In light of the news about Amanda Todd I decided to do a post on bullying. For those of you who don’t know, she was a high school student who was gossiped about and bullied so relentlessly after sharing a picture of herself online, that she felt there was no other solution than to take her life.
There have been similar cases. In 2006, Megan Meier also committed suicide after bullying from a “boy” who turned out to be her friend’s mother. The news that an adult had done this shocked many people, including Megan’s parents. It made people realize that adults can be bullies too Bullying isn’t just a school problem, or kids being kids. That being said, I will be specifically looking at school bullying and the way that adults may enable it unintentionally. I will also be looking at it from a cultural perspective-as an attempt to keep in the margins of society and know where those margins lie, somebody needs to keep order. Unfortunately this is often done in an abusive way when somebody has done something or acted in a way that is socially unacceptable to the people around them. This allows for people to be marginalized and for the social order to be maintained when someone has attempted to disrupt it.
Anybody can be a bully, and anybody can be bullied. Bullying is a problem with hierarchy and trying to figure out the structure of the social order through the use of intimidation, fighting, exclusion, shaming, etc. It occurs when the structure is not defined, and it is an attempt to create a structure where there is none. Bullying creates roles for people who previously had none. Bullying, at the same time as excluding victims, includes tormentors. “We are constantly being policed. We are constantly being watched, being surveilled: ‘Are you performing properly?’ If that were not true, we wouldn’t have bullying. That’s what bullying is. Bullying is surveillance. Bullying is policing to the nth degree. Bullies are almost like a Gestapo on behalf of the social order. They point out difference and they try to bring you in to what would be considered to be the dominant norm.” (Humphreys, lecture) It can be devastating to have to deal with bullies, because by being policed, people have to justify who they are and explain why they are who they are to people to try to fit in. If they don’t fit in, the consequences are horrendous.
Occasionally, people are willing to stand up to bullies. Days such as Pink Shirt Day have gone international because of people’s reactions to bullying. Commercials have been launched as part of an anti-bullying campaign over the past few years. Most are aimed directly at kids and placed on children’s television channels.
Society is structured through the use of categorization. My professor did an amazing job at explaining this during children’s literature this summer visually so I’m going to do the same thing. Hope she doesn’t mind…
Think of a circle as society. The dot in the middle represents the apex of society, the ideal citizen which in Western culture is male, rich, well educated, ideal body, heterosexual, etc.
“What we value most is in the centre. Everything else is progressively out towards, but still within the margins. If someone is marginalized or an idea is marginalized it’s put out on the fringes of the social order. It’s on the margins of the social order. Often there’s no explanation given. If you’re not accepted somewhere, you’re marginalized.” (Humphreys, lecture) In Western culture, we value the ideal body shape, so if someone does not have the ideal body shape, they are marginalized. Males are the dominant gender, females are marginalized, etc. We also have the use of contact zones, where people cross those boundaries, but it is discouraged. School is a society with a social order and so naturally, there are hierarchies that are followed and contact zones. Not just with teacher-student relations, but with peer interactions. Bullying is about making sure that nobody tries to cross these boundaries, and that the hierarchy is established. Social exclusion makes sure that the idea of the circle and the order of society is followed, and those who are on the margins are put into their place.
Bullies are respected and/or feared and use the power they have to intimidate others. They are the ones who control the social order. They are usually at the apex, and they get to decide what is being judged to keep themselves there. In Blubber the bully is “class president… group science leader, recess captain, and head of the goldfish committee.” (Blume, 2). She is popular and therefore has agency in the classroom. When the teacher is present, the structure of the classroom is visible, with the teacher as the apex and the girl second because she has been given a position of leadership and responsibility. When the teacher leaves however, she has to re-establish herself, not as close to the apex, but at the apex. To hold on to that position, she uses a cultural ideal to enforce why she should be at the apex. The class values the size of their bodies. The bigger somebody is, the farther away they are from the centre. She is able to enforce this by using intimidation to such an extreme that it becomes normal. “Everybody knows you don’t cross Wendy.” (Blume, 34). Nobody questions what she does, and follows her in the hopes of gaining her approval. “As Linda climbed onto the bus Wendy shouted ‘Here comes Blubber!’ and a bunch of kids called out ‘Hi Blubber!'” (Blume, 8). She keeps her place in the hierarchy by letting others know that they are subordinate. This includes making threats, “and remember… one word to anyone about this and we’ll really get you next time,” (Blume, 34) and psychological abuse, “Wendy…made copies of…. How to Have Fun with Blubber [and]… passed them out. We made Linda say, I am Blubber, the smelly whale of class 206. We made her say it before she could use the toilet…before she ate her lunch and before she got on the bus…It was easy to get her to do it. I think she would have done anything we said…Two days later she was saying I am Blubber, the smelly whale of class 206 without anyone forcing her to.” (Blume, 89) to ensure that her role is safe and silence the victim. She maintains the order by keeping the teachers unaware of the bullying. When the teachers are notified of bullying, she manipulates them to keep the order which she has established among her peers. “‘Well… this comes as a surprise to me… I just can’t believe my class would do such a thing.’… ‘Linda has a lot of imagination,’ Wendy said. Only Wendy could sit there telling lies to Mr. Nichols as if he were a regular person instead of the principal of our school. ‘I knew there had to be an explanation,’ Mrs. Minish said.” (Blume, 93-94). She keeps control by not letting the teachers know that the students have their own hierarchy. At the same time she is able to silence the victim who risks disrupting the social order.
