Bluths, bullying and backlash: what the Jessica Walter interview shows us about how our culture deals with abusive behaviour.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the recent backlash that’s hit regarding an interview of the Arrested Development cast.  In the interview, Jessica Walter (who plays Lucille Bluth in the cult comedy) talks about how cast-mate Jeffrey Tambor verbally abused her on set. Despite the fact that Jessica is obviously distressed, many of the cast members present at the interview awkwardly addressed the issue, saying things like “all families have arguments” and “Difficult people are all part of the business”.  This interview struck a chord with me, and it’s only right now that I’ve been able to put my finger on the reason why.

lucille-bluth-2

Whenever people ask why individuals who are abused, bullied or harassed don’t speak up about the way that they’re being treated, I’m going to refer them to this interview.  Because this interview perfectly illustrates one of the main reasons: because people who are being bullied or abused are afraid that those around them won’t take them seriously.  They’re fearful of being told that they’re overreacting or that their experiences will be swept aside.  When you listen to the audio of the interview, you can hear Jessica Walter’s voice has a tremor.  You can hear her crying.  It’s evident that she is hurt and distressed.  And still, her co-workers gloss over her experience and tell her that it’s all part of the job.

I’ve sat in that spot many times.  On numerous occasions I’ve worked with people who were physically and verbally aggressive.  And many times when I’ve raised my concerns about their behaviour and the fact that it made me uncomfortable or fearful, I was told “Well, that’s just their personality.  It’s not about you so just don’t take it to heart” or “Well, this job is stressful and that’s just how they react to stress”.  It’s so upsetting to work up that courage to speak up about the way you’re being treated only to be told to “get over it and don’t take it personally”.

Now, I think it’s really important to note a few facts about Jessica Walter’s background.  She is a seasoned, experienced actress in her seventies.  She’s articulate and intelligent.  And still, when she speaks up about her upsetting experience, her co-workers don’t take her seriously.  When a woman who has credibility and is able to express herself clearly says she’s been abused, and doesn’t garner any respect or kindness from her male co-workers, what message does that send to someone younger, less experienced, less able to advocate for themselves?  It says to them that if they speak up, they probably won’t be believed or treated with dignity or respect either.  Because hell, if a woman with sixty years experience in her job and a sharp mind and tongue isn’t taken seriously, well why would someone younger and greener be?

For a person who is being abused or bullied to call out the behaviour of their attacker takes huge strength and courage.  It’s an immensely frightening thing to say those words, even to someone you trust.  And when that effort is rewarded with the reaction that “we all have to deal with this” or “It’s just how that person is with everyone”, it makes the person speaking up feel even more isolated and helpless.

 

I feel like there’s a huge problem in our culture when it comes to dealing with abuse and harassment.  Often, much of the burden of dealing with bullying is placed on the victim, and a lot of blame is tossed their way if they don’t speak up.  And yet, when someone does call out unacceptable behaviour in a very public manner, they aren’t taken seriously or treated with care.  This interview is a snapshot of that dynamic playing out in real time, and it highlights how badly we need to examine how we treat people who vocalise their experiences with abuse and bullying.  We need to stop asking people to speak up and then turning them away when they do.  If people are going to report abuse and harassment, they need to be assured that their efforts will be met with respect and care, not blaming and shrugs.

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Things I Love Thursday 7/3/2013

Hip, hip hooray!  Thursday is here again, which means that it’s time to think of all the things I love this week.  It’s been a massive seven days, and I have to admit that I’m feeling a wee bit knacked.  I’ve been on the brink of being totally overwhelmed a couple of times this week, and I think that a good dose of reflection and gratitude will have been feeling bright and bouncy again.

This week, I love:

DSCF7741– Capturing this photo of Jelly watching The Lion King 2.  I wasn’t such a fan of the movie, but apparently Jelly thought it was great.  (Excuse my messy loungeroom)

– Surprise visits.  I got a message during the week from one of my best friends, that read, “What are you up to right now?”  When I replied “Not much” she sent back, ” Good, because I’m outside your house!”  She was mid-road trip and decided to stop in for a breather.  I was so excited!  She’s never seen our house before so I gave her the grand tour.  We chatted for an hour before she had to hit the road again.  It was so lovely to see her and even lovelier for it to be a surprise.

– My duck-egg blue teapot, filled with oolong tea, perched on my desk.

– Rain.  At last!

-Reading aloud.  Ross and I have gotten a bit sick of television of late, so for a change we’ve been reading a book together.  We grabbed a copy of Terry Pratchett’s Maskerade from the library, and we’re taking it in turns to read aloud.  It’s been loads of fun (particularly because Ross does all the voices while he’s reading).  In many ways, it’s nicer than just vegging out on the couch together.

– Jay and Silent Bob Get Old.  We’ve been watching this on DVD (in between chapters of the book) and it’s awesome.  It’s very rude and crude, but I like that kind of thing.  I particularly enjoyed the story about how Jason Mewes stuffed up thousands of dollars of dental work with one very vigorous oral sex session.  Ooh-er!

– Planning new blog series.  I had a brilliant idea for a makeup tutorial series, and the first installment should be up next week.  I am so flippin’ excited about it!

– This video, which Ross showed me during the week.  So beautiful and yet so sad.

– Gorgeous letters from amazing friends.

– Cleaning out my blogroll, and getting rid of all the sites that don’t make me excited when I see they’ve published something new.

– Anticipation for Oz The Great and Powerful.

And finally, this video, which I think I should adopt as my personal theme tune:

 

I hope you had a fab week.  What do you love this Thursday!

