Is beating up the bully ever ok . . . even if it’s with your pink Cinderella lunch box?

Thanks to my colleague Katina Parker for sharing this link with me:

After the show, a 53 year-old, proudly gay man (“I knew I was gay since I could spell it”) tells Oprah about his experiences being bullied as a child. When he asked his father for help escaping the bullies, his father told him he had better not come home until he had fought them. After which he proceeded to kick some serious elementary school behind with his pink Cinderella lunch box.

So much to unpack here — for example, some folks regret the glorification of retributive violence, even if it does make a funny and satisfying story. What do you think? I find myself just grateful for whomever bought a pink lunchbox for this little boy more than forty years ago.

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4 Responses to Is beating up the bully ever ok . . . even if it’s with your pink Cinderella lunch box?

  1. Judy says:

    When adults don’t or can’t (because of proximity) step in and create a safe environment, retributive violence is sometimes the only way to get the bully to stop.

    I used to work a second, very part time, job while my older 2 were in school. One morning, as I dropped them off, I told them that they’d have to call their dad for any emergencies as I wouldn’t be easily accessible. When I arrived to pick them up, I was called into the principal’s office. My oldest had chosen that day to retaliate against one of the classroom bullies. The principal thought he wasn’t getting enough attention from his dad. Her jaw dropped when I enlightened her. I’d been advocating getting the teachers to do their jobs and control the bullying in the classroom. His father had instructed him to hit the kid — just once.

    I wish I could say that the bullying stopped. It got better for a while, but since the administration at that school had a “boys will be boys” attitude, there was only one way to get it to stop. Not retributive violence. The next time there was a serious incident I informed the principal that I’d be calling the police if anything else happened to my son at her school. Amazingly, she was able to get the bullies to leave my son alone for the rest of the year.

    The following year we opted to homeschool him.

  2. Bill Salyers says:

    The “myth of redemptive violence” (as Walter Wink calls it) has a powerful hold on imagination and feeds fantasies of “getting even.” Of course the last one hit never thinks its even, and violence is never redemptive and never ‘fixes’ anything. A friend here in Springfield, Ohio, moved her son to a different school because the principal and administration of his school was utterly indifferent to the injustice of bullying.

  3. I was bullied in the 70’s like Tommy. The attitude from the faculty and Principal was “boys will be boys” thus ignorred. One day (and I have never shared this with anyone even my parents) a guy who had been bullying me for months had called me faggot one too many times. I was walking to class and he tackled me from behind and made me drop all my books. He had never before touched me. He was not comming at me for a second hit, but strolling on his merry way. I took my biology book in hand, ran up behind him and bitch slapped him across the back of the head with that very large heavy book. He never messed with me or another student again. I actually got a standing ovation from the kids in the hall.
    Had I severly injured him, I would have gone to jail for assault as it was clearly not self-defense. Would I do it again? HELL YES. I was a very astute pentecostal boy taught by Jesus’ words to always turn the other cheek and love those who hate you. But bullying messes with your head… just as this kids hatred learned from his parents messed with his head.
    Untill parrents and school administrators take bullying VERY seriously these incidents will only escilate. There are many in the news. Gay kids are being taught “It gets better” and they are standing up for themselves. I could have killed that kid with my biology book… and to be frank I wouldn’t have cared at that moment. In the courts they would call that EED…. extreme emotional distress. Thank God all he got was a bruise on the ear.

    • pink says:

      Thank you for your testimony. It brings up so much for me – the emotional distress bullying causes and how long it lasts, how it affects bystanders even when they’re not targeted, the dilemma of how to stand up for ourselves and our kids effectively in an often broken system. I love your wisdom about how hate passed on from families messes with all kids’ heads, even (or especially) the bullies.

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