Bullying and Fashion

I think this topic comes from this emerging theme of being part of misunderstood minority groups. I’m defining bullying here as: repeated actions which make someone bad about themselves and pressured to change.

When I hear the word ‘bullying’, my mind is transported back to schooldays. It is perhaps true that high school is where most bullying occurs and then everyone spends their twenties getting over it!

I was mentally bullied at school, but I was aware that is was without malice. There is this notion of ‘only taking the piss’ or poking fun at a perceived desire. I’ve never quite understood this and people generally grow out of it. For me, at school, it seemed as though everything I thought or wanted to do was taken the piss out of. This only became bullying because it seemed to cover everything I did, to the point I stopped engaging with things to for it to happen less. Which I now see as being quite daft of me.

Piss-taking is something that occurs in group behaviour. When one member of the group is veering away from the main direction of the group they are ‘taken the piss out of’ to re-focus them onto the group activity. For example, in a group activity, someone starts daydreaming, so the piss is taken simply to wake that individual up. Harmless fun and a group bonding thing isn’t it?

However in a school setting, whilst the class is a group, it isn’t a voluntarily joined group.  The group has powerful common features, specifically age and geographic location.  Teenagers are individuals developing their own personalities and interests, whilst constantly scanning their contempories to ascertain where are at relative to this grouping. Over time the diversity in interests/ groupings becomes wider. Young people are both learning who they are as an individual and how to operate socially in groups.

It could be said that groups work better as a team to collectively produce maximum efficiency and the bonding of team spirit facilitates this and is a positive experience. My point is that a class at school isn’t a team. What exists is perhaps a sense of fear in taking a different path to the mainstream, to not be in the group, to be alone (Not everyone is an introvert). Sometimes that different path is the one to take if that is who you are, whether that be by choice or not. In some ways, bullying is a fear of the different, a fear that the main path maybe isn’t the ‘best’ way, that being different in a particular way leads to greater rewards than being part of the majority, a desire for everyone to be one big group, for bigger groups have more power and influence.

I have regarded ‘piss taking’ as a check. It’s a questioning from the group of whether the individual is slipping in a particular direction away from the mainstream. The individual may not be, simply exploring and a quick piss take returns the person to the fold and perhaps ‘warned’ that they are not become to ‘up themselves’. However when the person makes a personal commitment that this is a direction they are going in, often the group will accept this as a new facet of that persons character and desist the piss taking; This is reasonable. I think I only found it difficult as I was towards the boundaries, the outside, in so many areas and I wasn’t mature enough to realise it.

An example. I’ve never been particularly interested in fashion or dressing up. However, this may have been due to it being regarded as ‘not masculine’ and hence any exploration in this area I may have made, was taken the piss out of and I didn’t see it as an important enough part of who I am to pursue further and didn’t want to be perceived as even further outside. If I didn’t commit fully to it then it would be subject to ‘piss taking’.

I often expand from the individual to the general. So do men generally not take an interest in fashion to be more of an insider in heterosexual male groups. If enough people were interested it would happen, but there is this big weight of mainstream culture and ‘acceptability’ to overcome, it could be simply not to have reached a critical mass. Men go to costume parties and generally relish the opportunity as it’s acceptable behaviour, especially if cross dressing is involved! it’s one thing men can do that women can’t and always lots of fun! but why?

In history, men wore much more flamboyant clothing. Maybe due to honest sexual signalling, a man rich enough to have fine clothes, signals power and wealth to potential mates. It is perhaps surprising that clothes form virtually no part of men expressing their power and social status nowadays apart from the odd expensive watch. Perhaps due to how we function in schools in contemporary society.

It’s almost as if heterosexual men never get the chance to explore this as once they leave school there is a pressure to be ‘smart’ to get through working life. I’ve always been envious of girls in that they have the time all through their teenage years and their twenties to experiment with wild clothing, bright brash colours, hair styles, accessories and have the clothes available relatively cheaply in shops. This allows women to experiment and find styles that they look really good in. Heterosexual men (I’m being typically/general here) don’t get this opportunity to go through this experimentation , so just wear what they can get away with, or what their girlfriend advises (which is what I generally do).

Further questions: Is there a spectrum between individualism and communalism in humans? I don’t think there is, why choose to try and be like everyone else, I’ve learnt that this is a fools way of trying to gain social acceptance and drains self-confidence. I think you are who you are, and what is important is being you you are without fear.

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