Does Bullying Pay?

Today,  it’s National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence in Australia. It’s also Troll Free Day, which focuses directly on cyberbullying.

While these are fantastic initiatives, there’s still so much more which needs to be done.

Questions which need to be asked.

By the way, when I mention bullying, I’m not just talking about kids either.

Indeed, bullies grow up.

While we publicly denounce bullying, for me the big elephant in the room still remains: does bullying pay? Do you need to be the bulldozer, wiping out everyone and everything in your path to get ahead? Or, is there still a place for respect? Teamwork? Being nice?

I don’t know.

Deny it though we might, what do our collective actions say?

As a society, I don’t believe our report card is good. Scratch through the veneer and I’m afraid the verdict doesn’t require much deliberation at all.

Guilty as charged.

However, declaring a National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence is an important step. It not only raises awareness but it reinforces that bullying is not okay. Likewise, Troll Free Day, does the same with cyberbullying.

This a huge step forward from when I was a kid and bullies were boys.Girls supposedly smiled sweetly, slipping right under the radar, despite those incredibly long fingernails which could do incredible damage.


Indeed, attending an all girls’ school, there was no such thing as bullying. There were the “popular girls” and the “losers” and it might even depend on the direction of the wind as to where you “belonged” at any given time.

When I was at high school, I endured years of brutal put downs and attacks due to my poor coordination. More than just a duck and not a swan, I had undiagnosed hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain which produced a swag of symptoms which were simply deemed “Rowena”.

People, even friends, emulated and made fun of how I walked not just behind my back but to my very face. There was a level of mean cruelty that I can’t even begin to explain. I just swallowed it and kept swallowing it. I had no choice. There was no escape. At least, that’s what I thought. Fortunately, not everybody was like this and there was kindness. People who didn’t just take pity on me but valued me as a person. Were my friend.

I can’t recall anyone ever getting in trouble for this bullying or the school taking any action whatsoever and my parents were never contacted. Even when I zoned out for a year and a half, I was left to my own devices because I wasn’t bothering anyone. I cut up magazines in class, decorating my school diary and wrote lengthy letters in class to friends at other schools but it took a long time for anyone to step in. I eventually got a new maths teacher who instantly confiscated my diary and scissors. I was in shock. Somewhere around this point, Mum, who was used to glowing reports, heard quite a different story. No doubt she heard I was “zoned out” or “distracted”…not that I was being bullied. That I was showing very evident signs of depression, which might have been a serious concern. But, as I said, we didn’t have bullying at our school…just beautiful people.

I never said a word about what was going on. What could I say? How could I possibly put all that hurt and cruelty into words? I did end up seeing the school counsellor but I’m not sure if I ever mentioned that in particular.Remember “bullying” wasn’t a term I could use back then.

What I went through was bad enough. Yet, it is comparatively minor.

Fortunately, once I left school and started university, I never looked back. I was the same person and yet, I had loads of friends and things were radically different. Go figure. I was still me.

Others never escape. Indeed, bullying and suicide are inextricably linked.

I do wonder what those girls who bullied me are doing now that they’ve grown up? I certainly haven’t received any apologies in the mail. No confessions either. Don’t you ever wonder how bullies sleep at night? Or, perhaps school was just a stepping stone to greater heights? That they’re still knocking other people down to get what they want, be it popularity, status, money, that promotion? Doing whatever it takes!

Speaking of bigger arenas, dare I mention anyone in particular?

No! I’ll leave that up to you.

Meanwhile, click  Here if you like to find out more about Troll Free Day. I recently also wrote a fictional poem about bullying… Hopscotched.

xx Rowena

13 thoughts on “Does Bullying Pay?

  1. Midwestern Plant Girl

    I will admit I was on both sides of bullying as a kid. I was middle-of-the-road… ‘bullied’ by popular kids and I bullied kids not in the popular group. I was 5’4″ in 6th grade with boobs. I was called Orca because of my adult size. After grade school, I wasn’t the only large kid, and the bullying ended, so did my tirade on others. I’m not excusing my behavior. It was wrong to focus my bain on others. I’m just trying to say it’s contagious and needs to stop.

