Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Bullying and harassment and cultural struggle

An upcoming meetup I'm planning to attend has, as one of the topics for discussion, bullying and attempts to deal with the issue; like me, the person running the meetup is anti-PC (and non-religious); unlike me, the person running the meetup is probably not best described as liberal.

Some recommended reading for the meetup is an Anti-Bullying Policy Yardstick published by a Christian group trying to tackle the issue. It is, I think, a valuable effort, although there are some values expressed in that document that I disagree with; the implicit point is that the efforts made to tackle the issue of bullying should not be used as a tool to push other activist goals.

I'm generally ok with this. I understand the issue of intersectionality, but I've generally been wary of using it to justify a unified front across all areas of activism, particularly given that it's been used specifically to push third-wave-style theory. I have a vested interest; I reject most third-wave theory, and feel that second-wave activism, while less specific when taken as a while, is more tolerant and diverse; by straying far from the mainstream and insulating itself from mainstream criticism, the third-wave has made itself usually worthless and frequently harmful to its ends. More generally, I feel that movements should be careful to segment their analysis and criticism, when possible, so their generic concerns can affect the mainstream (the most important metric of progress for a social cause) while their more specific and radical transformations are debated and built alongside and accessible to the mainstream even if not immediately practical. With this divide, the latter should be held loosely and not pushed hard onto people as much as the generic analysis is. If people insist that, say, their gender theory/framework/world-of-terms is used by everyone, they should lose (and of course, I accept this for my own versions of these concepts), although it is fine to push the more generic and practical ideas (women should have equal opportunities and pay and the like) harder.

Working through the document:

  • On defining bullying, I am not sure that precise definitions are good enough; we don't want to enable rules-lawyering, and likewise I believe it is acceptable to have a broader net of what constitutes bullying than the first amendment because we're not trying to create law; one of the traditional distinctions between policy and law is that policy is more flexible and involves discretion. I would like to see some broad and strong guidelines that would help ensure that values are not being unnecessarily pushed in anti-bullying policies; these policies should at least demarcate both "is" and "is not" areas, sufficient to give decent intuitions for common cases. I agree with the document that "offensive" or "emotional distress" are bad metrics; enabling oversensitivity is not desirable. It remains challenging to create decent policies that draw the line though; I suggest that general harassment policies be reviewed for significant input into anti-bullying policies.
  • On first amendment protection, I would not phrase it that way (as I see "what the law should be" and "what policy should be" as separate-but-related questions), but I believe the intuition is decent in this section. We don't want to allow policy to undermine philosophical pluralism.
  • On punishing based on intent, I disagree strongly with the proposed policy; intent/motive are crucial to understanding the context of acts in our legal system (see "mens rea" for more details), and it should likewise be involved in understanding acts by policy. That said, I might be comfortable with *why* they're trying to prevent intent or motive-based judgement; instead, I offer the following guidance in policy: It cannot be harassment to dislike all people with a specific characteristic, nor to express that dislike; such facts may be considered in judgement and in structuring responses, but the primary relevant fact is whether the actor is prepared to tolerate (not validate) people with that characteristic. Attempts to drive them out or damage them are not acceptable. Bare and nonexcessive expression of discomfort with them is acceptable. Refusing to validate them is also acceptable.
  • On categorising versus banning all bullying, I think the nuances are wrong; bullying is a general problem, but decentralised attempts to drive out or damage people with certain characteristics are more harmful than such attempts that are undirected; I find it acceptable to create special institutions or change severity of response to protect people of certain categories from such efforts, including those of specific races, people of either gender, people of whatever gender-identity or partner preferences, identity as transgender (even as I don't recognise transgenderism), historical caste markers, and to a much more limited degree of protection, people of specific faiths or philosophies.
  • I am uncertain where I stand on reporting requirements; I will need to think further on the nuances of this subtopic, as there seem to be good reasons for both obvious positions and there are many alternate positions possible.
  • On cyber-bullying and off-campus speech, I believe that patterns of bullying at least must be able to consider the context of off-campus behaviour; some kinds of bullying are effectively a chain of behaviour (particularly if retaliation by or on behalf of the bullied is part of it). I am unsure where I stand on direct regulation of off-campus behaviour; I am not entirely uncomfortable with it as, given that schools generally have some limited ability to shape their associations, discretion in this topic might be reasonable. Still, I expect such discretion to be used rarely, and I am unsure whether adding this domain is consistent with that intuition (or if I should change that intuition); I will have to think about it.
  • On promoting political agendas, I roughly agree with the broad example but disagree with most of their examples. As for materials from homosexual activist groups, I am unaware of what such materials might be; it is possible that this is a mild conspiracy handwave meant for conservatives to nod to, although it is also possible that it is a reference to the problematic "Sexism 101" tropes that are published by third-wavers that are value-laden but expect to be taught as if it is education.
  • On parental notice, I entirely disagree. The reference to a parental fundamental constitutional right to direct the upbringing and education of their children is danger bullshit, and it has been used to justify other social ills that should have been banned ages ago, like homeschooling. Parents should be able to supplement the public education their children receive, perhaps with mild give-and-take made for time-constraints. They should not be able to exempt their children from these institutions of society; children are wards both of society and of their parents, and each should have their proper interests to the welfare of the children respected.
  • I disagree on anonymous complaints. They must be handled sensibly, of course, but they should not be ignored, just taken in the context that they are abusable and hard to properly investigate.
  • On private schools, I wholeheartedly disagree with the document; while I would relegate private schools to a supplementary role (using either the full-supplement model or the 4-days-public-2-days-private model), the autonomy of private schools cannot extend to permitting abuses like bullying, nor the establishment of nonpluralist mental contexts (even if they are devoted to a particular mental context, it must remain in the context of pluralism, particularly but not only to the level of bullying; as an example, while a supplementary school may be catholic, it may not exclude atheist or jewish or muslim or other children). Parents do not have a right to decide their children's education fully; such a right damages society's right to raise the child, and thus cannot be recognised.

My stances here are specific. Where I take a stance, it hits my notion of justice and acceptability well; I would accept some variation on some of these points if given reason, although I hope to convince people of my exact positions (where they exist) and to see something close to them used as a basis for real policy. So it should be, with my activism or anyone else's.


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