The worst thing about being bullied.

October is Anti-Bullying month.  After reading a number of posts on other blogs about bullying, I did some serious thinking about my own bullying experience.

 I was viciously bullied for the first four years of high school.  From the time I was 12 years old until I was sixteen.  During this time, I was emotionally and physically abused.  I was hit, kicked, and punched.  I had a plethora of awful nicknames.  Boys would wave lit matches along the ends of my hair on the school bus, singeing it, while whispering in my ear that they wished I would burn to death.  One boy regularly threatened that he would come to my house and kill my pets.  I was spat on in the hallways at school.  P.E was my least favourite class, because it opened up a range of new torture options to my bullies.  On the sports field, it was easy to pass off a trip, a punch or a jab as an accident.  They could say whatever they wanted to me without the teacher hearing.  It got to the point where I was terrified to leave my own bedroom.  I was lonely and depressed.

The worst part of being bullied wasn’t the physical abuse.  It wasn’t the name calling or threats.  The worst part wasn’t having boys trying to put their hands up my skirt when I walked past, or having a girl grab my arm and bend it painfully behind me, boasting that she was going to break it.

The worst part of being bullied was constantly asking the question, “Why me?”

I spent years wondering what it was about me that attracted the bullies.  I wasted countless hours trying to understand why they hated me so much, and why they’d chosen me to pick on.  Television and movies had taught me that there are always bullies, and bullies need somebody to bully.  I just couldn’t understand why that person had to be me.

I asked myself this question over and over.  I figured that if I could identify that one offensive quality that made them despise me, then I could change it and they’d leave me alone.

Spending so much time actively looking for reasons why people didn’t like me took it’s toll.  Asking “Why me?”  forced me to focus on all the negative parts of myself.  All this critical thinking wreaked havoc on my self worth, and created a constant feeling of self loathing.

The worst part of being bullied was that question, “Why me?”  By forcing me to ask that question over and over, my bullies had inadvertently created a situation where I slowly dismantled my own self esteem from within. I actually helped them to break down my belief in myself, and to destroy every shred of self confidence I had.  I wasted so much time and energy looking for reasons why I wasn’t worthy of their acceptance, when I should have been spending that time celebrating all the reasons why the most important people in my life loved me.  That was the worst thing about being bullied.

Blogger pressure: it’s a little bit bullshit.

When I started writing my blog, it was just for fun.  I wanted a creative outlet and blogging seemed like a good way to do it.  After some time, some of my readers started sending me emails and messages asking for advice and daily outfit photos.  I have always had a passion for fashion and it was a great opportunity to impart some wisdom to people who were interested.

 

It has always been my hope that my blog would be a source of inspiration to others.  I wanted to inject a little fun into my reader’s day.  I wanted to inspire people who wanted to express themselves through fashion, but didn’t have the courage or who didn’t know where to start.  It has never been my intention to judge people, or to push people  into anything that they didn’t want to do.  The last thing I want is for people to read my blog and feel any sort of pressure to change themselves.

 

I have noticed that some bloggers have lost their sparkle.  Rather than being interesting, fun and inspiring, they have taken a turn towards judgemental, bitchy and coercive.  It’s one thing to share your own sense of style with others, but it is quite another to condemn people who do not subscribe to your lifestyle.

 

I dress the way I do because I enjoy it.  I have marvellous fun experimenting with new makeup and hairstyles, and mixing and matching different outfits.  I love expressing myself through fashion.  I don’t dress the way I do because I feel pressured to do so, I do it for my own enjoyment.

 

There are plenty of intelligent, articulate, hilarious and fascinating people in the world who don’t spend more than five minutes each day on grooming.  Some people do little more than shower, brush their teeth and drag a comb through their hair and there is nothing wrong with that.  The only time that this becomes a problem is when that person doesn’t enjoy this, when they long to dress a little more experimentally but are too afraid or too overwhelmed to try it.

 

I believe that the role of a fashion blogger is to inspire and encourage.  It is to show people how to do the things they want to try and guide them into a fun world of fashion experimentation.  Sometimes, it’s just to supply a fun photograph each day that the reader enjoys looking at.  It is not the role of a fashion blogger to make people feel bad about their lifestyle choices, to condemn those who choose not to spend as long as some of us on our grooming or appearance.

 

If a blog is making you feel bad about yourself, it might be time to ask you why you are still reading.  A blog should make you feel excited to try something new, or even just provide light entertainment.  The message should be “This is how I do this, and you can give it a try if you want”, rather than “If you aren’t doing things my way, you’re doing it wrong”.  You should never log off feeling like you have less worth or that your life is somehow deficient because you aren’t doing things the way the blogger does.

 

It seems to me that blogging pressure has become the new peer pressure.  There is a kind of bully mentality in some bloggng circles that everyone should be perfectly coiffed and made up every single day, and if you aren’t then you are lazy, or slobbish or dull.

 

This pressure is bullshit, and like any other bully, these blogger-snobs should just be ignored.  The most powerful way to speak in the web world isn’t by leaving a nasty comment or hateful e-mail, it’s by logging off.  Because if nobody is reading, then the web-bullies have no voice.

 

Choose only to read blogs that inspire you and make you feel good about yourself.  Read the ones that leave your mind snap-crackling and popping with new ideas and excited thoughts.  Cull all the nasty blogs from your favorites list, and engage in a little positivity.  Do what makes you feel happy, and don’t engage those who would put you down.  It’s bad for the soul, and easily avoided.

 

 

There’s nothing wrong with slobbing in a tracksuit.  In fact, some days, it’s just what the doctor ordered.