In the Harry Potter series Harry is bullied in both the Muggle World by his cousin Dudley, and in the Wizarding World by Draco Malfoy. In the Muggle world, the social order is defined by how “perfectly normal” (Philosopher’s Stone, Rowling, 7) people are. This category includes the Dursleys, and their son Dudley. The Potters are as “unDurselyish as it was possible to be.” (Philosopher’s Stone, Rowling, 7). They are abnormal and marginalized in the Muggle world, and Dudley, having been brought up in the Muggle world, takes his views about Harry from his parents. In this context, adults encourage their children to maintain a social hierarchy that has already been established. The Dursleys perception of him as “a baby angel” (Philosopher’s Stone, Rowling, 21) and their belief that “there was no finer boy anywhere.” (Philosopher’s Stone, Rowling, 7) conflicts with the depiction of Dudley given by McGonagall to Dumbledore. “I saw him kicking his mother all the way up the street, screaming for sweets.” (Philosopher’s Stone, Rowling, 15). What the Dursleys say and what people see are very contradictory. What the Dursleys think of themselves and of Dudley has to be dismissed because they do not have an accurate view of what Dudley’s actions really say about him as a person. The Durselys warped perception of Dudley allows him to get away with being mean to Harry. “Harry’s status as a wizard makes him different from children his age in the Muggle world.” (Galway). He uses this to his advantage, often using fake tears to get Harry into trouble. When he is faced with the news that Harry has to go to his birthday party, he exaggerates his disappointment, to make Harry feel unwanted. “[Dudley] wasn’t really crying…but he knew that if he screwed up his face and wailed, his mother would give him anything he wanted…’I… don’t… want… him… t-t-to come!’ Dudley yelled between huge pretend sobs. ‘He always sp-spoils everything!’ He shot Harry a huge nasty grin through the gap in his mother’s arms.” (Philosopher’s Stone, Rowling, 22) Even though his parents dislike Harry, Dudley manipulates them further to keep him outside of the margins. Dudley is not feared as much as he believes he is, as the story, told from Harry’s point of view, narrates Harry’s thoughts. As much as Dudley’s tantrums are dangerous and mean, they are also childish and predictable.”Harry, who could see a huge Dudley tantrum coming on, began wolfing down his bacon as fast as possible in case Dudley turned the table over… Aunt Petunia obviously scented danger too, because she said quickly: ‘And we’ll buy you another two presents while we’re out today. How’s that, popkin?’… Dudley thought for a moment. It looked like hard work.” (Philosopher’s Stone, Rowling, 21) Dudley is made fun of through Harry’s actions and his thoughts. It is revealed that although Dudley is a bully, he’s also not very bright, and Harry acts comically when he believes that Dudley is about to get angry, by quickly finishing his food so that it doesn’t go to waste. He still gets what he wants, and keeps out of the argument, but thinks of Dudley as someone with flaws, different from the way he has been characterized so far as a bully.
However, in the fantasy space of Hogwarts the issues of class and bloodline make Harry different from children his age in the wizarding world. These are apparent with the introduction of Malfoy. Malfoy has power because he is a pureblood and upper class. He gloats about his wealth and he taunts Harry for having “no proper Wizard feeling” (Chamber of Secrets, Rowling, 166). He bullies Harry not for being different, but for behaving in a way that is unexpected. It is because Harry has no concept of the bloodlines and the class system and how it structures the social order at Hogwarts (and he rejects it once he does understand) that he is the target of bullying. He is also influenced by his circumstances surrounding him, allowing what his father says to influence him without questioning it.”He shifted restlessly in his chair and said, ‘Father says to keep my head down and let the heir of Slytherin get on with it. He says the school needs ridding of all the Mudblood filth, but not to get mixed up in it.'” (Chamber of Secrets, Rowling, 167) In some instances, the structure at school is structured the way that other communities are. At Hogwarts, the structure is based in the same way that the wizard world is. “Malfoy’s eagle was always bringing him packages and sweets from home, which he opened gloatingly at the Slytherin table.” (Philosopher’s Stone, Rowling, 108). The social hierarchy is not something that has been created at school, but a result of the hierarchy present in the wizard world as a whole. They mimic the structure that has been set up in the community. Children are aware of the margins and how they function in society and so they sometimes structure their environment that way as well.
In Will’s Garden by Lee Maracle, the bullying is directed at specific groups. The bullies act collectively to marginalize people in other groups who they feel are inferior to them. Some of the groups have already been set up by the school in the cafeteria. Everybody sits with their own clique and culture divides them as well. As a result, the bullies seem dependent on each other and are for the most part, not referred to individually. “Every chance the jocks get, they say something crude about ‘Indians’. (Maracle, 33) They do not seek out individuals based on their appearance or family, but ostracize people based on their culture.”If they were thoughtful, they would have better words coming out of their mouth…They don’t treat each other very well. They rag on their buddies for losing a game, being late, and not being where they are supposed to be. Just about anything gets their goat.” (Maracle, 34) They are mean to entertain themselves. As it is revealed that the jocks don’t even treat each other well they are not as invested in keeping the order of hierarchy intact, but are concerned with themselves. One jock is singled out as a bully, but to offer a way to join the two groups together. He is recognized as a person who “just wants some kind of closure.” (Maracle, 79). He does not want to enforce the margins of the school community, but he is expected to. It is not what he wants, and he has no more power than the victim does. “His father is going to kill him for getting kicked off the team. ‘Bully anyone you want, but don’t get caught,’ is his father’s cardinal rule….He encouraged Jack all through grade school to bully me, but always with the dictum, ‘Don’t get caught.’ Whenever Jack did get caught, his father became his personal private bully.” (Maracle, 79). He is pressured to be a jock, be at the centre of the apex, and bully others who are not. Bullies are also victims of the social order, and it is very difficult to change once it has been set up.
