hope we are.
And yes, I’ve also stayed silent out of fear – two main fears, the first being the obvious, that the tormentor will turn on me. That said, I don’t think that’s the major reason, because I’m used to being insulted and such by these people. The second is that my help is unwelcome, mostly because I’m a girl and it’s guys I want to help, and what guy wants a girl fighting off people for him? It’s embarrassing. So sometimes I do hit the idiot, and drag him away, and sometimes I just half-heartedly swat his arms away from the victim, and tell the idiot to stop being so annoying.
It’s not the best solution but it’s not the worst either.
I’ve never been to school with people who were bullied to such an extent that they contemplated suicide. I’ve never witnessed that. I’ve never had to be the bystander. I’ve never had the chance to see whether or not I’m as strong as I hope I am.
I hope I am.
I like to think that I am, judging by decisions I’ve made in the past. My past actions. But I can’t know until I’m actually in that situation.
Anyway, I digress.
All of us self-proclaimed active bystanders agree on one thing – that we would never stand by and watch people abuse another. That’s simple.
We have to band together, don’t we?
I see the people responding to AFP. The people responding to the story of this girl from Steubenville – look at the Twitter hashtag #OpRollRedRoll. Anonymous, digging up the story and bringing it to our attention. So many people who agree that it’s wrong to not help.
They are brilliant, obviously.
I don’t know what this post is meant to be about. I think I’m trying to say that there are obviously a lot of us who want to help, and I think we can. We have to stand up for each other, even though there’s no direct bullying occurring. We have to stand up for those who had no one. We have to stand up and tell the world that we’re not going to stand for it anymore.
This is how I think of us – we’re a group of, say, 10 people discussing how awful it is that this girl is getting beaten up. We can’t directly help her by pulling the attackers off, because we’re chained to a wall. There’s 10 people standing in between us and the bullies, unsure of what’s happening and what to do exactly. Then there’s 3 people standing there and encouraging those bullies. Finally, there’s 2 actually beating her up.
That wall we’re chained to is distance, and not actually being there when it’s happening.
But we still have voices. We can stand up and shout. We can tell those 2 bullies to stop it. And no, they probably won’t listen. BUT. Those 10 unsure people? We can tell them what to do. We can tell them, go, pull the bullies off that poor girl. They probably will listen, because they’ll listen to whoever tells them what to do.
But, I hear you protest, those bullies and the ones encouraging them are going to just shout louder and tell them not to do anything!
Yes, they are. I know that bullies can have loud voices. But, imaginary reader, go back and count again. There’s only 5 negative voices. And there’s 10 of us, and we’re all willing to scream til we’re hoarse. We can overpower them. We can do it. And we WILL do it.
Yes, we may be chained to that wall by insecurities and lack of money and distance from the attackers and lack of platforms to project our voices. But we can still shout for all we’re worth. We might not be able to be the ones physically dragging the bullies away, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help. We can tell people exactly what needs to be done, even if we can’t do it ourselves. We have a voice, and we need to use that voice.
Not everyone out there is a bully, in fact , they are the minority. Most people want to help but don’t know how. That’s those 10 unsure people. There’s more of us than there are true bullies, and those unsure people will listen to us if we use our voices.
The problem is that bullies have awfully loud voices, and they scare those unsure people out of using theirs. That leaves the air filled with bullies’ words, and make us think that those are the only words being said. But if you listen closely, you can hear the desperate whisper of all us aggressive bystanders. We’re there alright, but we’re just too quiet. We need to yell like the bullies. If we do, we’ll drown them out, because there are simply more of us. The louder we yell, the more people will hear us, and the more people will realise the truths we’re screaming out, and the more people will join us in our shouting. And eventually, those 5 bullies will realise that they can’t defeat us, because even if the original 10 go hoarse, there’s now others to take our place and cover for us while we drink honeyed tea.
Personally, I suggest we shout AFP song lyrics at them.
I’m awful at metaphors, aren’t I? This trailed off into ridiculousness. Oh well, it’s late. I just felt I had to post *something* about the topic.