mean people

Access straw men

A lot of people are reluctant to change anything for the sake of accessibility, even if the change would be inexpensive and easy. Often, they resist even considering the possibility that there are changes they could make that would enable a broader range of people to participate.

Often, they set up access strawmen as a way to avoid negotiating access. 

Those conversations go like this:

  • The disabled person asks for a modification of some sort.
  • The resistant person ignores the actual request.
  • They instead describe something vaguely related that’s obviously unreasonable.
  • Then they insinuate that the disabled person asked them for the obviously unreasonable thing
  • They implore the disabled person to be more flexible and reasonable
  • The disabled person generally doesn’t get their needs met, and often ends up disoriented and feeling a lot of shame

An example:

  • Douglas: I can’t climb stairs. I need class to be held in a room on the first floor.
  • Roger: It sounds like what you really need is for all the buildings to be rebuilt for you. I can’t rebuild all the buildings; I have to focus on teaching.

Or sometimes:

  • Dawn: I can only read lips if people are looking at me. Can we talk about how to make class discussions work?
  • Robin: I can’t stop other students from talking to each other. Why don’t you take this opportunity to work on your listening skills?

When a person with a disability asks for an accommodation in school, work, a conference, or wherever, don’t set up a straw man to reject. Respond to the actual problem, and try to find a solution. Is there  a way to do the thing they’re asking for? If not, why not? Is there something else you *could* do that would work? Occasionally there is no good solution; more often, there is a way to make things work. When people in positions of responsibility are willing to look for access solutions and put effort into implementing them, a lot of things become possible.

Mean people who aren't mean all the time

Mean people aren’t necessarily mean all the time. Mean people aren’t necessarily mean to everyone.

I think most people who are mean are nice to at least some people at least some of the time. It can be hard to understand that they’re mean to other people in ways that matter if you don’t see it.

One example of this is that many men who are awful to women treat other men well. Some men don’t know this. They often assume that a man who treats them and their male friend group well is basically well-intentioned — and may have a lot of trouble understanding why their female friends think he’s dangerously creepy.

That happens in a lot of contexts. Some of which have to do with socially marginalized groups like gender or race or trans status or disability or religion or any number of other things. Some of them aren’t like that.

Sometimes it’s about in groups and outgroups in ways that aren’t otherwise connected to privilege.

For instance:

  • Jesse is mean, but not mean to everyone.
  • Jesse is nice to people who they like
  • Mostly, Jesse likes people who admire them and don’t contradict them about anything important
  • Jesse is mean to people outside their circle
  • People who are in Jesse’s circle and really admire Jesse might have trouble believing that they’re ever mean to anyone else
  • On the logic that “Jesse has never said anything like that to me; I can’t believe Jesse would say that”. Or something else like that.

It’s not unreasonable to base some of your opinions on what’s probably going on in a conflict on your personal experiences with someone. To an extent, it’s *necessary* to do it that way, because you can’t find out what’s going on by disregarding what you know. But it’s also important to remember that the way someone treats you might not be representative.

For instance:

  • If you’ve never contradicted someone, you might not know how they handle being contradicted
  • If someone’s never been mad at you or someone you respect, you might not know much about how they treat people when they are angry
  • Everyone gets into conflicts.
  • Everyone gets contradicted.
  • Everyone is wrong sometimes.
  • Nobody handles this perfectly. Some people handle this more-or-less reasonably; some people handle it horribly.
  • If you haven’t seen what someone does in those situations, it’s hard to know whether their reactions are reasonable

tl;dr It’s easy to misunderstand conflicts by assuming that people who have always been nice to you are always reasonable with everyone. It’s important to consider what you know about someone *and* to consider the possibility that your experiences with someone may not be representative.

Open Letter to People Who Do Things

If you do things that others know about, you will attract a lot of criticism.

People will think you’re wrong a lot. Sometimes you will actually be wrong; sometimes you won’t be.

Sometimes people will be vicious. Sometimes people will try to hurt you as badly as they possibly can.

No matter how well you do things, there will be people who are disgusted by what you do and think you’re a terrible person.

