Notes on a Plane, Or Why Bullying with Kindness Isn’t a Thing

Bullying

Imagine for a moment, the following scene:

It’s Thanksgiving weekend and you’re stuck at the airport.

Maybe you’re having a bad day.  You’ve lost perspective.  You know you’re acting like an asshole but somehow can’t manage to contain yourself.

Maybe you’re worried that if you miss your non-refundable connecting flight that you’ll get stuck in some unknown city halfway between your home and your destination and given that you could barely afford the ticket price to begin with, will be shit out of luck.

Maybe your partner just left you.

Maybe you just got fired from your job.

Maybe you fall on the Autism spectrum and have abnormal responses to sensory stimuli, find it difficult to maintain social relationships or to understand social cues, or struggle to communicate.

Maybe you just found out you have cancer and have to fly home to break the news to your parents.

Maybe you’re just an entitled shitty person who maintains a total lack self-awareness.

Maybe you’re completely fictional.  (for argument sake let’s assume this isn’t the case, regardless of the fact that this is obviously the case).

It doesn’t really matter.  But there you are, at the airport on Thanksgiving and your flight is delayed and you’re acting like a total dick.  And then whew! you’re on the plane and getting set for your journey home when suddenly you get this note from a stranger on the plane…

Read the story here:  “This Epic Note-Passing War On A Delayed Flight Won Thanksgiving

So, what is so wrong with this (and the people who think it’s funny)?  Well, let me tell you.  There are really only two possibilities for what this guy must have been thinking to provoke this confrontation:

Hey, look at this total asshole who can’t possibly be upset enough.  I’m going to go out of my way to be cruel to her and taunt her and hopefully she’ll have a total fucking breakdown that I can tweet about and people will think I’m a hilarious hero.  PS. I’m going to make sure I use some language that incorporates both violence and sex to really let her know that I think her place in the world is beneath me regardless of any supposed provocation.

Or he thought

Hey, look at this woman, who is obviously pained in some way, and though I could probably try to make her day a little better (and thus in some small way improve the days of everyone around her) I’m still going to go out of my way to be cruel to her and taunt her and hopefully she’ll have a total fucking breakdown that I can tweet about and people will think I’m a hilarious hero.  PS. I’m going to make sure I use some language that incorporates both violence and sex to really let her know that I think her place in the world is beneath me regardless of any supposed provocation.

 

I almost can’t even write this because I’m so out-of-my-mind with confusion/rage/frustration/disillusionment, especially after reading Elan’s follow up statement on his blog where he starts out by admitting that he’s just an IRL Troll or as is more commonly known, a goddamn bully:

I had a great time antagonizing her, reading your responses, and just generally trying to have fun with an irritating person.

(emphasis mine)

Then, he makes an attempt to justify his bullshit behavior with some nonsense about how it’s unforgivable to be unkind to people while they’re working (which btw is nonsense not because that’s a bad idea, which it isn’t, but because the very fact that he was harassing this fictional woman on a plane – a specifically dangerous place to antagonize and provoke people, particularly on the people’s whose job it is to then have to keep them calm and placated).  He was fucking with the flight attendants and the other passengers as much as he was fucking with Diane.

Then, he reaffirms what I am already certain of, that he is, in fact, no hero.

And finally, he sums up his final point, which is that we should all be nice to each other.  wait?!? what?!?!  The guy who just harassed a woman for hours, did so to make the point that kindness should be spread and being nice is what is most important.  *brain explodes*

What I did today was just point out something we all know: Be nice. It’s Thanksgiving. Be nice.

Be nice everyday, but if you see a man or a woman working on a holiday you better respect that they would like to be with their family too.

But before I can let you go to just think about the sadness of this whole facade and how horrible people are and how maybe this is why I can’t sleep at night.  What I really want to point out is just how wrong this dude is about how to change the world.

So have some compassion and have some appreciation.

Most people do. Most people are great. And then there are a bunch of Diane’s in the world.

And it’s OUR job to tell every Diane to shut up.

It’s OUR duty to put the Diane’s of the world in their place.

We need to REMIND them about the way of things.

We outnumber them.

So, I’m really glad we had fun today, but I really hope you guys join me, look a jerk in the eye, and tell them to eat a piece of your body, because really, that’s what the holidays are all about.

And while I know this man is, in his own fucked up way, trying to make this lighthearted and just a joke, the problem is that like rape jokes or bum fights, or all the other disgusting things humanity does in the hopes of hilarity, this falls far short of actually being funny.

