Bully Bluto always muscled Popeye around… But Popeye won in the end, reclaiming both his dignity and his girlfriend, Olive Oyl (Picture of Bluto Popeye Bully Muscle_Tee, compliments of Photobucket.)
(Click on above link to see “Fists swinging Ohio woman comes to cop’s rescue”).
It happened to me when I was 25–an incident of molestation. I was groped in a parking lot of a Mall, as I walked towards the entrance. The young man was walking towards me; we were the only two in the area. That’s probably what made him so brazen.
It happened so fast. As we passed, side by side, he reached over and grabbed me. And then it was over–instantly. I turned to look at him but he kept walking, doubtless smug in the confidence I’d never say anything. He probably knew: I doubted what I’d experienced.
They’re everywhere, today…the bullies, that is. I’ve stood up to them for years, and it never really gets easier. But I do it, even in this era when crazies are on crack, crystal meth, or other scary stuff that makes people do terrible things. I know that standing up to them is risky, but I don’t feel that I really have a choice.
Years ago, I took my daughters to Gregg’s Restaurant following a day in the fields, fresh off our annual “Let’s find the ugliest little Christmas tree” endeavor. My younger daughter always felt compassion for the spindly trees no one else wanted. As a result, we’d plod over frozen dirt fields, in 20 degree weather, searching for that little tree no one wanted. We’d bundle it up and take it home with us.
Before going home, we headed for our standard treat of hot cider and warm apple crisp. Once seated, at the restaurant, I left them in the booth to order pies at the take-out counter. We’d been asked to bring those for Christmas dinner at a relative’s.
I arrived to a group of four or five customers standing against the glass case, with no clerk in sight or ticket-dispensing machine to assign order of service (a situation that invites problems).
Finally, a woman came from the back and asked, “Who’s first?” When no one answered the second time she asked, an older man stepped forward and proceeded to order. At that point, a giant of a man began: “You old guys always assume you’re first.” I thought he was kidding, waited for the older man’s recognition of his “friend,” and prepared for the laugh.
But the big guy was dead serious.
The older man seemed to shrink before me, backing away from a situation he rightly feared. He stammered out: “Oh, I’m sorry. When no one said anything, I thought I was first.”
The big guy continued his assault, relishing the uneven match that pitted him against this little guy. It was then I stepped in, saying, “Look, this man apologized to you already. If you indeed were before him, you had opportunity to say so. Now, leave him alone.”
No one else said anything, but the big guy backed off, and we all stood in uneasy space. Finally the older man paid for his order and left. We all let the big guy go next; it was reasonable to do so, under the circumstances.
Is it wise for me to enter frays such as this? Probably not. But if I don’t, I have to live with the person I am, if I witness what’s patently unfair and do nothing. Do I go through life speaking up each time I witness abuse? No. Every instance provides its own set of circumstances.
But, it’s a private call—if and when to respond to a bully. Each occasion is different. I guess it depends at what’s at stake. Verbal rants can seldom do any real damage, except pollute the air space, although I’ve responded in those instances (as this account demonstrates). And if they seem to suggest a stepping over that imaginary line towards physical abuse, I never enable abusers.
I ultimately speak my mind……. even if, at times, it could be dangerous.
There’s a poster currently gracing the see-through walls of public bus stops proclaiming “There are no innocent bystanders.” I agree wholeheartedly. We collectively got ourselves into this mess (where the bullies wreak havoc on the rest of us); now, we’ve got to collectively get ourselves out.
If this particular post appears an instance of Biddy’s “Bully Pulpit,” (OK, I couldn’t resist), it’s because I’m heartened to see others speaking up or taking action against the abusers among us. And I do believe that if this citizen response continues, the bullies will be less inclined to do harm going forward. What’s an interesting aspect of that citizen response? It’s women who are leading the vanguard. The news is filled with accounts lately of their heroism in those situations.
As indicated (in link at top of page), one woman flew to the defense of a cop attacked by a driver he pulled over; in another instance, a female school committee member used her handbag to subdue an armed gunman who shot at fellow school board members (futile and foolish, if heroic) ; and finally, there’s that young woman on the New York subway who retaliated against a man who flashed her (a female witness for ihollaback.org, a crime victim organization spokesperson captured the episode on video and released it everywhere).
What did these women have in common? They were sick of abusers who offend at will, little concerned with consequences, since most of the time the perpetrators suffer no adverse effects. These women all took a stand against the abusers, forcing them and a usually acquiescent public to sit up and take notice.
(Click on the lower of the pictured news clips from CBS to see that young woman “dressing down” a man who exposed himself to her. She merely did what women everywhere probably wish they did–in similar circumstances, though some might consider her action risky. Her brave stand made her an overnight media sensation…)