Victims are pushed out onto the margins of society by the bully. In Blubber Linda is teased for being overweight. Unlike Wendy, who is described by the positions she holds, Linda is described by her appearance. “Linda’s head is shaped like a potato and sits right on her shoulders, as if she hasn’t got any neck. She’s also the pudgiest girl in our class.” (Blume, 4). She tries to ignore the teasing, because she understands the social order in the class. On the bus, the social order is much like at the school, and so she “didn’t say anything. She just sat there, looking out the window.” (Blume, 9). She is forced to admit to the class that being overweight is a shortcoming and that she does belong on the margins. She “eats by herself.” (Blume, 52) because she has been socially excluded for not meeting the idealized standards of Western beauty. She attempts to change this by dieting, “She had her lunch spread out on her desk- two pieces of celery, one slice of yellow cheese and a package of saltine crackers… ‘I’m going to lose ten pounds and then you won’t be able to call me that name anymore.'” (Blume, 60) but is told that “even if you weigh fifty pounds you’ll still be a smelly whale.” (Blume, 61) as a means to keep her on the fringes of the class’ society.
Jill gets bullied after she decides to stop teasing Linda. She then becomes the target, and Linda joins the bullies. They bully Jill in a different way. Since her weight is in the margins of what is normal in the class, the children use language to alienate her. Ignorance of language can make it difficult for outcasts to be accepted into society, and it is often deliberate; using codes, and the goal is to always try to keep the victim guessing. This book is very realistic; exposing how cruel kids can be and how the threat of having the teasing turned to someone else is a very real fear that many kids have. She is given Linda’s former place, and when trying to regain control of her former place she is told by Wendy that “‘Her name is Linda and don’t you forget it B.B.’ Everybody laughed. What did B.B mean? And since when was Linda Wendy’s friend?” (Blume, 134-135). She is left out of the class’s society and therefore does not have access to their language as she once did. She is unable to defend herself, and unable to make a reply without exposing her new status as an outsider. She finds out information as they allow her to. They have control of what language she can access, and has to rely on them to survive in the contact zone. “At lunch I found out B.B means Baby Brenner. It could have been worse. Wendy put a diaper pin on my desk with a note attached to it. Baby Brenner better change her diapers. She’s smelling up the whole room!” (Blume, 136) This is enforced by the class, who “all held their noses when [she] came near them.” (Blume, 137) She is unable to communicate with them, and it leaves her ostracized. “During lunch period Wendy wrote on the blackboard, B.B loves W.W ‘What’s that mean?’ Irwin asked… ‘Baby Brenner is in love with Warren Winkler.’ That was just too much. ‘I am not!’ I told everybody. ‘That’s a big lie!’ Then Wendy whispered something to Linda and both of them laughed.” (Blume 137) As the target of bullying, she is unable to defend herself because she depends on them to access the language used in the class. She is spoken about by others, and because she does not know what they are saying, she can not tell anybody.
As a book in the fantasy genre, Harry starts off as an average kid. He is “small and skinny for his age.” (Philosopher’s Stone, Rowling, 20) while Dudley is “about four times bigger than he was.” (Philosopher’s Stone, Rowling, 20). Dudley and Harry are foils to each other. Harry is disliked by his aunt and uncle while Dudley is adored, Dudley is clearly bigger than Harry by about four sizes. By being set up as a foil with Dudley, who has already been outed as a bully Harry is set up as the victim. This is confirmed when explaining that his glasses were “held together with a lot of Sellotape, because of all the times Dudley had punched him on the nose.” (Philosopher’s Stone, Rowling, 20) Dudley and Harry’s fights are physical; different from the fighting in Blubber, which mostly uses humiliation to exclude victims.
When Harry finds out that he is a wizard, his first thought is that “there had been a horrible mistake…. He’d spent his life being clouted by Dudley…If he’d once defeated the greatest sorcerer in the world, how come Dudley had always been able to kick him around like a football?” (Philosopher’s Stone, Rowling, 47) As Harry is victimized, and raised by the Durselys to expect no other status in a community but as an outsider, he chooses not to believe that he is a wizard. “Hogwarts offers him the opportunity to make friends with people who can understand him—something which the series implies Muggles are incapable of doing… At [Hogwarts] he is no longer alone and achieves a sense of belonging when he forms enduring friendships.” (Galway) As the contact zone between Muggle and Wizard are left behind, so is his victim status, at least for a while. In Hogwarts, the students are all at the same start of learning. He is comforted by the fact that “he wasn’t miles behind everyone else. Lots of people had come from Muggle families and, like him, hadn’t had any idea that they were witches and wizards. There was so much to learn that even people like Ron didn’t have much of a head start.” (Philosopher’s Stone, Rowling, 100) Everybody is in the same position regarding their knowledge of magic abilities and spells. He still still ignorant of the language, and when he realizes that He is expected to “have [an] idea what a bezoar [is.]” (Philosopher’s Stone, Rowling, 102) his ignorance allows for Malfoy to use it against him. Unfortunately, every community has contact zones, and so if he doesn’t conform to them, he risks being bullied again. No matter how famous he is at Hogwarts, and even if he is a wizard, Harry is still subjected to bullying, because the community is not structured at Hogwarts by how well-known his name is: It is structured through contact zones of class.
