On the Origins of Bullying

I just found a brilliant, brilliant, brilliant post about bullying:

This is sort of a common cultural trope – kids are embarrassed by their parents, the parents see the kids’ embarrassment as foolish and invalid, and the parents therefore take a certain delight in embarrassing their kids.  And, as a cultural trope, it’s seen as all in good fun, at least by the parents.

But it seems to me that this is the kind of thing that could foster bullying attitudes.

A kid in a family like this will learn that feelings aren’t worth respecting. If someone finds something humiliating, taking advantage of that fact to make them feel humiliated is normal, valid, and entertaining.  Surely no good can come of taking that attitude into the schoolyard with them!  The kid will also learn (as I did) that baseline human reality is that people want to embarrass you, and develop self-worth and defense mechanisms accordingly.

In the midst of all the crap published nowadays on the subject of bullying, it is very refreshing to see a blogger offer an intelligent, insightful analysis that is not based on the same tired collection of platitudes one encounters everywhere.

If children learn to see the world as menacing, hostile, and out to hurt one in a variety of unpredictable ways, they will grow up to have every aspect of their lives infected by this worldview. I have no doubt that most parents have absolutely no idea what a powerful effect their ill-considered casual remarks and actions have. “Why is my daughter always so sad? Why does she have trouble falling asleep? Why is my son suffering from anxiety?” they ask, oblivious to how their own actions turned their children into perennially terrified, anxious creatures who see the world as a profoundly unsafe place.

What People Mean When They Talk About Demography

In the aftermath of this election I’m hearing a lot of commentary on how the Republicans are doomed by demography.

I’m hearing this a lot, too. Of course, using the word “demography” in the context of the recent election  is just a way to avoid recognizing that the progress is unstoppable and that the sexual mores of unhinged fundamentalists are of no interest to the majority of this country’s population any longer.

If you are unhappy with today’s “demography” (a.k.a. the progressive secular turn this country has experienced), then brace yourself. In 10 years, today’s “demography” will look like a conservative’s dream come true.

Mothers and Machismo

Nothing is more entertaining than observing an older Hispanic male academic at a feminist conference.

On Saturday, I visited a panel at our conference where a female academic was analyzing machismo (sexism) in a Latin American novel.

“Let me explain you what machismo is about!” a fiftyish male academic from Venezuela interrupted her.

We all know how much feminists dig listening to men explain things to them, especially things such as machismo, so everybody fell into a stunned silence.

“Have you ever wondered why the words “machismo” and “mother” start with the same letter?” the male academic continued unperturbed. “Mothers are the root of sexism.”

Given that most of the women in the audience were mothers and that all of us were philologists, the comment did not go over too well.