News

On Good Kids and Total Fucking Assholes

So, a week later, I’m still stuck on this one point. You know what’s total bullshit? When two legal adults make and distribute a video of two other people engaging in sexual activity, without the knowledge or consent of those two other people, and then everyone falls all over themselves insisting that the first two legal adults are really good kids who would totally never hurt anyone! I mean, it’s not like I’d really expect their lawyers to say anything else, but I’ve also seen lots of quotes to that effect from friends of Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei, and it makes my blood boil every time.

Let me fully spell out what I mentioned last week, which is this: I don’t need to know if Ravi and Wei can be held legally responsible for Tyler Clementi’s death in order to feel perfectly confident saying that they are fucking assholes. I don’t need to know if their motivations were specifically homophobic to feel confident saying they are fucking assholes. I don’t need to ever meet them or speak with them to feel confident saying they are fucking assholes. Because I know they both participated in the filming of two people engaging in sexual activity without those people’s consent, and then invited other people to watch it. And if you do that, YOU ARE A FUCKING ASSHOLE. Always and forever.

Seriously, the legal questions here are indeed thorny and complicated, but it does not follow that the public needs to wait before forming an opinion on the character of these two unbelievable shitheels. Filming people having sex without their consent is not a typical youthful indiscretion or the kind of mistake anyone could make. It is, in fact a crime — and beyond that, it is FUCKING ASSHOLE BEHAVIOR, beyond a shadow of a doubt. And we know, at the very least, that Ravi did it and Wei let him do it in her room. (Her lawyers seem to be planning to argue that she had absolutely nothing to do with it, and I suppose there is an outside chance we might learn she was out of the country at the time and had in fact sent him a registered letter saying she wanted no part of his plan to humiliate his roommate. But until I see that evidence, I really have no problem calling her a bona fide fucking asshole, if perhaps a slightly smaller one than Ravi.)

This idea that the public shouldn’t, you know, jump to conclusions based only on the evidence that Ravi and Wei filmed people having sex without their consent would be laughable if it weren’t so appalling. In case anyone is confused, the court of public opinion is not where people get tried for manslaughter, or where we officially determine whether they deserve to be charged as homophobes — that’s what happens in the court of… court. Law. Whatever. Here in the court of public opinion, we only have to decide whether we have grounds to be utterly disgusted by these people’s behavior — and we have had more than enough evidence to convict on those grounds since the news broke.

If you’re still confused, asking yourself some simple questions might help to clarify things.

Q. If Tyler Clementi were still alive, would Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei still be fucking assholes?

A. Yes! Because they filmed people having sex without their consent and then invited their friends to watch.

Q. If Tyler Clementi were straight, would Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei still be fucking assholes?

A. Yes! Because they filmed people having sex without their consent and then invited their friends to watch.

See how that works? I really don’t care how many friends these two had, how many awards they’d won, how good their grades were, or how much their parents love them, or whatever the fuck their lawyers want me to think about. These are not “wonderful, caring” people. These are not sweet kids who got carried away.  These are legal adults who filmed people having sex without their consent and then invited their friends to watch. I have been very young and very stupid and very drunk in my life — sometimes all at the same time! — and still managed to never, ever consider doing anything remotely like that to other human beings, on account of how I am not also a TOTAL FUCKING ASSHOLE.

And of course, whether they go to prison for it or not, a gay teenager’s suicide did come about at least in part as a consequence of Ravi and Wei being total fucking assholes. Well done.

Hey, speaking of which, how ’bout that LGBTQ teen suicide epidemic, which is finally hitting the news? While following that news, I, like probably everyone reading this, have been screaming obscenities, sputtering helplessly, cheering on Dan Savage’s It Gets Better project, and wondering what the hell adults are supposed to do about bullying. I don’t have a lot of coherent thoughts on the matter, but here’s one of them: We need to call bullies what they are — total fucking assholes.

Seriously, half the problem here is the astonishing number of adults willing to come to the defense of the kids who are tormenting their peers, day in and day out. Oh, but they’re good kids! Oh, but they didn’t really mean anything by it! Oh, but that’s just how kids are! Oh, sticks and stones! No. No no no no no.

Maybe it’s true that some youthful bullies just haven’t yet outgrown the natural tendency of children to be basically sociopathic, but A) a lot of them never will outgrow it, and B) even if they will, can we at least stop calling them good kids as a response to hearing that they’re deliberately and consistently making another child’s life hell? Can we do that much? Can we stop making excuses for the bullies and start standing up for the kids they torment?

Also, can we stop telling said tormented kids that the correct response is to ignore the bullies? Has that ever, in the entire history of weirdo kids and the aggressive little shits who enjoy hurting them, actually made a bully stop? Seriously, if I ever have a kid who gets bullied like I did — verbally, daily, constantly — or like Al did — verbally and physically, daily, constantly — my best advice will be this: “You know what, sweetie? That kid is a TOTAL FUCKING ASSHOLE, and you should feel free to say so — scream so — to anyone who will listen. I don’t care if you get punished for it at school, and you won’t get punished for it at home.” Honestly, I don’t think that would do much to stop the bullying, and it might even make things worse. But at least it’s the truth, and it feels good to say it.

I’m sure I will hear (or, well, would hear, if I left the comments open for long) that it’s practically criminal to think of any child, even a hypothetical one, as a “total fucking asshole,” and the fact that I could use such abusive language with regard to a child makes it clear that I don’t have children — which we all know is downright unnatural for a lady of almost 36 — so probably no one should ever listen to me about anything. But you know what? Fuck that.

I don’t know anything about the children who bullied Billy Lucas or Seth Walsh or Justin Aaberg or Asher Brown or Dan Savage or Tim Gunn or so many other kids. But I know about the girls who sat at the lunch table with me in the first half of seventh grade (assigned seats, so I couldn’t just move) and told me every day that no one liked me, that I would never have a boyfriend, that I was repulsively fat, that my acne meant I clearly never bathed, that I must be absolutely mortified by my unemployed father’s “beater” car,  blah blah fucking blah, and honestly, if they were as pathetic as me, they’d probably go ahead and kill themselves — all of them laughing hysterically together at every “witty” jab. Every day.

They were only 12 years old, and I doubt that any of them — well, maybe one — have become the kind of adults who get off on making other people feel bad. But well over twenty years later, with the perspective of an adult — a reasonably happy, fulfilled, successful adult, at that — I do not feel even the tiniest twinge of guilt about calling those children total fucking assholes.

I don’t want to hear that they were otherwise good kids, or even “just” kids. I don’t want to hear about how they were too young to know any better — somehow, magically, I wasn’t, and I was just about the youngest in my grade. Those children were hateful. Those children were absolute monsters who made me feel, at eleven years old, like I might just be better off dead. Those children were total fucking assholes, and I will never apologize for saying so.

And I wasn’t even gay, or harassed because anyone thought I was. You know why I know how lucky I was to escape that sort of bullying in particular? Because I know how mortified I would have been to be called a lesbian in seventh grade. It would have been like all those slurs I just mentioned times ten, because that’s how terrible we all agreed it was to be gay. Straight kids of today: Don’t be like me. Don’t sit around secretly thinking there’s nothing wrong with being gay, while also thanking your lucky stars that you aren’t and hoping no one ever gets the wrong impression about you. Don’t think the people yelling “faggot” and “dyke” at your peers are ignorant pricks, yet fail to say so out loud. I wish I’d figured out a lot earlier than I did that the only correct answer to being called gay as an insult is: “So what if I am?” Well, that and, “If you actually think being gay is shameful, you are a total fucking asshole.” Learn those phrases. Use them. Be better than I was, if you can.

But back to grown-up responsibility. I simply can’t understand why so many adults are so eager to dismiss bullying as a childhood inevitability of no real consequence, something on a par with skinned knees, maybe a broken wrist at worst. Something that heals quickly and turns into a distant memory or even a funny story. I can only assume those people were once bullies themselves — perhaps they still are — and are thus loath to acknowledge how much serious, long-lasting damage they might have done.

But frankly, I don’t really give a rat’s ass why they’re like that — I just want them to stop. And I want every adult who has ever minimized the impact of bullying, who has ever made excuses for a bully instead of standing up for a victim, who has ever described a child known to viciously torment other children as “a good kid, really!” to know this: You are a total fucking asshole.

This video’s already made the rounds, but Ellen still said it better than most, and without even using the word “fuck.” Watch it again.

121 thoughts on “On Good Kids and Total Fucking Assholes

  1. Thank you. For those, like me, who it got better for and for those still fighting, like my 17 year-old son, thank you.

  2. Yes. As much as I LOVE the “It Gets Better” project, most of the videos only address how bullied kids should emotionally cope with being bullied and don’t really address the bullies themselves and what total assholes they are. Which is why I love this video:

    I’m conflicted on what kind of advice to give my daughter if she’s ever bullied. “Just ignore it” is total bullshit. But confronting them and calling them out could make it worse, like you said. Even telling an adult can make it worse. It’s such an awful, no-win situation; all balls completely in the bully’s court. Which is why I so agree that adults need to speak out about how bullies are assholes and WE, as grown-ups, will not tolerate them or condone their behavior, ever–and not just tell kids how they can “deal with” the bullying. It should not be the victim’s responsibility to cope, it should be the bully’s responsibility to STOP.

    Great rant, Kate.

  3. I’ve given pretty much the same advice to my kids regarding handling bullies…they are assholes and you will not get in trouble for standing up for yourself. (From me, anyway, and I will handle teachers/ administrators accordingly.) But I’ve also dealt with it from the other side. My daughter posted a questionable -not hateful,but questionable- status on fb one day about a former friend and I nipped that shit in the bud. I won’t tolerate my kids bullying or being bullied. Period.

