Saturday, 17 March 2012

Only teasing

When does teasing become bullying? And are some people more upset by it than others?

I haven't been teased much in my life, and when I have it's been more affectionate than malicious. At school I was called "beanpole" because I was so thin, but I just found it amusing. My granny used to call me "Little Knickers" but that was simply playful as well.

One workmate used to tease me about the number of bananas I ate (actually a grand total of two a day), but then he used to tease everyone mercilessly so I never took it personally, except to get very irritated by the repetitiveness.

One boss I had used to refer to every male employee as "Fred", regardless of their real name. That was definitely insulting, as he knew very well, but he wouldn't stop doing it.

If teasing is based on affection, that's fine, it doesn't bother me. But if it's based on ill-will and the wish to provoke and undermine, then it becomes something nasty that needs to be stopped before a person's self-confidence crumbles.

And it's true that some people are more sensitive to teasing than others. Someone with a thick skin and an enormous ego hardly notices they're being teased, it's simply water off a duck's back. They may even welcome it as a way of getting attention.

But someone who already has low self-esteem can quickly be unnerved by persistent teasing that only adds to the negative self-image they're carrying around.

Men still think it's fine to tease women about their figures, or their sexiness, or their clothes (and most women are insecure about all three), but complaints by women generally fall on deaf ears. If women teased men in the same relentless fashion, they would get it in the neck.

Teasing as a sign of fondness is harmless fun. Teasing as a sign of malice can quickly turn into emotional torture.

Pic: Rean Carter of Sunderland, who was being teased at school for his "girlie" hair. He has now had it cut short.

32 comments:

JohnD said...

Honest, friendly teasing, especially when happening in a "2-way street" and done with good humour is innocent. If a teased party objects to, or appears upset by, any 'teasing then it should stop - IMMEDIATELY! If not, it then assumes proportions of maliciousness and is tantamount to 'Bullying'!

nursemyra said...

that poor little boy. He has lovely hair but what were his parents thinking? Of course he was going to be teased about it.

Nick said...

John D - Yes, the vital thing is to be sensitive to the other person's reactions and whether they're taking the teasing in their stride or whether they're looking upset.

Nick said...

Myra - His hair was wonderful. He didn't have any problems until he started school and then all the teasing started. Very sad.

John Gray said...

malicious teasing is a part of growing up and a part of being human... its not nice... its not right....... but its unfortunately NORMAL

JohnD said...

JohnG ...... "Normal" ....... what a quaint, old-fashioned concept!

Stew said...

It is truly wonderful that you have not experienced bullying. But don't take that as it doesn't happen every day, all around us. There are thousands of kids that dread each and every day of school. Parents and Teachers need to recognize it and react.
Teasing is usually a sign of affection, especially in adolescent teens. And the line can be different for everyone. We just need to see when that line has been crossed.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

There is sometimes a fine line between affectionate and hostile teasing, but the one being teased usually can tell the difference. My much-older brother used to torment me as a child but if I whined to my mother, she always said, "Big brothers always tease their sisters. It's because he loves you." I knew she was full of bs even then, but couldn't do anything about it.

Nick said...

John G - Well, what's "normal" is what we all decide is normal. If enough of us decided malicious teasing had to stop, then it would cease to be normal. After all, slavery and TB were once normal.

John D - Normal isn't an old-fashioned concept, but all it means is "what most people do". If most people decide to do something else, then the something else becomes normal instead.

Sorry if I'm being tediously analytical here!

Nick said...

Stew - Oh, I've obviously misled you here. I was bullied constantly for four years at boarding school, so I'm very aware of the distress it causes and the need to stop it. I've posted several times about bullying. But I would distinguish between teasing, which might or might not be bullying, and bullying, which can take many forms, teasing being one of them.

The bullying in my case took the form of ostracism and aloofness.

Nick said...

Heart - She was certainly full of bullshit. Of course the person teased can tell the difference, and of course tormenting someone isn't a sign of love. Your mother should have told him off and not been so absurdly blasé about it.

Scarlet Blue said...

*sniggers*
I will call you Little Nickers from now on.
Sx

Nick said...

Scarlet - As you wish. You can be my granny too, if you like. Though that would make you about 125.

Scarlet Blue said...

Tsk, I can no longer subscribe to your comment feed, which is sad, I've discovered that I can only subscribe to comment feeds that have embedded comment boxes at the bottom of the post or a feed atom thingy for comments.
It's like the old days when I used to have to keep going back to see if the blog author had replied.
Sx

Scarlet Blue said...

...some days I feel that old...!
Sx

Jenny Muir said...

'Men still think it's fine to tease women about their figures, or their sexiness, or their clothes'... that's called sexual harassment, and you are right Nick, lots of men still think it's fine and dandy

Nick said...