Harry changes from being dependent on the Dursely’s to having more money than he knows what to do with. For the whole scene click here.
Harry is made to switch his contact zones. One thing preventing him from leaving the Dursely’s home is that he “hasn’t got any money…and…[Uncle Vernon] won’t pay for [Harry] to go and learn magic.” (Philosopher’s Stone, Rowling, 50). He is someone who belongs on the margins at Hogwarts, until he sees that in his bank vault he has “mounds of gold coins. Columns of silver. Heaps of little bronze Knuts.” (Philosopher’s Stone, Rowling, 58). He finds out that in the Wizard World people had “grown up knowin’ yer name.” (Philosopher’s Stone, Rowling, 61), and that he is famous.
Harry is ignored at the Durselys, and “never had friends before Hogwarts, Dudley had made sure of that.” (Chamber of Secrets, Rowling, 174). So he is already moved closer to the apex when he finds he is famous and makes friends with Ron and Hermione, even though they are also marginalized. “When Harry first meets Ron, he senses that he does not have any money and, with “pockets rattling with gold and silver” for the first time in his life (Philosopher’s 76), insists on treating them both to a slew of treats off the trolley: “‘Go on, have a pasty,’ said Harry, who had never had anything to share before or, indeed, anyone to share it with. It was a nice feeling, sitting there with Ron, eating their way through all Harry’s pasties and cakes” (76).” (Galway) He is no longer ignorant once he becomes friends with Ron, but is still made to feel like an outsider. “Hogwarts is an institution to which only a select few can gain entry. While the reader is clearly encouraged to reject Malfoy’s snobbery and his disdain for Ron Weasley, the fact remains that Ron comes from a wizarding family and belongs to the elite society represented in Hogwarts. He may not be wealthy, but he is nevertheless an insider who can explain this world to Harry.” (Galway) He is able to fill in the gaps in Harry’s knowledge, offering him more access to the world of Hogwarts by explaining the terminology. “Mudblood’s a really foul name for someone who was Muggle-born-you know, non-magic parents. There are some wizards- like Malfoy’s family- who think they’re better than everyone else because they’re what people call pure-blood…It’s a disgusting thing to call someone…Dirty blood, see. Common blood. It’s mad. Most wizards these days are half-blood anyway. If we hadn’t married Muggles we’d’ve died out.” (Chamber of Secrets, Rowling, 89). Through Ron, he is able to grasp the meaning of the language and understand another social indicator in the community- bloodline. There is a dislike for all Muggle borns by the pure bloods. The belief of people such as Malfoy are that Muggle-borns should not be allowed in. He says this at the beginning when he is being introduced in the series for the first time: “I don’t think they should let the other sort in, do you? They’re just not the same, they’ve never been brought up to know our ways. Some of them have never even heard of Hogwarts until they got the letter, imagine. I think they should keep it in the old wizarding families.” (Philosopher’s Stone, Rowling, 61) Muggle borns are “othered” even more so than those of lower class. Ron maintains some status because he has wizard blood, even though he is lower class.
In the movie, it is Hermione who explains to Harry what a Mudblood is, even though it is Ron who tries to defend her.
The book shows how escaping a certain environment because of bullies doesn’t always necessarily work, because a person’s location does not determine how people act. It would be dangerous to generalize and say that bullying only exists in schools, or in one part of the world. It exists online, it exists between siblings, masquerading as “sibling rivalry.” It even exists between adults at work. Escaping a bully is not a guarantee that somebody won’t be bullied again. It exists everywhere, even in the magical world of Hogwarts. The only way to deal with it is to surround yourself with friends and try to limit the exposure to negative people.
Draco Malfoy is fully aware of Harry’s popularity before he even enters Hogwarts, so, feeling threatened, he tries to push Harry into the margins. He is a pureblood, and higher class, and so scorns Ron for being of lower class, and Hermione for being a Muggle. He dislikes Harry for associating with the two, and tries to make it difficult for him to be accepted in the community. I have heard that this conflict is an allegory for the Holocaust. The use of bloodline then, does not simply allow for bullying, but for extermination: The bullying is only a result of the larger problems in the Wizard world.
They represent all three blood types. “Pure blood” (Ron) “Half-blood” (Harry) and “Muggle born” (Hermione)
Looking at the contact zone structured through bloodline, Hermione is the victim. Malfoy refers to her as a “filthy little Mudblood” and despite her knowledge of Hogwarts she is not accepted in the community by people such as Malfoy, and other pure bloods. Knowledge is not a factor of popularity in school, and may in fact even work against her. She is ignored by the other girls at the school, and befriends Harry and Ron. Ron and Harry do different things from Hermione, even though she wants to join in. She eventually does join in but in a different way… She’s like a handmaiden to their adventures. Even though she is the most the cleverest witch of her age. She’s not central to the story.” (Humphreys, lecture) She is different from Ron and Harry in that she is female, and also from a different lineage than they are- their parents were wizards, hers are not. Nevertheless, they form a group as outcasts. Instead of being alone, they have managed to bond together to become a group of their own and attempt to ignore Malfoy. Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s status as victim is not as severe as it would be if they were alone, and because of Harry’s fame they would be able to ignore the concept of contact zones altogether if they wished. His popularity means that they have “[created] a context that enables or prevents personal factors from translating into action.” (Pöyhönen et al.) Although they are bullied, it is not by the entire community, only the ones at the perceived center.