No matter how politically neutral the thing you do is, people will attack it for political reasons. (Either a specific reason, or they’ll say it’s frivolous and that you should be fighting global warming or poverty or something instead.)

If you charge money for what you do, people will be outraged (including people who would never work for free.)

No matter how much you charge, people will angrily tell you that it’s too much.

Even if you work for free, people will be angry with you for addressing some things but not others. Or for not giving them what they want fast enough.

No matter how well you consider other sides, someone will angrily accuse you of censorship or refusing to listen.

And so on and so on. No matter what you do, there are people who will be angry and disgusted by it. There will be people who will hate you. There will be people who try to hurt you to make you stop. This happens to absolutely everyone who does things that a lot of other people know about. It is possible to live with that.

(Part of the way to live with that is by learning to keep perspective in the face of other people’s anger.)

A note about criticism - it’s important to be open to criticism, because sometimes you will be wrong. In order to be truly open to criticism, you have to get past the desire to appease everyone who is mad at you. If you try to please everyone, what ends up happening is that you end up deferring to whoever is the loudest and meanest. Listening to criticism in a good way means you have to be selective — and it also usually means disengaging from jerks.

You don’t have to be perfect to do things that matter. If only perfect people could do things, nothing would ever get done. Everyone who has every done anything has also been flawed in a serious way. Because that’s how people are.

It’s also important to remember that you don’t owe the world a heckler’s veto. There will always be people who don’t like you or your work. That doesn’t mean you have to stop. It doesn’t mean you have to engage with them. It just means that you’re being noticed, and that some people don’t like what they’re seeing.

tl;dr If you do things that people notice, some people who notice will be mean to you and try to convince you that you are terrible. That happens to everyone who does things. It doesn’t mean you’re terrible. It means you’re visible. Being open to criticism doesn’t mean giving the world a heckler’s veto. It’s ok to do things even if you’re imperfect and sometimes people are angry at you.

Meanness can conceal bad arguments

Sometimes people use being mean to sound right. (Intentionally or unintentionally).

When you’re afraid of someone, it can feel dangerous to disagree with them. (Sometimes the danger is real, sometimes it isn’t.)

If you’re afraid to disagree with someone, you might find yourself coming up with a lot of arguments in favor of their position, and feeling like they’re more credible than they really are. 

It can be worth noticing you’re afraid, and thinking through whether you’d still agree with them if you weren’t afraid.

For instance:

  • Susan (in a mean, not-quite yelling tone): Implausible hounds are real! I can’t believe anyone thinks they’re not. I’m glad all my friends get it.
  • Susan’s friend Bob isn’t sure whether or not implausible hounds exist, but doesn’t want to get yelled at, doesn’t want Susan to stop respecting him, and doesn’t want to be a bad friend
  • So Bob might ignore his doubts about implausible hounds and try to convince himself that they definitely exist by ignoring all the arguments he can think of that implausible hounds are implausible.

This can happen subconsciously, so it’s worth trying to notice when it’s happening:

  • If someone is saying something forcefully
  • And you find yourself agreeing 
  • And you feel really bad about agreeing
  • Or you feel really bad about doubting them
  • It’s worth asking yourself whether you’re agreeing out of fear, and whether you’d agree with them if you weren’t afraid

This can happen for other reasons; sometimes learning a new thing can feel bad (eg: if you realize you were being a jerk). It’s worth considering whether you’re agreeing out of fear, and also worth being open to the possibility that you’re agreeing because you’re actually convinced. It always takes thought to figure out which it is. 

tl;dr When people are mean or scary; it can make their arguments seem better than they really are. If you’re afraid, feeling awful after agreeing with something, or feeling awful about doubting someone, it’s a sign that you might be agreeing out of fear rather than having been persuaded. When that happens, it’s worth pausing to think through things and figure out whether you’re agreeing out of fear, or agreeing because you’ve actually been persuaded.

Not everyone is mean

Mean people take up a lot of space.


Mean people often make their voices heard the loudest.


If you are around a loud mean person, it can be hard to remember that kind people exist.


