Cyber: Bullying, sluts, and shaming.


May 19, 2014 by readlisaread

I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently.  Cyberbullying is a hot topic, has been for a few years, but I can’t seem to come to a definitive stance on it.  Just to be clear, I think we can do better– we, as human beings–than bully, belittle, torment and otherwise demean our fellow humans (and ourselves) in the process. But, one doesn’t spend almost 50 years on the planet without figuring out some truths about human nature. And then there is the whole spectrum of building character–through pain, hard lessons and learning to follow one’s moral compass.  Then I get to thinking about standards, societal expectations and being a citizen–belonging, even.

So, here is how it breaks down for me.  First, a disclaimer.  I KNOW that I am going to express some things that some readers will disagree with.  I’m ok with that. I’m putting it out there, because it seems like sometimes it’s hard to navigate the waters of political correctness and self-respect. Here we go…

1) Bullying.  Not cool, not ok with me in any form, and I will call people out on it.  Doesn’t mean it is going to stop being part of the human experience anytime soon.  Education will help, but while we can shine a light on ignorance, it’s a pretty tough sell to suggest power need only be leveraged in sanctioned ways.  Sometimes, the bullies among us have no other way to take their power, and sometimes their victims are willing ones–even provocative ones–because that is how they exert their power in turn.

2) Sluts and the culture of rape. So, yeah, there’s a big topic.  Here’s the thing.  I really appreciate one of the more positive streams of thought that have come from increased awareness of rape issues.  That’s the one that suggests rather than teaching our daughters how to avoid being raped, we instead teach our sons not to rape. On the surface, I think this is exactly right. But remember what I said above about power and victims.  Sometimes, it’s not as straight forward as all of that.  That never excuses the behaviour of a bully (or a rapist) but nor does it absolve the provocative victim of all responsibility. Which brings me to:

3) Sluts, dress codes, and shaming. And you thought #2 was a big topic. So, some thoughts coming from radical feminists is that girls/women ought to be free to dress, talk and behave in any way they wish (so far so good), and not be labeled or criticized for doing so.  Ah… hold up just a sec, sister….. Here is where it gets sticky. Now, I like to show a little cleavage now and then, not for attention, not to get raped, not to get a job promotion. I think boobies are a nice asset. I also think my eyes are pretty, and often wear false lashes to enhance them.  Recently, even though societal conventions would suggest I am too old to do so, I’ve taken to wearing short skirts. And this takes me to my point. If I am going out for the evening with the girls on display and a few inches of thigh showing below my hem, that’s one thing. When I dress for work, however, it’s another thing.  Do I think “Oh, I should cover my tattoos and tone down the make-up”? Not on your life. But, I do dress *appropriately*. Because if I don’t fall in line with societies expectations, then I am suggesting that it’s ok to do anything you want, to anyone, any time.  It suggests that if I want to dress like a slut, that’s MY business. By virtue of that logic, then, it follows that if a man wants to think of me in that way, that’s HIS  business…. and you can see what a slippery slope that becomes.

I think this “ant-slut-shaming” movement is faulty.  “Slut-walks” and similar campaigns would have it that a woman can dress and act and do anything she wants, and no one should judge her (ie, call her a slut) or think she’s, well, giving it away for free. Holy double standards and mixed messages, Batman.

This brings me to school dress codes. This always comes up this time of year, and is always contentious. I am raising 2 teenagers–one girl and one boy. To me, it’s very simple. “Meh”, I might say, “I don’t think that’s ok for school (or part time job or family dinner)” and, they either argue their case (not too often) or go change the offending garments (more likely).  Why?  Because they have been raised to be respectful.  Because they are not trying to protest anything. They don’t feel like “the Man” is keeping them down. Because they feel respected, and know and trust that my opinion comes from a place of social mores, not judgment. When I see a kid at school who is turned out unacceptably, I have a quiet conversation, that goes something like this:

“Hey, say no to crack, kid” (draggy pants)

“Yeah, that t-shirt’s message is not ok with me” (offensive language, logo or fit)

“Well, maybe your mom did buy you that transparent blouse, but it’s not ok for school”

“Would you be comfortable if I sauntered in to teach the class wearing a tube top and butt-cheeks-hanging-out cut-offs?”

How else will kids learn about the impression they give if we don’t teach them?  I don’t support “blanket” rules (maybe shirts and shoes type ones, but not length of skirt or lowness of collar or tightness of jeans ones), because the simple truth is, some girls could wear that outfit and look like a typical kid, and some could wear it and look like a cocktail waitress (or worse).  I taught a girl once who was so overtly sexual and sexily-figured that she would have looked inappropriate in a berka. So instead, I told her, respectfully, what I thought, and she was welcome to do what she wished with my opinion.

Much as you are, reading these words….


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