Hypatia 30 (2):403-417 (2015)

Despite the amount of attention that activists, educators, psychologists, and the media place on bullying and bullying prevention, there has been no sustained philosophical reflection on bullying, nor has there been a feminist analysis of the growing literature on bullying. This essay seeks to satisfy those two needs. The first section is a broad introduction to the literature on bullying. I define bullying and distinguish it from teasing, sassing, roughhousing, and other more benign interactions. I also outline two common solutions to bullying: zero-tolerance policies and “ecological” interventions. The second section uses feminist ethics of care to analyze the effectiveness of each approach. I argue that ecological approaches to bullying are preferable to zero-tolerance policies because they operate on a relational model of the self and identity-formation. I elaborate a notion of affirmation as the mechanism that stabilizes and solidifies our sense of self across time. I then use affirmation to analyze three things: why people bully one another, the specific harm inflicted by bullying, and why ecological approaches are more effective in reducing bullying. The third section uses my account of affirmation to critique the scientism and troublingly gendered assumptions that underlie much of the work on bullying
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DOI 10.1111/hypa.12144
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