Friday, 28 December 2012

Burlesque Bullying

A topic that has been on everyone's minds recently is the subject of bullying within Burlesque. The most common accusation appears to be that groups of people form cliques and then attack others who are not members of their exclusive group.

I don't think so-called cliques are the issue; People naturally gravitate towards each other, forming friendship groups based on mutual interests, similar personality traits or simply geographical location, at any point in life. There will always be some people you get along with more than others, and to expect that everyone should be one big happy family, simply because we are all Burlesque dancers, is unrealistic and idealistic. That's not to say that we can't all get along and be pleasant to one another, because what's so hard about that?

However: Bullying, unfortunately, also occurs anywhere in life. It's not nice to admit, but most of us will remember being picked on in school, whether that was down to our hair colour, weight, intelligence, appearance, sexuality etc. A bully notices in others what is perceived to be a weakness, and exploits it. Bullies also surround themselves with sycophants, supporting their behaviour – this both reinforces the bullies supposed power and guards those in the group from becoming objects of bullying themselves. This, I suppose, is a clique.

The problem in adult life is that it's more difficult to say “I'm being bullied.” Maybe it's because we presume that by this point we should all be past school-yard name-calling, or maybe we feel that by admitting to being bullied we feel that we have failed somehow? That we are the ones in the wrong because why else would we be picked on? Or because, who, as an adult, do we tell about it? There are no teachers to run to for protection and guidance so we suffer in silence, simply strengthening the bullies supposed power, and increasing the likelihood that they will bully others.

A new issue has arisen in the last couple of years – cyber bullying. By having the anonymity and protection of sitting at a computer in their own front room, bullies are becoming more and more prevalent as they do not have to directly face the consequences of their actions.

Something that is common to all bullies at all stages and in all formats is their reluctance to admit to bullying: when called out for their actions they will deny any wrongdoing, often claiming that they are the ones who are being victimised. And as with all bullies, their little circle will back them up, telling them they're right; they are the innocent ones and everyone else is against them. Over time this causes massive amounts of resentment and hatred towards anyone outside of the bullies clique (the same trait they despise in others!), making the bullying worse.

The reason so many people are afraid to pull bullies up on their actions is for fear of becoming objects of their ire themselves. Friends of mine who have brought others to task for their words on-line have then been mercilessly pulled apart by groups of bullies, hiding behind the Facebook 'block' function so the victim can't even see what is being said about them. Maybe this is better, but I know it would drive me insane knowing people were spewing vitriol about me without giving me the opportunity to defend myself.

Bullies often feel that the world is against them; that they are the disadvantaged ones; that to restore balance they must bring others down to their level. This is a deep, psychological issue that the bully has themselves, but because their protective bubble reassures them that they themselves are fine, it's everyone else that has the problem, it's unlikely they will ever admit that they are the problem and simply go on feeling unjustly discriminated against and taking out their deep-seated dissatisfaction with themselves out on others who they feel do not deserve their success, beauty, intelligence or happiness.

I feel a deep pity for those who bully. My grandma always told me “They only bully because they are jealous.” When you are the victim, you may think 'what on earth have they got to be jealous of?' but with the benefit of adult understanding and hindsight, it usually proves to be the case.

Don't stoop to the level of the bully by rounding up your own friends to go on the offensive. Simply ignore the hostility and treat it with the pitying disdain it deserves. We are all way past the playground now.

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