The XX Factor

The Power of Negative Thinking

KJ , I really loved your post applauding research that shows that bullied girls who hate their bullies in kind do better than those who try to make nice. Bully victims and girls both get bad advice about ignoring bullies and turning the other cheek, and it has more to do with our culture’s antagonism against the disempowered fighting back than actually giving the disempowered tools to help themselves.

Funnily enough, Anna N. at Jezebel posted on something similar . In responding to post-break-up advice aimed at women that centered around passivity and forgiveness, she pointed to research that showed that people who get mad and not sad after break-ups tend suffer less depression. Obviously, that’s not a solution if the relationship just fizzled out and there are genuinely no hard feelings. But in this case, the woman advised to embrace Pollyanna-ish forgiveness sounds like she was cheated on and then dumped for the other woman. If ever there was a case not to focus on being high-minded and conciliatory, this is it.

Despite the fact that most of us have seen the power of spine-growing alongside reading research that supports this power, the standard issue advice to the stepped-upon-especially when they’re female-is to embrace your inner Jesus. (And even he got to be mad once in a while!) This has little to do with helping any victim, and everything to do with getting the victim to stop making people uncomfortable. Anyone who was bullied in school and saw the way the teachers discouraged the victims from fighting back can attest to this. The very human discomfort with shaking up social hierarchies extends even to the popularity system of the sixth grade.