You know the old adages Kill them with kindness and You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar?  Well, semantics aside, they are spot on.  The world doesn’t need more people telling women to eat their dicks (or whatever violent and misogynistic rhetoric might be the equivalent for men), the world needs more kindness, more empathy, more patience.  Oh, and by the way, that DOES NOT mean less jokes.  It means better, smarter, funnier ones.  Jokes that don’t sacrifice the weak.  And if you can’t write those jokes…well fuck…try harder…or find another way to share joy with the world.

If you see someone in pain, help them ease it.

If you see someone in trouble, try to help.

If they snap at you and act like a jerk, don’t react in kind.

Don’t write them snotty insincere notes in order to get a laugh at their expense, tell them a joke and send them a present.  Maybe they laugh, maybe they don’t.  Maybe they’re thankful or maybe they’re not.  But you tried.  You were a good person.  You made a sincere effort to make the world a better place.

And btw Elan, trolling someone in real life…is just bullying.  You are a bully.  But maybe I can buy you a drink someday, and you can tell me why you’re so upset at the world.  Maybe I can help or maybe I can’t.  But I’ll listen if you need me, I’d listen if any of you need me.  Because honestly, what the fuck else are we doing here, if not trying to make the world a better place for everyone else in it?

Celebrity Culture and Why the Paparazzi Isn’t the Problem

I recently read an article about yet another act of aggressive (if not disgusting) behavior by a paparazzi (paparazzo?).  The incident involved insulting a seven year old (Suri Cruise), and while I think the behavior was despicable, I believe it pales in comparison to the behavior of the consumer who purchases gossip/celebrity/tabloid/etc. magazines.

You cannot stand on higher moral ground than the person taunting a child to get a photo if you then consume that photo.  Placing the blame on the paparazzi is a bit like believing that the shift supervisor in a sweat shop is the person to blame when in fact, it is us, buying the shoes who are really to blame (or at the very least the company who chooses said factory…though we’re still worse).  Our society functions on supply and demand, and if there were no demand for celebrity photos, there would be no sleazy behavior to get them.

To be clear, I am in no way condoning the behavior of the cameraman.  Insulting a child is pretty disgusting.  But what is more disgusting is the perpetuation of the involuntary invasion of personal privacy.  And while the argument could be made that celebrities themselves sign up for this–Hollywood and business and all that–I would make the argument of so what?!  I mean, is that really the most reasonable argument?  Are we really telling people that if they book a job that requires anytime in the public eye that they are forgoing all sense of privacy and are essentially public property for the rest of their natural lives?  That’s insane.

While I think the paparazzi was clearly in the wrong here I think it’s worth noting who the real culprit(s) are: the people who buy tabloid magazines (including the high-brow, if there is even such a thing, ones like Us Magazine, In Touch Weekly, Star, and People, not to mention all the websites and TV Shows like TMZ, Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, etc.).

I recently wrote an article about bullying and how (and I’m generalizing here), society as a whole looks at the bully, to place blame, and upon the bully’s immediate influences. When, in actuality, the blame lies with society. For example, girls are so often bullied over sexual choices (with whom, at what age, with what ease, with how many, etc.). But, if we as a society didn’t judge the sexuality of women (in attempts to suppress their pleasure and happiness under the guise of morality and virtue), bullies would have no ammo. (here is the article for a better explanation)

To bring my point back to this article–if people stopped buying the magazines that invade the privacy of celebrities–paparazzi wouldn’t have a job that entails invading the privacy of celebrities. While this particular paparazzo acted horribly, in many ways, he was just doing his job by whatever means necessary. For all we know, he’s the single breadwinner in a house of 5 children just trying to make ends meet, and while this in no way justifies his behavior, you have to wonder who is more in the wrong, this person doing his job or the consumer wasting their money in order to know/see the private lives of celebrities?  Who is perpetuating this cycle of personal invasion?  Who is the demand that this paparazzo is supplying?

And don’t get me wrong, I’ve read articles about celebrities on the internet and I’ve read a People or two in the nail salon, and I’ve even gone as far as to read the old copies of Us Weekly that a friend subscribes to.  I’m simply saying, that the first step in the right direction is to accurately portray the real scenario and to assign blame where it logically goes, on us.  After all, you can’t fix a problem until you can figure out what it is.

Bullying: Who Is Really Responsible?

