I have had some explosions in my personal life. I’ve been told I should try to learn from them, and I have indeed been trying. One of the things I have learned is in regards to bullying. I’m sure we can all agree that bullying is wrong and shouldn’t be done. If we don’t agree on that, then I doubt we’d have very much to say to each other. In any case, this is about being friends with a bully. It happens. Maybe an otherwise decent person has an attack of the jerkiness. Maybe someone who is very good to you is very cruel to other people. That said, if you are in that situation, you don’t get to say nothing. By standing by and doing and saying nothing, you are giving tacit approval of what they are doing, and that is not ok.
Let’s take this not-so-hypothetical situation a bit further, shall we? Let’s say Friend A is actively bullying Friend B. Maybe you don’t want to take sides or something. However, by doing nothing you are already taking a side, because you are giving that aforementioned tacit approval of the bullying Friend A is perpetuating.
Now, it is most definitely NOT Friend B’s job to be ok with this. It is not Friend B’s job to make themself not be angry about your quiet approval of what’s going on. In fact, at this point I would go so far as to say Friend B would be wrong to try to force themself to do those things. I suppose it’s possible that Friend B is the kind of person to just not care anyway, and that’s fine. But if Friend B IS the type to care, that is OK. It is OK for them to be angry, it is ok for them to feel betrayed. Bullying, on the other hand, is not ok.
I have a confession to make. Not too far in the past, I stood by and did nothing while bullying was going on. I was afraid of the bully and her social power, and I was afraid because she was cruel to me as well. As such, beyond quietly talking to my friend about how I thought what was going on was wrong, I said and did nothing. I am ashamed of my silence. I fully intend to try harder if I am in such a situation in the future, and to not let fear of my own bullying stand in the way. However, on top of my shame, I am far more ashamed of the people I had thought I liked, who either did nothing or joined in, presumably caught up in the moment of being cruel to a weaker person in the safety of a crowd.
And that is the lesson I have taken from this. I was Friend B. I did things to try to be ok with the silence, the only things I could possibly do to be ok, and those things I did were wrong. I should not have done them. Instead, I should have been angry; I should have recognized that this was not ok.
Also good reading: No Flat Girls: How Allies are Born. This is a blog about feminism in geek culture, but this post helps exemplify what I am talking about, as well as helped me reach my own conclusions that I just wrote about.