Guest Blogger: Carrie Goldman

After I posted Tired, the ninth post in my series about combating bullying at my son’s school, I received some lovely, supportive comments from my readers. Thank you. Your words give me hope, encouragement, and strength.

And then I received this comment, in which a reader named Robin Hanson told me that I’m “asinine” and “delusional.” And that Sam should grow a thicker skin—that he should stop acting feminine, lose weight, and be “less conspicuous.”

I should mention that Robin Hanson, or a man claiming to be Robin Hanson, later denied having posted this comment, claiming that someone else claiming to be him wrote the comment in his stead.

“This is a dog eat dog world,” Mr.-Hanson-or-not-Mr.-Hanson told me, and I should “cut the cord” and realize my son needs to defend himself. He said I am an “overprotective mother” who is obstructing society.

And then Mr. Hanson told me he hoped I didn’t take his comments personally.

Oh? He also recommended the Atkins diet for Sam. Mr. Hanson believes that Sam is an overeater who lacks self-control, plays video games all day, and doesn’t exercise. Because, you know, that’s the story with ALL fat people.

Mr. Hanson wrapped up his very long comment by asking, “You have to take control at some point, so why not today?”

Well honey, let me tell you.

This is mama taking control.

Of course, the first step of taking control was acknowledging that my blood was boiling a bit too much for me to speak coherently. The second step was re-reading your awesome comments, which helped. And the third step was engaging the help of the super-charged anti-bullying activist Carrie Goldman.

You may remember Carrie as the mom of Katie the Star Wars Girl. Carrie’s writing about the teasing Katie faced for carrying a Star Wars water bottle to school launched a national outcry against bullying, followed by over 15,000 comments from websites around the world in support of Katie’s right to be exactly who she is. You’ll be pleased to know that Carrie—whose posts about princess boys, princess girls, and gendered marketing are all well worth reading—is now working on a book about her experiences and bullying prevention.

I asked Carrie to join me as a guest blogger in order to respond to Mr. Hanson’s comment. So, so, SO many thanks to Carrie for taking up the challenge, and for being an inspiration to me—and to so many parents and kids around the world.

Here is what Carrie has to say. Today.

 

GUEST BLOGGER CARRIE GOLDMAN RESPONDS TO MR. HANSON

Mr. Hanson asks, “Why is it the duty of the school… the taxpayers…the parents you’ve attempted to ‘rally,’ to devote so much time, effort, energy, money, and resources to such a small proportion of the population… (your son)?

Here’s the thing about bullying: the circle of people affected is much larger than the victim. Since we know that Sam is not bullying himself, we can safely assume that there are other children involved. Where there are victims, there are bullies—and kids who engage in bullying are in need of intervention just as much as the kids they victimize.

According to a 2007 study by Sourander et al, bullying behavior is predictive of future substance abuse, depression, and anxiety. Other research shows that simply witnessing bullying creates anxiety and depression. As Mr. Hanson is concerned about the economy, he might consider the economic impact of allowing Sam’s bullies to continue without intervention. Shall we turn a blind eye as all children—bullies, victims, bystanders—walk the path towards increased risk of health and mental health disease? The cost to society from these conditions is far higher than the cost of teaching kids empathy and respect.

I fear that, beyond misunderstanding the harm that bullies to do themselves and to bystanders, Mr. Hanson underestimates the harm done to targeted victims. This is a common misperception. In Bullying in North American Schools, Susan P. Limber writes:

Some adults seriously underestimate bullying’s frequency.  (“Kids will be kids,” “It’s a normal part of growing up,” “Kids need to learn to deal with bullying on their own.”)  These adults misjudge the significant social, emotional, and academic costs of bullying for victimized children and overestimate the ability of victimized children to stop bullying without the assistance of adults.

“Sometimes people conflict,” Mr. Hanson’s comment continues, “and there are no institutional policies that can ever solve this.”  But “conflict” implies the possibility of resolution, a possibility that doesn’t exist when one child is simply being mean to another. Barbara Coloroso, author of the international bestseller The Bully, The Bullied, and the Bystander, writes:

Too often, kids who have bullied and kids they have bullied are forced into conflict resolution workshops—but remember, bullying is not about conflict; it is about contempt.  There is no conflict to be resolved.