It can feel like the world is all mean people, and that they’re all yelling at you.


But, not everyone is mean. A lot of people are kind and caring.


When you notice the kind people, and make an effort to listen to them, it’s much harder for the mean people to drown out their voices.

Dealing with isolation at school

Anonymous said to :

What do I do if my friends are rude to me constantly but they’re my only friends and I literally cannot make friends with anyone else cause I have a v v v small school and they’re the only people around my age? It hurts a lot and I get overlooked a lot and when I try to say something I get ignored or told to shut up:

realsocialskills said:

A couple of things:

These other people at your school might not be your friends. People who dislike you and are mean to you aren’t actually friends. Friends are people who you like, and who like you back. Friends are people who respect you and who you respect. Friends are people who are, generally speaking, nice to you (no one is perfectly nice all the time; everyone is mean or obnoxious occasionally. But people who are intentionally cruel are not friends. They’re bullies).

If people don’t like you, don’t want you around, and are mean to you, that’s probably not something you can change. It’s not usually possible to persuade people to be your friends or be nice to you if they don’t already want to.

Something you can sometimes do is assert boundaries. Sometimes if people are nice to you sometimes but not other times, you can limit your interactions to contexts in which they are nice.

eg:

  • If students in your school are nice when adults are looking and mean when they’re not, it might be best to limit your interactions to closely supervised settings (eg: hang out with them in the lunch room and not outdoors during breaks) 
  • Some people are nice in mixed-gender grounds but mean in single-gender groups, or vice versa. If you notice that pattern, it might be worth paying attention to the gender composition of a group you’re trying to hang out with
  • Some people are nice one on one, but mean in groups. It can sometimes be worth making a point of hanging out with those people only individually.

That said: Being isolated at school is horrible, but I think that being socially intertwined with people who are mean to you is a lot worse (I’ve experienced both). I’m not you and I can’t tell you what you should do - you are the best judge of that. But, from my perspective, I think you would probably be better off seeking friends elsewhere. That’s probably possible even if you’re in a small school.

Friends don’t have to be people who go to your school. Friends don’t have to be your age. Friends don’t have to be people you see in person. There are other ways to have friends.

I’m assuming that you’re a teenager and that you don’t have very much control over your life right now. I don’t know which of these suggestions are realistic for you, but probably some of them are:

One option you almost certainly have is to make friends online. Internet friends are real friends, and can be much better friends than people you know in person who are mean to you. If you take those relationships seriously as friendships, it will probably substantially improve your social life. One good way to meet people online is by participating in a fandom. If you really like something, finding other people to talk to online about that thing can be a good way to make friends and have fun interacting with people. If you’re being actively bullied at school, or if your parents are hostile, it’s probably best to do this in forums that don’t require you to use your real name. (Eg: Tumblr is likely better for this than Facebook.)

Another option is to join a club or group that takes you out of your school, or to take a class outside of school. For instance, many people enjoy the Boy Scouts or the Girl Scouts. (Unlike Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts is a secular organization and is not actively hostile to gay and trans kids.) It doesn’t work for everyone, but some people who are very socially isolated in school have a good time socially in the scouts or in other clubs.

If there is a community center in your area, you might be able to play a sport or take an art class. It doesn’t have to be a class specifically for people your age - it can be really, really good to meet people of a range of ages, especially if you have trouble connecting with people your own age. If you find a group of people doing a thing you like, you’re likely to have more friends than if you’re just relying on people who go to your school.

If you’re in high school, taking college classes at a local community college might also be an option. That might be both more interesting than what you’re doing at school, and a way to meet people who don’t go to your school and might be nicer than you. (It doesn’t always work that way, but it does for some people.)

Another option is to volunteer. Is there a cause in your area that you care about? It might be worth finding out if there’s anything that you can do to help them. Again, that could bring you into contact with other people who care about the same things you care about, and it might be something people with power over your life would approve of. Volunteering to visit elderly people might also be something you could do. There are a lot of isolated elderly people who don’t use computers who want social contact, and some of them are really awesome. Some groups that match people accept teenagers as volunteers. (Again, not for everyone, but this is a good thing for some people.)