Teen girl commits suicide to escape bullying.  This is the headline; over and over and over again.  Sometimes it involves a rape.  Sometimes it involves nudity on the internet.  Sometimes it involves nothing but a story.  Always though, it involves is a girl pushed so far beyond her emotional limits that she breaks.

We, of course, look to the bullies.  Who harassed the girl?  Who showed the video?  Who spread the words?  Who shared the pictures and made it all go viral?  Where were the authorities?  The school officials?  The parents?  Who is responsible?

 

And every single time we miss the point.

 

We are looking at the surface, concerned only about the symptoms, instead of looking at the underlying cause.  We are living in a world that believes it has a say over the bodies of women, of girls.

A young girl gets on a webcam.  Her sexuality is barely blooming.  Her understanding of sex takes place in words not yet through senses.  Maybe she’s kissed a boy, maybe she hasn’t.  But she knows lust and experimentation and joy.  She gets excited about things, she gets carried away, she is not yet sure of herself.  And suddenly, there is a boy or a man or a fiction of either on the internet.  He thinks she’s special, you’re so pretty he says, and a relationship forms.  She is ecstatic.  One day, she feels daring, and pulls up her shirt exposing her breasts.  Maybe she feels proud.  Maybe she feels quirky.  Maybe she thought it through.  Maybe she didn’t.  And here’s where it all gets so tricky.  Or not, really.

Her breasts are her breasts.  Tits.  Boobs.  Juggs.  They are hers and hers alone.  To do whatever she wants with.  Should I repeat that?  Her breasts are hers, the very moment that she had them, to do whatever she wants to do with them.  And if she felt that way, if society felt that way, the story would end there.  No matter what happened after.  If she regretted it, it would be a mistake, one of many in a lifetime, which she will inevitably make; but, the mistake would be hers and hers alone.  But that’s not how the story goes for these teen suicide victims.  And that’s what they are, victims (and we, the perpetrators).  Breasts become a tool to chastise, to control, to mock, to humiliate.  And for what?  For being human?  For having desires and needs?  For seeking attention and comfort and excitement?  What are we teaching children that make these things so wrong?  And why does it feel like so few people see the slippery slope that is our social-sexual attempts to control.

But you say, I’m not shaming her.  We’re not shaming her.  I would never, could never…

But whose children do you think are saying these things?  I know, I know, it’s always someone else’s kid, someone else’s problem.  Only, it’s not.  We are a society, a whole, indivisible by the very bounds of geography and similarity.  We are in this together, whether we want to be or not.

Whore.  Slut.  Promiscuous.  Easy.  No standards.  See how slippery the slope is?  One minute it’s whore and the next it’s just called “standards” and you’re still missing the point which is that you’re judging a thing you have no right to judge.  Her body is not public.  Her sexuality is not public.

I would never call a girl a whore, you say, but what about when you so proudly announce that you have standards; are you not aware of the insinuation that you are better than someone else, better than someone who doesn’t have standards?  And then you have to ask yourself, doesn’t everyone have some kind of standards?  And so what you’re really saying is that your standards are better than theirs, that you are better than her.  And suddenly you’re sliding down the slippery slope that is judging the sexuality of women and I wonder if your daughter hears every little thing you say.  Insidious.  It grips her, holds her, and becomes a part of who she is and how she sees the world (and the same holds true for your son).  And before you adopt that shitty stance that is, well better their kid than mine, ask yourself what if it’s your kid who is perceived as lacking these undefinable standards that are being used to control your child.  Can you see, can you understand the very possibility that it is you, as a part of a society that continues to allow the judgment of female sexuality like it is a public commodity, who permits the bullying of your child, their child, any child, all children?  Simply, because one day you weren’t so careful with your words and you let your bullshit judgment spill out because, because, because why exactly?

Why is society so afraid of women?  Why does it push us towards  less  pleasure,  less  joy, less freedom?

But, but, you say, I would never call a girl a whore.  You can blame the words all you want but it will still mean that you’re stopping short of discovering the source of the fire.  The words, while violent and harmful, are not the source of the epidemic.  The problem lies in why the words are used.  They are used to stifle female pleasure, to reappropriate feminine control; they say that the body is public and available for judgment, they say that our bodies are not our own.

The truth is mind-numbingly simple:  If our bodies weren’t shameful, if sexuality was allowed to be ours and ours alone, the bullying would end.  You cannot mock without shame.  You cannot shame without judgment.  You cannot control, that which you cannot make feel less than.