Having Your Bullies Surgically Removed?

What Will you DefendI’ve been asked a lot about a couple of articles that have been making the rounds. In one, a woman says that she’s decided to have weight loss surgery after her interaction with an online fat hate group.  In another a young girl had surgery to pin her ears back, from a plastic surgeon who created a non-profit dedicated to performing this procedure. He says “This isn’t just free cosmetic surgery – this is a charity that helps combat bullying secondary to having large ears.”  People have been asking me what I think about this.

First and foremost, people are allowed to make these choices (because Underpants Rule!) If someone wants to have a perfectly healthy organ amputated, or have a surgery to change their ears they are allowed to do that, as a way to try to satisfy their bullies or for any other reason.

From a more meta analysis, I’m always troubled by the idea that the solution to bullying is for the person being bullied to change. I’m concerned when the “solution” to bullying is to give the bullies what they want – not just because it’s not fair to the person being bullied, but also because many people being bullied aren’t able to change. 

Often when people  – including laypeople, medical professionals, policy-makers, and especially drug/diet/medical companies trying to profit from this – discuss reasons that they believe fat people should try to be thin, one of the reasons that they include is the stigma, bullying, and oppression that fat people face. Except the problem isn’t that we’re fat, the problem is that we’re stigmatized (often thanks to the drug/diet/medical companies profiting from this) and the solution is to end stigma, bullying and oppression of fat people, not to end the existence of fat people.

Going back to the doctor’s quote, he says “this is a charity that helps combat bullying.” That’s simply not true. It’s not combating bullying at all, it’s accommodating bullies by changing their victims (through a painful process) to look how the bullies want them to look.

When people suggest that those being bullied should change themselves, what they are really saying is “that bully has a point – there is something wrong with your ears/body/haircolor/sexual orientation/whatever”  Go ahead and fix that.  Of course then they’ll start bullying you about something else so please feel free to start a savings account for all the surgeries your’re going to need.

To combat bullying we must create an environment where bullying behavior is unacceptable, not where it’s a good reason to undergo surgery. We need to stop saying that the solution to bullying and stigma lies with changing the victims and not the perpetrators.

In my life when I’ve spoken out about the bullying, harassment and oppression that I’ve experienced because I’m fat, often people have said “Why don’t you do something about it.”  Meaning that I should become thin so that people didn’t treat me poorly for being fat.  I’m calling bullshit on that, I’m “doing something about it” and for me that means standing up and speaking out, not trying to squeeze myself into the mold my bullies made for me.   I’m not the problem, they are.

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38 thoughts on “Having Your Bullies Surgically Removed?

  1. “We spend money that we do not have, on things we do not need, to impress people who do not care.”- Will Smith

    I think this can be said about those who succumb to bullies.


    1. I thought the quote was “We spend money that we do not have, on things we do not need, to impress people we don’t like.” or something along those lines. lol Either way, it’s a great quote and, sadly, it’s absolutely true for many people.

      1. I think “don’t like” fits much better than “don’t care”. If bullies didn’t care — at least, care about getting the satisfaction of having power over someone — they wouldn’t go to the effort of tormenting people.

        1. I think we who were the bullies’ targets have to remember the extent to which they don’t care, though. To them it’s “Oh, yeah, I used to have some fun with So-and-so on the playground, but, y’know, kids will be kids, and that was so long ago and who cares now?” The idea that, no, they spent their “fun” time showing us that the world was not safe and people could not be trusted–it just isn’t in their heads, IME. The idea that we might need years and thousands of dollars of work to get over their “fun” is just silly, because it’s just kids being kids and everybody does it and blah blah excuses excuses.

          I still have trouble sitting with my back to a door. I know the seats with the best vantage point in every restaurant and park. Because life in a small town includes having the bullies with you after school too.

          1. It might be a matter of semantics, but I think it’s less that they “don’t care” (because, as SarahTheEntwife, they care enough to engage in the bullying behavior), but that the personhood of the people they bully is insignificant to them. Whether they profess to be unaware of the nature of their bullying or revel in it, they don’t truly view their victims as people–which is what makes it easy to justify to themselves that they didn’t, and aren’t, doing anything wrong.

  2. Thank you. I was kind of oogy about the whole ear surgery thing when I read the article, but until I read your response I wasn’t 100% sure why I felt so weird. If her reason had been “I hate my ears,” that’d be one thing and a good thing if she decided to have them fixed possibly, but dammit was nothing done at all to deal with the bullies for all those years? Who lets their kid be bullied for near onto 18 years?

    But then that ties into the issues where the victims get punished along with the bullies if they fight back, or worse, they get in more trouble because the bullies are very well able to gaslight the people in authority.

    I dislike hugely the idea that the charity is to help people who are bullied, rather than young people with actual body issues who really want help. There’s a huge difference between “Ick I hate my ears, I look weird,” and “nobody is protecting me so I need my ears fixed.” And I kind of find it shameful that a medical professional is going along with the “she’s being bullied,” instead of “why the hell aren’t you protecting her.” And completely playing into that stereotype. First do no bloody harm dammit.

    1. I learned fast not to speak out since complaining got me into deeper trouble.

      In grad 9 the boys used to beat me. The teachers saw and did nothing. My dad called the school and said he’d call the cops if something wasn’t done. The bullies got called down to the guidance counselor’s office, and later that day the whole school knew that my dad was going to call the cops. That made the whole thing worse.

      The counselor made them apologize, but I knew it was fake, and their lame ass excuse was that they thought I liked it.

