Bullying is very bad for the victim, but it’s extremely bad for the bully

I’ve been thinking about bullying a lot since I just became a member of the Southern Law Poverty Center to support their campaign to end bullying in schools.

One of the things that people do to rationalize bullying is that it’s for the victim’s “own good.” If only that person would get off the couch and lose weight, stop having autism (or learn to “cope with peers” as a person who has autism), or “stop being gay”, they would “fit in and people would stop bullying.”

By now, most people who aren’t idiots recognize this rationale as unproductive victim-blaming. However, even those who reject bullying based on the consequences for the victim tend to forget that bullying entails terrible consequences for the bully.

The universe of bullying is large; most of us have some unpleasant story in our lives that, if we tell the truth, would indicate when we ourselves have been a bully, or at least played lancer to the bully’s matador. Most people flow in and out of the victim and bully status at different times of their lives.

bell hooks describes how she learned resilience from bullies. Bullies, however, slide around in a shitty world of unearned power trips taken at the expense of somebody less powerful than you. IOW, while hooks is not valorizing the bully, she’s helping us see that bullies never learn to box their own weight; in the worst case, they indulge their taste for sociopathy. Victims learn how to fight power–even though the experience is unnecessary, horrendous, and deeply traumatic.

You think about the biggest bullies in your school. Perhaps some went on to be one of those Lifetime-Movie local power couples. Mine didn’t. Most of mine remained pathetic losers.