….but we are all fabulous.

Bullying and blurred lines

My first stab at this blog post started with “there isn’t a coherent theme I wanted to blog about this week, but there are a couple of topics I have been musing on”. Of course as soon as I started typing, I realised of course that bullying is the theme.


Pablo Picasso, Girl Before a Mirror (1932)

Upwards bullying

Bullying in any form is despicable. It is also sometimes hard to define since behaviour can depend on its impact before it is considered bullying (contrast someone who enjoys being teased with another who feels demeaned by it). Traditionally in the workplace it is often associated with a power imbalance – with those with seniority at work having the power to make one’s life difficult. A less well-documented scenario relates to upwards bullying, when a more junior colleague employs bullying tactics – refusing to do certain jobs, undermining their senior colleague in meetings, sending endless complaining emails, blaming the manager for poor management skills, doing jobs badly or so late that a manager is forced to ask someone else to do the work. I have observed this happen to friends and managers – an unfortunate number of times. It really is an extremely hard issue to tackle and can affect the morale of a whole group of staff if the rest of the team sees bad behaviour being effectively rewarded by resulting in a reluctance to ask the bully to do anything. As I contemplate my next career move and with it potential management roles in the future, I am curious as to how this type of behaviour can be tackled effectively.

A possible new research topic to consider….

Blurred lines

Of course I am referring to the BBC 2 programme presented by Kirsty Wark this week (, rather than the song. The programme considered the role of online abuse, trolling, video games and more in sexist behaviour towards women and it was fantastic, inadequate, scary and depressing all at once.

Fantastic because it feels as if it captured the zeitgeist – a woman presenting a programme challenging the omnipresent and increasingly visible bullying and harassment of women. With the recent publication of the wonderful Everyday Sexism Project and Vagenda books, the eponymous Twitter and Facebook campaigns and a groundswell of articles by female journalists, I have a glimmer of hope that maybe there will be loud enough or persuasive enough voices for something to change.

Inadequate because it only scratched the tip of the iceberg – as several tweets pointed out – there could have been a whole series on this topic not just one programme.

Scary because school aged girls shouldn’t be having to deal with rape jokes (a contradiction in terms) and harassment from their peers and because I am still reeling from discovering that Grand Theft Auto allows gamers to have sex with a prostitute and then attack or murder her to get their money back.

And depressing because this is the UK, it’s the 21st century and I can’t quite believe that we are still having to have conversations about how it’s not ok to be grabbed when walking down the street (see #grabbed for women’s experiences of this that were tweeted this week, including mine from a few years ago – walking up Park Street in Bristol, midday, and a man walking in the opposite direction grabbed my crotch as he walked past), rape jokes aren’t funny, it’s not ok to threaten women in person or online and we still don’t have equality – not in terms of pay, of visibility (think of the bank note debacle), of representation in parliament or industry. Should it really be newsworthy that 2 women are hosting a primetime television show (Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman hosting Strictly)? No, but it is the first time it has ever happened!

A male interviewed on the programme commented that young men are struggling because women are overtaking them and they are not clear of their role. At the time I was incensed and just thought “welcome to our world”, but of course it is the existence of an expectation of a ‘role’ that keeps us from moving forward. Until we accept that we are all equal whatever roles we take on and stop trying to force men into ‘male’ roles and women into ‘female’ roles, we will never see each other as individuals but always as stereotypes and always as other.


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This entry was posted on May 10, 2014 by in Uncategorized.
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