If you’re religious or your family is, there might be things you can get involved in at your place of worship that you’d enjoy and that would expand your social options beyond kids your age at your school. If you have a youth group that is largely populated by the same kids who are mean to you at school, it might be better to get involved in something else. For instance, there might be a social action or charitable group that you could join. Or an all-ages study group. (Definitely not for everyone, especially not if religion is something you’re unpleasantly coerced into participating in. But can be good for some people.)

tl;dr Mean people aren’t good friends. It’s usually better to seek out the company of people who are nice to you than to try to make friends with mean people. Even if you are young and go to a tiny school, there are options for finding friends. Scroll up for some ideas.

Anyone else want to weigh in? How do you cope with being surrounded by mean people at school? How do you find friends?

thesarcasmofsamwise:

when you see a customer mistreating an employee

realsocialskills:

realsocialskills:

Anonymous said to :

Yesterday I saw a man being very angry with a cashier while I was standing in line. She was obviously upset and nothing she told him would calm him down, even though she wasn’t a manager or anything. I wasn’t sure if I should say…

thesarcasmofsamwise said:

When I had my first barista job (I worked in a coffee shop in a grocery store) was still in training and my manager and the other employee left to go check inventory and I was on the floor. A line formed and two women started yelling at me for taking too long and saying they wanted to get me fired because I was a lazy shit and I obviously didn’t have a work ethic, and I was fat and dumb. And the guy behind them, seeing I was almost in tears (first job I was a teenager) after they left in a huff after my manager came back and issued them a refund, immediately said he was so sorry and he thought I was doing a great job and those women were ridiculous. After he finished his shopping, he came back and told me that his coffee was one of the best drinks he’d ever had, and I shouldn’t be discouraged. He wasn’t creepy or hitting on me; he was just being genuinely nice and took the time to come back, and like ten years later I still remember that dude, because his small kindness made me feel like a human.

when you see a customer mistreating an employee

pileofmonkeys:

realsocialskills:

Anonymous said to :

Yesterday I saw a man being very angry with a cashier while I was standing in line. She was obviously upset and nothing she told him would calm him down, even though she wasn’t a manager or anything. I wasn’t sure if I should say anything to him to help her or if that would make the situation worse. What are you supposed to do when you see someone being rude to an employee?

realsocialskills said:

I’m not sure whether there are effective things you can do to directly intervene in order to defuse the situation. (Do any of you? If so, please comment.)

There are a couple of things you can do afterwards, though.

You can be nice to the cashier afterwards. Like, you can wait until he goes away and say “Wow, what an asshole.” or “That guy was really mean. I’m sorry you had to put up with that.” Being reassured that other people saw what happened, and that it wasn’t their fault someone was horrible to them, can help a lot. It’s hard for most people not to blame themselves when others berate them.

Another thing you can do is be a witness. Mean customers often decide to complain to managers and say that the employee mistreated them. Managers sometimes believe mean customers over employees. This can get people fired. If a mean customer is lying in a way that might hurt an employee, you can contradict them and tell the truth. That can protect them from being punished for a lie.

Anyone else want to weigh in? People who work as cashiers or other customer service roles - is there anything bystanders have done to protect you from mean customers that’s worked? What’s backfired? People who’ve intervened - what worked? What didn’t? 

pileofmonkeys said:

20+ years working retail here. 

As a customer, unless I feel that my safety or the safety of the employee is at stake, or unless the situation seems like it’ll resolve faster without interference, I intervene. A vast majority of the time, it’s by saying something to the other customer, like, “She has no control over that. You need to go talk to a manager,” and/or, “There’s no need for you to be talking to him like that.” If the other customer gets shitty with me, well, I’m not on the clock or employed by that store, and I can say what I want. 

I always try to say something nice to the employee when they’re helping me. A smile and, “Wow, what an asshole,” will give the employee a chance to relax and maybe laugh, and reassure them that not everyone is terrible. 