    • Yeah, Gina, I think that’s such an important part of it — being willing to admit that your kid might be the one being an asshole. I don’t recall (of course I wouldn’t) ever really bullying another kid, but I sure stood by and watched it happen to other people a thousand times. I think it’s a rare kid who doesn’t have the potential to be at least that much of a jerk under the right circumstances. Parents pretending their kids could never be bullies, just because they’re sweet at home, is part of the problem.

      • One of the few times I ever remember my parents really flipping their shit at the same time, over the same thing, was when, at age eleven, I pronounced another girl a slut. I had only known the word a few weeks and wasn’t totally sure of its meaning, and was trying it out, and I was amazed at how fast my parents (we were in the car at the time) made it clear that that word was not OK, it was never OK to call someone that, it could do real damage, and I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about anyway. It really made an impression. (In general, I was bullied some, and sat by sometimes when I wished, like you, that I had spoken up.)

  4. I think you’re right that a huge part of the reason adults have no interest in taking a real, hard, honest look at bullying is that many of them were bullies and continue that practice in many ways as adults (why hello internet!). Sickeningly, our society rewards much of that type of behavior and objecting to it is seen as something only a “weakling” who can’t “run with the big dogs” or a humorless drag who can’t “take a joke” does (this of course being *the* classic response to every type of activism, ) Our (society’s) attitudes towards the abuse that is bullying are unbelievable, truly.

    • As an educator who works a lot with kids and parents, I agree that many parents themselves are bullys, not just to each other, but to teachers and even other kids. I agree with the other comments here that it starts at home. It’s not fair to expect more from our kids than what we ourselves do. So we gotta cut it out too!

      Much of the good work being done in schools talks about bullying as a part of a triangle–the bully, the bullied, and the bystander. The bystander’s role is seriously underestimated in bullying situations but it is key in changing them. When we think about solutions for bullying, we need to include bystander empowerment and training in the equation.

  5. Cheers! It’s about time someone just calls it for what it is – total bullshit. Not only should bullies be called on their behavior but they should be publicly humiliated so NO ONE follows their example. Is it wrong to want to slap someone else’s kid when you see them acting like this? Actually, I’d like to smack their parents too…

    @Gina – BRAVO! My kids wouldn’t have gotten away with anything like that either. They are all adults now and are the FIRST ones to step in when they see something like this happening.

    I personally hope Ravi and Wei fry in hell!

    • “Fry in hell”? What good is that?

      No no no.

      I want them, first, expelled, and I want that burned onto their transcripts with a BRIGHT SCARLET LETTER, to wit: “EXPELLED FOR BEING TOTAL FUCKING ASSHOLE”. Okay, if the university administration has to get all “correct” about it, they could say, “EXPELLED FOR GROSS VIOLATIONS OF CIVIL RIGHTS” and leave the reader to wonder – burning crosses? Or what?

      In short, I want them branded forever as the vicious punks they are. This might drive home the lesson to other vicious punks. Probably not, but it’s worth a shot.

  6. I feel like people are constantly wanting to absolve young people of their stupid behavior. When a 5 year old says something rude it is okay because they are 5 and don’t know any better, if 10 year old does something stupid they are absolved, because they are 10 and don’t know any better. And while I think certain levels of tolerance for kids not knowing the rules of polite society are necessary I feel like the age of absolution is steadily rising. “Oh They’re only 18.” “Oh she’s only 22.”

    I feel the same urge myself. When I hear about 18 year olds or 15 year olds or 10 year olds doing increadibly stupid or hurtful things I want to absolve them. I want to say it is okay because thinking back on some of the incredibly stupid things I did and said when I was a kid, and even when I was a young adult, I want to forgive myself. I want to absolve myself and believe that it wasn’t me. It was some other stupider, more of an asshole me.

    Perhaps the reason society keeps absolving younger people of their stupidity is because we ourselves want to feel like the stupid stuff we did when we were 14 or 20 doesn’t matter. We’re here, we’re good people now, why does it matter if at 14 we told our sister she was stupid and made her cry, or if at 17 we dumped our best friend without explaining to her why or giving her a chance. We were young, we were stupid, we are still good people, or so we like to tell ourselves.

    It seems to me that instead of trying to collectively make ourselves feel better by absolving younger people of their asshole behavior, we need to hold them responsible. We need to start as young as possible holding kids responsible for hurting people around them so that when they turn 25 they don’t have to look back at things they did when they were 18 and be filled with remorse about what giant fucking assholes they were.

    How do you get to 18 years old and still have the ability in your mind to think that doing something like this is okay? You get there in part because enough people didn’t tell you that doing it would make you a total fucking asshole.

  7. I sometimes think the “ignore them” is based on the idea that ignoring them is better for the victim’s peace of mind. I think of the boy in jr high who would make cutting comments to me whenever I’d giggle at a book I was reading or a witty remark from the instructor. His most frequent refrain was “Turn down your vibrator!” which I honestly didn’t get. (Honestly? I still don’t. Giggling doesn’t seem to be a common result of sexual arousal in my experience.)

    I alternated between shooting puzzled glances at him and ignoring him, because he wasn’t making any sense. In retrospect he probably meant it as an angry put-down, and perhaps he aspired to bullydom, but the fact that he wasn’t making any sense (that I could see) kept it from hurting me. It made it easy to tune him out. By ignoring him, I ended up with a memory of puzzlement and “What combination of ignorance, sexism and sexual interest would result in coming up with that comment?” instead of the remembered shame and anger from the kids who called me a “lesbian” for being tall, fat, and good at math, or the girls who marched me into the bathroom in 6th grade to criticize my clothing and hair. THOSE I remember as bullies, and I wish I hadn’t cared so much about what they said….

  8. Thanks for this. My little sister was bullied to the point of cutting and suicidal ideation in high school. Those kids were fucking assholes, which is what I told her over the phone when I was far away at college. I too hate the “kids will be kids” retort. It sounds suspiciously like when people say “boys will be boys” to excuse a variety of misogynist and violent behaviors. And the deification of children in this country…ugh, don’t even get me started.

    • I don’t want to get too off-topic with a rant that is far less serious than the topic of this entry, but I agree with you 100% and also cannot stand the “children are so HONEST” trope. I’ve seen it on way too many blog entries and articles as some kind of “wake-up call” to realizing that you are fat. Like some kid who is “just being honest” says “Mommy, that lady is so FAT!” I would say half the time they’re learning it from their parents (like my nieces and nephews who are preoccupied with fat people because their parents are assholes about fat) and the other half they’re being manipulative. After all it’s not like they don’t know fat is “bad” and that calling someone fat has the power to hurt them, even at a young age.

      I’m not BLAMING her per se but the girl who approached me when I was a kindergartner pretending to be friendly about the birthday cake I was eating at recess, and then turned around and yelled “Hey everyone, look at fatty stuffing her face with cake!!” was an asshole in that moment and sadly continued to be a mean-girl bullying asshole until I lost track of her at some point in high school. And though it may not have been her “fault” at 5, that doesn’t prevent me from remembering it almost 30 years later as the moment I realized my body was different and bad.

  9. A-fucking-men. Incidentally, I just got finished reading “Guyland” by sociologist Michael Kimmel, and it has an excellent and oh-so relevant chapter on bullying, particularly homophobic bullying and calls adults out on their complicity in what he calls the Cultures of Entitlement, Silence, and Protection. He also points out that in most cases where bullying leads to the death of a student, other students who knew about the bullying usually feel that they are innocent because they refused to participate and points to the need for instructing kids to approach an authority, or, you know call fucking 9-1-1 when they see disturbing violent shit go down.

  10. “How dare you say kids are sociopaths!”

    “You never read Lord of the Flies, did you.”

    I have been sharing the “It Gets Better” project with my classes. Though I know the reality is far more complex than that, it seems like a decent starting place for dealing with any kids at my university who are still suffering (we have a scarily conformist culture on campus, with no gay/straight alliance or any gay student groups). At the least it may help them feel less alone, and hopefully my mentioning it prominently also makes them feel less alone as well.

    Nothing has soothed my miserable memories of bullying in junior high and high school like thinking I may be able to help someone now as a teacher.

    DRST

  11. Thank you for this. I have 2 young daughters and I absolutely agree with you, children can be assholes and if ANYONE treats my children this way I encourage them to say so loudly and without apology. There is NOTHING more shameful than adults who sit back while a child suffers and do nothing.

    Are those children assholes? Yes. But they were taught to say those things and they were taught it is OK to treat people that way. They are assholes, their parents are assholes and our culture is full of assholes. We have to stop it. We have to scream out from the rooftops of our local schools that we will not just watch this happen.

    I was tormented as a teen. For being different, for being bi, for being smart. I was tormented and my mother stood up for me and fought for me. I graduated high school in three years with average grades but a lot of self confidence and pride in having SURVIVED. It was a horrible time, but I had the support and love of the people around me. I am thankful for that every day.

    For all the teens out there who don’t have that, I am sorry, my heart breaks that you aren’t told everyday how special you are and that you need to live, you need to live to see the amazing person you are destined to become. We are out here, we love you, find us. It DOES get better.

  12. One of the things that gets me is that sometimes the bullies aren’t “sad inside” or insecure themselves or destined for failure. Sometimes they’re golden children who have everything, including intelligence and potential, love and encouragement — and who step on us more ordinary mortals like ants because they have simply been told they’re good enough to.

    I have a similar problem with being told “The best revenge is living well.” I know that I personally have not lived well, for many of the same reasons that made me more of a target for bullies when I was younger. So on top of dealing with the fallout of being tormented every day for years, now I have to feel like I’m not succeeding at eventually “outliving” my bullies?

    Plenty of the kids who made my life miserable were intelligent kids everyone liked, who have gone on to perfectly successful lives and careers; they’re not failures like people told me bullies would eventually be. There just is no karma, and that’s part of why bullying sucks.

    • That’s so true!
      I was always told the same things…”Oh, they’re just insecure themselves, so they want to make you feel bad in order to make themselves feel better!”…and “What goes around comes around; they’ll get what’s coming to them.”

