Yet more counter-productive antibullying efforts.

So. Yeah. I’m sure those in the autistic community are well aware of this, but an autistic boy recently was humiliated in a very specific and degrading manner by bullies in his community. His parents then decided to compound the humiliation by going to the news and sharing the story – and the video of the incident – internationally.

Neurodivergent K already has a good take on this incident, and I direct you to her blog. The gist of her post is basically this: If you’re trying to counteract bullying, then for the love of all you hold dear in this world, don’t do what the bullies want.

In my post, I’m going to say: if you’re trying to counteract bullying, don’t amplify the bullying. By which I mean: This boy was already humiliated. He was already going to be the subject of gossip at the school for the next approximately until he graduates (judging from my experiences growing up). Then, his parents – assumably with he best intentions in the universe, wanting to raise awareness of bullying – share the video internationally.

Do you thing people in the region (they gave their region, by the way) are not going to talk? Holy flying hell in a handbasket, people. From experience in my school: I was humiliated in a very specific and very embarrassing way by some bullies as a kid. I will not detail the experience, but suffice to say it happened (in more than one way, actually – bullies are terrible people). One time, I made the mistake of telling an adult when they asked about some jokes kids were making. Then an assembly was called at school, and the principle lectured the entire school on how it’s not at all okay to do [very specific thing that happened to me] to another person.

If it was possible to melt into my seat or burst into flames on the spot, I would have. Instead, what had been an isolated incident of bullying where the bullies hadn’t told anyone because they were afraid they would get into trouble became the talk of the school. And my humiliation was compounded.

That’s what those parents did to that boy. Except, instead of it being just the school, they humiliated him in front of their entire community. People will talk. They’ll find out who and how and where and when. That’s what they do. And if his parents think he was dealing with bullying before this happened, it’s got nothing on the number of pranks that will be done to see exactly how gullible and bullyable he is in the coming months. His parents just gave the fucking green light to every single nasty prank anyone in his school thinks of, and they painted a hugeass target right on his back.

And they probably don’t realize it.

But that’s not through this being an impossible-to-anticipate consequence. Even though autistic people are supposedly the ones with empathy deficits, it’s because the parents are displaying an extraordinary lack of empathy for their son.

Parents, think of it this way: Think back to when you were a teenager. Think about something someone else did to you that you found very hurtful and humiliating. Think about that. If it’s not an incident of similar severity to what happened to this kid, amplify the humiliation accordingly. Now, ask yourself, “When I was a teenager, would I have wanted my parents to share this incident internationally?”

I am pretty much certain that the answer to that question is “No. No, no, no, no, no. Not in a million years. No.”

Parents, your kids have thoughts and emotions and feelings, and not just about what their bullies do to them. They also have thoughts and emotions and feelings about what you do to them. Think about how you would have felt as a teenager about your parents doing something to you, then decide whether you want to inflict those feelings on your kid. Think about whether or not you would’ve wanted something shared before you share it. Better yet, ask your kid’s permission before you share something concerning them. And let them have the final say. Because you’re not the one who has to live with the fallout. They are.

Why geek chic and wannabe outcasts piss me off

Trigger Warning: appropriation, bullying, violence, suicide, depression

Okay, I was talking with someone, and they said something that let me figure out why a lot of wannabe outcasts (often but not always hipsters) piss me off.

Wannabe outcasts (and geek chic shit in general) piss me off because they appropriate what I was in school. They’re all, “I was totes the unpopular kid in school!” and I’m sitting there thinking, uh, no. No, you weren’t. I can tell you weren’t because you treat bullying as if it’s no biggie, and if you were really the outcast you claim you were, you wouldn’t be able to pretend that shit is no biggie. If you were really the outcast you claim you were, there would be an undercurrent of anger/hurt/fear/rage/sadness/resignation in your language whenever you talk about it. If you were really the outcast you claim you were, you wouldn’t be shocked when I’m all, “Yeah, you just have to put stuff like having your head slammed in the locker and people beat you when you fall down behind you, amirite?” You wouldn’t be all, “That happened?! No way, that doesn’t happen in school!” You would be, “Yeah, sounds familiar.”

Because shit like that fucking well does happen in school. You don’t realize it does, because you weren’t the outcast you claim you were, you appropriative fuckhead.