If it seems appropriate, I will talk to the manager and explain what actually happened, from an unbiased bystander’s perspective. If I can I try to do it in front of the other customer. I usually say, “I’d hate to see the employee get in trouble, so in case there’s a complaint later, this is what happened.” When at work, I’ve had customers explain to me (the manager) what they observed, and it’s very helpful. 

Honestly, I’m at the point of not giving a fuck what rude people say to or think about me. I’ve been that cashier being screamed at way too many times to watch someone else have to go through it. Yeah, one day someone may take exception and get violent, but that can happen anywhere, anytime for any or no reason, so I don’t worry too much about it. 

When teachers use ableist slurs

Anonymous asked:

Today we did a spelling test in English,and when someone asked what question two was when we were on question four, the teacher shouted. “Special NEEDS!!”. Is this acceptable??!

I don’t mind teachers swearing at us,but this seems even more inappropriate.

Should I complain?

realsocialskills said:

I think there are two questions here which may have different answers:

  • Did the teacher do something significantly wrong? and
  • Should you complain?

So I’ll consider them separately. The first question is easy. The teacher definitely did something wrong. Several things, actually.

The first thing they did wrong was insult a student who was asking a question. Teachers should encourage questions. It was entirely reasonable for the student to want to have questions they’d missed repeated. Spelling, writing, and paying attention are hard for some people, and a moment of difficulty or inattention shouldn’t mean that you’re not allowed to ask what the question was. It’s really unfair to mark students as not knowing the material when the problem was actually that you refused to make the test accessible to them. That would have been wrong no matter how the teacher chose to insult the student.

It’s especially wrong that the teacher chose to use the insult they used. When they said “special NEEDS!”, they were expressing contempt for students with learning disabilities and learning difficulties. They were also threatening students by implying that if they show disability related struggles, they won’t be seen as having a legitimate place in the class. That’s a horrible kind of sentiment.

They were also showing any students with disabilities who may have been in the room that this teacher is not a safe person to discuss disability-related struggles with. That’s awful, too.

What the teacher said was mean and hateful. Teachers ought to be building their students up, not tearing them down. Teachers ought to be teaching their students to be respectful of everyone, not participating in a culture of ableist hate. Teachers ought to be actively showing their students that they will find solutions that make it possible for them to learn; not insulting them for asking for help. They ought to be actively seeking out effective accessibility and accommodations; not mocking special needs.

The second question is more complicated, and I’m not sure I know the answer to it. It depends on a lot of different things, and I think it is on some level a personal choice.

Some options:

Complaining to the teacher directly:

  • I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this in your situation, but:
  • Some teachers who say this kind of hurtful thing don’t understand the implications of what they’re saying
  • Sometimes when someone points it out to them, they listen and stop doing it
  • This is risky, especially if you are in grade school rather than university.
  • I wouldn’t recommend talking to this teacher about the problem directly unless you have a generally good relationship to them and have reason to believe that they’d care what you think and listen seriously

Talking to another teacher:

  • Is there another teacher you trust to understand why this was an awful thing to say?
  • If so, it might be worth talking to them and seeing what they think is the best way to proceed
  • (But be careful about this too - some teachers in this situation might not understand that you’re vulnerable and might repeat things or  pressure you to confront the mean teacher in ways that are not in your interests)

Talking to an authority figure:

  • I know that it can sometimes be done effectively, but I don’t know how to describe how to do it
  • One thing is that you can’t assume that they will understand why this is a big deal
  • But you can sometimes insist that it is a big deal
  • It helps to be as polite as possible in every way aside from the fact that you’re pushing the issue
  • (Eg: It is helpful to refrain from shouting or swearing, dressing in a way that’s against the rules, or doing anything else they can claim is a discipline problem)
  • It also helps to be pushing for a specific solution. If there’s a built in thing they can do that would get you to stop bothering them, they’re much more likely to do something
  • (Figuring out what to ask for can be complicated. What do you want? Do you want the head teacher to tell your teacher that they can’t say things like that? Do you want a general memo going out about why you can’t say things like that? Do you want to put a letter of complaint in their file? Do you want to to be transferred into a different English class? You might be able to get one of those things to happen if you push in the right ways.)

