Back in university I had media management classes where we covered all sorts of topics and one of them stuck with me even to this day. We discussed how some people are born to be leaders and some are born to be followers. Some people want to rule the world and be CEO‘s, while others are completely content and happy working for someone else. In a corporate world, we associate leaders with power figures, those in charge, those that have control, resources and authority, while followers are there to help leaders be at the top, they are there to make sure the company itself is at the top. One takes the position of leading and inspiring people, while the other takes on a role of getting the work done. This power dynamic exists almost everywhere; a manager and an employee, a teacher and student, a bully and a victim.
Today I‘m talking to Fay, whose actual name is BeiXuan, about the topic of bullying. Fay is 24 years old and recently graduated from Newcastle University where she studied Media and Journalism. When asked about what makes her happy, she mentioned so many things that bring her joy – fashion photography, movies, books, gaming, singing and even modelling.
The minute Fay reached out to me and volunteered to talk about bullying in Chinese high schools, I was so excited. Maybe because the topic itself is so familiar to me, as no secret, I got a fair share of bullying when I was in high school, I was curious to know how different it is where Fay comes from. How does it happen? Is it more verbal or physical? What are schools in China doing to prevent it? To answer all those questions and get an insight into Fay’s personal experience – The One About Bullying With Fay.
Q: Growing up in China, what was your childhood like?
F: I was raised by my grandparents as my dad and my mom were super busy with their careers. My dad is a surgeon, and my mom works as a nurse. There were so many instances when my parents had to rush to the hospital late at night because someone got stabbed. So, when I lived with my parents, I barely spent time with them. I stayed in my room and played games most of the time. I often talked to baby dolls as they were pretty much my only friends. I think that is the reason I am still so into TV series and animations.
My mom was a bit dramatic, she did lots of crazy things when I was growing up. I’m not going to go into detail, but she hit me lots of times and always argued with my dad. I remember hating when they argued. The only thing I could do when they were fighting was just close the door and play with my dolls. I did not enjoy my childhood that much. It was just full of arguments and loneliness.
My grandma is a dramatic person as well even though she really cares about me. She always shouted at me if I did something that she thought was bad. For example, she would shout at me if I made mistakes on my math homework and call me stupid. I sometimes doubted myself if I am not intelligent or something. I still always doubt myself because of those memories. Also, I guess that is the reason that my relationship style is anxious/preoccupied attachment. I can get extremely upset when receiving disapproval in any form and worry excessively about relationships.
Q: What is/was your family like? Do you come from a strict family or are they more laid back?
F: As I mentioned before, I come from a strict family. Not only my parents but also my grandparents would compare me to other children. Mainly about who has better results in school. In a typical Chinese family you are their only hope. They will pay the highest attention to educate you. Once you achieve something, it can be defined as their glories. Your success is not only yours but your families’ as well. But at the same time, they do care about you. It’s just that I would not call that love, I would call it toxic love.
In Chinese society kids carry unbearable pressure from their families. You have to obey to them otherwise they give you a cold shoulder.
Q: When you were younger, did you feel like there were certain expectations created by society or your family that you had to live up to?
F: Yes absolutely. On one hand, from the society, from my schools and teachers. It is like they divide students into different classes. Students whose academic performance is not that excellent would be regarded as a mediocre group. Sometimes when you ask for help with your homework, they might say something like ‘Seriously? You can’t even answer this question?’. Some teachers like making you feel awkward or make you look really stupid. I suppose they don’t deliberately act like this. It is just that they are acting out on their position as teachers, as leaders.
We also have something called evening study group. This is our only joyful moment, to be honest, because there are no teachers. I remember talking to my friends and laughing all the time during these study groups. Sometimes we would make fun of our teachers and the way they talk.
On the other hand, society itself sees teenagers as kind of a new hope for the elder generation. Society expects every teenager to perform well in academics, in sports, in English, math, and innovations. Also, we have loads of patriotic education from primary schools to colleges, you must pay attention to political subjects and recite political knowledge and it was absolutely tough for me to remember them.
Q: Could you tell me about what is the education system like in China?
F: It consists of three years of kindergarten, six years of primary school, three years of junior middle school (also known as secondary school), and senior middle school (high school). After completing it all, students then have the opportunity to continue to higher education. We have to take the “GaoKao” Exam to enroll in college or universities. For 99% of Chinese students, GaoKao can be seen as the most important exam in your entire life as it pretty much determines your future career. The Chinese government set extreme higher standards for candidates on their education levels and the ranking of their universities. If you wish to be a civil servant, you better have a master’s degree or enter excellent Universities.
Q: Myself being from Lithuania, I know bullying is a topic that is very familiar to me. You see it every day in Lithuanian schools and overall, it is a huge issue there. I know for a fact, in Lithuania bullying goes above verbal insults, it most of the times ends up being physical as well. How is it in China?
F: It is the same as in your country really. Students get bullied verbally and physically. It is not uncommon to see people get bullied in middle schools. Girls get bullied verbally all the time. It is quite shocking because girls get bullied because of their bodies and they are sexualized most of the time as well, which I think is just disgusting and appalling. If a girl is on the heavier side, she gets talked about behind her back. They would say things like ‘She looks like a fucking tank, doesn’t she?’. If a girl is curvy, they would say like ‘What a slut, must get laid all the time.’