      YEAH RIGHT!
      It was my dad who pointed out to me when I was about 21 or 22 that there is no such thing as a true balance, it’s all bullshit, and unless we hold people responsible for the bullshit nastiness they force other people to endure, they’ll always end up being just fine, while the rest of us just endure it, or don’t endure it (and off ourselves, as has been demonstrated in rising numbers here lately), and life goes on, and the big picture doesn’t care.

      It’s bullshit.
      It’s even worse when you notice that bullying in the adult world — where, SURPRISE, we’re supposed to have outgrown that shit — is JUST.AS.FUCKING.BAD.

      How many times have you heard of someone being nasty to another person in the workplace, and getting away with it, or even going on to be promoted and continue their bullshit?
      How many times have you heard of someone who is actually in management, making someone’s life a living hell, draining them dry, firing them without cause, and sleeping just fine at night, without consequences?
      And of course, what about all the shit that hits the fan anytime there’s a gay person in a workplace, where pretty much everyone else is straight and very conservative and narrow-minded, but they get away with yelling FAGGOT across the office because gays aren’t a protected class?
      Yeah, those people sleep just fine at night, too.

      It’s all bullshit, and all those people are Total Fucking Assholes.
      The people who allow it to happen, from company managers/parents/HR people/etc, are also, in my eyes, COMPLETE Total Fucking Assholes.

      I hold grudges, and every time I hear of someone having awful undue experiences at a place of business, I refuse to shop there, I refuse to do business there, and I make sure to let everyone I know that those people are TFA.

      Hmph.

      *pushes away soapbox*

      • Absolutely. Did you hear about the situation at the University of Virginia’s literary magazine, the Virginia Quarterly Review? Its managing editor committed suicide after repeated bullying from the editor-in-chief, Ted Genoways. Of course, the link between the two can never be proven enough to satisfy Genoways’ supporters. But by all accounts, he is a TFA. He might be a great editor, a brilliant mind, but still. Huge fucking asshole. Even if the managing editor did not kill himself because of Genoways, the documented things he did at the magazine are pretty freaking awful.

  13. Hell fucking yeah! How about martial arts classes for all those who are getting bullied. Nothing like a good pop in the face to take some asshole down a notch. They expect to get no push back, so push the fuck back. GGGRRRRRRR.

      • I agree with you on the not condoning violence. I started fights in high school when people were picking on me, and it didn’t help anything. And I’m probably lucky that I didn’t get seriously hurt.

        That said, I think that knowing some basic self-defense techniques is a good thing for kids who are being bullied. Both because it generally boosts confidence and because verbal harrassment does often turn physical. (Maybe it’s not so much that I don’t condone violence as that I don’t condone *starting* it.) Problem is, even if you know how to defend yourself, if a bully is gonna try to beat you up, they’re going to do it with four of their friends, and you’re screwed anyway.

        So, while I’m pro self-defense, that’s not the whole answer, and making it too much of the answer can get victim-blamey in a hurry, much like telling women to walk with their keys out and stay in well-lit areas instead of telling men to, you know, not rape.

  14. Bra-Fucking-Vo!

    I was bullied relentlessly through school. Now that I am a mother, I am terrified for my child. Terrified that she will experience the same utter shit that I had to go through for years.

  15. When my sweet 9 year old boy couldn’t figure out why some kids in his class were mean and didn’t seem to think there was anything wrong with that, I had to explain to him that the kids are treated like that by their parents so they think it is normal.

    Kids that bully are kids that are bullied…..at home. Adults create bullies, and if your kid is a mean, asshole bully it is your fault. Disrespect breeds disrespect and shit follows down hill.

    I am going to upgrade my advice to my kid and give him Kate’s script

    “That kid is a TOTAL FUCKING ASSHOLE, and you should feel free to say so — scream so — to anyone who will listen. I don’t care if you get punished for it at school, and you won’t get punished for it at home.”

    because it is right on. I have always told him, you can’t “hit” first, but you have to “hit” back.

    When I get called to the principals office because my kid called another kid a TOTAL FUCKING ASSHOLE I will be the proudest mom in the world!

    • “Kids that bully are kids that are bullied…..at home.”

      I’m afraid you’re wrong. Most of the kids who picked on me were privileged, intelligent, well-cared-for with loving involved parents. It isn’t as simple as “bullies are abused children”. They were just assholes who thought they were entitled to hurt other humans.

      • How do you know their parents were loving? You can’t know 100% unless you live with them. People can seem like they have loving parents from an outsider perspective but its not always the case.

    • Realistically, I think it goes both ways. You can’t tell by looking that a kid has loving parents, but you also can’t assume that all bullies are abused at home, or that it’s their parents teaching them to be that way.

      Look at how many people on this thread have admitted to treating other children poorly, primarily because there can be clear social benefits to doing so, whether that’s keeping yourself just above the bottom of the heap or actually making yourself seem “cool.” The peer group, in that case, is the strongest influence — and I’d imagine some of those kids have verbally abusive parents and some have loving parents who would be horrified if they knew what their kids were doing. Not everything children do can be traced back to parenting.

  16. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again…..bullying DOES NOT build character, make you stronger, thicken your skin, teach you perserverance, toughen you up, increase stamina, or a whole host of other fake shit that people say to make you, the victim of bullying, feel better. I didn’t believe it in 8th grade when I stormed out of my favorite class after enduring spitballs and “coughed” name-calling, marching into the Vice Principal’s office demanding he make them shut the hell up (to which I received detention for leaving class without a pass). Entire schools full of teachers “ignored” it and it continued unabated until I moved away for high school….and began again to a much smaller degree.

    I CAN tell you what bullying DOES do to a person. It shames. It humiliates. It crushes self-esteem. It binds. It devalues. It makes a person hate themselves. It destroys their fire. Makes them question themselves. Causes them to scrutinize EVERYthing they do or want to do or ARE. It brings pain, and lots of it. There is nothing good about bullying. There just isn’t.

    And if you want to believe that the bullying you did as a child/teen was harmless fun? Then you are exactly what Kate says a fucking asshole! If your child is bullying someone the way these two college students did? That makes THEM fucking assholes too! Their sole purpose was to humiliate, degrade, bring shame upon another human being….which is the very definition of fucking asshole!

    Well said, Kate! (and thanks for letting me jump on the bandwagon so I could get that off my chest….again!)

    • I … second everything Rachel said, and everything you said too, Kate. My son suffered from bullying for three years, and while it seems to have abated for him, he’ll go to high school next year and I hope he makes it through without the trouble resuming. I was bullied so horribly my ninth grade year I had to change schools: which is exactly what the administration wanted to do — get ME out of there, as if I were the one committing the night-and-day harassment-by-telephone (thankfully, there was no Internet then), setting my gym locker on fire while I was in PE class, and slashing my brother’s tires. (Oh, I got the spitball hairdo, too.)

      I’m 44. I was fourteen when it happened. I still have trust issues. Those actions hurt me personally and professionally.

      Yes, anyone who bullies another human being — whatever their “reason” — is a FUCKING ASSHOLE. And if either of my children called a bully a fucking asshole, they’d have my unconditional support.

      Thank you for this post and for telling it like it is.

    • Regina, so sorry you went through that, and it reminds me that sometimes I have no idea WHAT adults are thinking. The principal pulled me out of 9th grade biology (making it for all the world look as if I was in big trouble) because the door had been pulled off my locker. WTF person would actually think that I had done that?! Even if I weren’t first in my class and a quiet kid who had never done anything “against the rules” in my life, why would someone destroy their own locker? (Surprise surprise, these 2 guys who bullied me throughout school did it.) Reminds me of your vice principal’s asshole behavior.

    • I am absolutely with Kate and you, ReginaT, on this. Bullying is othering. It is the devaluing of another person, making them less important and less human. It is good for no one and to minimize it is to minimize the pain of all who have suffered from it.

      To pretend it “builds character” is also destructive as it implies there is something good about harassing, humiliating and dehumanizing another person. And that takes away from the the struggles of the victims of bullying who managed to survive. Those who flourish do it despite the bullying, not because.

      I can say more but if I don’t stop here I may not stop and I do need to get back to my day job.

      Thank you for giving this a voice Kate!

  17. I have said on more than one occasion that I feel like my main job as a parent is to not raise an asshole. Especially with my son. He’s a middle-class, white, American male, who is good looking and athletic (you know, for a 6 year old). I’m not really concerned about him having opportunities in this world. I am concerned that he not grow into an entitled jackass. He’s six, so he’ll say and do things without thinking about the consequences all the time, and he’s already very concerned about what he thinks his peers are thinking. We talk a LOT about kindness and empathy and how his behavior effects others, and how others’ behavior makes him feel, etc. I was bullied as a kid, but I also pulled some jackass moves on a couple of occasions. I look back now and think, “Why the hell didn’t any adult (or anyone else, for that matter) in my life tell me what an asshole I was being??”

    I’ve got a longer agenda with my daughter (Oy, she’s all about pretty, pretty, princess at the moment) but it includes not being a jackass as well. Pretty high on the list of things I hope for my children is that they will not be bullied, they will not bully, and if they see someone being bullied, they will *do something* about it.

    • I feel the same way about my daughter, about to be five and on her way to quite possibly being a “popular” kid. She’s weird enough that she may end up on the taunted side, like I was, but she also may end up in a position where she could be an asshole. Even now I make sure that there are clear repercussions when she treats another child badly; I will not tolerate raising a bully.

  18. Coming home from work tonight, I heard someone on NPR describe these two as “Two good kids who have done a horrible thing”, and the question I have is this; whether or not they’re ‘good kids’, how the hell is that relevant? They’ve done a horrible thing! Do people who do horrible things get excused if they have good grades and are kind to children, old people, and dogs? I don’t think so!

  19. When my (now 10 year old) son was 5 and walking into his first day of kindergarten I held him by the shoulders and looked in his eyes and said, “the worst thing you can be is a bully.”