Disagreements, occasional fights, and social conflicts are all normal parts of childhood. But bullying—repetitive, unwanted attacks in the context of a power imbalance—is not normative, and it cannot be lumped in with typical childhood conflict.

Mr. Hanson suggests that Sam grow a thicker skin and fight back, or, alternately, to change to become “less conspicuous.” (“If you must stand out,” he advises, “stand out on your own two feet, not being propped up by the rudimentary defenses of an overprotective mother.”) This is a classic case of blaming the victim for the attack. In the 1970s, police officers asked rape victims, “Well, what were you wearing?” Today they would never ask such a question; the new social norm is that a woman should be able to wear whatever she wants and walk safely.

Telling Sam to stop acting so femininely and lose weight is the same thing as telling a rape victim to wear different clothes. Sam has the right to be who he is, and still walk safely through his school.

As Stan Davis, anti-bullying expert and author of Schools Where Everyone Belongs told me in an interview:

School is the kids’ workplace. A good workplace requires people to work together. At your job, you don’t get to say, “I don’t want to work with black people or gay people.”  In a good workplace, you have to keep your unkind thoughts to yourself.  We aren’t saying they all have to be friends. But what they do need to be is collegial and supportive, even for people they won’t let in their personal life on a bet.

Sarah is not asking people to like her son. She is, however, insisting that he be treated with respect. Respect is a basic human right, something we owe to Sam and all children.

Everything about Mr. Hanson’s approach runs counter to the goals of a respectful community.  His tone is condescending; he blames Sam for being bullied; and he makes judgmental, uneducated assumptions about Sam’s lifestyle and Sarah’s parenting. A child should not have to hide his gender expression and physical characteristics or limitations in order to fit in.

Would Mr. Hanson tell an African-American child to lighten their skin (or a short child to use growth hormone, or a child in a wheelchair to get up and walk) so other kids wouldn’t bully them?

As long as there are adults who hold opinions like Mr. Hanson’s, it will be difficult to teach compassion to children. But change must happen at some point, so why not today?

—Carrie Goldman, 2011

Check out Carrie’s blog here.

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Comments

  1. Farah Mendlesohn says

    The moment anyone brings up the “the burden falls on the taxpayer” crap we should all collectively respond:

    “But we are the taxpayers.”

  2. says

    Sarah Hoffman – your blog gives me goosebumps! I was expecting to read something depressing and read about a lot of dead ends trying to get things accomplished for your son but you have managed to create something positive and encouraging and amazing. My boys (5, 4 and 18 months) have not had to face bullying but I know now from reading your words that I would be ready to take it head on and to rally the community behind me. I would have assumed (as you did in the beginning) that it was just a problem for our family to deal with. Thanks for spreading your message and taking action and making a difference in more lives than you will ever know!

  3. Amber says

    The fundamental ‘point’ being made by Mr.-Hanson-or-not-Mr.-Hanson seems to be that bullying is a lifelong problem and that outside of school there is nothing to be done about it. I don’t know if he experienced a difficult childhood himself and now feels like no one else deserves the ‘easy way out,’ or if he is holding on to some other deep rooted pain, but this assumption about society could not be further from truth and is not based on fact.

    If you are tormented at work, for no reason other than contempt, your employer has a legal responsibility to step in and put an end to the situation. Being attacked, verbally or physically is illegal. To say there is no institution to protect you in the real world is just ridiculous! If someone makes you feel unsafe in the ‘real world’ you have the right to contact the authorities, put a restraining order on them, or even take them to court for harassment. So why is it that adults are given this protection, but so many in our society do not think children deserve the same rights? Yes, I completely agree that these children both need to learn how the real world works and how to handle these situations. The way for a victim to handle this situation, as an adult, is to go to an authority figure and expect protection. A bully needs to learn young that this behavior will not be accepted by society and that there are consequences for this awful behavior. The way to teach children about the ‘real world’ is not to leave them to fend for themselves and do whatever they want, it is to step in and teach them that society has rules that must be followed.

  4. Jessie the Military Mommy says

    This was so well written and I applaud everything you stated to Mr. Hanson. I especially love the statement by Stan Davis. MWAH!

  5. Cerelle says

    I went from being a straight A student to a high school drop out, partially because of bullying. The long term effects on my life have been substantial. In order for a school to effectively educate its students, it needs to be a safe and neutral place, and it isn’t that if a child is getting harassed and bullied by others. A child can’t focus on their lessons if they have to be scared to go to school.