Will is alienated because he is not part of the dominant culture at his school. “You can have cultures of people who are utterly marginalized.” (Humphreys, lecture) He is not the only student who is bullied but he is affected by it more than others, as he misinterprets his friends advice. “When I hear Tony telling me to not take them so seriously, I hear ‘put up with it’ in my mind.” (Maracle, 34) They use terms which are racist to dehumanize him; and “gave me a hard time, calling me ‘Chief’ and ‘Smoked Meat’ and occasionally tackling too rough in practice. I have been injured more times by my teammates than our opponents.” (Maracle, 79) He tries to speak to them; and reminds himself that even though they have dehumanized him, they are still human. “I figure the jocks are hoping for some raw Siwash rage. Don’t give it to them buddy. I feel my rage come up…transform it into courage and drop it between my legs. It’s there, it isn’t going anywhere and now I have endless courage and I can think straight. Sarah’s words come back: Respect Jack.” (Maracle, 128) To Will, Jack is not a bad person. He is somebody who has made a mistake, and it is easier to confront Jack in this way. He makes it clear that he will not be walked over anymore, and just wants to survive high school. He does not care about the margins, he only wants to be “let to live.” (Maracle, 80).
I’ve said this before, but adults have no idea what goes on in the lives of children. Kids hang out with other kids, they are in a world separate from adults. Bullying may seem like a rite of passage, but it shouldn’t be. It’s getting harsher, the kids are getting meaner; with the use of social networking it’s allowing for people to say things anonymously that they would never say in front of someone, and it’s dangerous. It isn’t just adults that are separated from kids, sometimes kids have to separate themselves from other kids to try to keep safe.
The problem with this commercial is that while it does recognize that bullying contains more than two roles, it forgets to mention that speaking up can be hard. Peer pressure is a powerful thing. Bullies want people to be scared of them, the more people who know and are scared, the better it is. They remain as the head of the hierarchy through the use of fear. The more people who know that they use fear, the more recognition they get of their place in the system. It’s easy to say that people should not be bystanders, but stand up to bullies but if that means independently doing so, it offers the bully another target.
Most bullying is done by collectively ganging up on someone who seems different in some way. Sometimes there are no visible scars. Words can act as a weapon. In this clip, they actually fly around and show physical violence. Even though words really can’t do that, the effects can be the same or worse than physical violence. Words are powerful.
Blubber is told from the perspective of Jill, a girl who takes part in bullying her classmate because of her size. Jill switches roles depending on the context of where she is and how she feels. “Bullying is a group phenomenon in which members of a school class assume different participant roles, including assistants and reinforcers of the bully who enable and maintain the bullying, as well as defenders of the victim who try to stop the bullying. Students who stay out of the bullying situations are viewed as outsiders.” (Karna et al.) Just like adults, children are constantly changing to suit the context of their world, they behave differently depending on where they are, and their moods change depending on how they are feeling which in turn motivate their actions. To categorize children into different roles in the context of bullying (or anytime for that matter) just doesn’t work because people as individuals are much more complex. “Wendy passed a note to Caroline. Caroline read it, then…passed it to me. I unfolded it. It said Blubber is a good name for her. I smiled, not because I thought the note was funny, but because Wendy was watching me. When she turned away I crumpled it up and left it in the corner of my desk.” (Blume, 4-5). Jill taunts Linda when the class is acting as a group, but also on her own: “‘A person gets what she deserves’ I sang…Tracy had a piece of blue chalk with her and….both of us laughed like crazy as we wrote Blubber lives here all over the street.” (Blume, 43) She plays the roles of assistant, outsider, and bully because she wants to fit in. To fit in with the bully however, it means that she has to continually make sure that Linda is marginalized. She has to dehumanize Linda to justify why the class treats her the way that they do. She is surprised then, when in a different community, Linda has the ability to laugh. “Kenny was reciting one of his dumb jokes and right in the middle Linda laughed! I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know she knew how.” (Blume, 110) By dehumanizing Linda, she was able to separate herself from the act of hurting someone with feelings. In a different community the margins not being defined causes Jill to see that Linda is human. “The effects of victimization might be stronger or weaker depending on the classmates’ behavior when someone is victimized.” (Karna et al.) The desire for all the students to remain in their social hierarchy they have created is so great, that they don’t wish to change it and risk social exclusion.