    That stuck with him. Last year, when his best friend, a Pakistani kid, was being called ‘rag head’ and ‘faggot’, my kid powered up and dealt with it. He didn’t get involved in a physical altercation over the insults, but what he DID do was yell ‘Chris and Ashton eat shit!’ from the top of the slide. I have never, ever been so proud. Did the bullying stop? No. But now every one at the park know that Chris and Ashton do, indeed, eat shit.

    This is a fantastic article and I’ve linked everyone in my address book. Rock on, sister!

  20. Because of the miserable time I had in school, it is very important to me that my daughter feel confident and empowered enough to fight back against bullying. I’m very much of the, “Fuck you, you fucking fuck!” school of thought. Last year, in 7th grade, a boy got up in her face and verbally abused her with sexually explicit, threatening language. She answered him right back, then immediately told an adult. He was expelled. When talking about the incident a few months later, she proudly said, “I got him expelled.” I tried to correct her and said, “Well, he got himself expelled by his bad behavior.” She cut me off and said, “Mommy, let me have my joy! I GOT HIS ASS EXPELLED!” Yes, you did, Baby. Yes, you did.

  21. Phenomenal post. As someone who was bullied by his peers from the ripe old age of four and still has the psychological scars and interpersonal handicaps to show for it, I enthusiastically endorse calling bullies out for being the scum that they are, no matter how young.

  22. SING IT! THEY ARE FUCKING ASSHOLES! One of my sisters was bullied in school and I called the girls assholes. My other sister beat the crap out of one of them. The biggest asshole in my high school class, 40 years after our graduation, is STILL A FUCKING ASSHOLE. She still made fun of the poor kid she bullied relentlessly from 1965-1969. The difference? Everybody went nuts on her. At the reunion. Without thinking twice. A bunch of 58 year old women YELLING at a classmate. It was beautiful.
    Thank you for this post!
    These are not good kids. They are FUCKING ASSHOLES.

  23. My favorite line?

    “I have been very young and very stupid and very drunk in my life — sometimes all at the same time! — and still managed to never, ever consider doing anything remotely like that to other human beings, on account of how I am not also a TOTAL FUCKING ASSHOLE.”

    I love this, and I love you. And I don’t give a fuck if anyone calls me a lesbian.

  24. What I love about this article is that it cuts right to the heart of the matter: these two people are total fucking assholes. Whether they’re legally liable is different matter. They’re total fucking assholes regardless.

    Just reading the comments….me too, folks, me too. I’m 46 years old and STILL dealing with the effects of the bullying and harrassment – oh, pardon, *teasing*, because, you know, that’s what they called it in those days. The worst part was when I did tell adults and they either outright ignored it, told me to ignore it, or let me know that it was my fault because they didn’t want to deal with it.

    There is no age where it’s “all right” because “they’re too young”. It is never, ever, ever ok. And dragging their sorry asses into the light and labeling them exactly as they are is necessary and appropriate.

  25. The problem is that at this point in time we have no basis to make any judgments about Molly Wei. All we know is that Dharun mentioned her (or her room) in a tweet. That’s it! Everything else is speculation. If eventually she is proven to be an asshole, that’s one thing, but as of right now, with the lack of facts we have on hand, it’s completely ridiculous what’s happening to her.

    Dharun Ravi, on the other hand, has acted in an assholish way, so it’s fair to call him an asshole. Though I do wish there was more of an effort to get the facts of the case right–as far as we know, no sex was filmed. There was making out filmed, then a planned iChat broadcast of whatever Ravi could catch Tyler doing, which didn’t happen because Tyler Clementi figured out what was going on and unplugged Ravi’s computer.

    • The fuck? What part of “filming sexual activity without consent” are you willing to go to bat for?

      Also, if someone comes to your room and says “Hey, watch this awesome secret video of me violating my roommate’s privacy” and you don’t tell them what for, you are a TOTAL FUCKING ASSHOLE.

      • Yeah, this. Allowing people to use your room to be a TFA is, in and of itself, TFA behavior.

        Here in the court of public opinion, we only have to decide whether we have grounds to be utterly disgusted by these people’s behavior — and we have had more than enough evidence to convict on those grounds since the news broke.

        If it turns out that Wei didn’t know, or told him to GTFO, then I rescind any comment about her being a TFA. But, you know, people’s dorm rooms have locks and stuff. Being in someone’s room makes it at least likely that you have their permission to be there.

  26. Kate, your point about people not wanting to take a hard look at themselves rings so true.

    I do remember having participated in bullying at one point. It was 6th grade. I was 11, and there was a girl in our class who was the Chosen One that year – the one everyone picked on, because we were all little assholes. And I threw some dig at her, which I felt pretty proud of, because it was creative and funny and interesting.

    And a year later, when it was 7th grade and the wheel had turned and I had become the Chosen One for the year, she threw it right back at me. Same insult, practically word for word, and everyone who heard it laughed and thought what a great slam it was.

    For a few moments, there was a part of me that wanted to cry foul, to tell everyone that THAT insult wasn’t fair (as if any of them were), because she hadn’t thought it up herself. And then I realized that I was on the verge of asking due credit for my own insult. Once I fully grasped how fucked up that was, and after a few moments of anger at the injustice of having been stabbed with my own sword, I had to admit, I had that one coming.

    That was when I realized what a little shit I’d been the year before, all in the name of wanting people I didn’t know to like me. I won’t say I immediately became a perfect kid, or a champion of the downtrodden, because I didn’t. But I didn’t participate in bullying anymore, and I didn’t laugh when other people did.

    That was my first glimpse at the machinery at work, behind it all. And I think it was also the moment when I realized that I could either settle in to become a cog in that machine, or I could try to blaze my own trail.

  27. Most of my ranting approval of this has already been said, so I won’t repeat except. Except to say FUCK YEAH.

    I also think that there are two major things going on with the kids will be kids thing. First is the ‘oh well, if you are going to be DIFFERENT you have to EXPECT to have hurtful things said about you for other people’s humour’, which adults do all the time. And sometimes it’s a grey area. And when you’re a kid you find that grey area hard to navigate. Doesn’t mean you can’t be an arsehole while you navigate that.

    The second is akin to not wanting to acknowledge that kids are sexual beings. I know I was, from about… oh, let’s say 13. I was only a sexual being alone in my bedroom, and that’s as it should be. Being a sexual being didn’t make me sexually available to anyone. But there is a complete horror of allowing young people to have sex lives. And to have their own LIVES and be seperate from their parents and be people. YOU might not wish harm and hurt upon the kid your kid is bullying. That doesn’t mean your kid doesn’t. YOU might have the best intentions. Your kid? Not you. Lives in a different world.

    It’s hard to admit that someone close to you might be an arsehole. It’s even harder to admit that you yourself are. But it’s so, so important! And I say this as someone who has been an arsehole – I don’t recall bullying, but I certainly recall aiding and abetting. It’s hard not to, and it’s important that those kids in between have the support of their elders to say ‘no. That is being an arsehole, and I do not want to be one of those’.

  28. I’m horrified and saddened by what’s going on right now but I am also glad this debate is gaining traction. All I’ve ever heard until recently on the subject of bullying is ways to help victims “not be so sensitive” and that has always been bullshit to me.

    I had a Chemistry teacher in 10th grade who spent a good half of one class explaining the whole “character building” perspective on bullying and outright saying bullying was good and necessary for establishing “a social pecking order” which was somehow desirable. I was the youngest person in the class by at least two years and a SUPER quiet person. So everyone was pretty shocked when the following happened at the end of his rant.

    Me: *raises hand*
    Chem teacher: Yes?
    Me: That is THE dumbest thing I have ever heard.
    *long period of stunned silence*

    I went on to talk about the obvious reasons why this was bullshit. I’m not sure why I didn’t get in trouble. Maybe he knew he’d have some explaining to do? I am ridiculously proud of this moment and that was nearly 15 years ago. To people who say parents can’t prevent bullying, I am certain that I owe this moment to my parents’ consistent insistence on teaching us what it means to be a decent person. Kids can be total fucking assholes and the damage they do is nearly always permanent, but I really believe that a lot of it could be stopped if adults stepped in and identified their behavior as unacceptable. If it doesn’t make a difference to the bully, it sure as hell will make a difference to the victim.

  29. Yeah, it is possible for someone to both rescue kittens out of trees and set houses on fire. The very same person can do both things, even in the same hour! Rescuing kittens doesn’t ipso facto make you not an arsonist. It’s hard to believe how many adults don’t know that, let alone kids.

    And it’s criminal how many bullied kids get punished — not just by other kids, but by the adults in charge — for fighting back. Like you’re just supposed to sit there and smile while they grind you into dust. I often wonder if a lot of these same authority figures actually like it when misfit kids take their lives. It’s one less headache for them.

  30. Thank you. I feel the same way you do. Actually, I think the adults that overlook or excuse this type of behavior are just as guilty–in some ways, perhaps more so, because obviously nobody ever taught these two total fucking assholes that it’s not okay, ever, to film people without their consent.

    It’s not just bullying, but a vast array of behaviors that should be making adults take a second look instead of saying, “kids will be kids.”

    I raised my little sister. In high school, she had a class project with a boy who was verbally abusive and sexually suggestive. I complained, and was told by the principal and the counselor that he was “really a good kid.” They said he was just being a teenage boy with his comments about african americans, women’s anatomy, and drugs. I asked them point blank if they were so fucking stupid that they didn’t see these things as red flags? One week later, the boy and six of his friends vandalised cars (including my sister’s) and were arrested. At the next school board meeting, the superintendant denied her students had even been involved, even though they’d all been charged. As adults, ten years later, two of these boys have multiple drug and burglary convictions.

    To the adults of the world, I say “pull your heads out of your asses, quit blaming the bullied kids and start making their tormenters take responsibility instead of giving them a free pass to be total fucking assholes. Because some of those little assholes grow up to become criminal wastes of skin.

