Time’s Up for Bullies by Mary Sharratt

The Virgin Mary says #Time’s Up for Bullies: illumination from a 13th century manuscript

Bullying is rife in our society and it’s not just school kids who have to deal with it. Bullies flourish in the work place, in academia, in spiritual and religious communities, and, of course, on social media. Although female bullies exist, women, from my experience, are more likely to experience the most severe forms of bullying at the hands of entitled males. I would even argue that female-on-female bullying is a direct symptom of patriarchy’s attempts to divide and conquer us.

Just as #Me Too and #Time’s Up blew the whistle on sexual assault and workplace harassment, I believe we are in desperate need of a #Time’s Up for Bullies movement. One thing is certain–our current methods of dealing with bullies seem agonizingly ineffectual, to say the least.

If you google, “how to deal with bullies,” you’ll find advice on assertive body posture, neutral, noninflammatory language, snappy comeback lines, or homilies about having compassion for the bully because he probably had a bad childhood. Or else you are told to “just ignore” the perpetrator. While these tactics might be helpful coping techniques in the short term, none of these address the underlying problem.

Bullies inflict real damage–“ignoring it” is like ignoring family violence. Bullies are all about power and control. Bullying can take the form of aggressive physical abuse, threats, intimidation, verbal and emotional abuse, and sexual harassment or racial abuse. Bullying is a form of coercive abuse that can wear away at you, no matter how thick your skin is, no matter how assertive or strong you try to be. It chips away at self worth and is the ultimate form of gaslighting.

If you are being bullied, you begin to think that you are the problem. Bullying creates a toxic environment in which no one can thrive. Instead people tiptoe on eggshells for fear of provoking another attack of the bully’s wrath or ridicule. Often those in a bullying environment live in cloud of fear or denial until it becomes unbearable and something breaks.

According to Forbes’s Magazine, 35% of the American workforce (53.5 million people) have experienced bullying at their place of employment. 72% of those bullies happened to be their boss. What is it about our corporate culture that allows this to happen? Why are so many onlookers complicit to this abuse? Is it out of fear or cowardice that they might be bullied next, or do they indeed harbor malice for the victim? On many levels, bullying is rewarded in our society. It allows bullies to climb the dominance hierarchy at the expense of their victims.

The Forbes article becomes even more depressing when you read the outcomes of trying to deal with the problem.

The effectiveness of doing nothing about the bullying and letting it blow over: 3.25%

The effectiveness of directly confronting the bully: 3.57%

The effectiveness of seeking support from the bully’s boss: 3.26%

The effectiveness of seeking support from senior management: 3.69%

The effectiveness of asking the union to intervene: 8.84%

The effectiveness of filing a formal complaint with HR: 4.7%

The effectiveness of filing a complaint with a federal agency: 11.9%

The effectiveness of finding an attorney: 11.2%

The effectiveness of filing a lawsuit: 16.4%

The odds here seem clearly stacked in the bullies’ favor. Fighting back can seem an insurmountable challenge. Sometimes the only solution that seems viable is to leave the workplace or other environment (church, school, club) where the bully holds court, thereby allowing the bully to “win” and continue their abuse, this time with another target. Bullies want us to run scared and keep quiet for fear of making a fuss and being blamed for having caused the problem in the first place. It’s a myth that bullying never happens to strong, assertive people.

But what would happen if we collectively banded together to create a new movement? If we decided enough was enough? #Time’sUpforBullies.

Bullies and trolls function in silence and darkness. They absolutely hate being exposed. But what if we named and shamed and outed both the bullies and their enablers? It took a massive tide of law suits and publicity to break the silence surrounding the pervasive child sexual abuse perpetrated by the Catholic clergy, which the Church had hitherto enabled.

In a similar vein, #Me Too and #Time’s Up have succeeded in toppling industry giants like Woody Allen and Garrison Keillor, formerly considered to be untouchable icons. What if all the bullied women in the world got together and declared they’d had enough? May the power of collective female rage move mountains.


Mary Sharratt is on a mission to write overlooked women back into history. Her novel, Ecstasy, about composer and life artist Alma Mahler is new from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Visit her website.



