Violence: It’s Never Okay

My first involvement with the skeptic community was subscribing to Skepchick and TS with Google Reader. I’m much more involved now than just checking my RSS feed, but it’s still part of my daily routine.

One of the sites I’ve subscribed to is They post a lot of graphics about the economy, politics, social issues, etc from a democratic perspective. Sometimes there are redundancies in their updates, and this particular picture amused me the first time I saw it and gave me pause the second.

Like I said, the first time I saw this, it made me giggle. It seemed righteous and good to have a big, brawny guy on our side, ready to defend this openly gay kid.

On the other hand: this could also be vengeance we’re talking about. It doesn’t explicitly say “If you try to beat this kid up, I will prevent you from doing so, using force if necessary”, although this is what we’d like to assume. “I dare you” is a provocative term, and it sounds like a threat. A threat is aggressive and not just defensive, which I think is unacceptable.

What if he (I assume this person is male, I apologize if that’s presumptuous) did just beat up the bully in response to him tormenting the boy, after the event? Or, what if he defended the boy from the bully and took it too far? If he made an aggressive move, like punching the bully instead of holding him still, what would we think then? What would his fathers think?

While I’d love to be the size of a football player sometimes, even if only to intimidate, it’s still a private desire. I don’t act on my violent impulses because it violates my personal code of ethics, which is explained very neatly here.

In general, I don’t think we should be advocating violence; even defensive violence. We try to prevent LGBT+ kids from being bullied, especially when it’s physical. We declare “safe spaces” for certain groups, or for everybody (schools as violence-free zones). I think it’s hypocritical to punish violent behaviour in some cases and condone it in others, just because we want some vengeance.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for self-defense. If you’re going to be harmed, call for help and/or try to get away. Try to deflect the situation, prevent it from happening, walk away from it before it gets heated. Take a martial arts or boxing class to learn how to protect yourself.  If I’m attacked, I’m going to defend myself, but we should all do what we can to avoid violent conflicts in the first place.

Also: If this kid knew that bullying was taking place, maybe he should have gone to the administration instead of posting threatening notes in another student’s books.

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Lux is a female genderqueer weirdo, writing from Kansas. They happily identify as a militant atheist(+), feminist and liberal. Their time is consumed with Doctor Who, reading, and playing WoW with a cat on their lap. If you're lucky, you might catch them smithing jewellery or cleaning something.


  1. May 25, 2012 at 7:42 am —

    Yeah, because schools have a long history of giving a shit about this sort of thing.

    I have a hard time believing there’s a more effective tactic than what was chosen.

  2. June 21, 2012 at 9:05 pm —

    Violence is definitely a last resort kind of deal, and while sometimes it is not simply the only thing you can do, but the right thing to do.

    I suffered bullying while at school. One day I lost it completely and decided to hell with this and fought back. To me and my classmates amazement, I won. No weapons were involved, but his head did get a nasty crack off the floor. He had to go to hospital to be checked for concussion. I got a black eye and a burst lip, but no hospital visit, and never got bullied again.

    The more positive aspect of all this was that the school could no longer ignore the systematic institutionalised bullying, and finally had to do something about it. I’m not saying that bullying was completely stamped out, but there was much less of it, and it always got dealt with swiftly.

    So, this is why I think that on under appropriate circumstances, violence is the right thing to do.

  3. June 22, 2012 at 2:57 pm —

    I’m surprised. When I checked earlier, I thought that my crass bragging about the only fight I’ve ever had was so obnoxious that it hadn’t made it through the approval stage.

    I do think that I must provide some context though. This will take some explaining, so much bracketing {parenthesis in American english) is are going to be essential. I’ll do my best to minimise them though.

    between twenty and twenty five years ago. I went to an all male British public school (private school to all other countries). It was run by catholic priests. I’m working class, so I had to pass the eleven-plus exam in order for the state to pay the fees for me there.

    Now, it wasn’t all Tom Browns Schooldays, and as far as I can tell, the priests weren’t were not the pederasts that have been well documented. There was corporal punishment applied, but only by the headmaster, and with trousers up. I only got that once, and it hurt like hell. Well, you didn’t get to wear jeans to school, it just wasn’t proper.

    There was also no fagging (younger boys being servants to older boys). Apparently, this still exists in some of the posher public schools, but the fags get paid, and are not allowed to be caned by their masters (yes, they still use the word master).

    There was, however, the systematic and institutionalised bullying. This almost encouraged by the fact that most of the teachers, including the priests, were old boys of the school, and had experienced even worse. They thought it was ordinary.

    The bullying happened in the usual way. Older kids bullied younger kids, and bigger kids bullied smaller kids of the same age. I was one of those smaller kids.

    When I lost it (not all a rational decision, to my shame) and fought back, I was breaking the system. I had to take my beating (so I don’t encourage this in others), but since the kids in my class stood up for me, I didn’t get the usual suspension. I walked the halls with my black eye and burst lip with pride, and became the excuse the school was too afraid of looking for by itself.

    So I’m still proud of the violence, and still think it was the right thing to do.

    • June 22, 2012 at 4:42 pm —

      Jon, thanks for your feedback. The title of the post is misleading, because I’m not against violence for the sake of self defense. I will seriously injure someone who tries to hurt me. I’ve never been in a fight or had a physical threat to my well-being, but I can only hope to defend myself as well as you did.

      Honestly, I’m glad that you were able to break a systematic bullying hierarchy.

      My issue with the image provided and the pro-active threat of violence which it implies is that it’s aggressive. This isn’t a student defending himself from being bullied, he’s saying “I dare you” to the bully, provoking them.

      I would love for violence to be avoided if possible. There are better ways to handle bullying, at least in the States, where most schools have programs in place to police it. Again, I’m all for defending yourself, and I’m proud of anyone who has the strength to do so. It just shouldn’t be the first course of action.

  4. June 22, 2012 at 3:01 pm —

    I do wish there was a preview system though

  5. June 29, 2012 at 2:37 pm —

    I take your point. I did say that violence was a last resort. The title might be better if it was “Threatening people is always wrong”.

    I think this is also relevant to bullying. Very little bullying is actually violent, but is mostly about experiencing threats that leave people to fear that they might suffer some kind of violence.

    This would apply to the note that you show at the beginning of your article.

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