Ask Mrs. Odie: Bully for you

I got this question on my “About the author” page. I have to admit that a screen name of “Mrs. Are You Kidding-Me” puts me on high bullshit alert, but I’ll answer her question as if I’m taking it at face value.

“My question to you ( a serious one ) – As an educator how do you deal with bullying in your school district? From reading your blog your children are still very young correct? If your children are bullied by anyone how do you think you as a mother will handle that?

Do you think bullying transcends to blogs? Do you think you bully others in your blog? Or really is it all in fun for you?

I don’t deal with bullying district-wide, but I can talk a bit about what I see from the classroom I barely leave except to pee.

The kids have been hearing about “bullying” for so long, it’s become a punchline for them. Just as students will recite “Sharing is caring” in mockery of their sensitivity training, so will they also complain, “Mrs. Odie, Rachel is BULLYING me!” every time they feel annoyed by a classmate.

Even though I am anonymous, that shit is flimsy and I never want it said that I revealed confidential information about my students here. That disappoints me way more than you, because I’d love an outlet to vent. Students can and do go on-line and say the most hateful, slanderous things about their teachers. Most of the bullying I see in my school or hear about from my peers is students and parents bullying teachers. For example, a group of students told a substitute teacher if he wrote down their names for the teacher, they’d make up some stuff that would get him fired.

I had to intervene in several bullying incidents last year. Any time a student is awkward, tiresome, or different in a way the power pack deems unacceptable, that person is treated poorly. I go out of my way to praise kind, thoughtful behavior when I see it.

A girl came into my room at lunch crying her eyes out over a fight she’d had with her friend. Some of the “cool” kids stopped by too, saw her crying and gave her self-conscious hugs and empty words of comfort. Still, it was the right thing to do and I made a big deal of it to them privately later. It inspired me to see compassion. I was also happy to observe a few days later that the friends had made up and all was well again.

To some extent, it is human nature to exclude and isolate anyone we see as “different.” I see toddlers do it at preschool. It’s why we parents constantly check in with each other and Dr. Google to make sure our offspring are normal. The pain of being scorned by peers is nothing when compared to the agony of seeing it happen to your kid.

You asked me about whether I think that bullying “transcends to blogs.” What an odd phrasing. To transcend is to “rise above,” so how is a blog above my classroom when it comes to bullying? Physically? Spiritually? Morally? I’ll chalk it up to a case of that’s not the word you meant to use. Your follow up question, “Do you think you bully others in your blog?” is easy to answer. No.

Can blogs be used to bully? I don’t know. Maybe really powerful people could use their public forums to bully weaker people. The word “bully” is hackneyed. A bully is a person who has power over another and forces or coerces the weaker person. Power is the key to being a bully. I’m not forcing anyone to do anything, not even read what I write. Where’s my power? If my blog bullies people, then so does every gossip magazine, gossip blog, and unfavorable book review. If my blog had power to make people do stuff, I’d blog about my hot coworkers going down on me, or my kids eating vegetables.

Do I think my blog has the power to annoy, irritate, and confound? Absolutely! I’ve written a series of posts about a couple of bloggers I enjoy satirizing, but it’s a tiny percentage of what I do here. Each of them is far bigger and more powerful than I, so by definition I am unable to bully them.

I have nearly 300 posts on my blog and not even 20% of them are gossipy posts. Those handful just tend to get the most attention because humans adore gossip. I go to GOMI and join in the gossip quite regularly. I don’t comment on what I don’t agree with nor engage writers who disagree with me. I’m low drama. Some people love to pick fights. Not I.

I like to add my voice at Celebitchy and D-Listed too. I never go to other bloggers sites and abuse them in any way. Disagree? Sometimes. Argue with other commenters? Certainly. Ask leading questions? Occasionally. Defend myself? When I feel like it.

I love a good comeback. GOMI lends itself to that well, and I’m in good company there. Some of those women are hilarious. Others are horribly mean. On my blog, I don’t publish comments that make fun of a person’s face or body (style is fair game as are parenting choices). Homophobia or transphobia is not welcome here.

Thank you for these thought provoking inquiries. I am totally not kidding you.


About Mrs Odie

Friendly Pedant; Humble Genius
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23 Responses to Ask Mrs. Odie: Bully for you

  1. Mrs Odie 2 says:

    I forgot to answer how I’d handle bullying of my children. I have no idea. At 2 and 4, it’s all “She took my toy!” and “She bit me!” They’re too young to have premeditation. I’m enjoying it while it lasts.

  2. Lisa says:

    Mrs. Odie! I know, right? I’ve had “bully” leveled at me on my blog, too. It’s ridiculous. Here’s what I wrote about it:

    I think people don’t even understand what “bullying” means anymore.