Involving your parents:

  • If your parents are supportive and understand why this is a big deal, it might be worth talking to them about ways they might help you with this
  • Sometimes teachers and administrators who don’t listen to teenagers do listen to their parents
  • Parents can also sometimes be anti-helpful, so I don’t know whether this is a good idea or a bad idea for you. You’re the best judge of that.

Talking to other students:

  • You might be in a position to influence and/or support other students here.
  • Do you think other students think this was wrong? 
  • Do you think they know that you think it was wrong?
  • Knowing that someone else thinks it was wrong can make a huge difference to people who are vulnerable
  • There’s probably at least one other student who you could support in this way
  • (Possibly discreetly, like talk to a particular person alone at lunch and say something like: Hey, did you hear what Ms. Meanteacher said to Rina the other day during the spelling test? That was so mean/ableist! Why do teachers think that’s ok?“ Or "Why is Mr. Meanteacher always insulting us?”)

Beyond that, I’m not sure what to suggest. Do any of y'all have ideas about what might be effective in this situation? (Answers from people who are familiar with the education system in the UK would be particularly helpful.)

This Halloween, don't be a jerk

On Halloween, some people end up being really mean to other people, sometimes unintentionally and sometimes on purpose.

Some considerations for avoiding being a jerk:

Not everyone likes to be startled or scared:

  • Scaring people is a major part of Halloween tradition, and it’s ok to like it
  • But it’s also ok not to like it
  • And it’s wrong to scare or startle people who don’t like to be scared
  • Being scared when you don’t want to be is really, really unpleasant
  • It can also be physically or psychologically dangerous for a lot of people.
  • If you know someone doesn’t like to be scared, don’t scare them
  • If you don’t know whether someone likes to be scared, don’t scare them
  • If you think someone likes to be scared and it turns out they don’t, apologize and don’t do it again
  • If scaring people is really really important to you, consider working or volunteering at a haunted house, or making your own haunted house.
  • Scaring is ok, but it needs to be consensual

Don’t wreck people’s stuff:

  • Some people like to smash jack-o-lanterns or other decorations, sometimes at the end of the night
  • This is a mean thing to do, especially because some people, particularly children, get really emotionally attached to their decorations
  • (Especially if they have put a lot of work into creating them)
  • Some people might try to convince you that it’s just the done thing and that it doesn’t really upset anyone, but they’re wrong
  • Breaking people’s stuff is mean
  • If you want to smash pumpkins, get your own pumpkins to smash

Don’t be a jerk to people who don’t participate in trick or treating:

  • Most adults who live in areas in which kids trick or treat are happy to participate
  • It’s a good thing to do, but it’s not something anyone is obligated to do
  • Some adults don’t participate, and that’s ok
  • They might not be able to afford to buy candy
  • They might not be able to get up so much or tolerate constant interaction/doorbell ringing.
  • Halloween might be against their religion
  • They might not want to participate for any number of other reasons
  • That’s a legitimate choice, no matter why they don’t do it
  • Some people punish people who don’t participate by egging or tping their house, or banging out the door over and over.
  • Those are really mean things to do. Don’t do it.
  • Trick or treating requires consent, and it’s not ok to be mean to people who don’t participate

Just, generally speaking - if something would normally be mean, it’s mean on Halloween. If something would normally require consent, it requires consent on Halloween. Don’t be a jerk.

"Don't let people get to you"

I don’t know about you, but I’ve experienced this a lot:

  • I’ll talk about someone being mean or bigoted towards me.
  • And someone will say something like “Don’t let them get to you”, or
  • “Don’t ever let people get under your skin like that, they’re not worth it”

And in my experience, that always makes me feel worse. This is what I eventually figured out about it:

Things hurt.

It’s not your fault that it hurts when people are awful to you.

It’s not your fault you care what people think of you sometimes. (Everyone does.)

Having connections to others matters. And when people we’re connected to are mean, it hurts.

Self esteem talk can end up being yet another stick to beat you with, and that’s not right either. 

