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This happens way too often, and really pisses me off: men masturbating in public. Yesterday a guy in his 20s on rollerskates was masturbating facing me–no attempt to hide, of course–when I was walking through the Lanova [sic] park in Prague 1 midday.
I was riding my bike to work at 9.45am when a car pulled up dangerously close to me (less than 10 cm) – the passenger leaned out the window and very forcefully slapped my ass while yelling something unclearly. The driver cut me off and continued to honk the horn as he drove down the street. Both men were in their mid-20s.
My cultural and feminist angst came to a head this week in a major way. A significant, if not the main part of Czech Easter tradition consists of men running around with pomlázky (braided sticks) and whipping girls on the butt for fertility. They are rewarded with candy eggs but more often than not shots of 40% proof alcohol. Here is a guest post from two years ago which our HollaBack! mother site was kind enough to place on the homepage.
My partner and I were instructed last week to have our six-year-old son come to school with two pomlázky yesterday. Naturally, we refused and had a conversation with him about this tradition since we’re not Czech. We’re conflicted about causing offense to the people of the country where we happily live but also frustrated as it’s hard enough explaining many things to kids and it becomes even more difficult when certain things shouldn’t actually apply to you. Our son, I was quite pleased, looked horrified and said he had no interest in hitting girls. We instructed him to go to school, tell the teachers he didn’t believe in hitting and find something else to do. So when I picked him up yesterday and he ran to me happily swinging a pomlázka I flipped.
In short, he behaved like a normal six-year-old. The teachers said it was OK, everybody was doing it, the girls were all laughing and he got candy. I cried on the corner of our street for 40 mins on the phone to my partner wondering how on earth I was supposed to explain our patriarchal society to my little boy. In the end I frightened him and he thought I was mad at him. I told him I wasn’t angry with him or his teachers but at something bigger. I reminded him that sometimes when his papa is tickling him he laughs but he doesn’t really like it. But how should I continue?
In the wake of Steubenville, I imagine many of you have seen articles on “How Not to Raise a Rapist”. Well how do I convey to a little boy that what happened in school yesterday in and of itself was technically OK? We like his teachers very much and are confident they made sure nobody got hurt and the class all had fun…but the truth is that as the years go by these boys will get stronger; these girls will become used to giggling their feelings away; these girls will become used to no one around them intervening; they will get used to saying “yes” because that’s what polite girls do; they will become inured to not going against the grain or rocking the boat; and they will get used to seeing boys rewarded for bad behavior. And should I even get started on the “stick”, the “egg” and the messages of procreation as female function?
When he told me he was sent hom with instructions to hit both me and my elderly mother I seriously thought my head was going to pop off. As much as I feel it’s never too early to preach non-violence it can be way too hard to explain the nuances of what violence really means. I wonder if I’ll have a grip on this by the time he’s seven.
Scroll down for English
Praha, 22. ledna 2013
Vážený pane Zemane,
Váš výrok o znásilnění jako evoluční výhodě, který navíc zazněl v přímém přenosu v televizní debatě, je zcela nepřípustný a neomluvitelný. Při vší úctě k Vaší oblibě bonmotů byste jakožto soudný člověk měl rozpoznat, že tohle už bylo daleko za hranicí dobrého vkusu. A že jste hrubě urazil mnoho žen, ať už samotných obětí sexuálního násilí, nebo těch ostatních. Slyšet taková slova z úst prezidentského kandidáta je smutné a šokující.
Znevažování obětí znásilnění a dalších forem násilí na ženách, které je v naší společnosti bohužel běžné, přežívá právě díky takovýmto rádoby vtipným výrokům, jako byl ten Váš. Pokud zazní v televizní debatě, má dopad na spousty diváků a divaček. Nejsem si jistá, jestli si vůbec následky svého chování uvědomujete, což však Vaše selhání nijak neomlouvá.
Vyzývám Vás proto, abyste se za svůj nešťastný výrok omluvil. Je urážkou pro všechny ženy, a nejen pro ně. Vy sám jste přece také otcem a manželem, a tak by úcta k ženám měla být i ve Vašem zájmu.