Now, to clarify: I’m talking about the hipsters and wannabe outcasts and adult geeks who are so into their “popular stuff is bad” that they have to appropriate a social status they’ve never had in their life. I have no problem with those who actually were what they say they were. I also have no problem with people being pretentious. Here’s the thing: Pretension itself is not necessarily a bad thing. Pretension has allowed a lot of my favorite bands to do some really awesome things with music, like substituting autotune for a guitar solo, or substituting a violin for guitar in alternative rock. Pretension, used appropriately, can be a force for good. So I’m not criticizing the ones who are merely pretentious.

No, I’m criticizing the ones who appropriate an outcast status they have no right – or real desire – to claim. Everyone wants to be a geeky outcast. Nobody wants to deal with the emotional baggage of the bullying and abuse that comes with it.

It pisses me the fuck off, because here’s Mx I-was-on-the-hockey-team-in-a-Canadian-high-school pretensioning at me that they have this cool band that I’ve probably never heard of (I have because I’m friends with a bunch of music nerds) but speaks to their soul because they were the outcast in high school when they’ve probably never experienced peer bullying to the extent that outcasts do in their life.

As someone who was actually an outcast in school, here’s a protip: If you were never beaten up in front of a teacher and had the teacher do nothing because getting beaten up will teach you to try to fit in more, if you ever had someone hit you for literally no reason and had another kid laugh and tell them to do it again, if you never had other kids call you by the wrong pronouns maliciously because you weren’t gender-conforming enough or because they thought they knew your gender better than you and the teachers thought it was funny, if you never had your lunch ruined just for shits and giggles every day of a week until you went outside to eat in -30C weather, if you never went the long way because you saw one of your bullies in the hall, if you never threw up in the morning before school because the thought of going made your stomach want to tie itself into a pretzel, if you regularly went more than a day or two without having some slur or another hurled at you, if you never ate lunch in the bathroom, if you never hid in the library, if you never had the librarian kick you out because “you have to learn how to deal with your problems” when she realized you came to the library on lunch as much because it was safe as because you liked books, if you never were the kid that other kids would be teased if they talked to, if you never had the entire class insult you for hours just to see if they could make you cry and then have your parents tell you you need to be less sensitive when the teacher called to get them to pick you up because you were sobbing uncontrollably and unable to talk and the teacher claimed to not know what was wrong even though they were right fucking there, if you never hated your classmates so much that you fantasized about horrible things happening to them and were terrified that you were turning into a monster, if you never had another kid give you a new and insulting name and have that become your name for the next three years and even the teachers called you by it sometimes, if you never went through your entire school career being able to count your friends on one hand and have at least four fingers left over, if you never knew that nobody would help you ever even if your friend was right there when they started in on you, if you never had anything even approaching that level of severity happen to you and if that level of severity of bullying and the apathy in response to it is at all shocking to you…

… I can pretty much guarantee you weren’t your school’s outcast.

That is not to say that no hipsters, geeks and outcasts ever experienced what they claim. I know for a fact that’s not true. Some of them I know have. But, what I’m saying is: If the paragraph above seems unbelievable to you, you probably weren’t your school’s outcast. Because that? That’s the outcast experience right there. It’s not “they just don’t understand my brilliance!” It’s “they are literally trying to bully me into suicide because they think it would be funny for me to die that way. And I’m so desperate and exhausted and scared that I just might give in and do it because I can’t fucking well take it anymore.”

So, if you weren’t the outcast, if the above paragraph is mind-boggling and unbelievable to you, if the previous sentence contains a mindset alien to you, don’t claim you were. When you do, it cheapens my experiences and the experiences of my fellow outcasts. Don’t do that. We had enough shit stolen from us growing up. We don’t need you to steal our stories and cheapen our experiences, too.

To those who were outcasts: Sympathy and camaraderie. Like Shane Koyczan says in his poem, “We are graduating members of the class of fuck off we made it.”

To those who are currently outcasts: Survive. Make it. Get to university or college or work or wherever and find your people. You are better than those who torture you for their amusement. You do not deserve this. You can make it. You’ve made it this far, through fire and struggle and pain that nobody should have to deal with.

Here is an incomplete list of anti-bullying organizations, for victims, friends and relatives that I started to compile in response to the Rehtaeh Parsons case. If you know of an organization not already listed there, leave a comment here and I’ll add it. I’m especially deficient in non-English resources.