Scarlet - That's annoying. Why does Blogger have to keep playing around with everything? I shall see if I can install something-or-other.

You mean, you sometimes feel older than 21?

Jenny - Indeed, it's sexual harassment. And it's still a raging epidemic, however invisible it may be to those who don't encounter it.

Bijoux said...

This is a topic that has been on my mind a lot lately, with all the news stories. I do wonder if some of the bullying could be easily stopped if kids were taught to stand up for themselves and not be victims. It makes me wonder what goes on at home. I think if I'd come home and told my parents, "Suzy was teasing me today about my flood pants" (my pants were always too short because I grew so much every year), my parents would have said, "You need to ignore Suzy and quit worrying what other people think!"

Personally, I think a lot of parents kowtow to their kids, which has led us to raise a generation or two of cry babies.

**Disclaimer: I'm not talking about kids who are being physically or emotionally taunted about their sexuality/race/religion, etc. Just general teasing that most kids face in life.

Nick said...

Bijoux - I think part of the problem is teasing that's constant rather than a one-off. If you're teased once you can shrug it off, but if you're teased endlessly it gets under your skin.

Are today's kids crybabies? I don't know, as I don't have much to do with kids. I do think that kids with plenty of self-confidence are less bothered by teasing, or else they tell the teaser to take a running jump.

I had to google flood pants, btw. Hadn't heard the term before!

Wisewebwoman said...

I've always thought there is thin fine line between 'teasing' and bullying and I've watched it get completely out of hand within my family and on me. And no reaction on the part of the victim made it worse in my case.
I felt for that poor little boy and his gorgeous hair and the non acceptance (at such an early age!) of non-normative (what's that, lol) looks and behaviour. This escalates into bullying of LGBT youth so quickly and we can see its roots here.
XO
WWW

Jay at The Depp Effect said...

Ah, yes, teasing! Good post.

When does it cross the line? Simple - it crosses the line when the person on the receiving end takes it badly and the person handing it out does not stop, but escalates the tease. It crosses the line when children cry. It crosses the line when it is done maliciously with intend to wound.

But really, that doesn't deserve the name of teasing. When it crosses the line, it is definitely bullying. To me, teasing should always be gentle and done with humour. That way it is a valuable learning tool and teaches children (and older people) not to take themselves too seriously.

Secret Agent Woman said...

I think the line between teasing and bullying is in the eye of the person being teased. If it hurts someone, you stop. No matter how gently meant. Affectionate teasing is fine, as long as the person is okay with it. But too many times, it is hurtful. And I think the general rule about women and their appearance is that it is NEVER okay to tease. We already have a complex about how we look.

nick said...

www - Rean's hair was totally gorgeous and the enforced haircut shows how entrenched gender roles - and prohibitive teasing - still are.

Jay - Exactly right. If the person is taking it badly, it's become bullying and it should stop immediately. But as you say, gentle teasing can help someone to learn.

Nick said...

Agent - I agree, the person being teased knows very well if it's teasing or bullying, and the teaser should respond to their reactions. I also agree that teasing women about their appearance is always unamusing and undermining.

Rummuser said...

I fully endorse your conclusion. We are a bunch of senior citizens, male and female, who meet every evening at the local park and the teasing is full of affection and gentle and it is actually invigorating. After the strenuous walks around the track to sit down and enjoy the banter and the teasing is looked forward to by every one. Some tease and some are teased but, it is all in good fun.

On the other hand, there are some bullies, yes, senior citizen bullies who have been shown where to get off with our group and they keep a safe distance from us. It is sad to see them all by themselves not knowing how to get into our and other groups.

Nick said...

Ramana - Good to know the bullies have been warned off and left in splendid isolation! Perhaps they will see the error of their ways....

Liz said...

Oh, I thought it was a little girl!

There was an item on the radio this afternoon about nicknames, another area where teasing can become bullying.

I am teased a lot about my 'blondeness' but I know it's done with affection.

Nick said...

Liz - So did I! And why shouldn't he look like a girl if wants to? Good point about nicknames. Names like "Four-eyes" and "Carrot-top" can be used very maliciously.

kylie said...

long years ago i teased a fella about the jacket he was wearing. it was meant in fun but he never wore the jacket again.
i still regret that some 20 odd years later.

and i wish i knew where he is

Nick said...

Kylie - Unfortunate that you still regret what you said 20 years ago! The endless repercussions of impulsive remarks....

Jenny Woolf said...

I think there is a very definite line between teasing and bullying. Some kids need help to tell the difference, and I don't really think many of them get that help.

Nick said...

Jenny - I think that's true. Kids should be reminded of the difference, and adults shouldn't turn a blind eye to teasing that gets nasty.