Dealing with a bully can be traumatic even for an adult, especially when one’s basic identity is what comes under attack. Bullying is likely to affect a pupil’s identity on both the cognitive (self-concept) and affective (self-worth) levels. (Houbre, B., Tarquinio, C., & Thuillier, Isabelle. (2006). It is important to have rules in place to protect those who would become the victims of bullies and that would otherwise suffer in a hostile environment. Preventing discrimination is a vital part of creating an open and welcoming environment.
Those who are in some way different from ‘the norm’ are often particularly subjected to abuse. Homosexuals are referred to as abominations and told they are undeserving of rights, while at the same time being told that it is only out of ‘love’ that they are discriminated against. The children of immigrants are told that they are to blame for all societies problems and treated as outsiders, often having their own civil rights infringed upon. They face discrimination in both the academic and the work environments, as well as in their daily lives.
Bullies often use stereotypes, biased psuedo-science, claims of a religious or moral high ground, or outright lies as justification for their abuse. (Stefurak, Taylor, & Mehta, 2010) Often these justifications become so ingrained in the collective societal consciousness that they are taken as fact and go unquestioned, making it even harder for the victims of bullying behavior to find support. The casual way the bullies feel it acceptable to throw around the abuse can lead to the victims feeling an overwhelming sense of opposition and simply giving up. This is especially true when the authority figures, such as teachers or employers, either engage in the bullying behavior or simply do not question or correct the behavior.
As a bisexual that has been involved in a same sex relationship, seeing how casually people toss around bigoted statements about LGBT individuals without getting called upon the behavior often makes me regret taking part in activities and wish I’d just stayed at home so I didn’t have to hear the abuse. I often feel as though I have to remain silent and thus condone the abuse and allow the misconceptions to continue, because I know that if I speak up I will not only make myself a target for the bully, but also for those who silently agree with the bully or otherwise feel the bully’s attitude is acceptable. Often when I stand up for myself I find myself being attacked for ‘making it personal’ or ‘violating someone’s freedom of speech’. I find my statements are taken out of context or otherwise deliberately misinterpreted to put me on the defensive in an attempt to silence me from questioning the status quo or defending myself against prejudicial remarks.
When the situation goes uncorrected by those whose job it is to address the situation, I feel angry and often find myself losing any desire to continue to participate or work with the institution that allows the behavior to continue. I certainly lose any respect I may have previously held for those who neglect to address the situation properly by either ignoring or giving the appearance of condoning the behavior. At times, I am well aware that if I do take a stand, I risk punishment and retaliation; this includes having my grade impacted by refusing to agree with discriminatory remarks and falsehoods. When the option to withdraw from the situation is unavailable, there are limited ways to deal with the anger the prejudice engenders.
It is vital to let students know that bullying behavior on any basis, including race, gender, and sexual orientation is not acceptable. “The greater the exposure to bullying, the more numerous the symptoms. The number of symptoms appears to be additionally dependent on the distress level, and also on the social support provided by the teacher for girls, and by peers for boys. The less support received, the greater the symptoms.” (Houbre, B., Tarquinio, C., & Thuillier, Isabelle. (2006).
Often, bullies are acting out of their own misconceived notions and problems with their own identities. Many homophobes have been revealed to be self-hating homosexuals that have been taught that homosexuality is wrong and are projecting their own internal struggle into attacking others. (Adams, Wright, & Lohr, 1996). By teaching that the bullying behavior is unacceptable and correcting the underlying misconceptions, we can do more to prevent bullying in the future by addressing the root cause of the behavior.
Under no circumstances should prejudicial remarks or attacks be tolerated in the classroom environment. Those who make such statements and remarks should be corrected by the teacher as soon as possible to prevent creating feelings of anger, worthlessness, and frustration in minority individuals.
Houbre, B., Tarquinio, C., & Thuillier, Isabelle. (2006). Bullying among students and its consequences on health.. European Journal of Psychology of Education – EJPE , 21(2), 183-208. Retrieved from http://ehis.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?hid=20&sid=13c022cd-7616-4d8d-aad6-3424a5245047%40sessionmgr4&vid=3&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=tfh&AN=21647375
Adams, H. E., Wright, L. W., & Lohr, B. A. (1996). Is homophobia associated with homosexual arousal?. The Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 105(3), 440-445. Retrieved from http://ehis.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?hid=20&sid=7ed28c16-8694-496b-a333-338ffcc1a54e%40sessionmgr10&vid=1&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=pdh&AN=abn-105-3-440
Stefurak, T., Taylor, C., & Mehta, S. (2010). Gender-specific models of homosexual prejudice: Religiosity, authoritarianism, and gender roles. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 2(4), 247-261. Retrieved from http://ehis.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?hid=20&sid=14ec19be-f9ed-42d6-a59d-3f39f5e19ef6%40sessionmgr15&vid=1&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=pdh&AN=rel-2-4-247
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