  6. Danielle Settle says

    I havent posted in a long time, and today I only have 2 things to say.
    First:
    Mind Punch X 100 to Mr. NotRobin.
    Second:
    Thanks for this great article guest blogger, I don’t feel comfortable sharing right now, but you touched on a lot of hard hitting similarities to my world.
    Thank You SRMM for having this guest.

    • shoffman says

      I’m so glad this post was meaningful for you.

      AND, though I am stark. raving. mad, and I am IN LOVE with SRMM, I am not the actual Stark. Raving. Mad. Mommy (http://www.starkravingmadmommy.com/) no matter how much I wish I was. But thank you for letting me think I was for a nanosecond.

  7. Laura says

    First, EXCELLENT response from Carrie.

    Since I was late in catching up on the last few posts, let me at least give my honest gut impression of the not-mr-hanson.

    I think 1) Mr. Hanson somewhere, somehow pissed off a vengeful b*tchy person, be it a female, male, or thing so mutated as to no longer possess human empathy…
    and 2) this is where they decided to be spiteful, horrid, and personally attacking of you in a way that defames Mr. Hanson. This is why I STRONGLY prefer blogger format and other sites that require logins… because without a google or facebook or blogger account verifying who is who, anyone can be made out to be the biggest jackass in the world… and unfortunately, the person seems to likewise have some conservative type values that make you an easy target… Puts new life to “hell in a hand basket” phrases…

    I wouldn’t give it much more attention, because trolls are trolls, and the internet is only a tiny, often extreme bit of reality, and the coward who uses another’s name to attack you and the other… is not a coward worth being upset over. The REAL, brave villains, the ones who attack with no remorse or fear of retaliation, those are the ones that need the most attention. I get plenty of trolls because of what I do for work and also in the community and the simple fact that I work hardest to care for people who have the fewest resources, whether the tools they lack are development/intelligence related, socio-economic, environmental, or more “traditional” diseases that are debilitating… Plenty of people are simply attacking others because they are not fulfilled in their own lives… in fact, that’s honestly the ONLY time I see attacks happening that are this intense and premeditated, when someone is truly not living a life that gives them joy and provides their basic needs for security, intimacy, self-worth, and belonging in the community, a place to contribute uniquely… If you can instill those things in Sam, he’ll be able to get through anything with the little help from his friends, including “Sarah Hoffman,” the most real imaginary friend a kid could ever wish for :)

    I feel a bit of pity, familiar, agonizing pity, for the “not Robin Hanson” troll, because I dealt for 6 years with a mother in law who made me, the one who stole her only son, the target (with 3 daughters, all was fine until, of course, one announced they were following their dream and moving away, announced at the supposed calm before the chaos sit down dinner just a week before my wedding–such lovely memories I’m glad I can laugh at now). What was I a target OF? Attacks, belittlement, questioning whether marrying me was in the son’s real best interest, and more, 90% of that because of her chronic clinical depression that took her from a dainty 100lb cheerleader to a 220lb (at 5’2″) mother who’d lock herself in her bedroom crying and eating herself through her contempt. What changed it all? Adjusting her prozac dose… she went from a third the minimal adult dose (what she took all that time of behaving like a crazed bipolar witch that we said “you either stop it or we leave, for good”) to 4x that amount… and with it she also began losing weight. She apologized, but you can imagine after being physically hit when she when ballistic (the announced upcoming move of the brand new grandbaby set her off and I was beside her when her hand punched the air then my arm, again, just before a wedding!), after five full years of enduring it and going home only to break down, healing from that took a LONG time, and it’s a feeling I’ll never forget, the constant questioning of whether I was a worthy person to wed, whether I had integrity, when I was that kid who no one questioned the honor of because I was always volunteering to do anything, everything, to help, opening doors, hauling equipment to classrooms for total strangers who taught at my university, working hours and hours unpaid to get people struggling to pass their courses and exams, etc, and suddenly someone so close hits so fiercely… This is why the kids who become bullies are too often the ones with home issues, whose families–knowingly or not–make them question whether they are wanted, worthy, and well. Those kids need SERIOUS intervention to break the circle, to learn to cope when they have nothing to go home to. Sam and other bullIED-at-school kids have their families most all the time, and that is the huge difference. A kid who’s a nerd can cry to mom and dad. A kid who is gay all too often is terrified of their families and the church and that huge chunk of America that says 24/7 something is so wrong with them. You clearly know–the stats for suicide in LGBTQ kids are horrific–why you have to fight so hard. Sam may have an even harder time (initially) finding his social circle since he’s not extreme “enough” (just like some say bisexuals just won’t decide, ugh), but in time… metrosexual is definitely NOT a disadvantage. I’ve yet to find a 20something who doesn’t, whether eventually or in time, like seeing her man in makeup and such. His comfort in pink and frills will be an ASSET… you just have to get him through this hideous “everyone flock to socionormative behavior” stage and let people find value in individuality.

