This may be disjointed. I’m awfully tired.
I’ve had a growing concern for a while. Quite often we see people blasting anyone who dares to criticize certain manners of dress, or anyone having an issue with jokes (aside from race and sexuality and gender jokes, since it’s okay to always be mad over those jokes). What society says these days is that, if other people have a problem, then other people have the problem, and so do what you want, wear what you want, say what you want, other people be damned.
In past decades, how we dressed, what we said, and what we did all took into consideration the way other people would feel. When you’re doing something, you’re the active party. They, by doing nothing more than existing in the same space, are the passive party. When you left home, you dressed neatly without underwear and butt cheeks hanging out. You didn’t openly criticize people for fun (I’m more than aware of how passive-aggressiveness was made into something of an art form, though people were still nicer about it). Even if you didn’t genuinely care, you were courteous and used good manners since it was the right thing to do. When being active, use manners. You, the active party, chose your actions to show courtesy to others. The passive ones, the other people who happen to exist, were owed that much, and everyone behaved this way toward others. People who didn’t were seen as crass.
But these days, that’s dead. Everything is about yourself rather than about those around you. You can actively be an asshole, and still the passive people who exist around you are supposed to suck it up and approve.
Tonight I was at a wedding, and I fell down the stairs. I landed on my tail bone and am swollen. I went down the stairs hard enough to destroy a show. My left arm hurts, and my abdomen is hurting enough that period cramps would be preferable. A lot of people saw this. I went home to change, mostly so that I might be less recognizable when more people got there.
When I got back, I found out that everyone knew, and despite the dress change, it’s not hard to know who is being talked about when there’s only one redhead. Rather than concern, I was teased. I can count the number of people who were concerned on one hand, but I could’t begin to count how many people joked, at my expense, about falling, demanding to see my shoes and joking not to fall again, even someone who demanded to see my shoes (low heels) and saying, jokingly, didn’t I learn the first time.
Guess what. It’s not a joke when the target isn’t laughing and is having trouble walking. Yet by today’s standards, since I’m “the other person” to each and every one of those other people, I’m the one whose supposed to deal with it. If I have a problem, I’m the one whose supposed to deal with it.
My husband was in the wedding party. He and our daughter sat at the head table. Though I was invited to join (he was the only person with a partner who wasn’t in the party), there wasn’t an open seat. So I wandered around until I found one. I dealt with jokes about not falling, but not a single concern. It’s okay to be the active person and laugh as the passive injured person. I found a seat, but was teased a bit, then ignored by the people who knew each other. I, as an outsider to their group, didn’t expect to be included, but I didn’t expect to be teased.
In the end, I missed dinner since I was inside the mansion crying and texting one of my best friends.
The thing is, I know none of those people saw their chosen actions as wrong. As far as they were all concerned, they were joking, and if I didn’t like it, I could deal with it since anything else would be censorship or something. None of them would have a problem with their behavior since society deems their chosen behavior toward someone’s existence as acceptable, with the burden on me.
A joke is funny to both parties. I have friends who I can joke with viciously. We know our limits. We don’t joke with someone who is flustered as a result of our joking, or someone who isn’t laughing too. When someone’s not enjoying it, the appropriate response is to apologize and stop, not to keep laughing. That crosses the line into bullying.
Our society is conditioning bullies. Bullies care about themselves. If they hurt other people, who cares. The targets, the victims, should suck it up. How can our kids learn differently when the example set for them is to care about yourself only instead of caring about other people first, and then yourself? I know there’s always been a problem to some degree of bullying. Kids used to get to work it out, though these days, the passive party, the victim, will get punished. Our society now says all the victims should remain passive for the sake of the bully.
While we adults might not take is as far as the stereotypical playground bully, it’s still bullying, and it’s still setting the example for kids that being self-centered is good, and other people expecting you to care about others is bad. How awful that it’s okay for everyone to care about themselves to the exclusion of others. No wonder rudeness is so common! Be rude, and you get rude back, and it’s a snowballing cycle!
If we want to be effective in lowering the rate of bullying, we really need to start caring about others again, and to try to make choices, from dress to words, that show courtesy and consideration for others. Our kids need to see us not dressing in see-through clothing while saying other people can suck it up since their opinions don’t matter. Our kids need to see us using our manners, saying “please” and “thank you” and not trashing people behind their backs. Our kids need to see us stopping the jokes before the butt of them is hurt, and apologizing if it goes too far.
It just really all clicked in tonight when I was crying and hungry and not wanting to go deal with more teasing, that those people didn’t see their actions as bullying since our society protect bullying by saying it’s “just joking around.” It’s not funny. It’s really not, and things need to change. Right now, kids are learning that bullying is okay. I think this is why we have such a growing problem.
Stop and really think about all the myriad ways targets of different chosen actions are expected to just suck it up because society excuses the active person’s bad behavior that is no longer bad because the respect is supposed to be for whatever choice the active person makes, instead of for the passive. We MUST start showing courtesy again to other people in all things we do, and consistently, if we’re to have any hope of cutting bullying, and this means looking at our own behavior to see where we take it too far and send the message that others don’t matter.
I’m not sure if my back or my feelings are more hurt right now, but I do need to law down and try to sleep through it. I’m pretty bony, and can feel my sitz bone on the right side, but my left, which took the majority of the force, is so swollen that, even when I press as hard as I can bear it, I can’t find the bone.