    • Mrs Odie 2 says:

      They’re like those students who throw the word around every time they don’t like what another person is doing. You writing an unfavorable review of Hampton’s book is not bullying. Me saying I think she’s fake and disingenuous is not bullying. Me making fun of Heather Armstrong’s scatalogical self-fascination is not bullying. I have seen real bullying in high school. Focused, systematic, relentless, sneaky. Picking on a student on the Autism spectrum. A group of people (power in numbers) making the victim feel afraid, helpless, ashamed, sad, hopeless.

      If you’re a NYT best-selling author with a public Instagram, and there is a gossip site with a thread dedicated to what a self-involved jackass you are, don’t read it. Problem solved.

  3. Agreed. The word “bullying” has almost lost its meaning in school since many of the kids who are the real victims are too scared to report it, which leaves the whining hordes who can’t handle it when someone disagrees with them. Students and parents are given every opportunity to make up whatever they want about teachers. Downtown’s advice to us? “You’re the professional (read: doormat). Rise above it and say nothing.” Which is a lot like saying that the accuser is right.

    It’s one thing to act like a troll on someone’s blog (powerful or not) and basically give them shit for everything they say. It’s another thing entirely to…um…discuss what they say or do ON YOUR OWN BLOG. I mean, if the powerful bloggers can say whatever they want on their own blog, why doesn’t someone like me (A “B” or “C” List blogger at the very most) have the very same rights?

    This question sounds as if it either comes from a very sincere person or a self-appointed Black Ops agent sent over from Pioneer Woman. Her readers do this kind of thing a lot. Either way, I think you answered it very well.

  4. Michael says:

    Blogging could be bullying if the bullied one and the blogger have some sort of relationship, I suppose. But saying stuff–sarcastic, nice, mean, whatever, about someone who makes themselves a somewhat public figure–like another blogger–is about as American as it gets. It’s no more bullying than a very historical form of public discourse, which itself tended to get pretty nasty at times–a series of letters to the editor; perhaps, even less so.

    On to more important things: Tomorrow is my birthday, so could I get a special Mrs. Odie Happy Birthday reply. Yes, I’m self-absorbed and shameless.

    • Lisa says:

      Completely self-absorbed and shameless!

      Mrs. Odie, I don’t know if you’ve caught on yet, but my husband and I are competing for your affections. I’m pretty sure I’m winning 😉

      Um . . . right?

      • Michael says:

        Ok, now this is bullying. It’s not like I asked her to write a blogpost about me.

        • Mrs Odie 2 says:

          Happy birthday, Michael!!! I sincerely hope that you have a wonderful year, and I’m glad you survived The Big C. Camping.

          • Michael says:

            Thanks! How did you know? 🙂 Anyway, I appreciate it and am glad you have a good sense of humor; didn’t mean to hijack the reply threads.

  5. Anna says:

    I agree the word bullying is being tossed around way too much and sometimes inappropriately. My 5years old daughter’s friend screamed “stop bullying me” after she took either the toy away or refused to play a game…Go figure.
    I used to wear eye glasses in school and I was regularly bullied. I wonder what my situation would have been if I went to school now.
    Thanks for your honesty, Mrs. Odie!

  6. Jemm says:

    Hmm. I spent a few minutes on your site. Wish I had that back. Too much deep-seated jealousy.

    • Mrs Odie 2 says:

      What’s the right amount of deep-seated jealousy?

    • Mrs Odie 2 says:

      I’m pretty sure there’s some shallow-seated jealousy in March 2010, but I know your time is precious.

    • Michael says:

      I got this one. I’ve often wondered about people who feel the need to tell someone (this happens to my wife quite a bit) whats wrong with you, especially when they add how they’ll never get back the time they spent perusing your site, but they take the time to tell you that. I cant quite put my finger on it, but It’s like “I’m better than you, and I always take the high road, and let me prove it to you by telling you what a loser you are and how you’ve wasted my time.” That just negates their whole point. If you think you’re really that much better, then just move on quietly; you don’t need to mention why you’re doing so to get your point across. It says something about the commenter just as much as what they’re commenting on. There have been so many times that I’ve read things–anywhere on the Internet–where I want to say something to the author to show them how they’re this or that, or someone who comments on an article, and I have to stop myself and ask whether I’m really contributing anything to the discourse on the subject. So, I stop myself, because what I would want to say will not contribute anything to the post, conversation, or the world. And that’s pretty much what Jemm did. Nothing. Sorry, Jemm.

  7. KeAnne says:

    I’m another who believes that the true meaning of “bully” has been forgotten and is thrown around too casually. I can’t believe someone asked if you thought you were a bully. WTF? So, criticism and snark are now forbidden? Poor Socrates: I guess the unexamined life IS worth living now.

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