This was previously published on intercourse with biscuits.
My mum went to the school. I was 15 years old and nearing the end of five years of bullying. Kicked in corridors, spat on, verbally abused daily. The latest issue was boys bandying about “gay” as a slur.
I’m not gay but it rightly offended me to hear them spitting out those slurs with impunity. I was punished by the deputy headmaster, a moustachioed sergeant-major-type, for wearing the wrong kind of coat. The bullies suffered no sanctions whatsoever for being hateful on an almost hourly basis. They played sport and wore the right shoes.
This is the terror of banter. It was banter that fuelled the pathetic Unilad website. It’s banter that turns sports teams and societies in universities into sources of sanctioned abuse. Banter has been with us for many years. When my mum told the teacher that those boys were using homophobic abuse as a regular part of their daily interactions he smiled and told her: “Boys will be boys. It’s just … banter.”
I had to ‘toughen up’ because I didn’t think that fostering that kind of atmosphere was appropriate. It’s all banter until someone dies. And they do die. Driven to killing themselves by “banter,”, driven to hurting themselves by “banter.” Banter is often a flag of convenience for vicious, hateful words.
And if you’re an adult who utters the old saw, “kids can be cruel,” you’re a coward and guilty of moral weakness. Kids can be cruel, it’s true, but adults have a responsibility to do something about it. Schools are not meant to be Darwinian test tubes to see which children can survive the taunts.
There’s a new film out called Bully. It’s been slapped with a R-rating in the US which means the very kids that should see it will not technically be able to. It needs to be seen. The effects of the insults and the punches and the endless abuse need to be seen. The reason for the R-rating is “bad language.” There are very many things worse for children than hearing bad language. The censorious small-minded folk at the MPAA are the same type of people who dismiss bullying as “boys will be boys” stuff and all part of growing up. If I have a chip on my shoulder, there’s a list of people I knew when I was 11 years old who deserve to take part of the blame.