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When I was a child I attended an elementary school in my neighborhood.   It was a typical Baby Boomer generation community where nearly every house had at least one child but usually an entire family of kids in a range of ages.   We grew up from age 5 or 6 knowing each other and playing group games in a playing field that spanned 6 to 10 backyards. 

Junior High was the game changer as the children of a half dozen elementary schools were gathered into one larger facility for the continuation of their education. This was the age at which bullying by kids outside of your local group, strangers, reached its zenith.    My own experience of being bullied did not occur until the first day of 8th grade.  My sin?  From stress I had cried quietly in 4th period and by 7th period it was all over the school.   I walked into my 7th period class to hear someone yell,  “Hey everybody, Jeanne cried in 4th period!”   I was now marked as an easy target for kids desperate to not be known as easy targets themselves.  The worst bullying came from a group of girls from a different elementary school who did not know me, had not grown up with me.  My “neighborhood sphere” saw nothing in me worth bullying.  A group of 5 total strangers did.

In this social media saturated age and the Internet ubiquitously woven into daily life, we are exposed to a much wider number of total strangers, some of whom are malicious bullies.   A common means by which total strangers try to gain power and control over individuals is to harass, intimidate and embarrass people into silence by accusing them of racism or cultural appropriation.  The news seems to routinely report on a celebrity who crossed someone’s line, the groupthink goes viral and that celebrity feels compelled to apologize to appease complete strangers.

Your family,  circle of friends, acquaintances, co-workers, neighbors … these are the people in your “neighborhood sphere” that give you immediate feedback.   Assuming you are not isolated in an echo chamber, your “neighborhood sphere” of people who actually know you are the only sounding board one needs to ascertain if your actions and behaviors are truly offensive to THEM, the real people you interact with.   So why are  we giving power and control to absolute strangers on social media to define people as being racist in order to intimidate and harass people?   Let’s examine three recent cases that made the news of people who refused to bow to the tyranny of the perpetually offended.

Case 1:  The Cheongsam Prom Dress

“Kezia Daum, a teenager in Utah, tweeted photos of herself in her prom dress, with the comment “PROM”, a seemingly normal thing for a high-school student to do.  Not in these times.  Daum had unwittingly committed the crime of “cultural appropriation” by wearing traditional Chinese-style dress without being of Chinese descent, so she was subjected to an outpouring of fury and denunciation.  “My culture is NOT your goddam prom dress”, one young man tweeted in response, a sentiment that received more than 150,000 “likes”. Daum, to her credit, refused to apologize or remove her post, saying that she had meant no disrespect to Chinese culture and had worn the dress because she thought it was beautiful. If only more adults showed as much backbone in the face of unreasoning malice.”  National Review May 28, 2018

The “one young man” was Jeremy Lam whose tweet was “liked” by 150,000 people thus building into a group feeding frenzy to intimidate and humiliate Ms. Daum into groveling in apology.   It’s all about the power to control people you don’t agree with.

“At first, I felt bullied, but my mom helped toughen me up, and I began to realize how many people there were who were supporting me in my decision and encouraging me,” Daum says. “I learned that there’s always people who are going to hate and I can’t control that.”

And what did people living in China and Asia think about the issue once it went viral internationally?

  In an outstanding article in the New York Times  (well worth reading in its entirety),  Chinese views were considerably different:

When the furor reached Asia, though, many seemed to be scratching their heads. Far from being critical of Ms. Daum, who is not Chinese, many people in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan proclaimed her choice of the traditional high-necked dress as a victory for Chinese culture.

“I am very proud to have our culture recognized by people in other countries,” said someone called Snail Trail, commenting on a post of the Utah episode by a popular account on WeChat, the messaging and social media platform, that had been read more than 100,000 times.

“It’s ridiculous to criticize this as cultural appropriation,” Zhou Yijun, a Hong Kong-based cultural commentator, said in a telephone interview. “From the perspective of a Chinese person, if a foreign woman wears a qipao and thinks she looks pretty, then why shouldn’t she wear it?”

If anything, the uproar surrounding Ms. Daum’s dress prompted many Chinese to reflect on examples of cultural appropriation in their own country. “So does that mean when we celebrate Christmas and Halloween it’s also cultural appropriation?” asked one WeChat user, Larissa.

Recall how Miss Manners warns about who you choose to bully since they could be more powerful than you?  Associated Press award-winning columnist Neal Larson  applied the literary equivalent of a hard spanking to Jeremy Lam by exposing his hypocrisy:

Some guy on Twitter, Jeremy Lam, is of Asian descent and was triggered when he saw Kezia’s dress, promptly telling her that “My culture is not your G-D prom dress.” His profile picture shows him wearing a T-shirt and an Adidas baseball cap. So let me restate it this way. An Asian man, with the Hebrew-originated name Jeremy, wearing an American baseball cap manufactured by a German sportswear company, bullies a teenage girl for crossing a cultural boundary.

