I take teenage depression and suicide very seriously indeed. One source of such problems is sexuality, and that aspect is covered on my GLBT page. More generally, I commend Reach Out, Beyond Blue and Bullying No Way.
Just lately after two “emo” girls suicided in Melbourne much attention has been drawn to the role of MySpace. Today in The Australian Jack Sargeant has some very wise things to say on this.
…There have always been young people who have felt hopeless, unloved, alienated and, yes, suicidal. And there have been all manner of often incorrect explanations proffered for such behaviour. The double suicide of Jodie Gater and Stephanie Gestier in Victoria is merely the latest to tweak media interest and inspire pointless armchair analysis. In this case, the media has focused on emo and MySpace.com…
…to put in terms of those who like sport and the bludgeoning rituals associated with it: emos are nerds. Those young people who turn up at the Big Day Out proudly wrapping their sweaty, drunken, semi-nude bodies in the Australian flag are not emos. The emos are probably the kids who buy the records of the bottom-of-the-bill bands and stay home thinking their idols have sold out for playing in daylight…
The problem with homogeneity is that anybody who is different is seen as a legitimate target. In making those who are different the “other”, the group can continue to exist and reinforce its perceived dominance. Those who seek to be different, or who are different, want to be left alone, often luxuriating in that difference, enjoying the feeling of being part of what is often understood as a unique elite that exists apart from mainstream culture.
In the aftermath of the suicides of Gater and Gestier, there has been much examination of subcultures but little of the mainstream culture that implicitly legitimises the process of bullying through the stigmatisation of social and cultural difference. When bullies are exposed, they are often seen as victims themselves, and they may well be, but they are enacting a role that is made legitimate by a world that values conformity above individuality.
The media and social commentators would do better to examine the dominant culture that bullies so often represent rather than the vague cultures to which the disenfranchised are drawn.
Teachers, meanwhile, are feeling bullied by Rate My Teachers: see in today’s Sydney Morning Herald Teacher fury at rating website. Schools have blocked access to the site, but little can be done as the site is actually in the USA. I have checked people I know, and have to say the majority of comments are actually quite perceptive, though some are really silly and a few clearly malicious. I gather the site does screen for obviously malicious comments. It would be silly to take the site too seriously, and we need to remember that what you read there is precisely the same kind of talk we have all had about our teachers, except these are published. That does raise interesting legal issues.
There is a good forum on this at whirlpool.net.au. One of the more amusing comments there says:
Where is the
ratemy.[place occupation here].com
Though I don’t think this sort of site will do anything really, other than for witch hunting.