  31. I know it’s been said 45 times (well, 44) but HELL YEAH. This is a great post that hits the nail on the head, personally, politically, universally. Bullying leaves scars. We all need to learn that and start taking it seriously, because it’s damaging people every day, and it damages many people for the rest of their lives. Sometimes you ‘get over it’, ‘see it in perspective’, ‘look back and laugh’, even feel pity for the bullies, but you never, ever forget it. We need to change the whole narrative once and for all. Kate, you bloody rock.

    Z

  32. This is the best post I have ever, ever read. That seems hyperbolic but I swear it’s true. Maybe it’s the fact that it captures all of my emotions and feelings and fiery passion about this topic right now, better than I could have dreamed, but yeah. Best post. Ever.

  33. Bravo! Well said – I was bullied by a bunch of kids at catholic school. I was horribly shy and this made me the perfect victim. Of course, my family was poorer than many there and these kids tormented me (pushed me down, stepped on my hands, tripped me with the jump rope during PE – sent me to the ER twice) but it was excused away by the *school* because I must have done something to make them do this to me, they were good kids, from good families (i.e. their families were on the wealthy side and gave lots of money to the church). I don’t think *any* of them were ever called on their behavior. They are fucking assholes as are the nuns and teachers at the school who protected them.

  34. I always wished I had had the nerve to fight back when I was bullied. Usually I would just sit there, as the resident bully in 7th grade, Cory, would walk past me at lunch and remark about how big my head apparently was, completely silent, praying he would just go away. Then when he stole a necklace from me and I saw him wearing it in homeroom, I convinced myself that I didn’t really like it that much, anyway, so I wouldn’t tell on him, as he loudly told his laughing friends about the cool new necklace he got, looking at me. And the guy in high school, on Valentine’s Day when I dressed up in a skirt and nice shirt and shoes, who saw me in the hall and laughed at me and told his friend, “she thinks she looks good!”

    These stupid remarks stuck with me for so fucking long, it’s ridiculous. I became fucking obsessed with my appearance, convinced I was bloody hideous, a big-headed, pointy-nosed alien-looking thing. So I spent the rest of high school making sure that, by the time I graduated, I would be pretty, so that no one would ever make fun of me again. And I got terrible grades and learned nothing valuable about myself. Fuck you, Cory, and everyone else. And I will bet money that that total fucking asshole is STILL the kind of guy that walks past quiet, vulnerable-looking people and tells them their heads are really, really big. I wish I would have thrown my lunch on him… but he was the kind of bully who would wait outside of school for you and do far worse than steal your necklace for fighting back.

  35. Hell Yes to all the above.

    I’ve seen a lot of “nice kids” with nice parents who are bullies. A lot of times the parents just don’t “see” what their kid is doing. There’s a lot of “kids will be kids”. I disagree. When my kids were young, I spent a lot of time with them. Not hovering, just being there. When kids acted up, I called them on it. Not yelling at them, mostly just redirecting. I did not tolerate bullying of any kind.

  36. Best blog post ever. May I please link it? And, I have a small child, and yes, children can be total fucking assholes (mine included). That is why it is MY JOB as a parent to TEACH him NOT to be a total fucking asshole, a lesson that clearly many parents are not teaching. There is absolutely no excuse for such asshattery and no good kid would ever EVER stoop so low.

  37. Great article. I was both bullied as a child- only non-white in the whole school. I bullied a bit as well; Perhaps I didn’t include everyone as I ought to have and judged unfairly. I also didn’t stand up for people like I should have. I count as part of the bullying system. Bullies rely on people to do nothing.
    Anyways, my 2nd son is 6 and engages in too much aggressive physical play- something that is construed as bullying.
    He tries to get attention by hugging too hard, poking and annoying. He is the tallest and strongest in his class- doesn’t help matters. Thankfully he doesn’t use hateful words or say mean things.
    We meet regularly with his teacher (who is proactive and awesome) and also have a reward system. We don’t let him play aggressive video games (I firmly believe they desensitize kids). Have him registered in Marital Arts to curb aggression, release tension and improve discipline but sometimes he still acts out.
    I am not ready to label him a fucking asshole.
    He is a “nice boy” but I can’t make the argument “would never hurt anyone” bc he has. He has hurt their feelings, and in some cases hurt them physically.
    Clearly bullies themselves have major issues that need to be addressed: desensitization,low-self esteem,loneliness etc.
    My son’s best friend left school this year and he is feeling very sad. He told the teacher that. She told him to vocalize his feelings but not to touch people or yell.
    When he does misbehave some of the kids scream nasty things at him “You are useless, you are dumb, you are an epic fail etc.” which can propel his aggressive behaviour.
    I am not ignoring the other kids feelings. I know they have a right to be angry and annoyed. We make it a point to recognize their sentiments.
    I am embarrassed and want this behaviour to cease. But just by labeling him a fucking asshole won’t help- anyone.

    • Shireen, I’m so sorry you and your son are struggling, and I think you’re right that calling him names isn’t going to help. The whole “TFA” argument is basically just a polemical way of saying that adults need to recognize bullying as a serious problem and hold the kids who do it accountable instead of making excuses for them — even if it’s your own kid, or the golden kid, or whatever. And that’s what you’re describing here — taking responsibility for teaching your son appropriate behavior, while being compassionate and protective toward him. That sounds like good parenting to me. I’ve got no beef with that.

      Don’t get me wrong — I truly would call certain kids, (though generally ones much older than 6) TFAs. And more to the point in many cases, I would call their parents that. But I’m not actually arguing that screaming obscenities at first graders would solve the bullying problem. :)

  38. I was a skinney uncoordinated kid in middle school and the first couple years of HS. I grew up in small town USA and there were several bullies there that even went beyond the comments and exclusion and graduated to punches as I walked by. The only defense I had at the time was never to shed a tears, or say a word.

    To this day if I allow myself to sit and think about it, a slow anger gradually fills me and I know I have never stopped hating them, and would still (at age 52) be capable of doing them harm. Then I shake it off and move on with my life.

    There is no justice for these people, and they leave a lasting legacy of hate and anger that others have to deal with forever. I wish I had an answer for how to stop it, but probably the most that can be done is just to be there for the ones getting bullied..as best you can.

  39. *applause*

    Really, I’m sick of the “they’re just kids” mantra as well. Certainly, kids are not fully developed adults, their brains are not as fully functional, even teenagers are not yet adults, it’s true. Studies have shown that the part of the brain that’s used most for logic and cognitive thinking and such doesn’t fully develop until the end of adolescence. So yes, kids will do and say stupid shit. But they learn what stupid shit to say FROM ADULTS. They learn who to target from their parents, their older siblings, TV, the internet, all kinds of media continually shouting fat/weird/quiet/gay/different = BAD.

    If we contribute to a culture that encourages this, in whatever small way, we are contributing to bullying. And while I know it’s a hell of a lot harder to tell companies that make a killing off of continually making people feel bad about themselves to knock it the fuck off, if we don’t do that, it’s hypocritical to tell kids to knock it the fuck off too (even though we most definitely should, my gods yes). This to me is part of why things like FA are so important. When you demonize a group, kids are going to demonize it too as a result of their being socialized. I feel this is another huge part of why no one wants to address bullying. No one wants to acknowledge that while kids may say “the darnedest things” a lot of what they say and do speaks profound volumes about what we are as a culture. We need to call kids on an asshole behavior they engage in the same way we need to call diet companies on selling lies, the same way we would call homophobic religious groups out for spreading bigoted ideals. Bigotry continues to exist on the hatred of a few and the silence of many.

    I’m going off into a nerd rant here, but this is another reason why J.K. Rowling remains one of my biggest heroes. When Harry, a perpetually bullied kid, finds out his dad was a bully he makes no excuses for him. When he finds out parts of Dumbledore’s seedy past, he doesn’t allow anyone else to make excuses for him either. When friends say, “He was young” Harry retorts, “He was the same age as us”. He reinforces that there is never an excuse for being an asshole. Which to me translates really well to our “muggle” world full of bullying. For every kid who’s a bully, there’s a kid who isn’t one. Kids may be kids, yes, but to be an asshole it takes a conscious choice and that is something we need to stop making excuses for.

    • Ostara, that is so well said. Just… fantastic.

      Bigotry continues to exist on the hatred of a few and the silence of many.

      I need to get that tattooed somewhere, so I can remember it forever.

      • I say it a lot, so that way I too remember it and for me it gets truer with every repeat. Behavior is accepted until it is deemed unacceptable. If we don’t do anything, things stay the same. We can’t count on or hope for bullies to just stop. We need to tell them to stop, and keep telling them until they do.

  40. I went to one of the shittiest schools in England (Kesgrave Hall in Suffolk, ostensibly a special school for kids with high academic ability but with behaviour problems; it closed in 1993) and suffered, and witnessed, a lot of abuse and bullying there, which I’ve written about extensively on my blog and elsewhere. I don’t hold grudges against any of the kids I knew there because they were kids at the time, but I’ve noticed that, when I try to raise the issue of why the school was crap (because the staff let them get away with murder and expected the rest of us to tread on eggshells around them), they act as if I’m the sad case for mentioning it.

    Most recently, I asked on the school FB about a teacher who went down with M.E. (a neurological disease) around the time I arrived and left shortly afterwards. I wanted to know this because there had been a high-profile news story in the UK about a young woman who had said disease very severely and had lain bedridden for over 15 years (Lynn Gilderdale). When I asked on the FB whether anyone knew if she had recovered (because you’d have thought they would have cared if one of the nicer teachers was lying bedridden in some darkened room, in agony with a tube up her nose, like Lynn Gilderdale), all I got was a flurry of abuse directed at myself and my religion. I concluded that the people involved were still very much assholes.