While I didn’t previously know that some dude in the United States with a Twitter account was the guardian of Asian culture, it was rather unfortunate that in earlier tweets he dropped the N-word in a “thug life” kinda way. That seemed to diminish his status as the cultural appropriation appropriator.

And for heaven’s sake, let’s just stop prosecuting people who praise a culture by partaking in it. 

Case 2: Jeremy Lin and his dreadlocks

NBA player Jeremy Lin likes his hair and has explained that his sometimes extravagant hairstyles were a source of fun for him and a challenge to not care what people think. The NBA even created a web page of his “many hairstyles”. This worked for him until he sported a head of dreadlocks.

Former NBA forward Kenyon Martin criticized Lin for growing dreadlocks. In an Instagram video that now appears to have been deleted, Martin, a former member of the New Jersey Nets, addressed Lin’s dreadlocks, saying, “Do I need to remind this damn boy that his last name Lin?”

Martin continued, saying: “Come on, man, somebody need to tell him, like, ‘All right, bro, we get it. You wanna be black.’ Like, we get it. But the last name is Lin.”

What ensued has been described as “Linsanity” as social media weighed in.
But here’s the point…Jeremy Lin sought input from friends, fellow players , his “neighborhood sphere” regarding the appropriateness of having dreadlocks. One of those was fellow player Rondae Hollis-Jefferson who spent 8 hours getting his hair dreadlocked along with Lin. Another person was a Nets staffer:


I still wasn’t sure. A recent conversation I had with Savannah Hart, a Nets staff member who’s African-American, really resonated with me. I told her about my thought process — how I was really unsure about getting dreads because I was worried I’d be appropriating black culture. She said that if it wasn’t my intention to be dismissive of another culture, then maybe it could be an opportunity to learn about that culture.

Lin concluded saying,

“This process started out about hair, but it’s turned into something more for me … It’s easy to take things that we enjoy from other cultures — that’s one of the coolest things about a melting-pot society like ours.

Jeremy Lin was respectful to ask friends and co-workers their opinion on his hairstyle choice and in his “neighborhood sphere” there is no bullying or offense taken. Strangers who have no real life connection tried to bully him from doing something his closest associates had no issue with.

Case 3: Avril Lavigne with Hello Kitty outfit

From Wikipedia: Avril Lavigne has been cited as appropriating Japanese culture in her song “Hello Kitty“. The song and music video depict Asian women dressed up in matching outfits and Lavigne eating Asian food while dressed in a pink tutu.[140] Its depiction of Japanese culture was met with widespread criticism, which has included suggestions of racism. Lavigne responded by stating “I love Japanese culture and I spend half of my time in Japan. I flew to Tokyo to shoot this video … specifically for my Japanese fans, with my Japanese label, Japanese choreographers and a Japanese director in Japan.”[141] A lot of the feedback Lavigne received on Twitter was favorable, and those who blamed her for racism were non-Japanese.[142]

This is a rather amusing case of online bullying because while Lavigne’s “neighborhood sphere” had no issues whatsoever with the music video, “non-Japanese” bullies applied their westernized neocolonialism with the belief that the Japanese are not sufficiently “woke” enough to recognize that they should be offended so white people need to be offended for them.

Dress and hair are not the only things deemed to be culturally appropriated or racist:

Only the deaf can teach sign language
Dressing in traditional Japanese clothing (ignoring the fact that millions of Japanese wear Westernized clothing)
Zumba
Saying “y’all” if you are not Southern
Neck chokers
Hoop earrings
Cinco De Mayo parties
Westerners eating sushi, studying yoga, wearing toe rings
Selling burritos if you happen to be white
Farmers Markets are racist

The list of things people can choose to be offended by grows bigger and more ridiculous by the day. It’s a bully’s dream come true….how many ways can I gain power over you, let me count the ways.

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Fascinating article by Kaitlyn Tiffany

Why is the wedding industry so hard to disrupt?

Weddings are big money — but not for Silicon Valley.

I had no idea David’s Bridal declared bankruptcy last year or that Condé Nast is trying to offload the iconic print magazine Brides. Despite many millions spent each year on weddings, this does not translate into wealth and success for even the big guns of the wedding industry.

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For over a decade I have received requests to address the issue of cyberbullying as it relates to civility.  It’s finally time to begin that conversation.  This post is the first of a multi-post series on the subject of adult cyberbullying.

Prior to any worthwhile discussion, there needs to be a definition of what cyberbullying means. 

 

Cyberbullying is: The use of modern communication technologies (such as the Internet and cell phone) to embarrass, humiliate, threaten, or intimidate individuals in an attempt to gain power and control over them.(Glen R. Stutzky)

One can understand why children bully each other.  Steeped in juvenile insecurities and lacking self-confidence, they tear their peers down in desperate attempts to not be the lowest man on the totem pole.   The scramble to be higher on the social hierarchy begins in these early years. At an age when everything seems out of control, bullying brings a warped way of having any control.