In Blubber the community is structured using weight as a measurement of social acceptance. The further away a classmate is from the ideal body shape, the further away they are from the apex of the classroom hierarchy. Linda is bullied for being overweight, however “Ruthellen Stark and Elizabeth Ryan are about ten times fatter than Linda.” (Blume, 4). Ruthellen and Elizabeth are not present in the classroom when the bullying starts. They are able to prevent themselves from being marginalized by joining the bullying on the bus, because they are still able to participate in other contexts, they are not targeted. “‘Oooh…disgusting!’ Ruthellen Stark moaned, clutching her stomach.” (Blume, 9). The fear that others have of being excluded or bullied is what causes them to taunt rather than defend Linda. “The victim of bullying frequently carries a social stigma, whereas the bully has a lot of power within the peer group (Juvonen & Galván, 2008; Salmivalli et al., 2009; Teräsahjo & Salmivalli, 2003). Therefore it is not surprising that possible reasons for not intervening in bullying situations on behalf of the victim include concern over becoming the next victim and an aim to increase one’s own status by acting more like the one in power (Juvonen & Galván)… In addition to personal factors, children’s social status within the peer group is an important determinant when it comes to the ability and courage to act upon emotions and cognitions.” (Pöyhönen et al.) They hope that participating will allow them to move closer to the center of the community. They may not be high in the community, but they are closer to the apex than Linda is. Some also join the bully to keep their place in the community. Donna “has one of those perfect bodies where everything fits the way it should.” (Blume, 79) and so she doesn’t feel pressured because she is at the apex. She doesn’t wish to associate with those who are not close to the center, so when Jill tries to place her desk by Donna’s “she [moves] hers away and whisper[s], ‘Who wants to sit next to B.B.'” (Blume, 135) Donna is also a leader, and uses her power to alienate those in the margins. “At lunch we went outside to jump rope and Donna taught everyone this jumping rhyme she used to sing to the fattest counsellor at her summer horse camp… Linda didn’t wait her turn… She ran back inside and didn’t come out at all during recess.” (Blume, 79-80). She enforces the margins along with Wendy, because she likes where she belongs in the hierarchy.
At Privet Drive, Dudley controls the hierarchy at school. As a result, “At school, Harry had no one. Everybody knew that Dudley’s gang hated that odd Harry Potter…and nobody liked to disagree with Dudley’s gang.” (Philosopher’s Stone, Rowling, 27) He uses his position to make sure that everybody is a bystander to Harry. People might wish to defend Harry, but out of fear of Dudley and his gang, they won’t. Harry is then further isolated. and ends up “always [being] last to be chosen [for sports teams at school], not because he was no good, but because no one wanted Dudley to think they liked him.” (Philosopher’s Stone, Rowling, 89) They do not want to exclude Harry, and they do nothing to make him either left out, or feel welcome; they ignore him and don’t speak up because of Dudley’s gang.
Outsiders are people who do not participate or get involved in the bullying at all. Some may have no awareness of the contact zone, and so may not participate because they are ignorant about the community, and may not be noticed. The outsider is not acknowledged at all. Unlike the victim who is teased, the outsider has no idea at all how the contact zones work, do not know their place or others in the circle.
One notable outsider is Rochelle in Blubber. “Rochelle…is a new girl” (Blume, 64) and so she doesn’t understand the way that the zones are structured in the school community. She makes sure that she does her best to keep out of the bullying, but when she does speak up “everybody turned to look at her because she never says anything. ” (Blume, 130). She also acts as a bystander: Although she “usually doesn’t pay any attention to the rest of us, [she enjoys] the show.” (Blume, 92). and is also warned by the bully to ” ‘Stay right where you are Rochelle!…I’m running this trial…and don’t you forget it.’ Rochelle waited to see what would happen next. And the rest of the class got very quiet.” (Blume, 130-131) when she tries to defend Linda. She comes very close to changing her role to that of the defender, but since she backs off and doesn’t do anything else, she remains an outsider. Rochelle represents a student who does not have strong enough connections to the people in the class to have any influence over their actions. “A student might experience empathic affect or feel efficacious to defend the victimized peer, but still not be able to act upon these emotions and cognitions, unless he or she has a secure position in the peer group.” (Pöyhönen et al.) At the end of the book, she is the one who has changed the least. It is noted that “Some people are always changing best friends…Still, it’s nice to have a regular friend in your class, even if it’s not a best friend. I ate lunch with Rochelle again. She’s kind of quiet but I get the feeling that a lot goes on inside her head.” (Blume, 152). She is cautious around her classmates herself, she neither hates nor likes anybody, and having just started at the school has no relationships with anyone yet. This works in her favour.
In Harry Potter, the group of bullies are made a joke of by Harry. “There was no escaping Dudley’s gang, who visited the house every single day. Piers, Dennis, Malcolm, and Gordon were all big and stupid, but as Dudley was the biggest and stupidest of the lot, he was their leader. The rest of them were all quite happy to join in Dudley’s favourite sport: Harry Hunting.” (Philosopher’s Stone, Rowling, 28) They are only an extension of Dudley, they are made fun of, seen as big and stupid; and only bully Harry as they have no other form of entertainment. They act together, and by being ‘quite happy to join’ Dudley, it seems as if they have no interests of their own.
Will’s cousin Sarah also advocates for making friends, explaining the way that the groups at school work. She tells Will that “What you need to do is make friends with the ones they don’t want. They are usually the thoughtful ones. Then you find out that the noisy ones are the only pains in the butt and they are generally the minority. Because they are so noisy they are the only ones we see, but when you start paying attention to the others , the noisy ones kind of disappear.” (Maracle, 35). Even though there are bullies, he ends up making friends with ‘the nerds’. As he builds his network of friends, the bullies actions don’t matter as much. When his culture is brought up by a teacher, and he declines to offer information “half the girls suck wind and hold. The guys try not to laugh.” (Maracle, 59) Reflecting on the way that they are bullied for their culture, the best defence according to Will is to keep closed off from everybody- try to make himself an outsider. “I do know about being Indian in a world that doesn’t really like people like me. The less they know about you, the less ammunition they have to hurt you.” (Maracle, 60). Sarah does not pay attention to the labels that they are given, and says that when they are called names “It’s a word…like fag. It doesn’t mean anything to him. It don’t mean anything to him. You don’t either, but if you treat him right, you will mean something. Then maybe you can challenge his language.” (Maracle, 81) The way they defend themselves is by ignoring them. They think of the bullies as “meat heads.” (Maracle, 37). and rather than having someone else defend them, defend themselves.
