New on Babble: What Is Bullying?


There’s a great piece in the New York Times about what actually constitutes bullying and the problems with a defintion that’s too broad. I responded to it over at Babble, using a story from my own school bully experience.

I’m in 8th grade. Gym class is the last class of my day and we’re doing basketball. We stand in line, waiting for our turn to practice shooting layups or something equally useless. I hate it. Not just because I suck at basketball but because a girl I’ll call R has decided the best use of her time is harassing me. She stands behind me and runs her hands down my arms and tauntingly says “I’m a lesbian. I’m in love with you.” A veteran of being teased at school, I stay grimly silent in the hopes that for once the adage “ignore her and she’ll leave you alone” is true. It isn’t. R continues her harassment and unconsciously I roll my eyes with every incident. R begins mocking my eye-rolling, too. Eventually, after days or weeks of this, I haul off and slap her. No adult sees it but the other girls do. They take her side.

What I did was not bullying. What R did absolutely was. But in today’s atmosphere of no- tolerance policies and legislated bullying definitions, I probably would have gotten in more trouble than R.

Click on over for the rest of the piece. Oh, and Mom? Don’t worry that I never told you abut this. That girl backed off after I smacked her and I don’t think I ever interacted with her again.

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1 comment for “New on Babble: What Is Bullying?

  1. kim
    March 20, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    Thank you! THat sums it up perfectly.My daughter had a friend who would continually pick at her and her other friends. SHe told her calmly that she didn’t like it and to please stop. SHe wouldn’t. So my daughter did exactly what they are told to at school; be polite and extract yourself from the situation. My daughter did that quietly and the girl told the teacher she was feeling left out and “bullied”. The school counsellor told my daughter it was all her fault and that she was a bully and made her and some of her other friends (who weren’t even close to being involved) apologize to the girl. None of this was bullying (except the counsellor); it was all regular middle school drama. After speaking ith my daughter’s teacher I decided to see what happened next, nothing further arose so I left things alone, but I was very clase to smacking that counsellor; she had already forced another child to run in PE when she had a note in her locker (not allowed to go get it) explaining her illness (fairly serious) and that she could walk the track but not run. Her mom took the counsellor apart for that. Labeling everything as bullying is ridiculous. We tell our kids if they are picked on to do exactly what you did. We have also said if there is a valid reason you can’t do something, refuse and get sent to principal’s office, we will back you up.

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