I’ve been thinking a lot about bullying, especially with the recent news of Jennifer Livingston, a local news anchor who went on air to speak out after a viewer sent her an e-mail about her weight. You can see the video of her statements here.
I admire Jennifer for her willingness to stand up for herself. And I admire her station for supporting her in doing so. I think it’s a great story of standing up for yourself with grace and dignity.
The problem I have with this situation is the media jumping on this story with the word “bullying”. That is a very strong word, and I don’t know if t applies here. To me, bullying is about intimidation. When I think of bullying, I think of kids getting physical on a playground. I think of swirleys. I think of gang mentality. I don’t think a nasty email is bullying.
Of course that doesn’t make it right. Words can hurt just as much as physical blows. I know this all to well. But a critical email, while hurtful, does not equal bullying. Just because someone is an asshole, doesn’t make them a bully.
Was the little girl in kindergarden who wouldn’t sit next to me on the carpet squares because I was “ugly” a bully? No, she was a brat.
Were the girls who made fun of me all through elementary school for being part of the “Nerd Herd” bullies? No, because they were in the “Snob Squad”, and their opinions didn’t matter to me.
Was the guy in high school who got in my face, and ultimately smacked me in the cafeteria line, a bully? No, because I hit him first.
Were the women at my job bullies because they consistently called me names on a daily basis for the year and a half that I worked with them? No, they were ignorant bitches and not worth my time.
And I guess what I’m trying to say here is that to me, bullying connotes intimidation. They want a rise out of you. They want to make you feel bad. They’d love to see you cry. They make you a victim.
Jennifer Livingston does not seem like a victim to me. She is a woman who had to find a way to deal with a jerk. Most of us deal with jerks on a regular basis. I’m not saying this to downplay her experience. I’m sure it was really hard to have a complete stranger criticize her for her appearance in that way, especially when he said she was a bad influence to young girls. He was extremely rude, and obviously had too much time on his hands. I don’t think that makes him a bully. I think that makes him an asshole.
When we label people as bullies, I think that gives them too much power. Call them jerks, call them bitches, call a few of them sociopaths. Just don’t call them bullies, because that implies that there is a victim involved.
And I’m nobody’s victim.
Curious to hear if anyone has opinions on this.