Adults try to stop kids from being mean but because of the binary of childhood/adulthood often adults don’t know what to do. They cannot locate the margins, so they do not know the source of the bullying. In Blubber after an incident during an assembly the music teacher attempts to use what power she has to stop bullying, by using her authority. She warns them that they have to “stay after school” (Blume, 66) but it is unsuccessful in stopping the bullying, as the group “knew she’d say something like that” (Blume, 66). The social order is more powerful than a threat. Adults do not have power over a child’s contact zone, and do not understand children’s contact zones or hierarchy because they are not a part of them. When adults try to understand, “nobody [pays] any attention.” (Blume, 9) and so collectively they are more powerful than adults because they understand the way the zones work.
Adults may make children’s contact zones worse by failing to understand them. It can be a source of embarrassment for children to meet in a place where their role in the social order, although defined; is different in another social situation. “[Mom] turned to Mrs. Fischer and said, ‘You look…familiar…have we met?’ I wanted to grab my mother’s hand and pull her out of the Ladies’ Room before it was too late… Mrs. Fischer shook Mom’s hand and smiled at me… they’re going to introduce me to Blubber, I thought…’You two must know each other,’ Mom said. ‘We do,’ I mumbled. ‘Oh are you the Jill Brenner in Linda’s class?’ Mrs. Fischer asked… ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘But…’ ‘Mom!’ Linda tugged at her mother’s arm. ‘Come on…’ When they were gone my mother asked, ‘What was that all about?’ And I told her, ‘We’re not exactly friends.'” (Blume, 107-108) Adults don’t understand that communities are set up the same way for children as they are for adults, because they see that there is a “child world” and an “adult world” they assume that the two are structured in different ways. When Jill attempts to tease Linda at the bar mitzvah in a different community Linda says “If you call me that today I’ll tell on you. I really will.” (Blume, 110). Her threat is successful, because in a different community, name-calling is not acceptable. They have to conform to the rules of the new community, one in which they are both equal.
Adults also don’t understand the language which children try to employ in their community. So when the class discovers a way to marginalize Linda at school as he “found some names for Linda in the Random House Dictionary…We called Linda ‘flubsy,’ ‘carnivore,’ and ‘bestial,’ I didn’t recognize any of them, but they all sounded good.” (Blume, 90) they feel powerful, even though they cannot really use the words correctly. At home, insulting doesn’t work because the knowledge of what happens at school is different from the knowledge of what happens at home. After a bad day, Jill tries to use the language she has learned at school to push her brother out of the margins at home.”I ran for my room, bumping into Kenny on the way. ‘Watch where you’re going,’ he said. ‘Shut up, carnivore!’ I shouted at him. I heard him ask Great Maudie, ‘What’s with her?’ Great Maudie sighed and told him, ‘A bad day, I suppose.'” (Blume, 138) The language has no effect because it is not something that is familiar in the community at home. Jill has no power at home, because the language is separate from the language used at school.
Bullying isn’t really about hurting someone. It is about trying to fit in and going to drastic lengths to gain power over someone and keep it. That is why Blubber is so effective, more so than the commercials. It isn’t about standing up to a bully, it isn’t even about telling a teacher. It is to make others aware of the fact that bullying does exist, and that everybody has a choice to either take part in it or not. “When there are certain practices …you want an assurance over social control. People can’t be running around doing whatever they want. This is a scary thing to think about. If we all acted upon our impulses….We have impulses… and we control them. And so that type of social control, in the Western World it’s external. You are continually being told what to do and how to do it. But what we also want and desire is an internal source of control. So that social responsibility of Paideia (civic duty) is a knowledge that when you’re on your own you have a responsibility towards the community. The problem is that there’s always external control and so what we’re not seeing is social responsibility taught from a young age.” (Humphreys, lecture) Bullying is merely an attempt to have external social control among groups of children. They wish to have control among themselves when adults are not available, so they create their own contact zones in their community. However, this is harmful when it goes to extremes such as with the Amanda Todd case and the Megan Meier case.
Most anti-bullying commercials or bullying awareness campaigns are targeted specifically for children. Rick Mercer’s report is different as it was broadcast on the news, which is known for its largely adult-based audience. He addresses the adults but at the same time, tries to speak to the kids. He explains how prevalent bullying really is, but uses humour to explain it in a way which is entertaining and more memorable. “If you Google ‘bully’, ‘Canada’, and ‘suicide’ you’ll get more hits than if you were searching for ‘Paris Hilton’ and ‘hotel room'” (Mercer). By using an example from popular culture to explain the magnitude of the situation, the issue of bullying no longer seems like a lecture, but an important issue which needs to be confronted. It would seem inappropriate if he were addressing an elementary school to be saying this; however his target audience is mostly adults: he wants them to think about bullying and how it affects children. The main point isn’t to diffuse the importance of the effect bullying has on people, but to make people reflect on the message, and one way to make sure that the message is heard to to make it worth listening to. Humour is used as a way to hold the viewer’s attention. When the attention is held, the issue will be thought about. As long as the issue is thought about seriously, it doesn’t matter what was done to create the awareness. He ends the clip with the same tone. “and if you’re being bullied in school because you’re different, please, tell someone about it, and remember, even in a real prison, eventually, everyone gets parole” (Mercer). By making adults aware of the issue of bullying, and the amount of suicides because of it; bullying is recognized not just as a problem for kids, but for everybody. Everybody needs to be aware of it to try to stop it. Each of these clips send out a message that bullying is wrong, but the message is given in a different way because there are different audiences.