I feel uncomfortable when I hear that kind of stuff but the truth is you hear it EVERY single day. It makes me sick. You also don’t ever see guys get bullied because they are the ones doing all the bullying. It’s like they all unite together to bully girls verbally.
I remember once in high school, a group of guys, maybe 10 or 12 of them, asked me to go out of the classroom and they started verbally abusing me, asking about rumors that I have asked someone to beat someone up. It was just a bunch of guys standing in front of me and shouting at me.
Q: You hear people saying that a bully usually has some sort of problems/issues with themselves and that is why they take it out on others. Do you agree with this? Who is the victim in this situation?
F: I agree. If a person is different, you can respect the difference. In this world there are so many different people, why does it matter if someone is acting differently. If you belong to LGBTQ+ group you get attacked by homophobes, isn’t it the same as bullying? Bullies see themselves as the rulers of this world in their imaginary kingdom. Civilians who do not obey to their rules will get kicked out of the kingdom.
My dissertation last year was about how tabloids affect the quality of media and how they attack celebrities’ fame. Clearly, Meghan Markle is the victim of bullying by British tabloids such as The Sun and Daily Mail. Tabloids tend to apply the moralizing tone to judge the behaviors of celebrities. At the time, gossiping could be seen as an ice breaker when encountering friends, acquaintances, or strangers. Bullies share their experience of how they attack others to entertain their friends, to confirm their credibility as a social leader. It reflects their characters at the same time, perhaps their inner side has a low self-esteem. If you have watched Cobra Kai, you can understand how John Kress became a bully. He was the one who got bullied when he was a teenager. The quote“No Mercy” is more like their reaction to their PTSD of being bullied.
Everyone’s’ got a sob story, but that doesn’t give you the right to be a bully.
Q: Tell me about your personal experience with bullying, what kind of bullying did you experience?
F: I got bullied by girls and guys in my middle school. Some boys liked me and chased me when I was a teenager. I remember I had a boyfriend who was the most popular guy in school. Then suddenly all the girls in my classroom started to talk about me behind my back. Either saying my ex has a terrible taste in choosing girlfriends or saying I look so ugly and how can such an ugly person get with him?. I was not ugly as a teen, otherwise why on Earth would there be guys chasing me continuously and why was I receiving random love letters? At that time, I started to accept the fact I will get bullied from time to time. Those guys who bullied me talked about how I get fucked acting as if they have personally seen it. Ironically, I have been a virgin the whole time I was in school.
At some other time, I was chatting with a guy about how I used Omegle (an online instant video chat room) and saw some weird guys with no underwear. Guess what? He told all the guys that I worked as a web cam girl. However, I believe in karma, and let me tell you how miserable he is now. He spends his time now selling fake Nike and Adidas shoes and last year he got scammed by a fake supplier and he lost 166180 Pounds. His whole family is in debt because of it.
Q: How did it affect your mental health?
F: The terrible effect is that I get paranoid all the time. I would say self-doubting. It is a piece of cake for me to sense others’ emotions and what they have been thinking. Meanwhile, I was depressed all the time in school. There have been a time when I hated talking to boys and I would avoid making friends with girls. I couldn’t pay a lot of attention during classes. I constantly recalled those awful scenes of how I got bullied sexually, I could hear people whispering behind me saying “Look at that slut, yes it is her!” I gave up defending myself and just let it go.
Once I went to college the situation changed drastically and I quit dating for four years as well. I still cry a lot about many tiny little things now, but I would say it is not as toxic as my teen life. I am proud of myself that I did not quit school when I got bullied but finished all my education. Now I completed my master’s course and I hope I can do a Ph.D. in the next few years if Covid-19 restrictions get eased.
Q: How did you cope with it at the time? Did you seek help? Are there any bullying prevention programs in schools?
F: I told my mom once; she called my teacher and the bully’s parents about this issue. It was just a waste of time and nobody gave a damn. I felt so desperate for help, I tried talking to my close friends and luckily, they supported me a lot during that time. I am still grateful for their kind words and their loyalty as friends.
In China, even though bullying is a common topic, there are no actual regulations on the behaviors, especially if it is to do with a verbal bully. Teachers and schools only care about students’ grades so that their ranking in educational system stays high and they don’t lose their reputation. The biggest problem with bullying in China is that many teachers are indifferent to bullying because they underestimate the effect bullying has on the personality of both sides. They also claim implicitly that you are the one with the problem and you deserve it.
Q: What would you say to someone that is being bullied, what advice would you give them?
F: First of all, if you are being bullied, please, do not give into it. I understand that there are vulnerable people that tend to please others because they are afraid of being alone, so they might just go along with it, but don’t. The truth is, if you please others, they will attack you even more. My way of coping with it was simply finding an interest, a hobby and try to get to know people who share the same interests. Learn some self-defense if necessary.
I want to share with you what Johnny Lawrence said: ‘’ In the real world, you can’t expect people to do what they’re supposed to do. It doesn’t matter if you’re a loser, a nerd, or a freak, the only thing that matters is that you get tough.’’
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