There are some phenomenons that transcend language and culture, and the school bully is one of them.
In every land where there are kids running around a playground, there’ll always be that one boy who grew up bigger than the rest. And there’ll be that one uncool kid who was scrawny, but maybe smarter. In the innocence of child play the former often leads a group to ostracize the latter. The bullying could be unkind words or exclusion from group play, or even physical blows.
I know, because I was that scrawny kid who was too arrogant for his own good. Throughout my elementary school I was ostracized, and a couple of times it got physical…
So I know what it feels like to be the small guy surviving against an unkind, punitive crowd. But growing up as I look at the world around me I couldn’t help but wonder if we sometimes tilt too much towards protecting the small guys.
When I was a kid I had perfect eyesight. I put on my Dad’s glasses a couple of times wondering what’s it like to be short-sighted. Of course it was all just a blurry mess. Now I am short-sighted so I don’t have to pretend anymore to empathize.
I’m a straight guy (so far). So I may never be able to empathize with what it’s like growing up as a LBGT (Lesbian, Bi-sexual, Gay, Transgender). I’m sure it was terrible if you were gay and growing up in the 70’s in Catholic Ireland, but well, now they have a gay Prime Minister.
Things have improved a lot. Gay marriage is being discussed and in some places, legalized. Scotland is making it mandatory to teach LBGT issues in school — a first in the world. It’s not ideal yet, but humanity has progressed.
But talking to a friend yesterday it feels as though they still see themselves as victims in societies that should consciously try very hard not to crack gay jokes.
It’s always easier for the minority to be seen as victims. And sometimes in the fight we lose sight that the majority has rights too…
When I was taking a philosophy class in university I related this personal experience to my class.
Growing up from that scrawny kid I took on sports and became quite buffed. Puberty hit rather late; when I was 16. But after it did, gym and good genes made me strangely popular among gay men.
There were the gentlemanly ones who asked me for my number and a date, but there were also the perverts who stalked me. A few harassment incidents took place at swimming pools and public toilets when I was in, shall we say, a compromising position.
My theory is this. When a gay man sees another guy he finds attractive naked, he is sexually aroused the same way a heterosexual man gets a boner when he sees a hot chick strip down. In the case of the latter that is a crime without consent. But in the case of gay men I realized I couldn’t stop them from following me into a public bathroom or sauna where I would be subjected to the same visual molestation or invasion of privacy.
That begged a big philosophical question on my part. Do straight men not have rights to personal privacy and protection in public areas as per the normal legal rights accorded to women due to gender differences?
If a gay man brushed my private parts in a crowded bus or subway carriage, can I shout molest? How do I tell a person’s sexual orientation and intentions? What about a lawsuit for sexual discrimination in ‘gay boss vs straight male employee’? Do we start declaring LBGT as new genders in identity cards to be clear legally? It’s far easier for woman vs straight guy.
Or is it?
Women are not a minority group. In fact statistically they are half the world.
But unfortunately being the ‘fairer sex’, history shows that often they are not quite treated as an equal half.
So it was good that feminism came about, but the scales tipped a bit to the other extreme when some women started taking to the street to burn their bras. (Which by the way, is a myth. It never actually happened…)
I’ve met women who crosses a man off the list if he wants to go dutch on the first date, or doesn’t open the door or pull out the chair for ladies. Now and then they are also the same women who complain about the glass ceiling at work or male chauvinism.
It‘s strange. Equality is not quite equality. There are always exceptions because women should be treated like women, but it’s now politically wrong to call them the fairer sex.
Like the gay pride movement there are still many countries in the world where things could be much better in gender equality. But like the gay pride movement sometimes I wonder if, in the fight for equal treatment, the logical and unavoidable differences between genders are impractically ignored.
I’m pro-diversity. In my first job as an analyst in JPMorgan I was part of the firm’s local diversity council.
But again, here I see some examples of the scale tipping irrationally to the other side in some places.
In the past there was too much discrimination. So we needed a movement to ensure people were hired for their skills and not rejected due to skin color or gender.
Now the need to be politically correct has crossed so much to the other side that even ‘diversity hires’ themselves are complaining about the prejudice and stigma they face due to the perceived privilege the majority believed they enjoyed in the hiring process.
A black, Korean, female, lesbian tech worker noted in an article:
“… diversity and inclusion initiatives based solely around filling quotas rarely achieve the intended business outcomes, and don’t well serve the employees brought in to fulfill them.”
— Jori Ford, Senior Director of Content and SEO at G2 Crowd
Hollywood is another good example where this debate has tilted precariously. A production’s potential for success is not judged by the quality of the script and acting, but by how well it represents the actual proportion of different races within society.
“Reports in this series have repeatedly found that films and television shows with casts attuned to America’s diversity tend to register the highest global box office figures and viewer ratings.”
Yet the same article pointed out that an almost all black cast for the movie, ‘Black Panther’, was a smash hit with “more than $700 million in worldwide grosses in less than two weeks”.
Has anyone studied if the fashion and make-up world has a disproportionately large number of women and gay men in it? Should there be an equal number of male and female lingerie designers? Is it practical?
Discrimination of any sort is no good. But deeper questions need to be asked instead of just pure ratios and proportions. Is the lack of hires due to the lack of talents within the minority group? Does fixating on the need for equal representation to the point of legal battles put pressure on private enterprise to give preferential treatment to minorities, which in itself does both parties a disservice?
In a recent episode of the TV show ‘Scorpion’, a scrawny child prodigy was bullied in school. The adults were divided into two camps — fight back, don’t fight back. He decided on this own solution instead. He made himself famous by applying to MIT, Harvard and Caltech. He got admitted to all three and was interviewed by prime time TV. When the adults asked him why he did that, he quipped, “Kids don’t pick on celebrities.”
Not everything has to be a fight all the time. Inclusion for the sake of inclusion blinds us to practical differences that need to be addressed for true harmony to be achieved.
Once we get past the historical imbalance and injustice it’s easy to tip the scales in favor of the prior victims and now give them preferential treatment and privileges. It’s easy to over compensate and then forget that, the majority also lives in that same world and faces the same problems of pursuing love, security and happiness too.