Pevně věřím, že svá slova přehodnotíte. Že se jednalo o omyl, a nikoliv o promyšlený výrok, za kterým si i nadále stojíte.
Jana Smiggels Kavková
Předsedkyně České ženské lobby
On a related note here is an article which appeared in today’s Prague Monitor
Czech Women’s Lobby wants Zeman to apologise for statement about rape
Czech feminists want presidential candidate Milos Zeman to apologise for his statement about raping as an evolution advantage with which he wanted to explain to his rival, nobleman Karel Schwarzenberg, why princes have degenerated that he made in a TV debate on Friday.
The Czech Women’s Lobby, whose director Jana Smiggels Kavkova has written an open letter to Zeman, says similar statements offend all women.
Former Social Democrat prime minister Zeman (now SPOZ) and Foreign Minister and TOP 09 head Karel Schwarzenberg will compete for the presidential post in a direct presidential election run-off on January 25-26.
“Do you know the difference between princes and squires? Princes had the right of the first night, due to which they degenerated because they did not have to rape their female serfs, which means they did not have to use energy for the raping. On the other hand we, squires, always had to use much energy to fight out their rights, not only in the sphere of sex, and therefore we did not degenerate,” Zeman, whose name translates into English as squire, said on Prima Family TV.
The association of organisations focused on women’s rights considers this statement entirely inadmissible, inexcusable and reaching far beyond the border of good taste.
“The disrespecting of the victims of rape and other forms of violence against women that are, unfortunately, common in our society, survives precisely thanks to such would-be witty statements like yours. If it is made in a television debate, it has an impact on lots of male and female spectators,” the feminists wrote to Zeman.
They called on him to apologise for the statement.
“It is offending all women, and not only them. You, too, are a father and husband, and respect for women should also be in your interest,” the Czech Women’s Lobby wrote.
Schwarzenberg also made a would-be witty statement about former lawmakers for the senior ruling Civic Democrats (ODS), who gave up their mandates to allow the passing of a tax package with which they disagreed last December and they have gained lucrative posts in state firms, in a pre-election debate on Czech Television (CT) last week.
He said if a man has a girl friend who does not like doing certain tasks, relations are strengthened if she gets a beautiful necklace.
Schwarzenberg apologised for his statement about women in a pre-election debate Tuesday.
Za stovku si na prsa napíšu cokoli. Z USA dorazil fenomén mikroslužeb.
PRAHA – Budu komukoliv dělat za sto padesát korun doprovod na společenské akci, nabízím tři konverzační tématické okruhy a tři stupně machismu. Nebo: Napíšu si na svá pěkně vyvinutá prsa cokoliv si řeknete, vyfotím je a fotku vám pošlu, vše za 150 korun.
Takové inzeráty a řadu jiných lze najít na několika nových webových stránkách, které začaly působit v Česku. Nejde jen o bizarní či úsměvné nabídky, často je možné si objednat užitečnou drobnou službu jako nákup v obchodě nebo doučování.
Do země přichází ze Spojených států nový fenomén, takzvané mikroslužby. Původní myšlenka vznikla teprve před dvěma lety v USA, kde dva internetoví podnikatelé – Micha Kaufman a Shai Wininger – založili server Fiverr.com. Jejich mottem bylo: nakupuj, prodávej a bav se.
Zejména mladí uživatelé na bláznivé, užitečné či aspoň zábavné nabídky služeb skvěle zareagovali, Fiverr v současnosti zprostředkovává na 750 tisíc nabídek. Jen několik měsíců po americkém vzoru vznikl v Česku web stomanie. cz, další stránky Kilerr.cz přináší nabídky všemožných službiček necelý rok. Skutečný boom začal až letos, kdy vznikly další dva podobné portály, na jaře Manytu. cz a na počátku července Stovkomat. cz.