    In the meantime, keep your boy OUT of the psych ward and let the not-Robins find their way back in. It ROCKS that Carrie was willing to be the calm during the storm and be the matter-o-fact just-so-ya-know TAKE THAT visitor you needed, since she’s not right inside your battle bubble and can fight an outsider without bursting your shield against such bull pucky ;)

  8. says

    Note: I do not know who is claiming (or, in this case, claiming not) to be me. I have not, and will not, put on my blog (as suggested by a comment on the “Tired” post) a notice disavowing any of the comments that I have made on any blogs throughout the Web, as I personally stand by all of them.

    Until such a notice appears (which won’t occur), you can be sure I am the Robin Hanson. I assume that the reply made to my original comment, which claims that I am not, in fact, the Robin Hanson, was, itself, made by one of Mrs. “Hoffman”‘s more fanatical readers (one who is clearly incapable of accepting criticism of their utopian, fanciful, and simple ideas), who wished to discredit my comment by casting doubt upon the veracity of its origination. I assure you that there is no doubt; I am Robin Hanson, hate me or not.

    With that issue cleared up, I will proceed to exercise my right of reply to Mrs. Goldman and Mrs. “Hoffman”. I assume that Mrs. “Hoffman”, who is likely not as familiar with academic communities as I am, yet recognizes that she has an intellectual duty to publish my response, in accordance with the established procedures of discourse. I emphasize this point only because my original comment took so long to appear (presumably due to some manner of “offense” that it evoked on the part of Mrs. “Hoffman”, which was not my intent); while that was fair, as any individual has a right to publish only what they wish, now that my name has been invoked, and my reputation publicly profaned with unscrupulous quote mining (for example, taking my usages of the words “asinine” and “delusional” vastly out of context) and one-sided, vehemently ideological polemic (indeed, I find the defenders of this blog’s cuddly viewpoints to be rather like the hypothesized “defenders of the status quo” that you all imagine: incapable of encountering an alternative viewpoint without attacking it), it is imperative that I be granted an opportunity to defend myself against such commentary, in its original context (that is, on this very blog). I do hope that “Sarah Hoffman” will prove to be a less emotional woman this time and approve my comment immediately upon its receipt. Ignoring your critics hardly silences them (it is quite the opposite, in fact).

    Moving on to your post, I find that you have greatly misunderstood and misrepresented me and my viewpoint. I will address your errors via quotation, such that we both might be fairly represented:

    “And then I received this comment, in which a reader named Robin Hanson told me that I’m ‘asinine’ and ‘delusional.’”

    Never trust a one-word quote, unless you know a one-word man. Mrs. “Hoffman”, I am greatly disturbed that you took both of the words quoted from me out of their original contexts and, thus, gave your readers the perception that I was personally attacking you. You know that is not the case. I think you owe me (and all of your readers) an apology for this biased manner of presentation. For someone who is so staunchly against “bullying”, you seem to have no qualms about utilizing the most deceptive techniques of the “cyber-bully”, the gossip, and the tabloid. In the future, please quote me accurately or not at all.

    “And that Sam should grow a thicker skin—that he should stop acting feminine, lose weight, and be ‘less conspicuous.’”

    This is not merely deceptive, but absolutely mendacious. If you refer to my original comment, you will note that I presented the two paraphrased directives as alternatives, not complements. I very clearly stated that he would have to either grow a thicker skin or be less conspicuous, but not both. If anything, my post was an invitation to stick out proudly and loudly, if one has the fortitude, not to be pressured into conformity.