Being hurt by mean people doesn’t mean you’re failing. It’s not possible to be completely invulnerable at all times. When someone’s shooting arrows at you, it’s not your fault for failing to make armor fast enough to stop them.

You’re ok. They’re mean.

kyraneko:

realsocialskills:

angelrat:

Nonviolent Communication can hurt people

foxship:

agent-hardass:

realsocialskills:

People who struggle interpersonally, who seem unhappy, or who get into a lot of conflicts are often advised to adopt the approach of Nonviolent Communication.

This is often not a good idea. Nonviolent Communication is an approach…

angelrat said:

It’s also not much help if you’re being bullied. It’s like the “stop it, I don’t like it” technique that children are advised to use … the obvious response from the bully is “good, objective attained, I’ll do that again now I know you don’t like it”. I have never seen the sense in “stop it, I don’t like it” as the entire point of the bullying behaviour is to do something the other person does not like.

realsocialskills said:

Yes, exactly. I’ve been trying to write some posts for ages about why it’s wrong to teach kids strategies like that. It’s - it’s not ok to make yourself feel better about the world by teaching vulnerable people things you wish were true. They need to know how things actually work so that they can protect themselves rather than walking into greater danger.

kyraneko said:

Thank you. Openly and honestly telling kids that bullies exist and the official authorities are rarely much good at stopping them (and sometimes are bullies themselves), and then teaching them how bullies function, and then letting the kids use their own understanding of their situations to decide what to do, would work so much better than all these adultsplaining how-to’s that pretend bullies are an occasional bother with no official support that are only bullying you because you haven’t really communicated to them that it’s hurtful to you …

You make kids stronger and more resiliant to bullying by telling them that they matter with actions as well as words. You teach them that they deserve better than to be bullied by interfering with the bullying of them that you witness, and believing them about the bullying you don’t witness, and giving them whatever tools they need to defend themselves when you’re not around to do it for them.

Authorities often refrain from interfering with bullying because “they’ve got to learn to defend themselves,” but no one tells an airplane that since it has wings, it doesn’t need a runway because “you’ve got to learn to fly on your own.” And it only gets worse when they engage in such distortion of reality to make dealing with bullies sound like such an easy thing. The victim goes out with the wrong information, fails, and then gets chided for hir lack of success at such an “easy” task, while the authority figure goes on blissfully believing the world is that simple and that the problem will be fixed once her wayward charge “gets it” and makes the bully stop by “standing up for hirself” in the approved nonviolent fashion, which will totally work once it gets around to happening. No hurry.

Fuck that. Get the kid an understanding of how bullies work and how the rest of the world works, sparing no illusion about teachers who make excuses to let bullies bully or punish their victims instead, and then let the kid decide what’s the best course of action to take.

When people you love are mean

So, in a recent post in which I referenced “You’re ok, they’re mean” as a response to ableism, I got responses along the lines of:

“But what about when it’s my parents? Or people who are really nice in other ways? Or my friends? Or people I respect? How can I say they are mean?”

The short answer: people are complicated. 

It’s possible for someone to be mean sometimes, but not always. Actually, most people aren’t mean all the time. (Even if they are mean to *you* all the time).

Hateful aspects of someone’s personality or behavior don’t cancel out the parts of them that are loving and respectful. They coexist.

And it cuts both ways - the loving or respectful aspects of their personality or behavior don’t cancel out the parts of them that are mean. 

When they are being mean, it’s important to recognize that they are being mean, and that it’s wrong for them to be mean to you. Even though they aren’t mean all the time and you respect them in other ways.

Sometimes, when people who you love are mean, it’s possible to talk to them about it and show them that it hurts you. Sometimes they don’t realize they’re being mean, and sometimes they stop once they realize. But not always. Sometimes they don’t believe you, or don’t care. You have to use your judgement about which kind of situation you’re in.

And in any case, it starts by recognizing the mean behavior or attitudes as mean. If people think less of you because of your disability, or who you love, or anything else like that, they’re being mean. It’s a reflection on them, not you.

You’re ok. They’re mean.