Overusing The B-Word: Is Bullying A New Catchphrase?

September 13, 2012  |  

I never thought I’d see the day when bullying was used more than the word b****. I’m not complaining, okay I am just a little, but not because I want to hear more of the latter. I’m just a little concerned about the overuse of the former b-word and the genuineness of the recent slew of bullying claims and whether the b-word crisis we all believe we’re enduring has been blown completely out of proportion.

Now it might be a little counterintuitive to ask such questions when the majority of people are arguing that schools don’t take bullying complaints seriously enough. But I wonder has bullying gone the way of the r-word because we all know what happens when we cry racism too much, the complaints start to get ignored and written off as just that, empty complaining. Perhaps I’m too desensitized, but I barely shutter at someone’s tale of bullying these days because I hear the term so much that it makes me question are kids too sensitive or has our entire generation of kids just gone to hell. I imagine it’s a combination of both.

I’m sure if we all think back to those trying periods in our lives known as grade school, middle school, and high school, we could all think of an instance when we were “bullied.” Or what we used to call being teased or made fun of. No one is immune to it, even the so-called cool kids who just don’t realize plenty of folks are picking on them behind their backs. At some point in everyone’s lives, someone has had something to not so nice to say about their hair, their name, their weight, their glasses, being smart, being tall, being short, being them. It’s an unfortunate part of life that only becomes less obvious, and possibly infrequent, when you get older, but is nevertheless the nature of the human beast — yet not always bullying.

Everywhere you turn these days, someone is rehashing their childhood with a splash of bullying. It’s almost become the replacement for the “homeless to Harvard/I pulled myself up by my bootstraps” scenario successful individuals always end up telling at one point or another. Now, instead of, “I was sleeping in my car, now I’m making millions of dollars annually,” it’s “I was bullied as a child and I overcame.” This isn’t to take away from the real victims of constant taunting and verbal abuse and violence, but this seems to be a narrative that suddenly everyone who has made it shares and it’s become sympathetic overkill. Kids who are repeatedly harassed and taunted and attacked absolutely are being bullied and need to be protected by their parents and the school system. But children who happen to find themselves on the receiving end of a snarky remark, disrespectful comment, or discriminatory action randomly have to be taught the power that they have to fight against that type of behavior, and I don’t mean physically. We talk all the time about how we teach people how to treat us and what better time to start imparting that wisdom then when adolescents are developing their personalities as individuals? As I alluded to earlier, bullying, if you want to call it that, never stops, and though there are some laws in the form of sexual harassment and discrimination policies to protect you as an adult, most defense comes down to the good old tried and true method of standing up for yourself. In no way am I victim-blaming, but children aren’t always defenseless in their interactions with peers and they need to know labeling their treatment as bullying is certainly an option, but so is recognizing some of the behavior for what it is on the aggressor’s part: jealousy, insecurity, hate, if you will, judgement, and a plethora of other things.

Children have essentially been the same since the beginning of time. Their behavior hasn’t changed, the age at which some of the disturbing actions begins may have gotten younger, but I think the issue now is that there are so many different mediums through which a child can be reached that we’ve come to believe that any time anyone has anything negative to say about someone it’s bullying. The b-word is most certainly a reality for more people than it should be, but I wish the notion wouldn’t be thrown around as cavalierly as the other, and people would recognize some of the unfair behavior for what it really is. The power to overcome some of the taunting can be as simple as developing another b-word, a backbone.

Do you think bullying is an overused word these days?

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