Za všemi projekty stojí mladí technologičtí nadšenci, kteří v podstatě okopírovali americký vzor a za pár desítek tisíc postavili svůj web. „Aktuální model je totožný s americkým originálem. Rozhodli jsme se ten model nijak neměnit, protože jsme chtěli otestovat, zda se tento model prosadí v kontaktu s vcelku rozdílnou českou náturou,“ říká zakladatel stránek Kilerr. cz Kamil Brejcha.
Jeho odpověď se přitom neliší od konkurence, která kopírování taktéž připouští, ale upozorňuje na česká specifika. „Lišíme se v osobním přístupu k uživatelům a případným reklamacím, které Fiverr kvůli své obrovské uživatelské základně nemá sílu řešit. Nicméně, byť je Fiverr jasnou dominantou světového trhu, z vlastních zkušeností vím, že na české potřeby je krátký,“ říká Petr Spálený, marketingový ředitel Stovkomatu. České specifikum spočívá především v českém jazyce.
Všechny české servery si rychle získávají oblibu. „Na začátku poskytování mikroslužeb byly blázniviny jako třeba, že za sto korun za vás vyřídím nepříjemný telefonát. Dnes je víc odborných nabídek, úprava stránek pro vyhledávače, různé grafiky a podobně,“ říká majitel serveru stomania.cz, Tomáš Jankůj. Jeho web zprostředkoval od svého vzniku mezi pěti až deseti tisíci transakcemi. „Od letošního jara se počet transakcí meziměsíčně zvyšuje o třetinu,“ říká Jankůj.
Weby nabízející mikroslužby
Podstatou webů je, že většina nabídek je za stokorunu či jen o něco víc. To třeba neláká případné poskytovatele erotických služeb. Většinu těchto webů jsou jejich majitelé schopní financovat sami bez jakékoliv pomoci. Za úspěšné zprostředkování vybírají procenta z ceny služby. Podle Jankůje není problém, aby takovýto web naprogramoval středně zdatný středoškolák. U profesionální firmy nevyjde vyrobení „službičkomatu“ dráž než jiné internetové stránky, tedy desítky tisíc korun.
Děkuji na Samuel Beckwith na PraguePig.com
Originally published on xoJane
by s.e. smith
People like to say that sexism is invisible, that it doesn’t actually happen, or that women are simply being oversensitive when they say they experience it.
Microaggressions. Those little things that, on their surface, “aren’t such a big deal,” but are actually illustrative of how far we haven’t come as a society. The things that you point at to say “actually, we’re nowhere near equality.”
The concept of microaggressions was originally developed in a racial context, to discuss: “the ‘everyday insults, indignities and demeaning messages sent to people of color by well-intentioned white people who are unaware of the hidden messages being sent to them,’ in [Derald Wing] Sue’s definition.” The term caught on and started to be used more generally to talk about the small things people say, often without thinking about them, and how they pile up.
Microaggressions became a popular site for collating examples, submitted by users with a range of experiences. The curators say:
Each event, observation and experience posted is not necessarily particularly striking in and of themselves. Often, they are never meant to hurt — acts done with little conscious awareness of their meanings and effects. Instead, their slow accumulation during a childhood and over a lifetime is in part what defines a marginalized experience, making explanation and communication with someone who does not share this identity particularly difficult. Social others are microaggressed hourly, daily, weekly, monthly.
Each carries a sting. Many are thoughtless, but the very thoughtlessness underscores the attitudes behind them, the casual approach people have to each other, and the internalized nature of many forms of prejudice. The people who say these things would often profess shock and horror that they’d caused harm with their words.
“Everyday Sexism” is specifically collecting examples of sexist microaggressions, the things people casually say to women to reinforce their role in society. With a constantly updating feed of user-submitted entries, the site provides a stunning array of sexist attitudes on display. While it’s based in the UK, users can submit from anywhere –- thanks to the power of the Internet –- and users talk about everything from women in pop culture to being patronized by utility repair people when they ask technical questions.
