Anatomy of a Bully


Have any of y’all ever heard of Wooly Bumblebee?

I hadn’t, until I read this post from her called “The Anatomy of a Bully”. I actually agree with her definition. I agree with how she spells it out and everything.

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ETA: It appears that Wooly’s post is a rehash of stuff written by Tim Fields at bullyonline.org, including What is Bullying and Narcissistic Personality Disorder, as well as other information from realpsychology.com, specifically How Are Bullies Created.

It should be noted that Wooly Bumblebee does have some fine-print on her post saying the following:

About the author: Kristina Mendez co-authored a bullying workshop for Marymount High School in 2005-2006 in the English Montreal School Board District. Sources for this article were obtained from 2004-2005 College Handouts from http://www.bullyonline.org

It probably would have been better if she actually linked directly to the sources she used, but she does note that she uses bullyonline.org; albeit in really tiny print at the end of the article, but it is there nonetheless.
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I agree with her in part because I spent a good 12 years of my life as the target of bullying. I wouldn’t call it severe bullying, but it was definitely more than moderate. It was enough to make me suicidal when I was 13 and 14. I was the barometer for what was uncool in grade school.

And it sucked.

Of course, I’m no expert. An expert is someone who spends their time studying something, to the point of being able to get a degree in it. Now, I’m pretty sure there are no undergraduate or graduate studies in bullying, but even if there were, I’d never spend my time studying bullying. I don’t want to be an expert in it.

There is, by the way, another way to be an expert in something: engage in it to the point that it becomes a talent; something you know quite well how to do. I also do not know how to bully, because I don’t ever want to be a bully. I know what I went through, and I would hate to be the reason somebody else goes through it. But in this case, you still aren’t really an expert… you’re just a bully.

*I’ll note before the fold that Wooly Bumblebee also does not claim to be an expert in bullying. My notes about being an expert above are much more general, talking about something in which there really are no true experts at this time when it comes to bullying. There are bullies and their victims, and that’s really it. So I’m not saying that Wooly claims to be an expert in bullying; if I said so, I’d be lying, as she never says that. She’s as much of an expert in bullying as I am, which is to say that neither of us are experts; and I question the idea that anybody is.

Anyways…

I’m now going to quote some parts of Wooly Bumblebee’s excellent post.

The main purpose of bullying was once thought to be a method of hiding one’s own inadequacy. Recent research shows that some bullies may fit this description, but many bullies have high self-esteem. The bully leads via intimidation. People follow to avoid being victimized. Bully leaders are often admired because of a superior trait. Some bullies are very attractive, some are very athletic, and some are very social. Bullies gain power by the amount of followers they have. The more that follow the more power they have to wield.

The serial bully displays behaviour congruent with many of the diagnostic criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Characterised by a pervasive pattern of grandiosity and self-importance, need for admiration, and lack of empathy, people with narcissistic personality disorder overestimate their abilities and inflate their accomplishments, often appearing boastful and pretentious, while correspondingly underestimating and devaluing the achievements and accomplishments of others.

Often the narcissist will fraudulently claim to have qualifications or experience or affiliations or associations which they don’t have or aren’t entitled to. Belief in their own superiority, inflating their self-esteem to match that of senior or important people with whom they associate or identify, insisting on having the “top” professionals or being affiliated with the “best” institutions, but criticising the same people who disappoint them are also common features of narcissistic personality disorder.

Narcissists react angrily to criticism, and when rejected, the narcissist will often denounce the profession which has rejected them (usually for lack of competence or misdeed) but simultaneously and paradoxically represent themselves as belonging to the profession they are vilifying.

Fragile self-esteem, a need for constant attention and admiration, fishing for compliments (often with great charm), an expectation of entitlement, expecting others to defer to them, and a lack of sensitivity especially when others do not react in the expected manner, are also hallmarks of the disorder. Greed, expecting to receive before and above the needs of others, overworking those around them, and forming romantic (sic) or sexual relationships for the purpose of advancing their purpose or career, abusing special privileges and squandering extra resources also feature.

People with narcissistic personality disorder also have difficulty recognizing the needs and feelings of others, and are dismissive, contemptuous and impatient when others share or discuss their concerns or problems. They are also oblivious to the hurtfulness of their behaviour or remarks, show an emotional coldness and a lack of reciprocal interest, exhibit envy (especially when others are accorded recognition), have an arrogant, disdainful and patronizing attitude, and are quick to blame and criticise others when their needs and expectations are not met.

Gang bullying is a serial bully with multiple partners. Gangs can occur anywhere, but flourish mostly in corporate, educational, and on-line arenas. If the bully is an extrovert, they are likely to be leading from the front; they may also be a shouter and screamer, and thus easily identifiable. If the bully is an introvert, that person will be in the background initiating the mayhem but probably not taking an active part, and may thus be harder to identify.

Half the people in the gang are happy for the opportunity to behave badly; they gain gratification from the feeling of power and control, and enjoy the patronage, protection and reward from the serial bully. The other half of the gang is coerced into joining in, usually through fear of being the next target if they don’t. If anything backfires, one of them will be the scapegoat on whom enraged targets will be encouraged to vent their anger.

Cyber bullying is the misuse of email systems or Internet forums, Social media, blogs, etc for sending/writing aggressive, abusive, or belittling messages, statements, e-mails, or articles.

In environments where bullying is the norm, most people will eventually either become bullies or become targets. There are few bystanders, as most people will eventually be sucked in. It’s about survival: you either adopt bullying tactics yourself and thus survive by not becoming a target, or you stand up against bullying and refuse to join in, in which case you are bullied, harassed, victimized and scapegoated.