IMAGES (In order of appearance, everything else is in alphabetical order)
- Blume, Judy. Blubber. New York: Dell, 1979.
- Maracle, Lee. Will’s Garden. Penticton, B.C.: Theytus, 2008.
- Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Vancouver: Raincoast, 2000.
- Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. London: Bloomsbury Pub. 1997.
- Cara. “Thoughts on… Stereotyping in society.” Cloud Nine Confessions. WordPress. March 24, 2013. Web. March 31 2013 <http://cloudnineconfessions.wordpress.com/2013/03/24/thoughts-on-stereotyping-in-society/>
- Gringotts Bank. Prod. Ptreducto. YouTube. YouTube, 22 Feb. 2010. Web. 09 Mar. 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uViRIiEApFE>.
- Lau, Andree. “Amanda Todd: Bullied Teen Commits Suicide.” The Huffington Post. N.p., 11 Oct. 2012. Web. 20 Oct. 2012. <http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/10/11/amanda-todd-teen-bullying-suicide-youtube_n_1959668.html>.
- Maag, Christopher. “A Hoax Turned Fatal Draws Anger but No Charges.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 28 Nov. 2007. Web. 20 Oct. 2012. <http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/28/us/28hoax.html>.
- Mc2023billyblundell. “One More Thing. Harry Potter Is an Allegory for the Holocaust. |.” WordPress. WordPress, 23 Jan. 2012. Web. 08 Mar. 2013. <http://mc2023billyblundell.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/one-more-thing-2/>.
- News, CBC. “Bullied Student Tickled Pink by Schoolmates’ T-shirt Campaign – Nova Scotia – CBC News.” CBCnews. CBC/Radio Canada, 19 Sept. 2007. Web. 22 Oct. 2012. <http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/story/2007/09/18/pink-tshirts-students.html>.
- Anti-Bullying, Take a Stand, Take the Pledge. Prod. Kent Smeltzer Youtube November 26 2009 Web. 22 October 2012 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSVm3RrCgEs>
- Draco Malfoy Tells about the Chamber of Secrets. Prod. DumbledoresArmy1. YouTube. YouTube, 07 Feb. 2011. Web. 09 Mar. 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjI8j2uFuUc>.
- Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets Scene-Malfoy Calls Hermione a Mudblood. Prod. SasukeUchiha4EVER1. YouTube. YouTube, 04 Aug. 2011. Web. 09 Mar. 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=saW6kE5a_zA>.
- RMR-Rick’s Rant-Bullying-It gets Better Prod. MercerReport Youtube Mar 26 2010, Web. 12 June 2014
- Take the Anti-Bullying pledge-www.bullying.org and Family Channel. Prod. bullyingorg Youtube July 12 2010, Web. 22 Oct. 2012. <www.youtube.com/watch?v=fv1d0kjMORE&feature=related>
- Words Hurt- Bullying Commercial. Prod. OhioCommissionDRCM Youtube December 3 2008 Web. 22 October 2012 <www.youtube.com/watch?v=1j6YA03hm4k&feature=related>
- Galway, Elizabeth A. “Reminders of Rugby in the Halls of Hogwarts: The Insidious Influence of the School Story Genre on the Works of J. K. Rowling.”Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 37.1 (2012): 66-85. Project MUSE. Web. 26 Oct. 2012. <http://muse.jhu.edu/>.
- Kärnä, Antti, Marinus Voeten, Elisa Poskiparta and Christina Salmivalli. “Vulnerable Children in Varying Classroom Contexts: Bystanders’ Behaviors Moderate the Effects of Risk Factors on Victimization.” Merrill-Palmer Quarterly 56.3 (2010): 261-282. Project MUSE. Web. 23 Oct. 2012. <http://muse.jhu.edu/>.
- Pöyhönen, Virpi. Jaana Juvonen. and Christina Salmivalli. “What Does It Take to Stand Up for the Victim of Bullying?: The Interplay Between Personal and Social Factors.” Merrill-Palmer Quarterly 56.2 (2010): 143-163. Project MUSE. Web. 26 Oct. 2012. <http://muse.jhu.edu>.
- Westman, Karin E “Perspective, Memory, and Moral Authority: The Legacy of Jane Austen in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter.” Children’s Literature 35.1 (2007): 145-165. Project MUSE. Web. 26 Oct. 2012. <http://muse.jhu.edu/>.
- Zimmerman,Virginia. “Harry Potter and the Gift of Time.” Children’s Literature 37.1 (2009): 194-215. Project MUSE. Web. 29 Oct. 2012. <http://muse.jhu.edu>.
- “It Does Get Better” Rick’s Rant CBC Network. Canada. November 27, 2007. Web. Transcript. <http://www.rickmercer.com/Rick-s-Rant/Blog/November-2007/It-Does-Get-Better.aspx/>
- Humphreys, Sara. Class Lecture. Children’s Literature. Trent University. Oshawa, Ontario. June, 27 2012. “Gender Performance & Fantasyscapes.”
- Humphreys, Sara. Class Lecture. Gender and Sexuality. Trent University. Oshawa. Ontario. March 21, 2013. “Visual rhetoric and the representation of sex and gender; decoding and encoding gender and sex.”