Helena 2012-08-20 13:26
Went to the pub the other day with a male friend, and he went over to the cash machine to get some money out. The barman offered me an expensive ‘girly’ drink and when I said I wanted something cheaper he said ‘doesn’t matter, does it? He’s paying’. As if the assumption that I would not be paying for my own drinks wasn’t enough he then tried to give me a half pint of lager instead of a full pint for no reason; he just assumed again.
Rose 2012-08-20 12:46
When I tell people I’m studying physics they usually look confused, and then say, ‘Oh! You want to be a teacher.’
No, I want to be a physicist.
As an OU student I have to go to residential schools. I have had guys shouting in my face about how women aren’t fit to have jobs, and guys following up sexist hateful speech with violence – nothing I say will make them stop, because they don’t listen to women, and the other guys around don’t want to get ‘involved’. The gutless cowards wont even state if they agree or not.
Laura, the curator, says in the introduction that the site is intended to create a discussion, and stand as a reminder that sexism is not over, that we are nowhere near gender equality. “By sharing your story you’re showing the world that sexism does exist, it is faced by women everyday and it is a valid problem to discuss.”
She points to the statistics many people may be familiar with; women are underrepresented in positions of power, for example, and are more likely to be viewed as public property. To add to her list, I’d note that women are more likely to live in poverty, especially if they are women of color. And the list goes on.
But, she argues, sexism is also more insidious. It’s also about the small comments made every day, all around us, that remind us of the lesser place women are supposed to occupy in society. She created Everyday Sexism to fight back, to show that women are talking about sexism and regard it as a serious issue. The site is a way of telling the world that it is on notice and women are not afraid to report what they see.
Reading through the stories on the site, I was reminded of my own experiences at a past place of employment, when I was still struggling with my gender identity and presented as a woman for the most part. We were training a new employee, a man in his 40s, and he resolutely refused to allow me to handle any of his training because, he said, he didn’t want to learn from “a girl.” After he was brought on board as a regular employee, he made a point of hounding me with small, pointless acts of sexism.
I struggled to articulate what was going on when I complained to my manager. I fought to explain why this was a problem. And eventually, I quit, because no one was listening to me, and I started dreading the thought of going to work every day. Until he was hired, it had been one of the best jobs I’d ever had, and I’d loved working there. He managed to ruin my experience simply by assuming he was better than me, and being unafraid to remind me of that at every possible moment.
People like to say that sexism is invisible, that it doesn’t actually happen, or that women are simply being oversensitive when they say they experience it. What Everyday Sexism is doing is confronting that claim, showing visitors firsthand that sexism is alive and well, and doesn’t show any signs of going away. By talking about it, dragging it out into the open and showing people what we mean when we talk about sexism, maybe we can start fighting it.
Because this is not just a fight that needs to be won in the corridors of power and on the boards of major corporations. It’s also a fight that needs to be won in small businesses and on the streets and in private homes, in classrooms and community organizations. Until women can go through the day without being confronted with everyday sexism, we haven’t reached gender equality.
And storytelling is one way to accomplish that fight.
Ally 2012-08-20 15:35
At uni, being told by my housemate (an intelligent and confident woman) that, if she married, she would be happy to let her husband use her vote.
Ms, via Twitter 2012-08-20 15:12
I go on a plane & whole cabin does comedy nervous laughter at female pilot & I die a little inside
Kat 2012-08-20 14:46
I was raised by very academic parents who expected me to study a “respectable” subject at a top university and get a great job. Gender simply didn’t come into it. I always considered that I was treated in exactly the same way as my brothers.
But now that I’m older, despite everything I was (rightly) pushed to achieve, I’ve hit the glass ceiling that my mother has herself put in place for me. As the only daughter, I am expected to drop everything and run home across the country the moment assistance is needed. Does my work come second to my brothers’? Or is it that family should be the daughter’s priority? When the family is together, I’m the one who’s expected to be in the kitchen, regardless of my work commitments.
It works both ways, I suppose. It’s considered a minor miracle, and is the subject of almost exaggerated maternal pride, that one of my brothers can bake a passable sponge cake.
