“Contrary to common myth, bullies are less misfits than they are socially attuned Machiavellis. Moreover, not everyone disapproves of the brutes. ‘Girls even seem to welcome boys who bully boys,’ noted Dr. Veenstra et al.”
– “Maybe Bullies Just Want to Be Loved,” New York Times, May 21, 2010.
What is interesting about the observation that “Girls even seem to welcome boys who bully boys” is that it’s offered without further comment, either by Dr. Veenstra (lead author of a study cited in the article) or by the journalist who wrote the story for the New York Times. (Putting the story in the “Fashion & Style” section was arguably in poor taste.) But girls’ apparent preference for bullies ought to at least give one pause, and lead to a moment’s reflection on how the social landscape looks through the eyes of a boy.
First memory, on an airplane:
I don’t remember what year it was. Sometime five years either before or after the millennium. In front of me, stuffed into the front seat pocket, was a magazine. I began to page through it, and I found an article by Peter Tatchell, “What Straight Men Could Learn From Gay Men – A Queer Kind of Masculinity?” Tatchell:
“The social menace of male heterosexuality is all too familiar. While most people (especially women) walking alone at night in a dark secluded street would feel threatened by the approach of a loud, boisterous group of young straight males, no one ever feels endangered by the sight of several obviously gay men coming towards them in similar circumstances. Likewise, police invariably report that the big difference between gay bars and straight bars is that there are rarely any fights in queer venues but often punch-ups in hetero ones.”
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Second memory, in a bar:
I go to bars very rarely, but I was in a bar this particular night. I went up to the bar counter, and there was a woman seated at one end, near where the bartender prepared the drinks, and an open seat next to her. I got the bartender’s attention and ordered a Long Island Iced Tea. I looked at the open seat.
“Ah, that seat’s taken,” she said.
“Okay.” I’d gone to the counter for a drink, in any event, not to meet her.
So, her male companion came and took his seat. I stood waiting for the bartender to finish my drink. The man said that there wasn’t enough space and could I go stand somewhere else? There was plenty of space. I said I was waiting for my drink. He said I should stand somewhere else because I wasn’t giving him enough space where I was. He was obviously showing off for his companion. She smirked.
I went and stood somewhere else.