    I don’t think that anything is “wrong” with “Sam”. I’m not an overtly masculine man myself, and I have no problem with feminine boys (on the contrary, I find them more pleasing than a “traditional man”, both to the eye and as company), “Sam” included. As for his weight issues, we’re all gaining a bit nowadays (as the statistics show), and, although it couldn’t hurt to shed a few pounds, I’m sure that there are plenty of women (or men, or whatever “Sam”‘s preference may be, as I don’t wish to be presumptuous) who would enjoy a pleasantly plump man (or woman, if “Sam” wishes to adopt that identification in the future). I’ve only ever suggested that he find his own way, instead of walking a path bulldozed by a firebrand of a mother.

    “‘This is a dog eat dog world,’ Mr.-Hanson-or-not-Mr.-Hanson told me, and I should ‘cut the cord’ and realize my son needs to defend himself. He said I am an ‘overprotective mother’ who is obstructing society.”

    I don’t think that I ever suggested that you were obstructing society as a whole (my assets are still appreciating in value, anyway), but I would suggest that you are needlessly adding stress (and cost!) into the lives of many innocent people (including me, might I add, by so aggressively targeting my harmless comment). Poor bureaucrats and workers in the educational system, people, and perhaps mothers, just like you, must now slavishly prepare to implement a program hoisted upon them by one “squeaky wheel”, adding quite a bit of work to what I imagine would’ve been an otherwise peaceful summer for them. I don’t blame you for this, per se; I merely make the observation.

    In a time when the United States is facing a severe budget crisis, one has to wonder if we wouldn’t be better off solvent and intolerant than destitute and harmonious. How much money could we save by cutting every GSA and “tolerance” program throughout America? I’d like to see that money!

    “And then Mr. Hanson told me he hoped I didn’t take his comments personally.”

    I didn’t mean them personally, although also I didn’t anticipate that you would be so emotional and intolerant of alternative viewpoints. I apologize if you were offended. Mistakes were made.

    “Oh? He also recommended the Atkins diet for Sam. Mr. Hanson believes that Sam is an overeater who lacks self-control, plays video games all day, and doesn’t exercise. Because, you know, that’s the story with ALL fat people.”

    While you’re clearly exaggerating my words, the point does ring true. There are genetic components to weight gain, certainly, but it is mostly caused by lifestyle choices. Don’t think that I’m judging your son; I’ve had problems with a lack of exercise and culinary overindulgence myself. I know that it’s not easy to get away from technology and find the time to get in a bit of physical activity, and that kids are fed mostly junk food these days. I don’t blame “Sam”; I was simply suggesting a diet that had worked for me, as a friendly bit of advice. Why don’t you ask “Sam”‘s opinion instead of deciding for him what he should be offended about?

    “Mr. Hanson wrapped up his very long comment by asking, ‘You have to take control at some point, so why not today?’

    Well honey, let me tell you.

    This is mama taking control.”

    It is this very cantankerous attitude of yours, Mrs. “Hoffman”, that very well may doom your son to a life of dependency.

    Let me pose to you a question, Mrs. “Hoffman”: did you show your son my post? Did you ask for his thoughts, or did you, yet again, decide to “go to bat” for him without fully comprehending his feelings? Have you considered that maybe you’ve swept your son up into a whirlwind so powerful that even he, if he wanted to, could not stop it? Have you considered that it is, perhaps, your clear desire for attention, martyrdom, and victimhood that drives your efforts, and not your son’s direction? Very often, at the slightest prompting, a parent will start an effort on behalf of their child, and, very often, that parent will take that effort past what their child had ever imagined or wanted.

    You’ve started a vicious cycle, “Sarah”. Your son will forever be known among his peers as the kid who had to have his mother intercede on his behalf, the cause of the “tolerance” programs that will undoubtedly annoy (and not, as you seem to think, move) them. This will, as you can imagine, simply invite more negative attention, which I presume you will attempt to solve with more “Sarah Hoffman”-style advocacy, which will only deepen the problem further, resulting in a more determined response from you, continuing the pattern until “Sam” graduates high school as a lonely and unassertive young man (or worse, if his peers are particularly cruel).