Originally published on Mommyish.com
by Eve Vawter
Felicia Garcia, a 15-year-old Staten Island teenager, committed suicide Wednesday when she jumped in front of a subway train. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people. Nearly 30 percent of kids are either bullies or the victims of bullying. Almost every day we read or hear about another teen or kid who decided to end their life due to bullying and harassment, and parents need to radically address this with our kids. I don’t care if you think your child would never bully another kid. I don’t care if your kid is an honor roll student and spends every weekend doing volunteer work. I don’t care if your kid is a victim of bullying themselves. We need to talk to our kids about this, and we need to do it now.
From The NY Post:
A Tottenville High School student jumped in front of a train after she was bullied for having sex with four football players at the same time during a party after a game this weekend, sources said.
Felicia Garcia, 15, jumped to her death at the Huguenot station moments after a group of classmates, described by witnesses as members of the football team, heaped abuse at her.
A senior who knew her, 17-year-old Victoria, who asked her last name not be used, said the bullying happened in hallways and online.
“This poor girl was called a sl–. She was teased on Facebook. People knock books out of kids hands,” she said.
They said some of the players were on the platform with her yesterday afternoon and taunting her with sexually explicit jeers when she suddenly jumped.
I really don’t give a f*ck if this little girl had sex with the entire football team plus every member of her school. If you hear from your kid that another kid at their school is having sex with numerous people or something else that conflicts with your own morals or what you are teaching your own kids about sexuality, you need to phrase the discussion that you may not agree with what you are hearing, but that teens who are sexually active shouldn’t be bullied for their behavior. No kid should feel this despondent that they feel the only way to deal with bullying is to take their own life.
“I cant, im done, I give up,” she tweeted Monday.
School officials heard of the bullying and set up a mediation session Wednesday with a counselor and one of the 17-year-old boys. The teenager denied harassing the girl, the sources said.
Leaving the office, Felicia later ran into the other 17-year-old who had been making her life miserable — and they exchanged words, the sources said.
Police did not say what was said. But it was enough to send Felicia marching off to the Huguenot station of the Staten Island Railroad, where she killed herself in front of horrified classmates.
Lately we’ve been discussing teens and privacy on Mommyish. I appreciate and understand how teens need privacy to an extent, but I also feel as parents we are ignoring a lot of warning signs that our own kids are displaying at the dinner table every night. If you have a son that refers to a woman in a derogatory way, parents need to stop that shit that right now. I don’t care if you give him a stern talking to. I don’t care if you wash his mouth out with soap. I don’t care if you ground him for a week. Your kid refers to a girl as a “slut” or a “whore” in front of you? You need to fully explain in no uncertain terms that language like that is unacceptable. It doesn’t matter if he is talking about a classmate or Rhianna’s latest music video. You overhear your daughter referring to someone as a “fag” or making fun of one of her classmates or gossiping about the sexual exploits of someone at school? Sit her down right then and there and explain to her why this sort of gossip and language hurts. Ground her. Most importantly, talk to your kids. Talk to them constantly. Talk to them until your jaw aches from stressing that they need to be good humans, good people, empathetic people who stand up for kids being bullied, who makes friends with the outcasts, who find the kids sitting alone at the cafeteria lunch table and include them.
As parents of these not-fully-formed-yet humans, we need to teach them by example. We need to curb the gossiping and backbiting we do to our own friends, over coffee, on the telephone, at family gatherings. We need to make the men our kids have in their lives be fiercely strong role models that respect women, that don’t objectify women, that do their part to teach our sons and daughters that everyone has the right to be treated with respect and dignity regardless of race, appearance, sexual orientation, religious beliefs and their gender. We need to get in their faces. I know that this is not a popular parenting method in this day and age but I really don’t care. Call CPS on me if you want to, but if I hear one of my kids calling a woman a “whore” they will be getting a bar of soap in the mouth, at least ten hours of lectures on why this is unacceptable, and a week’s worth of raking leaves off all of my neighbor’s lawns.
