An article by Sherria Ayuandini was published in Social Science & Medicine in January 2017, Finger Pricks and Blood Vials: How doctors medicalize ‘cultural’ solutions to demedicalize the ‘broken’ hymen in the Netherlands.
Sherria writes, “the Academy’s support has been invaluable for my studies, allowing me to publish this article.”
Read the full article on the Science Direct website.
The Familiar Face of the Bully
Bullying is a serious issue all around the world, but especially in the United States where it is the leading cause of suicide among young people below the age of 14. People have begun to recognize the gravity of the situation.
Public figures, many of them celebrities, have started nationwide campaigns to speak out against bullying and to provide support to those who are bullied.
A lot of these campaigns take the form of a Public Service Announcement (PSA), where the person on camera recounts his or her experience. Almost all of the stories retold address how that individual was bullied while growing up.
These PSAs are important. What they do is show that things do get better and that a bullied kid can grow up to be a successful and respected person. It provides hope for those who may live their lives day to day feeling helpless, and it lends support to go on living. However, we need to be cautious of the possible unintended consequences of these efforts.
Apart from sending a message of support and solidarity with the bullied, PSAs also make it clear that bullying and the bully are undesirable, if not to be despised entirely. As a consequence, “bully” and “bullying” are terms with which no one would want to associate his or her self. Furthermore, aligning with the bullied becomes alluring. Who would not root for the underdog? After all, each of us must have experienced peer pressure for not belonging enough or for not being perfect enough. Those experiences could justly be viewed as an experience of being bullied.
Yet, there is a danger to this way of thinking. Suddenly the bully becomes that other person; someone who does not have anything to do with us as a person, is not us and could not possibly be us. After all, we were the ones who were bullied! We were the good ones! Yet, studies have shown that the bullies were often once bullied themselves. Not only that, bullies sometimes do not think that what they were doing was wrong. They bully to defend themselves, because they genuinely feel the other deserves it, and sometimes, they even bully to correct what they think is in need of correction. This gets complicated as the act of bullying can take many different forms. Bullying does not solely consist of mean-spirited acts that result in the bullied person contemplating suicide. Bullying is something of a slippery slope. It starts as a mild joke, a witty comment, and without any intention of repetition, it does get repeated, then it escalates.
What this means is that bullying is closer to each and every one of us than we would like to think. The face of a bully is not always that distorted, cruel or angry face that we do not recognize. It is the face of you, it is the face of me, it is us. We are the faces of bullies and yes, we could easily be a bully at any point in time. What is even more alarming is that it is easier to “slip” and become the bully when we are convinced that we are on the side of the good. When you believe that you are the good one, you justify and rationalize your action as acceptable, even when it starts to be questionable. “I made her cry, but she deserves it. She is a mean person.” “So he was humiliated today, what about it? He scolded me in front of others just a week ago.” Before you know it, because you keep believing that you are good, you become the bully.
Now, we can only hope that those sitting in a position of leadership will not ever see themselves as one of the good ones. With that much power to wield, we can only imagine what goodness might compel them to do. We might have a better chance on betting on a leader who realizes that they could be bad rather than on those who believe they are purely good. If only each of them and each of us realize that we are the face of imposition, of suppression, of atrocities, maybe we could then stop distancing ourselves from the label bad and start to be more aware of what we are actually doing. Being bad is unfortunately not the opposite of being good. History after all has shown that the worst of us were often those who were wishing really hard to do good.
Sherria Ayuandini is in the McDonnell International Scholars Academy at Washington University in St. Louis. She received her Master of Arts in Anthropology in 2008 from the University of Indonesia in Jakarta, Indonesia. She is currently a PhD candidate in anthropology in the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.