    You’ve turned your son into a drug addict, and the drug is you. My best guess is that (though I’m an economist and not a psychologist), as a very attached mother, you actually don’t want “Sam” to grow up and become independent, preferring that he rely on you forever (or at least for a longer time than is usual), providing the psychological motivation for your actions. You then use his benefit as a clever means of justifying your own emotionally needy behavior. I hope that I am wrong, but I also fear for your son’s future if he remains “attached at the hip” to “Momzilla” (a little bit of humor).

    “Of course, the first step of taking control was acknowledging that my blood was boiling a bit too much for me to speak coherently.”

    This is quite an illogical response to a well-intended comment. I will, thus, move on to Mrs. Goldman.

    “Here’s the thing about bullying: the circle of people affected is much larger than the victim. Since we know that Sam is not bullying himself, we can safely assume that there are other children involved. Where there are victims, there are bullies—and kids who engage in bullying are in need of intervention just as much as the kids they victimize.”

    If you accept the false, value-laden dichotomy of the “bully” versus the “bullied”, then you will likely find this viewpoint to make quite a bit of sense. If you understand that both the “bullies” and the “bullied” are better understood as people having problems with each other (as people are prone to do), then you will comprehend that one doesn’t need an “intervention” simply because one does not like another person (or, if I’m wrong, interventions are needed for all of you on this blog).

    “According to a 2007 study by Sourander et al, bullying behavior is predictive of future substance abuse, depression, and anxiety. Other research shows that simply witnessing bullying creates anxiety and depression. As Mr. Hanson is concerned about the economy, he might consider the economic impact of allowing Sam’s bullies to continue without intervention. Shall we turn a blind eye as all children—bullies, victims, bystanders—walk the path towards increased risk of health and mental health disease? The cost to society from these conditions is far higher than the cost of teaching kids empathy and respect.”

    I’d like to see their definition of “bullying”. The term has grown to encompass so many innocent behaviors (such as “cyber-bullying”, a laughable term in itself and the mark of an overly-sensitive society) that I rarely trust when others use the word.

    As for the costs to society caused by “bullying”, I would have to see the numbers before I make a judgment. I suspect that raising our kids to be, in a word, “wimps” costs our economy more than any “bullying” could.

    “Some adults seriously underestimate bullying’s frequency. (‘Kids will be kids,’ ‘It’s a normal part of growing up,’ ‘Kids need to learn to deal with bullying on their own.’) These adults misjudge the significant social, emotional, and academic costs of bullying for victimized children and overestimate the ability of victimized children to stop bullying without the assistance of adults.”

    I’m not surprised that Mrs. Limber made these claims without actual evidence. I suspect she found a paucity of it.

    “‘Sometimes people conflict,’ Mr. Hanson’s comment continues, ‘and there are no institutional policies that can ever solve this.’ But ‘conflict’ implies the possibility of resolution, a possibility that doesn’t exist when one child is simply being mean to another.”

    To imply that “bullies” are “simply being mean” to their “victims” is a very simplistic view of “bullying”, and ignores the fact that the “bullies” are also complex people with their own emotions; they are not simply entities of pure hate that act out of inexplicable and unprovoked malice.

    “Disagreements, occasional fights, and social conflicts are all normal parts of childhood. But bullying—repetitive, unwanted attacks in the context of a power imbalance—is not normative, and it cannot be lumped in with typical childhood conflict.”

    Where does the distinction between the two begin, though? As far as I’ve observed, for most parents, the difference between a “childhood conflict” and an instance of “bullying” is simply a matter of whether or not their “baby” is on the wrong end of it. It’s all a subjective delusion.

    “This is a classic case of blaming the victim for the attack. In the 1970s, police officers asked rape victims, ‘Well, what were you wearing?’ Today they would never ask such a question; the new social norm is that a woman should be able to wear whatever she wants and walk safely.”

    While I won’t get into the issue (as it would veer too far off-topic), I will say that I disagree with your viewpoint here.

    “Telling Sam to stop acting so femininely and lose weight is the same thing as telling a rape victim to wear different clothes. Sam has the right to be who he is, and still walk safely through his school.”

    Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. “Might” often trumps “right”, and you can’t claim sympathy while continually choosing to ignore this fact. There comes a point at which you must either get with the program, change the program, or get out. You can’t expect the heavens to move at your command.

    “Sarah is not asking people to like her son. She is, however, insisting that he be treated with respect. Respect is a basic human right, something we owe to Sam and all children.”