We need to pay attention to what they are doing online. We need to monitor their social media, their Facebooks and Twitters and Instagrams and whatever else they are using to keep in contact with their peer groups. We catch them bullying someone online, spreading malicious gossip or participating in demeaning language towards another kid? They lose that privilege. They don’t like it? They slam their door and swear at you and throw a fit? Too damn bad.
If you are one of those parents who think that lecturing and talking to your kids won’t help the problem, then get them books on bullying and leave them next to their beds. Casually mention cases like the horrific ones of Felicia Garcia or Amanda Todd or Teddy Molina at the dinner table and ask your kids what they think about bullying. When you see cases of bullying or violence on the news or on television or movies use these moments as jumping off points for starting a dialogue with your kids about violence towards others.
I don’t have the solution to the growing bullying problem we witness every day. I know that bullies have been around since the dawn of time and that kids killing themselves over feeling ganged up or marginalized isn’t a “new thing.” I do know as a mom when I read a story like Felicia Garcia’s I’m sick to my stomach and my heart hurts and I want to do everything in my power to raise my own kids to never behave in a way that makes any other person feel like less of a person. To me it doesn’t matter if the kid who committed suicide had a history of mental illness or was being treated for depression or would have killed themselves even if everyone they encountered in the hallways at school was kind and decent to them. Every time our kids degrade or humiliate one of their peers it contributes to bullying and marginalizing culture. As parents, we need to teach our kids that this is never acceptable.
Originally published on Deep Green Resistance
by Ben Barker
“Hello! I’ve decided to tell you about my never ending story.” These were the words written on the first two flashcards that 15-year old Amanda Todd shows viewers in the silent video she created about two months before she recently committed suicide to escape social torture.
Anti-bullying posters hang in every public school across the United States, yet kids continue to harass and hurt each other without intervention. Every school day, 150,000 students stay home out of fear of being picked on. Bullying has become epidemic, but still is only a symptom of the broader culture in which it exists. Despite even the most earnest efforts, youth problems and school problems cannot be solved until social problems and cultural problems are.
Amanda Todd is dead not only because she was born into this culture of bullying, but because she was born into it with a female body. Her flashcards continued: “In 7th grade I would go with friends on webcam meet and talk to new people. Then got called stunning, beautiful, perfect, etc. Then wanted me to flash. So I did. 1 year later I got a msg on facebook from him. Don’t know how he knew me. It said if you don’t put on a show for me I will send ur boobs. He knew my address, school, relatives, friends, family names. Christmas break. Knock at my door at 4am. It was the police. My photo was sent to everyone. I then got really sick and got anxiety, major depression, and panic disorder.”
While tragic to be sure, Amanda’s case is but one among countless more that lead girls and women first to crippling depression and then to their deaths.
“I then moved and got into drugs and alcohol,” the flashcards went on. “My anxiety got worse…couldn’t go out. A year past and he came back with my new list of friends and school. But made a facebook page. My boobs were his profile pic. Cried every night, lost all my friends and respect people had for me…again. Then nobody liked me. Name calling, judged. I can never get that photo back. It’s out there forever. I started cutting. I promised myself never again. Didn’t have any friends and I sat at lunch alone. So I moved schools again.”
The public humiliation visited upon Amanda Todd is a routine experience for women living under patriarchy, the system currently ruling the world through a campaign of violence. Many girls who have been similarly targeted have not and likely will never have their stories told because, unlike Amanda, they have the added disadvantage of being poor or lesbian or not white on top of already being female, which is hard enough.
“Everything was better even though I sat still alone at lunch in the library every day. After a month later I started talking to an old guy friend. We back and fourth texted and he started to say he liked me. Led me on. He had a girlfriend. Then he said come over my gf’s on vacation. So I did…huge mistake. He hooked up with me. I thought he liked me. 1 week later I get a text get out of your school. His girlfriend and 15 others came including himself. The girl and 2 other just said look around nobody likes you. In front of my new school (50) people. A guy than yelled just punch her already. So she did…she threw me to the ground and punched me several times. Kids filmed it. I was all alone and left on the ground. I felt like a joke in this world…I thought nobody deserves this. I was alone.”