Categories: Activism, Feminism, Gender and Power, General

Tags: , ,

20 replies

  1. I am here to testify: bullying creates long-lasting trauma that is re-membered when bullying happens again even years later. As a child, I was made to feel “there was something wrong with me” because I was taller than my father, other women and girls, and most boys and men. “How’s the weather up there” on a daily basis leaves its mark as does “wow you’re tall” and “prepei na einai duo metra gynaika” [look a 6 foot six woman] expressed by Greeks–just as often by women–who think I do not hear what they are saying. It hurts every time.

    I never know how to respond, but I suppose “are you jealous” might be the best.

    What is it about our culture that makes us want to humiliate those who are different?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Mary, thank you for naming and describing so succinctly a condition that’s been so pervasive in my life, I often don’t recognize it for what it is. My father was a classic and sometimes vicious bully. He was especially vicious toward my desire to be a novelist.

    My husband and I also faced near-lethal bullying in a situation too complex to describe. We ended up having to move. We tried everything from conciliation, empathetic listening, mediation, negotiation, legal help, and once I had to call the police. Nothing worked. Despite my early childhood experience, I had/have, by temperament, reinforced by years as a Quaker, an almost unshakable faith in (Quaker phrase) “that of God in everyone” and in my own ability to speak to (and from) that place to co-create a win-win resolution.The move turned out to be good for us,but I am am still troubled that peace did not prevail.

    BTW love that the BVM is not pulling her punches!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Brava! Mary, thanks for writing about bullies and posting that wonderful image of the BVM fighting back. Brava to her, too! Like most girls, I experienced some bullying in grade school, though I don’t remember why, and later, too, and I still don’t remember why. Maybe it’s dumb to expect a reason for bullies? And dumb to think they’ll ever stop? .


  4. “Bullies inflict real damage–“ignoring it” is like ignoring family violence. Bullies are all about power and control. Bullying can take the form of aggressive physical abuse, threats, intimidation, verbal and emotional abuse, and sexual harassment or racial abuse. Bullying is a form of coercive abuse that can wear away at you, no matter how thick your skin is, no matter how assertive or strong you try to be. It chips away at self worth and is the ultimate form of gaslighting.”

    This paragraph gets to the roots of bullying…. My latest experience with bullying comes at the hands of neighbors who taught me ( after years of trying to work things out that bullies love to bully and that working through an issue is an anathema to them. These people LIKE to intimate others. They take pleasure out of what they do. The only defense that worked is that I am a writer that happens to have a nature column in the local paper and I used that venue to expose the bullies in indirect ways and THIS got to them –

    With a bully president to model that getting away with this behavior works ( so far) – our only hope is to do what you suggest.

    Bullying is horrific. It destroys sense of self –

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Regarding bullying in the workplace, I’ve recently found that there is little to be done, especially if the bullying is not of a sexual nature. I have discovered there’s a bullying institute which was very informative and calls to mind the many forms of bullying we might overlook and it was startling as I realized how many kinds of bullying we might just start to accept as normal. I wonder if this is a symptom of our being conditioned to endure, suffer and sacrifice, responses many of our religions encourage as noble traits – especially if we are women.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. re-blogged this on my web site. Thanks Mary.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. “Bullying” is also in the United States Court System, where “Judges” are more likely than ‘not’ to side up in favor with a ‘bully’. That being said, ‘bullies’ are indeed about ‘power’, and nowadays that ‘power’ that is $$$$. It really no longer matters if the bully is female or male, the fact is, the ‘stronger’ one, the more ‘dominant’ one, will, in the end, have the ‘justice’ and or their desires met at the cost of those who they tramble on to get it. Oh, by the way, this too has zilch to do with ‘Trump’. It’s been like this long before he ever came into office, but it is now only worsening. Here is food for ‘thought’: If Hillary Clinton who is a criminal in my book by facts alone, was in office, there would be no ‘metoo’ movement. Also, if there was no “OJ Simpson Murder Trial” etc… there would be no “Kardashian TV on E network’. See the trend. It’s about ‘bullies’ who ‘lead the way’ and the idiots, even court judges, follow them, with no problem at all! Thus why I despise usa – cause, it’s ‘not’ “equal justice for all’ – its “Equal justice for those who bully and those who want and wish to control those who they deem their servants’ which by the way, leads you to another topic…. Narcissists!


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