  41. Thank you for writing this. It infuriates me when people make the “good kids” argument. What exactly makes them good kids? It’s such a non-specific, abstract comment, completely refuted by these people’s behavior. I have heard way too many people write this off as a prank, saying that these were children. Molly and Dharun are are not children–18 is young, but it isn’t a child. Tyler’s parents, however, lost their child. I wish the people so concerned about what this is doing to Molly and Dharun’s future could focus a little more on that.

    I’m a social worker, and I work with some kids who are gay, and more kids who think being gay is the worst insult they can throw at someone. I blogged about this myself, and the fact that we need to be confronting this kind of bullying and this kind of hate speech. Way too many adults are sending kids the wrong message by just telling them not to call someone “gay”–not saying that there isn’t something wrong with being gay, but saying that it’s an insult. So much work to be done.

  42. Kids are human beings who are, in fact, in training to become adults. Bullying is not (officially supposed to be) tolerated in adults, so why shouldn’t we hold kids accountable?

    When a child, even a young child who doesn’t know it is wrong, steals candy from a store, it is a point of pride for a parent to march the kid back to the store, have them hand it over, and apologize. In my opinion, bullying is worse than shoplifting. It doesn’t hurt a business — it has the potential to actually ruin another person’s life. Maybe only temporarily. Or maybe even contribute to ending it for good.

    Parents, don’t let your babies grow up to be assholes.

  43. I do think that the TFA forever isn’t just a polemical move– it has a denotation, and the denotation is that bullies never get better. I think I’ve seen a couple cases of recovered bullies, and I don’t recommend promoting the idea of people having defective essences.

    At the same time, I recognize that there are emotional states which can’t be conveyed in rational language.

    This being said, bullying is a serious and pervasive problem– I did eventually calm down about my height (I took a lot of shit for being short), but it took decades. It wouldn’t surprise me if my trust issues have something to do with how I was treated by other kids, though my family is enough to explain those issues.

    One of the things I appreciate tremendously about Rowling is that she writes about children as moral agents. If a twelve-year old is a bully, it matters. OK, she isn’t as consistent about this as she should be, but she does vastly better than most people.

    In particular, when I complained to my mother about being harassed at school (almost entirely verbally, but that still adds up), she would say “Children are cruel”. At the time, my thought was “I’m a child and I’m not cruel” so I assumed the subject wasn’t worth discussing with her. And “Just ignore them” which didn’t seem psychologically possible. It took me decades to figure out why that one made me so angry. It was the unfairness– other people are under no obligation to control their own behavior. I’M SUPPOSED TO CONTROL THEIR BEHAVIOR BY CONTROLLING MY INVOLUNTARY REACTIONS, AND DO IT IN A WAY WHICH IS COMPLETELY CONVENIENT FOR ADULTS. Not that I’m still angry about that one. I just noticed the parallel to bad advice on how not to get raped.

    And she said, “What did you do to them?” I wasn’t a mean or aggressive kid. I concluded that either she didn’t like me and/or that she’d been a bully herself. When I didn’t see her for the ten years or so before she died, that was one of the things I hung on to as a reason for avoiding her. (I also had word from my siblings that she was still a painful person to be around.)

    As for ignoring insults, I did it once. I was in my twenties, I was being harassed on the street, and a miracle happened. I relaxed more with each insult– I could feel my shoulders dropping. The harassers got louder a few times and then gave up.

    This isn’t exactly a bad memory– except that I keep thinking that ignoring them could have gotten me killed if they’d decided to escalate more than they did.

    • I really fucking hate that question, “what did you do to them”, as if you fucking deserved it or did something to deserve it. Yeah, right up there with blame-the-victim.

      From one survivor to another, HUGS!!

  44. BRA-FUCKING-VO!!!

    Those fucking assholes. I don’t care WHO your daddy is, I don’t care HOW much money you have you don’t deserve special treatment which allows you to pick on others. Fucking assholes.

  45. Bullseye Kate – bang on. I read a story in the papers (in the UK) only a few days ago about a little 12 year old kid who was being bullied relentlessly, mainly it said “for being underdeveloped” and comparitively ignorant about sex – a CHILD in other words. Anyway, this poor little thing had simply died in her father’s arms as she tried to explain what was happening to her – just faded away and left the world.
    I struggle to think of anything more utterly tragic and heart breaking than that situation.

  46. I’ll admit I haven’t read the comments, so I may be repeating things. This was beautifully written and I’d like to share my thoughts.

    I have a kid, he’s 5, and I’ll say some of his classmates are fucking assholes. Just like their parents.

    The kid who bit my son the first week of school, poked a kid in the eye with a spork AND shoved a crayon down my kid’s throat? TOTAL FUCKING ASSHOLE.

    There’s a reason my son and another little boy are in separate classes this year. My son would come home and tell me “X is a bully.” And I took care of it. The other boy can be nice and good, but I will NEVER minimize his bullying by saying that.

    I was called all kinds of names 15 years ago. “Beanpole, Jolly Green Giant” and they even changed the lyrics to the Oscar Meyer song to spell my name. Did it hurt? Yes. Were those kids “good?” I wouldn’t know, I was never invited to the parties where they’d get wasted and then drive. I was usually volunteering somewhere.

    Call people what they are. FUCKING ASSHOLES. Maybe someone saying it will make them think about what they’re doing. I just wouldn’t count on it.

  47. Another Amen. thank you Kate for your words. They are spreading around the Internet and being taken on board by so many.

  48. Thank you so much. I survived, but barely. I am glad people like you are yelling out. It helps with the healing even after all these years.

  49. I have come to realize that every single thing anyone does or says is motivated by something beautiful… even if the action isn’t one that I enjoy. What do I mean by “beautiful?” I mean the desires and values that fuel us all. These values are universal, all humans share them. The trip-ups happen when the strategies to express those values don’t gel with other people’s ideas of how it ought to look.

    It’s easy to get caught up in the external actions that people take, words they say. It’s easy to label them as “assholes” or “idiots” or that their behaviour is “inappropriate” but in the end we are just locking ourselves into a prison of our own making. I am reading here that there are people even 40 years later who still burn with rage or would like to harm those who, they say, bullied them.

    What I want for the people who are in pain to receive empathy. Lots of it. When we’ve received enough empathy, transformations occur. Punishing people rarely brings the result we would really like, which is peace. There cannot be peace when there is shame, resentment, or an “us versus them” idea in our heads.

    My son is 9. My stepson is 8. They are great buddies, but once when my son had his friends around, it got really weird. My son, a “wise and loving” kid, started to do that “Lord of the Flies” thing and calling his step-bro a “spaz.” Soon his buddies were saying it too, and they started playing a “game” in which step-bro was the one everyone runs away from. It broke my heart, because I love connection, fun, play, and consideration.

    I rushed in to tell my son, “You have to include / be nice to / stop teasing step-bro” and it just made it worse for step-bro, because the other kids resent being forced to do something they don’t want to do.

    i don’t condone the behaviour that is leading to tears from my step-son. But if I don’t get to the heart of my son’s behaviour, in terms of the beautiful things he desires that led him to act that way, I won’t get what I’m looking for: peace and connection. So. I say to him afterward, “You were having a lot of fun with your friends. You were playing a game that brought you all very close together. How did it feel to see step-bro crying? Would it be possible to have that close feeling with your friends, that fun and excitement, in a way that doesn’t lead to one kid feeling so very sad and frustrated and hopeless? Because I won’t stand by and watch this happen again. Let’s come up with some ideas about how to get what you’re wanting: choice in who you play with, choice in how you play, fun and connection.”

    See, I got it both ways as a kid. I was the one everyone loved to tease, and I also could be mercilessly cruel, but if I look back at my “cruelty,” it was in the service of connection. Twisted but true. I wanted so very much to feel close and connected to a particular kid or kids, that I was totally willing in that moment to do whatever it took, including making another kid the target of bullying.

    I have told my son several times now that if he wants to have friends over to the house while step-bro is around, that if there can’t be inclusion and harmony, then he can arrange to have time with his friends at their houses instead. My son’s desire for fun and connection and ease gets him thinking creatively about how to get what he’s wanting, and in the end, when all the kids are playing together, I can tell it’s working for him. I talk to him later and he agrees, it’s better than the sickly-sweet feeling of bullying someone. The power is delicious, but sickening at the same time. Kids can satisfy their human need for influence and power in other ways that don’t harm others, but they have to be first taught to acknowledge what is fuelling them, motivating them.

    if we label kids, call them “assholes,” we miss the chance to get to the heart of why they’re doing this stuff in the first place. Perhaps it’s connection they want. A sense of belonging. To matter, to have influence, to know they have power in the world. To have fun, play, laughter. No one denies these things are lovely things, we just hate the way some people attempt to satisfy those needs.

    Interestingly, when “bullies” are led to see how their own strategies aren’t really meeting their OWN needs, they come up with other ways to get what they are wanting. No one is truly satisfied with connection that comes at the expense of others, but if they don’t believe there’s another way, it will continue indefinitely.

    Empathy heals.

    Empathy heals.

    Please, consider this. Labeling heals nothing.

    • That’s a nice story. I’m glad you got to the root of your son’s behavior and found a “beautiful” reason why you were cruel to other children.

      But I don’t believe empathy always heals.

      I don’t believe it always gets better.

      And I don’t believe there is anything beautiful about bullying.

      ETA: I also don’t believe there’s always a logical reason for bad behavior, or that finding a logical reason will necessarily make it stop. I’m not being snarky when I say I’m glad that worked with your son, but I think trying to make that a one size fits all answer is a simplistic crock, frankly.

      Also, I don’t think being angry and able to call up that hurt decades later is necessarily a bad, destructive thing. I think righteous anger has its place. And I think being able to vividly recall that kind of pain is, in fact, a major source of empathy.

      • Well, they WERE trying to connect with people, as I understand it. You know, by showing them video of someone else’s sexual activity. Can you blame a kid for wanting to reach out like that?