I just want to take a moment out to give a loud, resounding YES to this last one. It’s so fucking true. This is perhaps the biggest cause of bullying anywhere. Honestly, I think it is the single most important thing any anti-bullying campaign can focus their efforts on. The school playground is the most obvious place. And it is here where authority figures need to be hyper-vigilante.

Acts of harassment usually center on unwanted, offensive and intrusive behavior with a sexual, racial or physical component.

Of course there is overlap between bullying and harassment, however harassment is covered and protected against by various laws and human rights charters. Bullying is not covered by such laws, acts, or charters at the present time (though there are a few exceptions in certain areas of the world who have recently adopted such legal recourses to combat the rising epidemic of bullying, mostly on-line).

Harassment has a strong physical component, eg contact and touch in all its forms, intrusion into personal space and possessions, damage to possessions including a person’s work, etc… Most people recognize harassment.

Bullying, when done by adults, is almost exclusively psychological. It may become physical later, especially with male bullies, but not usually with female bullies. The goal of an adult bully is to gain power over another person, and make himself or herself the dominant adult. They try to humiliate victims, and show them who is boss.

Again… brilliantly written, and absolutely, 100% true.

Bullying is a pervasive evil, something that can drive people to depression, and even suicide. It is something that all ages and all people should be strongly opposed to at all times.

Of course, all of this brilliant explanation is useless without examples, right?

So, I’d like to provide a plethora of examples and illustrations of what Wooly Bumblebee discussed in her excellent post.

Let’s start with this. I had to use that link because many of the source links have been deleted, unfortunately.

Here is another great example of what Wooly Bumblebee is talking about.

And this is another (actually quite creepy) example.

Here’s another good example of bullying. For the record, this one resulted in one FtB blogger fearing for her own safety (oh, BTW… she is someone who is unsure of A+… and most of us over at A+ respect that, because her criticisms are legitimate and not couched in… well… bullying). I actually wrote my own blog post on this issue, too.

Ashley Miller wrote a great blog about why victims of harassment are many times reluctant to report it. The victim being bullied is a huge part of that.

I think we can safely say that what happened to Anita Sarkeesian was bullying, as well.

How’s about the #FTBullies hashtag on Twitter? You could say it is a hashtag meant to expose bullying on FtB. Fair enough… until you actually read through some of the fucking tweets. Can anyone say “gang bullying”?

Then, of course, there’s what happened to Amy Davis Roth at TAM 2012; by which I mean, what actually happened to Amy Davis Roth at TAM 2012.

Here’s some more bullying, namely of the body-image-shaming variety. And there’s more of this type of bullying here. Also here.

You also know that Jen (McCreight) has taken a hiatus due to bullying. (Depression… it sucks.)

Here’s Jason Thibeault discussing the irony of people “bullying the ‘bullies’ into stopping bullying”, which highlights even more bullying.

And, finally, I want to end with the fucking frat-style internet party the bullies are throwing over McCreight deciding to take an indefinite hiatus. They are relishing shutting someone down.

Relishing it.

That, my friends, is bullying. What you see above are perfect illustrations of what Wooly Bumblebee was talking about.

Of course, you’ll notice that Wooly Bumblebee is accusing those at FtB of being bullies.

She and I will have to agree to disagree on that one, as I think I’ve found much better examples than she did.

But, as I said before the fold, neither Wooly Bumblebee nor I are experts on bullying. So, of course, we’re going to disagree on this matter.

I want to thank Wooly Bumblebee for writing that post. Despite the fact that I think I’ve found much better, clearer examples of bullying than she did, her post is illuminating and reasonably accurate (aside from her “examples”).

I hope this post has been illuminating for everyone here, as well. Bullying is a very serious problem; one that adults all too often tend wave away with shit like “oh, they’re just kids” and “boys will be boys” and “girls will be girls” and “you need to learn to ignore it”. October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month.

Please, do your part in preventing bullying. You can go to Stop Bullying Now, or Youth Frontiers, Thursday’s Child, The Trevor Project, Cartoon Network’s Stop Bullying and Speak Up, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and many others, and donate, offer your time, volunteer, and so on.

If you have children, please, teach them to be accepting, kind, and caring. Of course, teach your kids to be intolerant of bigotry, but do not teach them to be bigots themselves. Teach your kids about all the kinds of things different people go through. And teach your kids that there is no such thing as “normal”, that no one is weird, and everyone is an individual. And whatever you do, do not ever let your children belittle others, because if you do not do these things, your children will grow up to be bullies.

If you have no children, you still can play a role in stopping bullying.

I hope you’ll do your part to stop bullying.

Thank you.

About Nathan Hevenstone

All this is stream-of-consciousness. See my "About" page to find our more about me...
This entry was posted in Activism, Atheism+, Bullying, Feminism, Freethought Blogs, Misogyny, Morality, Protection, Trigger Warning and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Anatomy of a Bully

  1. More and better proof of plagiarism is right here. She copied Tim Field’s work from 2003.

    • Thanks, Jason. I should note that she has some fine-print on the article that says the following:

      About the author: Kristina Mendez co-authored a bullying workshop for Marymount High School in 2005-2006 in the English Montreal School Board District. Sources for this article were obtained from 2004-2005 College Handouts from http://www.bullyonline.org

      So she does kind of cite her sources… deceptively, but she does it nonetheless. I will make a note in my post, however.

  2. I really appreciate what you’ve written, and can’t really add anything to the trending data you’ve gathered (which clearly shows bullying in one particular direction). However, and this is a minor quibble, you may want to note that apparently Wooly Bumblebee plagiarized most of her post. So her post, and her talk based on that post, is derived very largely from others’ work. You’re not agreeing with her at all — she was just copy-and-pasting those things to try to play judo with us, to pin bullying on the counter-bullies.

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