    I agree, but many don’t, and you can’t put your hands in your ears and make them go away. You have to face them head on.

    “Everything about Mr. Hanson’s approach runs counter to the goals of a respectful community.  His tone is condescending; he blames Sam for being bullied; and he makes judgmental, uneducated assumptions about Sam’s lifestyle and Sarah’s parenting. A child should not have to hide his gender expression and physical characteristics or limitations in order to fit in.”

    This is all both insulting and untrue. Your patently inflammatory attacks against me make me wonder what the real difference is between “bullies” and the “bullied”, whether or not the hunted have become the hunters.

    “Would Mr. Hanson tell an African-American child to lighten their skin (or a short child to use growth hormone, or a child in a wheelchair to get up and walk) so other kids wouldn’t bully them?”

    Many African-Americans did lighten their skin during the times when their kind was persecuted, and I don’t blame them for their choice (indeed, it was actually the most economically beneficial choice available). Sometimes we all have to “lighten our skin”, including me (for example, I rarely reveal that I have Asperger Syndrome). It is a fact of life, and those who fight it invite their own misfortune. In these situations, silent dignity and true courage can be virtues, as opposed to meeting violence with violence.

    Suffice it to say, Mrs. Goldman, your response is simply more “inspirational” fluff, devoid of reason. You’re a good motivational speaker, but you’re no economist. Those who are addicted to empty words will likely find your response as comforting as cocaine, but I am not amused.

    As for “Sarah”, I have only one challenge: show “Sam” my posts. Let him decide his own path. Don’t shield him from every viewpoint that doesn’t agree with yours. I think, with a greater probability than you might imagine, he will find me to be right, and will alter his life path accordingly. Sam could easily solve his own problems by giving out a few bloody noses or black eyes, if he so desired, or he could simply rise above the fray. Your coddling will only lead him to insult, injury, death, or worse. Indeed, far from blaming “Sam” for his bullying, I, unfortunately, have to blame you, Sarah. Take my words to heart or don’t, but give your son the choice about what to do with his own life and his own problems, or risk steering him into a wall.

    This is my viewpoint, and Mrs. Goldman’s inadequately logical response does not change it. “Sarah”, I await seeing the changes that you will (hopefully) make in you and your son’s life, although I fear it may already be too late to defuse your son’s “bullying” issue peacefully (as your insistence on an anti-bullying program has already caused the wheels of discord to begin turning). While I hope I haven’t caused further offense, I think it is imperative that all people be made to hear the truth. This, Sarah, is the truth: it’s time to let go. Don’t let the blood be on your hands.

    • says

      On my blog, or on this comment, is an email address you can use to talk to me, to verify that *I DID NOT WRITE THE ABOVE COMMENT!*. Please take away your link from this post to my blog – I the Robin Hanson who writes the blog Overcoming Bias, did not write this comment, nor the other hostile comments on this blog that you have been responding to.

      • Thomas Peri says

        If either one of you is the real Robin Hanson of Overcoming Bias, why not post something to your own blog to clear up which one you are?

  9. Amanda says

    To: sarahhoffmanwriter@gmail.com
    Date: Saturday, June 18, 2011, 10:43 AM

    WOW! I AM BLOWN AWAY the series and by this exhilarating coda.
    “Sarah H “, Carrie Goldman,and Sam and Sam’s Dad and all the parents
    and administrators ready to make changes–for the good of all.
    And that means me and my 11 yr old (trans) daughter who lives with the
    anxiety of being outed…
    I’ve composed a few letters to pertinent adults in the past few months; I’m
    always amazed at how much time and energy it takes to go the extra mile!
    But, as your husband reminded: this is our most important work.

    sending love,
    AC

  10. says

    As a woman who was a transsexual child, as this was ceaselessly bullied, from my first day at school at four-and-a-half when I declined to play football at break, through to 17 (when my classmates suddenly decided to step in and stop it, after someone from another class injured my face), and has campaigned on bullying (and much others human rights work) for many years, I have nothing but praise for Carrie’s response. It contains most uncommon insight. The point that dislike of someone is not a valid subject of conciliation is especially valuable.