        (I would feel bad about being a snarky asshole toward someone who left an undoubtedly sincere — if breathtakingly condescending — plea for understanding here, but the awesome thing is, I’m sure she can think of a beautiful excuse for my poor attitude.)

      • I’m getting it that you really feel repulsed and outraged by the idea of filming someone’s sexual activity without their consent and I share this with you! I’m guessing that you treasure the idea of respect, consideration, safety, honouring, and well-being. Me too! And so does everyone! Sometimes the things we do to meet one need trash our hopes of getting others met. This is true for all people who do or say things that we don’t enjoy… at all.

        When we attack someone else, or ridicule them, it’s usually because we want something… and I’m not talking about “they want to hurt someone” or “they want attention.” What I’d guess is “They want to feel like they belong” or “They want acceptance” or “They want to know that they are totally safe from being victimized themselves.”

        Whatever was at the heart of their behaviour, there’s another way to get it. Unfortunately, when we attack people or punish them instead of going deeper to the heart, more and more violence comes.

        i agree, though, about using force in cases where other people’s safety or well-being is at stake!

  50. I was bullied and even raped in school, by another girl who was far bigger than me.

    First of all, I’m sure she learned this at home.

    Second, I wish I had FOUGHT BACK.

    And I mean physical violence. I strongly condone physical violence if you are defending yourself against a bully who is actually beating you up.

    I was bullied a lot and I never fought back. That sent a message to the other kids that I could be pushed around.

    My fiance was bullied and he fought back like a freaking psycho. This sent a message that he was NOT to be fucked with. He was never bullied again.

    My mother had been bullied in her day, and after some prompting from her big brother and her stepmother (who threatened to beat her even worse if she didn’t stand up for herself), she too hit back – and it never happened again.

    Some people will say “it’s not PC to fight back” or “peace at all costs” and all that.

    I call BS. This is the language bullies understand.

    Give them what they want until they choke on it.

    One of the things that will do is teach a kid that s/he has a right to stand up for him/herself and that s/he is capable of doing so. It could make all the difference in the world for an entire lifetime.

  51. Here’s my empathetic guess, Kate: that you want ALL people, EVERYWHERE, to enjoy a sense of freedom, safety, wholeness, respect, and kindness, and that your article today, and your response to me, is about that beautiful stuff!

    But it’s just a guess!

    Namaste.

    • That’s a reasonable guess, compassion_grrl.

      And in all seriousness, let me say this: In your first comment, I don’t see you expressing empathy toward the children you tormented as a child, or even all that much toward your stepson, who comes off as a minor character in the story of how your son overcame his bullying tendencies. You and your son are the heroes in the story you’re telling, and the children you and he hurt are basically only there as vehicles for your redemption.

      Perhaps we’re meant to take your empathy and remorse for bullied children as read, given your general feelings about understanding and name-calling and whatnot. And of course, it’s not like I expect blog comments to be exquisitely constructed narratives. But I find it fascinating that as you were talking down to me — and you were — about treating people with respect, you were foregrounding the bullies and essentially erasing the bullied children in your story. You said a lot about what’s “working” for your son now, but nothing about how your stepson’s doing. You said a lot about your fundamentally pure motivations for being cruel toward other children, but nothing about what you think may have happened to those children, or whether it’s occurred to you that they might still be feeling that pain decades later.

      So in light of all that, it kinda seems like that was just a bunch of excuses for bullying, and sidestepping of the real pain it causes, dressed up in the language of empathy and understanding. And I don’t have a lot of patience for that.

  52. I’m guessing that you treasure the idea of respect, consideration, safety, honouring, and well-being. Me too! And so does everyone!

    No, see, this is where you missed the point of the post. People who torture other people might feel the longing for connection, or for admiration, or for some kind of nice-sounding human feeling. But people who torture other people do NOT “treasure” anything remotely like safety, respect, and well-being, because if they did, they would not torture other people.

    • Why do I need to give a shit about why the other person hurt me? An accidental punch in the face isn’t any less likely to break my nose than an intentional one.

      • Sorry, that was a bit abrupt in that I didn’t finish my thought. I just don’t know why I’m supposed to care that the bad people have a beautiful longing in their heart or whatever. It doesn’t undo the wound or bring back the dead. And like Sweet Machine says, it’s hard to believe that they even have this treasure; compassion, whatever, based on the observation of their actions.

      • Why give a shit? It’s a gift you give yourself. That’s what it’s all about. You’re not giving them anything, but it’s quite a relief to see that whatever someone says or does has NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU. It just isn’t personal! Whether they “intended” the hurt or not, it still isn’t anything to do with you. Isn’t that clear from the way kids bully? It’s random and illogical…

      • YES.

        The person who hurt you, on the other hand, has a fundamental responsibility to make sure they don’t hurt anyone else.

        If they did it on purpose, then they need to go learn how not to be TFAs. If it was an accident, they need to figure out what went wrong, that resulted in you getting hurt. Things like, “Wow, maybe I should run at top speed in a crowded room with my fists up!” or “I should glance behind me before I whirl around with large, heavy things in my hands.”

        That’s part of the job of being a parent, to go, “Okay, I understand that you hurting that other kid was an accident, but that doesn’t make any of the other kid’s pain go away. So you need to apologize and see if there’s anything you can do to help them feel better, and then we need to think about ways to make sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen again.

        “You need to decide if you want to be the kind of person people feel safe around, because they know you’ll be careful in how you use your body, or if you want to be the kind of person people stay away from, because they’re worried about getting hurt.”

        (Note: My sons are six, so that’s how I would talk to them now. When they’re 12 or so, we’ll be having discussions about whether they want to decent people, or Total Fucking Assholes.)

  53. “I think righteous anger has it’s place.”
    Bloody right it does. Hearing stories about kids being bullied makes make furious enough to melt glass out of windows, but I’m the most peace loving non- confrontational person going. The point is when something is SO wrong, it shakes every cell of your body into an indignant rage simply because your own sense of what is right and kind is so instinctively offended. Anger can often fuel positive change if channelled correctly, I think.
    I too want people who are suffering to be given endless compassion and love and empathy, but I equally would like to kick a bullies arse. Not for all eternity, but just a brief quick boot to wake them up and see things more clearly. Of course labelling people is not ideal, but sometimes people need to be told their behaviour is that of an asshole, even if they deep down may not be.

    • Thanks, yes, that really inspires me. Anger is a gift! When we’re so angry, we know there’s something that REALLY MATTERS at stake! I feel huge rage when safety is up, and my kids know this. I also go into a rage with teasing and bullying too.

      But if I stay with rage, and work from there, and call them all assholes, it becomes a war. If I go to my heart, and know what I care about, I can decide how I want to take action. Yelling IS part of the palette I paint with!!! But I don’t yell “asshole” (at least not out loud! LOL), I yell, “I CARE ABOUT _______ AND I WANT THIS TO STOP!!!! NOW!!!!!”

  54. I’m guessing that you treasure the idea of respect, consideration, safety, honouring, and well-being. Me too! And so does everyone!

    Let’s just imagine this is true (hint: it is not). In that case, what is the difference between someone who tries to achieve respect, honor, safety, well-being etc. by working for justice or generally being a mensch, and someone who tries to achieve it by deliberately disrespecting and harming other people and threatening their safety and well-being?

    Oh right: ONE OF THEM IS A FUCKING ASSHOLE.

    • Whatever means a person uses doesn’t change the underlying motivation. There is so much I don’t like to see in this world. I know if I want to see more of what I do like, I have to find a way to express it that gives hope for change. As soon as I say someone is an asshole, I’ve given up my hope of transformation, and I just don’t want to live that way.

  55. I too was bullied and bullied in turn. I was also a bystander, a multi-talented team player in the sport of bullying you might say. Though apparently I was best suited for being bullied. And you know what? When I bullied the girl who was at the bottom of the totem pole, sure, it was partly inspired by a desire for connection but mostly out of sheer terror that I would become the bottom if I didn’t bully her since I was only one step up. When I was a bystander, it was again, yes, partly because I desperately wanted friendship, to be liked, popular even, but mostly just so I wouldn’t draw attention to myself, so I wouldn’t have a target sign printed on my own ass anymore.

    If you want to be more lenient towards me, you can say that my desire to NOT get rocks thrown at me anymore made me a total fucking coward instead of a total fucking asshole. But really, that isn’t a whole hell of a lot better. There was absolutely nothing beautiful about my bullying, being bullied, or my silent approval. When I contributed to bullying, it was inspired mostly out of a greedy, cowardly, slimey desire to save my own skin, with absolutely no regard for anyone else’s skin. This is not beauty. And I was driven to this point by fear of more rocks getting thrown at me, fear of people drawing more inappropriate pictures of me, fear of even more self-hate. It was the absolute ugliest point of my life.

    Furthermore, the idea that calling total fucking assholes exactly what they are is “too harsh” is absurd. While some assholes may have changed their ways, I’m betting this is precisely BECAUSE they realized their behavior was unacceptable and therefore made a conscious effort to change it. It’s the old adage, “if you don’t want to be called a monster, stop acting like one”. If we continue to accept unacceptable behavior, people will continue to engage in it. Sometimes it really is that simple. I realized I was an asshole, and made the choice to not be an asshole anymore.

    Hi, my name is Ostara, and I’m a recovering asshole and coward.

    • “If you want to be more lenient towards me, you can say that my desire to NOT get rocks thrown at me anymore made me a total fucking coward instead of a total fucking asshole. But really, that isn’t a whole hell of a lot better. There was absolutely nothing beautiful about my bullying, being bullied, or my silent approval. When I contributed to bullying, it was inspired mostly out of a greedy, cowardly, slimey desire to save my own skin, with absolutely no regard for anyone else’s skin. This is not beauty. And I was driven to this point by fear of more rocks getting thrown at me, fear of people drawing more inappropriate pictures of me, fear of even more self-hate. It was the absolute ugliest point of my life.”

