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Double Standards Don’t Help Anyone Succeed

, , , , , | Learning | August 22, 2021

I was in fourth or fifth grade when this happened. I’m a girl, and at this time, I was also dealing with what would later be diagnosed as high-functioning autism. As a result, I had a really hard time interacting with my classmates. I did my best to learn what kind of behaviour was appropriate in different situations, but I found it to be very difficult, because the rules kept changing around depending on the individuals who were involved. 

One bright winter day, my classmates and I were playing King of the Hill on a big snowdrift in the schoolyard. The class bully kept winning, and I found it unfair, because he was so much bigger and stronger than the rest of us, and I thought he should give someone else a go instead of just kicking off anyone who tried to make an attempt to get to the top. This inevitably escalated into a fight between me and the bully, because I thought that the same rules applied to all children and had not yet grasped that girls were not supposed to fight. 

We ended up in an empty classroom with our teacher. It’s important to note that we were both chubby children, but [Class Bully] was tall and broad while I was short and squat. I’d been bullied for being fat for years, while no one had ever dared to say anything to [Class Bully].

Teacher: “Can you please tell me what happened?

Class Bully: “[My Name] said I was fat and to get off the hill!”

Me: “That’s not what happened! I told him he should let someone else have a chance to be King! I just said he’s as big as two people and it wasn’t fair!”

[Class Bully] started crying, which was usually what he did when he was being called out for his behaviour and there was an adult present.

Teacher: “[My Name], I’m very disappointed in you. You know bullying isn’t acceptable at this school!”

In fact, bullying was very much acceptable at this school; it just depended on who was doing the bullying.

Me: “But I wasn’t bullying him.”

Teacher: “You can’t go around calling other children fat. That sort of thing hurts. I’m going to have to call your parents about this.”

Me: “I didn’t say he was fat; I said he was big!”

Teacher: “It means the same thing, and it’s very hurtful. You need to be more considerate of others, [My Name]. See how sad you’ve made [Class Bully]?”

Me: “But the other children call me fat all the time; how is that any different? Why am I not allowed to say it?”

Teacher: “Well, we can’t always say everything we think. Now, apologize to [Class Bully] and then go home and think about what you’ve done.”

In my mind, I hadn’t done anything different than what the other kids were already doing to me without consequences, but in my little mental flowchart of human interaction, I carefully noted down, “Other children may be mean to me, but I may not be mean to them.”

This, and a hundred other little incidents like it, led to me, a few years later, being scolded by my teachers for not speaking up in class and not standing up for myself. 

It was very, very confusing until I reached my twenties and finally got a therapist who explained to me that I was not the stupid one.

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