    My context was one of having asked, before I was three, to be enabled to grow up as a woman, and then having been warned that the way society handled people like me (even children) was permanent incarceration in mental wards and daily shock therapy. So I was unable to say why I was as I was, or talk to anyone. Fortunately that has changed (and almost been erased from history), although not yet fully to the understanding and help that such children need.

    My father’s first reaction was to buy a very small punch-ball and boxing gloves and try to get me to learn to hit my tormentors. But I absolutely refused. His reaction was eventually that of respect, and to try to protect me – at least by providing transport to help me avoid spending lunch times at school, or making the journeys to school and back alone. My mother, a nurse, and the one knowing the truth of the matter and the medical position, felt totally unable to say anything. Such was the abusive reach of the wrong-headed doctors.

    I rapidly decided to deal with the bullying by trying not to react, other than drawing attention to it, and attempting to get the perpetrators to realise what they were doing. “Why are you hitting me?” seemed to work quite rapidly. Time was a big factor, because otherwise I would find myself slowly collapsing down to the ground, whilst helplessly giggling, which seemed my body’s natural responses to repeated punches, and felt utterly shaming. My parents wished to help but the complicity, even participation of staff (in mental and verbal abuse) really made their help counterproductive. So I often had to actively hide the problem. When clothes were torn, or items stolen or destroyed, that became difficult.

    Worst were the threats, and two real attempts. quite casually, on my life. Often this meant work at school was impossible, so long hours had to be spent on it at night. This felt deliberate – to destroy ones life long-term.

    My colleagues and I in campaigning on transsexual children (the most extreme of non-conformity to the gendered expectation of their assigned sex, those needing, and often demanding the body of the other sex) now totally believe that education in acceptance of diversity (including, of course, such children, not just the commonly limited interpretation of diversity of ethnicity and family structures) at the start of children’s participation in educational communities, regardless of whether there is such diversity obvious in their own community, is the best start. We then feel that such children should be enabled to present as they feel most comfortable and be enabled to explain how they are, in their own terms, not some possibly-suspect psychological or academic theory, and for that to be accepted. Other children choose friends from those who “have a clue”, and bullies target the friendless and unhappy, even before those who are physically different. And then the school should enforce non-tolerance of any form of bullying.

    The same principles should help other children standing out in any respect.

  11. says

    Phew. Sorry it took me so long to get here but, in the end, it kind of works out in my favour. What the #&$*(#$%^*%(?!

    I guess I just want to comment and refer to a blog post I wrote last year, directly following some fierce and ongoing bullying from my original bully, my mom, and from some women at my children’s school. I chose not to write about either of those situations, but instead momentarily revisited my childhood nemesis, a horrid bully. You will find her modern-day response a couple of comments down from the top. (Click on my name above and it will take you directly to this specific post.)

    My response is twofold: First, ours was not a “conflict” merely between this girl and myself. The girl, the bully, was severely damaged. And I was a terrific target, in that I was not a secure kid and had already been well-groomed for mistreatment at home. Second, neither my mother, nor teachers, nor any other person big or small, went to bat for me. And I had mommy issues, daddy issues, school issues … well. You get the picture. The idea that a kid should be left to their own is preposterous and, given that I did not become a functional adult, quite costly for a few years on the taxpayers’ dollar. And before you dismiss me as weak or still unstable, I can guarantee you I am anything but that.

    So, to conclude, to the Mr(s) whoever you are: you, person, are a part of what is truly sick and twisted in North America these days. You cling to your smelly old ideals of greed as king and prejudice as queen while the rest of the continent will move on and grow up. Goodbye.

    • shoffman says

      Karen, thank you for sharing that blog post you wrote, as I think my readers will be interested. I remember reading it back then, and was moved by the trauma of both you as victim and her as bully. Stories like that give me compassion not only for victims of bullying but for those who bully, imagining the terribleness inside that causes the behaviors.

  12. says

    Your reference in this post to Katie being bullied over the Star Wars water bottle surprised me. Previously I had assumed that it was far less problematic for girls to do “boyish” things than vice versa.

    There is a girl at my daughter’s school who at age 8 wore Spiderman boxer shorts to the school fete. Many parents commented that they thought it was an odd wardrobe choice for a girl, but none of the kids blinked and eye. This little girl has always played sport with the boys at lunchtime every day, and I suppose the kids just accept her for who she is – for now. (and hopefully into the future)

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