      Ostara, that desire to be safe is shared by all of us. Calling yourself “asshole” or “coward” isn’t necessary, just knowing that you wanted to be safe and to experience friendship can help you see yourself in a more compassionate light. We don’t serve anyone or anything by attacking ourselves… but we can bring a lot more insight, as your post does, into the hearts of those who are doing things we detest!!!!!

      And how fantastic that you see now that your strategy to have friendship and safety didn’t work for you, because your integrity and perhaps well-being (when anyone suffers, we all suffer on some level) were sacrificed.

      This is exactly what I’m talking about. Not that it’s beautiful when kids get bullied, it’s beautiful to see the pure humanness behind these behaviours. WE DON’T HAVE TO CONDONE THE BEHAVIOUR. We can DESPISE the behaviour, the strategy, the methods people use at times. But to love what motivates it, and to love ourselves when our strategies don’t work for us… well, that’s a great start to bringing about the kind of world we all want to live in.

      At least that’s my perspective.

      What place does compassion have here?

      Well, I went out on a limb to put this out there, and it all came from love, hope, celebration, and a real desire for change in the world.

      Call me an asshole! I don’t mind. I can’t hear judgement anymore! Just your beautiful, amazing, gorgeous, universal human needs!!!! LOL *wink*

      Don’t worry, I go ballistic myself. Often. But this forum gives me a chance to remind myself of what my path is, and how I want to contribute in the world. Thank you all for engaging in this discussion, and to Kate for posting the original piece.

      • It wasn’t fantastic because I didn’t need to do it in the first place. I could have chosen not to be an asshole and a coward. Even better, I could have existed in a school that didn’t drive me to the point where I felt I had to choose between asshole or coward. But I was because the teachers in my school, other kids, my parents didn’t speak out and say the bullying I experienced was wrong. NONE OF THIS HAD TO HAPPEN. That’s the whole point.

        And furthermore, Kate’s assessment of kids who are “misfitted” in some way being the ones who carry the brunt of bullying is borne out of the idea that these kids, the fat kids, the gay kids, etc, etc, etc are somehow less. This is why I referenced before that in addition to teaching kids that there’s nothing wrong with someone being different, we need to have that reflect in our media and society. I’m sorry, but prejudice is not borne out of beauty. It’s borne out of being afraid of something that’s different. That’s not ok.

        Furthermore, I get the idea that labeling people cowards or assholes rubs some people the wrong way because it seems to offer no power for redemption. But that to me is the beauty of speaking out against this kind of shit. When you get burned, you don’t want to play with fire anymore. The more we call people out on this, the more they think twice about being assholes.

        Lastly, I think you’re barking up the wrong tree with saying “because you can know there was nothing wrong with you!” by acknowledging the fact that someone’s choice to be a bully (it’s a choice, that’s the problem) may be inspired by angelic desires for puppy dogs farting rainbows. Most survivors of bullying KNOW that they were not the ones with the issue. But when we adults ignore bullying or victim blame, we are not taking care of the people who DO have the issues and we aren’t taking care of the issues either.

        I appreciate your approach, and your attempt to get me to “like myself better” by saying, “no no! You totally weren’t an assward, I mean, cowhole, I mean, asshole/coward.” I was and now I’m not because I realized a cowhole (I think I like that one best) wasn’t the kind of person I wanted to be and that regardless of my “beautiful” desires, there was really NO EXCUSE for my crappy behavior. But I really think your approach is flawed in that you fail to recognize the truly ugly things that result in bullying like homophobia and sexism, racism, etc. These prejudices are borne out of fear and result in a feeling of thinking anyone in the “othered” groups is somehow less human. This is not beautiful. And saying so is what activism is all about.

        I wish you luck in your approach, but I don’t need a hug from someone, telling my behavior was ok. It wasn’t, and part of my own moving on is embracing the idea that it doesn’t need to continue.

  56. PSA to all: We’re getting sort of close to the 24-hour mark, when comments will shut down automatically, per blog policy. (Like, within an hour or two? Can’t remember exactly when I posted this yesterday, apart from mid-to-late afternoon, central time. And the time stamp bears no relationship to reality.) Just wanted to leave a reminder about that, lest anyone later think I closed down comments in response to what’s being said.

    Thank you all for telling your stories. Imaginary internet hugs all around.

  57. I’m totally with you on this, Kate. Kids can be total fucking assholes, and these two college students completely fit the bill. Great piece.

  58. Replying to compassion_grrl above — thought I was done, but then I saw this: it’s quite a relief to see that whatever someone says or does has NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU. It just isn’t personal! Whether they “intended” the hurt or not, it still isn’t anything to do with you. Isn’t that clear from the way kids bully? It’s random and illogical…

    What? Now I’m seriously starting to think “troll.”

    There’s an argument to be made that bullying is “random and illogical” to a point, in that some kids bully for reasons that can seem pretty inexplicable to an adult, or anyone with a shred of common sense or decency. But if you really think the majority of bullying is “random and illogical,” why do you suppose it happens so often to gay kids, fat kids, poor kids, kids of color, kids with disabilities, kids who are somehow marked as misfits in one way or another? You think it’s a mysterious coincidence that especially vulnerable and socially vilified populations bear the brunt of it?

    Bullying is an early phase of socializing kids to believe at a bone-deep level that certain kinds of people are better than others. Most of us unconsciously buy into that to some extent, and those of us who care about social justice have to fight against the conditioning. But plenty of people also consciously believe it’s true that straight people are better than gay, white people are better than black, etc. You want to explain to me why even those people are not fucking assholes? Why their motives are beautiful?

    (Seriously, please don’t. You’ve made your point. It’s not that I don’t get it, it’s that I don’t agree.)

    • I want all people, everywhere, to enjoy safety, well-being, friendship, compassion, support, and delight.

      I want everyone to be free to express themselves, and to be free from the idea that if someone says or does something that hurts, that they can trust it isn’t coming from some truth about them: they are NOT flawed, useless, etc. That all of this is just a reflection of something the “asshole” is needing.

      I deeply regret if anything I wrote here is triggering that sense of “ick” for anyone. My real desire is to bring love and light, truly.

      Again, Kate, thank you for providing a forum for a discussion about this topic that is very dear to my heart, and enormously important to me.

  59. Wow, speaking of total fucking assholes, trolls trying to get through moderation should probably go for a little more subtlety than using “banned@4chan.org” as their e-mail address.

  60. I suspect that most adults want to excuse this behavior because they engaged in it themselves. Or still do. Children do get a lot of their attitudes from their parents and other adults, they don’t make it up out of whole cloth.

  61. Hell to the fucking yeah! God, how I’d love to march on DC and demand bullying be illegal. Now. I don’t just want lip service to “no bullying policies”. I read all the pain of people who were bulled (myself included) and how it’s fucked us all one way or another.

    And you know what? I am still angry about it and it’s been over 20 years. Is it too late to call the assholes out?

    I was on a swim team in Dover, NH (and I hope you fuckers recognize yourselves) and I could have been fucking Olympic great, possibly, who knows? But I never got that fucking chance, b/c but I put up with so much bulling that after almost 2 years that I quit doing something I loved. Turned to drugs. Thought I was worthless. Adults were useless. Parents useless. I did *nothing* to deserve any of it.

    So when the local girl, Jenny Thompson, went onto the Olympics, it brought it all back. Because that could have been *me* b/c I was just as good or fucking better when I swam. So fuck all of you assholes.

    Continued in high school when all I really wanted was to be left the fuck alone. Yeah, I was a total asshole to someone else who had it worse than me. I wish I could apologize to them personally. I’m truly sorry, Debbie. And I wish I could go back in time and knock some heads for you, instead of passively watching your torment.

    Am I still angry? Hell to the yeah. And I’ve had the therapy, but so what? It should never, ever have fucking happened. I went to hating fucking sports and it was years before I could even enjoy doing something I loved. Swim. How many other kids does this shit happen to? One is too fucking many.

    This may never pass moderation, but damn. I do feel better. Is it ever too late to call the assholes out?

    • Gee, I feel as if I should call out the fuckers in grade school too, just so they don’t feel left out?

      • Heh! Well, if there’s one thing I hope people take away from this blog, it’s that more adults need to do the right thing and call small children horrible names, loudly, repeatedly, and mercilessly. If just one person tells a kindergartener she’s a total fucking asshole today, my work here is done. :)

        (It’s possible that I’m getting punchy now.)

  62. Bravo! Beautifully said.

    When I recently asked a hometown (small town, flyover state) friend what had happened to our class bully she told me that his family had quietly had him committed some years ago. At the time I couldn’t help but smile and thank Madame Karma.

    Now I’m left wondering how he might have turned out had someone called him on being a total fucking asshole back in the day. If there had been zero tolerance for bullying then, could he possibly have turned out to be a productive member of society today?

    Sure, none of us had the nerve to try it, but his mother was a teacher at our high school. She knew his reputation. She should have been educated enough to know that it was more than a case of ‘boys will be boys’ even back then.

    So sad.

  63. I love you and want to have your children, even though I’m 52, gay, and male. You totally, utterly, completely nailed it. Thank you.

  64. I too have suffered some bullying while growing up, and I too wished I had the guts to say so what if I’m fat. And yes we’ve all been young etc etc but I never (and I’m not saying this to praise myself) found pleasure in hurting someones feeling. The sad part is that I see a lot of grown ups I’ve grew up with still being the same assholes and I honestly believe that they like hurting someones elses feeling either because they are deeply unhappy with themselves and assholes or just plain ol assholes. And what kinda message will they give to their?? Here’s one example:
    My sister (and myself) are muslims and she wears a headscarf, one day she was walking home with her family and a father actually helped his kid up on the windowsill and opened the window to let his kid (probably 6 years old) yell (whilst he was laughing): hé is this normal in this country. Seriously, I have no words.

Comments are closed.