Patriarchy means rule by men. Women can certainly support this system, as we see in the case of the girls who attacked and abandoned Amanda Todd instead of supporting her when she needed it the most. Never will women truly benefit from patriarchy, though, as it is predicated on their subjugation to men. Patriarchy is a system of power that controls women’s lives in every sense: economically, socially, bodily, and otherwise. Men and women are trained from birth to accept and fit into their respective social classes, known in shorthand as masculinity and femininity.
Masculinity says that men are only real men when they are violating or dominating someone else, someone whom they’ve deemed as “Other.” Femininity is also designed by and benefits men, because it attempts to naturalize female submission by claiming that women just like to be hurt and controlled. The school years are some of the most formative for human development, and so serve as a prime opportunity to indoctrinate children into the myth of patriarchy.
Kindergarten through twelfth grade schooling may be too far back for some to clearly remember, but surely the word “cooties” rings a bell. In this single word is all we need to know about how girls and boys are trained to see one another. What they see is that despised “Other.” Not human beings. From girls versus boys playground games, to boys at a slumber party huddled around a Playboy, to incidents of date rape after prom, children know perfectly well the meaning of sexism, of sexual hatred, regardless of if they articulate it or not. Boys know how to do it and girls know how it feels to have it be done to.
And children know perfectly well the meaning of homophobia and racism, too.
Amanda’s flashcards continue: “I lied and said it was my fault and my idea. I didn’t want him getting hurt, I thought he really liked me. But he just wanted the sex…someone yelled punch her already. Teachers ran over but I just went and layed in a ditch and my dad found me. I wanted to die so bad…when he brought me home I drank bleach. It killed me inside and I thought I was gonna actually die. Ambulence came and brought me to the hospital and flushed me.”
Few will hesitate to sum up the case of Amanda Todd as bullying, plain and simple, but perhaps it’s not so plain or simple. In her article about the Amanda Todd tragedy, educator and feminist Fazeela Jiwa takes the term “bullying” to task. She writes, “Bullying glosses over structural reasons for violence—reasons like race, gender, ability, and sexuality, among a myriad of insidious social hierarchies.”
From what is public knowledge about the trajectory of Amanda’s suffering, it’s hard not to see that the bullying she experienced was a direct result of her being female. Like all girls and women, she was a target of male violence. As Amanda has made clear, she was majorly coerced and exploited by two distinct male characters: the first pressured her to show her naked body over the internet, images of which he saved and used as blackmail against her for more sexual favors; the second manipulated her into having sex with him, only to later pit his girlfriend against her which resulted in the severe ambush that brought Amanda to first attempt suicide.
“After I got home all I saw on facebook—she deserved it,” read Amanda’s words. “Did you wash the mud out of your hair? I hope shes dead. Nobody cared. I moved away to another city to my moms. Another school…I didn’t wanna press charges because I wanted to move on. 6 months has gone by…people are pasting pics of bleach, clorex, and ditches. Tagging me. I was doing a lot better too. They said she should try a different bleach. I hope she dies this time and isn’t so stupid. They said I hope she sees this and kills herself.”
A few years ago, an anti-bullying event was hosted at City Hall. I and two other young activists and personal friends of mine were asked to speak on a panel on behalf of a radical community space with which we were involved. Other panels included teachers, parents, therapists, and students. All presented from their unique perspectives on the harms of bullying in school environments. Lesbian and gay high school students shared stories of being personally abused by kids at school: they told stories of being physically struck, shoved, and spit on. Many heterosexual students spoke, too. They were not spared from bullying either, targeted usually because they apparently looked or talked the wrong way.