  2. roweeee Post author

    Thanks for your honesty. Puberty is a terrible time for most kids. Actually, the the onset which is worst. Both of my kids are young for their year and both Geoff’s brother and I were late bloomers but he was 6ft 2″ and I’m 5ft 10″ so once we started growing, we took off. My son says he’s the second shortest in his class and other kids are starting to date. His friend has a girlfriend and I said to him to watch out for him and make sure he’s careful. He turned the car radio up.
    The whole pecking order thing is bad at school and if you can somehow escape being the most likely target, it isn’t quite so bad. I understand these thing much better now as an adult and after watching the kids en masse at the school. We advise our son to blend in a bit at school. It’s the reverse advice that you’d give to a shy child.
    From what I’ve read the bullying has intensified a lot with social media and phones etc. Kids can be brutalised so quickly. Nasty stuff.

  3. roweeee Post author

    Thanks for sharing this. It was really helpful today at my daughter’s birthday party. There was a bit of discussion about height and your comments really helped me appreciate what it is like for girls who have an earlier growth spurt. I was a later bloomer and grew something like 15-20 cm in a year when I was 15-16. I am now usually a head taller than most women but I’m not usually conscious of it.

  4. Norah

    Thanks for starting the discussion, Rowena. Some people don’t realise they are bullying, don’t realise the effect of their words and how hurtful they can be. No matter how hard we try to develop resilience in our children, in ourselves, there is no denying the power of words to inflict pain. If one hears the same messages repeated often enough, it is difficult to not begin to think there might be some truth in them. Funny how we are more inclined to believe the negatives than the positives though.

  5. Midwestern Plant Girl

    It was hard being the only girl wearing a bra. I wore layers to avoid having my bra snapped. But then again I did have my size on my side. If a boy snapped my bra, he’d better run as I was 2x his size 😉
    Yes, in retrospect, I may have been teased out of jealousy. Who didn’t want to grow up fast those days? ! I just didn’t want to be different.
    I was also hoping I wasn’t going to be 6 feet tall either! But no, I stayed 5’4″ to this day.

  6. roweeee Post author

    That would have been hard. I remember seeing a girl in my class wearing a bra in year 6 and it was like a spaceship had landed. I know other girls who were really skinny and under developed until they were 15-16 and anxious about that. As much as I’d like to rewind the clock, please don’t take me back to high school. Ouch! Ging through that all over again? No way!!

  7. New Journey

    great post….and I have run into bullies in the adult world…only good thing about being a grown up, I don’t back down from them…being a passive person generally, I try to just go along with the flow, but some adults are just not capable of playing nicely with others…I am sure they were this way their entire life…..and to be honest when I read Troll Free Day my first thought was The Three Billy Goats Gruff…LOL not to make light of a serious topic….thanks for always reminding us of the important parts of life…xxxkat

  8. merrildsmith

    This is an important topic. As you say, it’s not just kids. I’ve seen some articles recently on how schools/teachers have been trying to handle remarks and behavior of our presidential candidates here in the U.S.–when what they are saying and doing is so at odds with the anti-bullying policies the schools are trying to espouse and enforce.

  9. livebysurprise

    Girls can be insidious. I had it at my school too…I changed schools and stopped interacting all together. Which makes its own problems. I’m glad that there’s a “day” now and people are more aware of it.

  10. roweeee Post author

    I’m so sorry to hear what you went through, especially your decision to withdraw…even though I so understand it. Did that myself through zoning out at school but I was lucky that I had great friends out of school once I was about 14. It was quite strange because some of these people were quite popular and trendy so not everybody like that is nasty, or they were perhaps nasty to other people. I have heard some of my daughter’s friends talk about being friends with boys instead like I was but it saddens me that they have reached that conclusion so young. I am now telling my daughter that the way she treats others girls, can change their whole direction. That thought is both scary and hopeful. I hope she can be a good friend and give the girls a better reputation! Mind you, that’s a huge ask for one kid but I’m always saying that there’s power in numbers. Hopefully, they can stack the numbers on the good side for a change! xx Rowena

  11. roweeee Post author

    Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply, Nkiru. Would you mind replying with a link through to your post on cyberbullying and I’ll check it out.
    xx Rowena

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