All bullying is bad. But the Independent has its priorities mixed up, argues Rosalind Kemp
The Independent’s Education section yesterday ran an article claiming that clever boys are “most vulnerable” to bullying.
It is absolutely shocking, more so in that even within the article it is shown that clever girls are also bullied.
For example, the newspaper reports that Natalie “was bullied for being smart and speaking up in class. She was called names and had ‘lesbian’ pictures planted in her bag.”
The homophobic aspect of her bullying is ignored and she is presented more as a helper to boy victims through her work as a cyber-counselor than as a victim of bullying herself. Fran Baker, an assistant head teacher, is interviewed about how her Croydon school is combating bullying of high-achieving pupils and she makes no mention of gender. But boys are the ones who need our concern apparently.
The Independent quotes Tommy, who says: “They used to call me all sorts of things, like boffin and geek.” It is sad that he has been teased, but it’s outrageous that his experience should be considered worse than homophobic, sexist, or racist bullying. Even suggesting that it is more common doesn’t correspond to previous studies of bullying.
Stonewall’s Teachers Report on homophobic bullying indicates that it is the second most frequent kind after bullying because of weight. While Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, states that two thirds of lesbian and gay schoolchildren experience some sort of homophobic bullying, 17% of which was death threats.
Panorama in January looked at sexual bullying (covered by The F-Word at the time) some of which was very frightening and serious, and the Home Office report on transphobic bullying contains case studies of trans children experiencing strong physically violent bullying.
Bright children may be picked on, but they are conforming to the norms and expectations of the education system and society as a whole. This means that children like Tommy only have a very brief period of being made to feel like an outsider while other groups may continue to be persecuted into higher education and the workplace.
But the Independent is clear in its priorities, even uses only white boys in the photos, just to emphasise that white male people are the ones we need to care about. Their struggles are the important issues in society and this is just one more news item reminding us of this.