Most of the adults who spoke suggested as a solution more strict consequences for those caught bullying. They also suggested more established support networks for the victims. Both ideas seemed appropriate to me, yet clearly incommensurate on their own. These have been the same solutions offered for years and bullying has not been prevented as a result. When it was my panel’s turn to speak, we pointed out that bullying is not an isolated act, but an obvious by-product of a culture sick with the drive of competition. We dared to be more explicit about the root problem: capitalism. (In case you’re wondering, no. The police stationed at the City Hall building were not in attendance at the event. And no, they did not ask us to spend the night.)
Who is ultimately responsible for Amanda Todd’s death? Who can stop bullying?
Is it the teachers? First of all, that depends on if the teacher is a decent human being. Many teachers, especially those who are male, do nothing but egg on the aggression in students. For our purposes, though, let’s say the teacher truly does care and wants to do what she or he can to prevent bullying. Well, next is how. The means available for teachers to make a difference are rapidly dwindling with school boards and administrations being taken over by the right-wing, comprised of people who are bent on disallowing even art and music programs, never mind a comprehensive anti-bullying curriculum. Regardless, much bullying happens out of the sight of teachers. It’s in the bathrooms, in the hallways, at recess, or before or after school.
Then it’s up to the parents to stop it. Once again, this depends on the parents being good human beings. Judging by the mass injustice and ecological crises caused by this society, I don’t see much reason to be optimistic about most people. However, for our purposes, let’s pretend these are parents that truly do care, that want to do what it takes to stop their child from bullying others or from being bullied. The parents can spend all the time they’d like having conversations with their child after school, but most kids learn just as much or more about life from the other kids they are around during the day. Unless every parent of every student is teaching the same lessons of love and compassion, and unless every student is listening in earnest and soaking up the morals, it’s only a matter of time before one child comes across another who says something like, “hey, let’s go make fun of that girl’s crooked teeth” or “hey, look at that fat kid.”
All of this brings us back to the original culprit; the one that creates the indecency of so many teachers and parents who enable bullying. I’m speaking of the dominant culture. If we have any chance of stopping the cruelty committed by children, we must stop the cruelty committed by adults. Where do we think the kids learn it? As Fazeela Jiwa notes, “Violent behavior stems from a tolerance of, or a reluctance to acknowledge, the power imbalances mired in the fabric of our social structures at all age levels…The same oppressive learned behaviors occur in the workplace, in bars and clubs, on the street, and in other adult-inhabited places.”
This whole country was founded on bullying. It started and continues with the genocide of indigenous people, the enslavement of Africans, the use of women as chattel, and the destruction of the natural world. To stop bullying means to stop the misogynists, white supremacists, homophobes, and earth-killers in power. It means to end capitalism.
Amanda Todd’s never ending story eventually did end when she tried again to drink bleach, and this time succeeded in taking her life. Even after her death, people continue to celebrate her humiliation and complain about the public outcry as annoying. This is sadism beyond words.
Those who are bullied need to know it’s not their fault. Those who are not bullied need to stand in absolute solidarity and intervene at every instance of abuse. As long as some people profit, whether socially or economically or both, from another’s suffering, none of us are free. Amanda’s never ending story is the never ending story of so many suffering under this cruel and ruthless culture. Unless we rise up to stop it, we can expect nothing from the future but more Amanda Todds.
“Why do I get this?” the flashcards in Amanda’s video finished. “I messed up by why follow me. I left your guys city. I’m constantly crying now. Every day I think why am I still here? My anxiety is horrible now. Never went out this summer. All from my past…lifes never getting better. Can’t go to school meet or be with people. Constantly cutting. I’m really depressed. I’m on antidepressants now and counseling and a month ago this summer I overdosed. In hospital for 2 days. I’m stuck…whats left of me now. Nothing stops. I have nobody. I need someone. My name is Amanda Todd.”
Beautiful Justice is a monthly column by Ben Barker, a writer and community organizer from West Bend, Wisconsin. Ben is a member of the Deep Green Resistance movement and is currently writing a book about toxic qualities of radical subcultures and the need to build a vibrant culture of resistance.