Once people reach adulthood, there is a hoped for expectation that childish things are put away, people begin acting like responsible adults and often they do.   One of the girls who had bullied me so aggressively at age 13  had a significant change in maturity in her early 20’s and in an interesting twist of fate she and I have been Facebook friends for many years.  People can change.   Some people do not.

Miss Manners had some very pointed comments about adults who have not outgrown their childhood bullying:

Groups of people who hone in on one person to deliver an on-the-spot criticism — always with an air of belief that their catty opinions are indisputable and helpful — have provided generations of citizens with a lifetime feeling of relief that they are no longer in high school.

Even the most callous bullies are supposed to have learned something in the subsequent 30 years, if only that bullying is dangerous. The technique only worked in high school because it preys on victims during a stage of life where many are uncertain enough about themselves to worry that it is they who are wrong, and not their tormentors.    Miss Manners https://www.uexpress.com/miss-manners/2003/10/7/a-dirty-thirtieth   

She ends her comments to the “Gentle Reader” with this advisement:

“Etiquette does not side with bullies.”

When adults engage in power bullying, it may be motivated by insecurities and a desperate need to control people, but many times it’s simply because these people are nasty, bitchy strangers who are intent on silencing people through intimidation, libel, doxing, invasions of privacy, threats of rape or death. 

For a good example of a total stranger engaging in bullying on an epic scale as a means of punishing someone with whom she disagreed with online, read:  When a Stranger Decides to Destroy Your Life

 

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I just wondered, do you have any guidance on what constitutes a reasonable request, versus begging?  Below is the second email I’ve received via the school email list, asking for donations for this family, who recently had a house fire.  When I received the first email, I clicked the link, thinking I could surely come up with some blankets, or cookware, or something to help them, and found that all the donation options are for cash amounts.
 
As some background, this is quite a well-to-do school district.  Every house on the street where the fire was has an estimated value on Zillow of over $650k.  While it’s possible that the family owned the house outright and/or carried minimal insurance, I very seriously doubt that’s the case (the donation site even mentioned that they were looking for donations to help them while they waited for insuance items to be sorted out.) 
 
As I said, my first instinct was charitable – to help them though the first few days before insurance kicked in with food or goods, but when I saw the only donation format possible was cash (while I know that cash is certainly helpful) my feelings changed.  Personally, I’d be thankful for unsolicited gifts from family and friends, but I’d be horrified if I found the school district was begging for cash on my behalf.  Am I being unreasonable in feeling like asking for cash for this family is over-the-top?  0124-19
 

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Dueling Parents


I wonder if you and your readers could bring some fresh outside advice to this awkward and somewhat charged situation.

My husband & I have been married 4 years (together 9), our parents were introduced to each other in Year 1. They’ve never been overly close but have been polite (My in-laws are definitely the more friendly of the sets). My parents have their own issues; recent divorce, lifestyle choices (dating & over indulging) and poor parenting decisions of my younger siblings.

My in-laws have their own issues too; easily stressed & controlling to each other & us. There’s never been any incidents between the two sets of parents but they are clearly ‘different people’ with different views on family & relationships.

Since my son has been born the negative feelings my parents have towards my in-laws have come to boiling point. My stepmom now refuses to attend any but the most formal (Birthdays, Christenings) get-togethers and makes constant snide remarks about how unpopular they are with the rest of the family. My father also avoids our house if they are visiting and will often decline joining us if they’re also coming (though won’t be blunt and say it’s because they’re here). I have caught them gossiping about us (and our preference for my in laws) behind our backs and some very hurtful comments about me in particular. I’m starting to get very tired of this and aggravated that my parents are acting like children.

My parents often say they “never see their grandson” but are awkward when trying to arrange dates and rarely initiate planning (except at the last minute). Which means often I am already booked or my in-laws have invited us to an event/come to visit us. My in-laws are also very eager & hands on with my son and always offer to help out, whether it’s coming to babysit so I can catch up with cleaning or when we stay over they’ll take over a night feed/let us have a lie in. My parents like seeing their grandson but are quick to hand him back when he requires ‘work’, I don’t mind this but again it’s the source of nasty comments about my in-laws being ‘overbearing’. I’ve tried talking to them but they’re both stubborn & ignore anything I say.

I feel so awkward, I’ve now taken to actively trying to conceal when we meet up with my in-laws to avoid the remarks & gossiping my parents do behind our backs. Am I right in just carrying on in inviting all parents to events, then arranging separate catch ups when we’re available? I feel like going out of my way again & again to facilitate my parents (over what I do for my in-laws) is just enabling this behaviour. What can I say when the snide remarks start? And when my parents are pointedly turning down meet ups? Just to be clear, I love both sets of parents and they are a part of our son’s life. I just need help dealing with the drama my parents keep creating. 0203-19

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