    2. Another thing to consider is that people who try to help are also often punished. Every single time I stood up for my friends who were being bullied I was the one who got punished by the authority figures for “butting in”. I might add that most times my friends had specifically asked me for help (other times I was present when the bullies said/did nasty things and I told them to knock it off… which was still a punishable offense, apparently). I guess the authority figures thought that doing their f-ing jobs and stopping the bullying themselves would be “butting in” as well.

  3. having been majorly bullied as a child, I can say from experience if you change what they are bulling you over they just pick something else to bully you over.

    1. So. Very. True.

      When I was a kid I was bullied a lot, too. I wasn’t fat then. But I was the second shortest kid in class, left-handed, dressed in homemade clothes, possessed of a vocabulary right out of the Victorian novels I gobbled like candy, non-athletic, non-violent, and the child of a fat woman.

      And if all of that hadn’t been true, they still had a target in my last name.

      If bullies decide you’re a good target, it doesn’t matter what you look like, how you act, or what you do. They will find another reason to bully you.

      Why? Because they are looking for a target, and they don’t really care why.

      The problem wasn’t that I dressed oddly, spoke oddly, used my left hand for things other kids did with their right hands, or that I hated team sports. The problem was that when kids hit me and teased me using these excuses, nobody told them not to fucking do that.

      1. And sometimes the people who should be telling the bullies to knock it off aid and abet them instead. Non-neurotypical here. In other words, you know, a weirdo. You know what helps weirdos so, so much? Just the most helpful thing in the world? When you tell them (as they are brushing gravel out of their hair, wiping spit from their faces, searching for their scattered homework…) that they need to try harder to get along, and then walk off, your job accomplished. Yay, grownups! Big hand for you! You rock!

        Also, it’s Opposite Day.

        1. Yeah, that’s what I was told by a teacher when I complained that a kid on the playground had choked me with my own scarf until I nearly blacked out.

          What a help that was – NOT!

        2. In elementary school the kids started throwing rocks at me on the play ground, I tried to get them to stop but more and more kept doing it until they surrounded me chanting “fatty fatty elephant”. I took shelter under the marry-go-round until a teacher finally broke it up -he was laughing. I was covered in dirt, scrapped up from having to crawl on the rocks, and in pain from the rocks that where pelted at me …and he was laughing. The kids didn’t even get reprimanded – in fact, the laughing adult only validated that they were right to treat me that way and the bullying only got worse after that.

    2. Yeah. Bullies will bully over ANYTHING. It doesn’t even have to make sense. They’ll bully you over the clothes you wear, the body you have, your hair, your voice, the way you laugh, or how you don’t laugh enough, the questions you ask in class, if you’re too quiet, if your grades are good, if your grades are bad, if you’re too “average.” Literally anything they can, just so they can get off on the bullying.

  4. When I was four years old, I had a growth spurt, and grew taller than my 6-year-old sister. She was always very demanding and insecure, and the appearance of THREE younger sisters within four years made her a difficult person to live with. She always had to be the best, given the most attention… and suddenly I was taller than her.
    So she decided to start calling me ‘Big, Fat and Stupid’. Whenever Ma wasn’t around, or wasn’t listening, my big sister would tell me in tones of kindly conviction that I couldn’t do this, that, or the other, in particular anything that might somehow compete with her status as Cleverest, Prettiest and Most Accomplished, because I was Big, Fat, and Stupid.
    Now to a four-year-old, accustomed to obeying and accepting everything Big Sister said, that sank right in. I accepted that she must be right – I was Big, Fat, and Stupid, if she said I was. I stopped trying to take part in family games, I puzzled my parents hugely by telling them I couldn’t do things because I was Big, Fat and Stupid, and they never thought to ask me why I was saying that….
    Sister’s dominance over me lasted until I was eleven, when I finally stopped believing every word she said, and started building my own life and friends-group at school. I always, however, believed that she was ineffably superior to me in every way, and anything I was good at simply didn’t matter.
    Bullying is often the result of deep personal insecurity and neglectful parenting, when the bully gets away with saying things because the parents just aren’t listening.

    Fifty years on, I’m still Big. I’m undeniably Fat. But by Christ, I’m not Stupid. What I AM is estranged from that sister, having nothing to do with her beyond brief Christmas greetings. I will not speak with her, I will not visit her, I do not welcome her in my home. She’s a toxic, troublesome presence that I keep at arm’s length.

  5. I had surgery on my ears when I was 11, because they stuck out and I was teased about it. It was incredibly painful, and painful for YEARS if I, for example, folded my ear forward rolling over in my sleep. After that I was teased for coming to school with my head in bandages, among other things.

    Happily my ears do look fine, but then, they did before, really, and primarily when I think of that surgery I remember the pain and feeling of betrayal that no one told me it would hurt so much, and how disappointed I was to lose my ability to wiggle my ears, a talent I had been proud of. It kind of also bothers me that my Mom instigated the idea; I would have preferred her to just tell me I was fine and the bullies were the problem.

    It made no difference in net bullying. The root problem was that I was odd, not that I had jug handles.

    1. My daughter has “outie” kind of ears, and several people, including her pediatrician (!) suggested that we could have them “fixed”. When she was about five, I asked her what she thought about her ears. She said, “I have the most awesome ears! They are fairy ears!” When she was a little older, she mentioned that people sometimes commented on her ears sticking out. I reminded her that she had said they were her fairy ears, but gave her the option of having them altered if she wished. She thought about it and passed on surgery. Now she’s 17 and still rocking the fairy ears. And I am so glad I managed to keep quiet the “my kid’s going to get bullied for her ears!” worry instead of giving in to it and passing it on to her.

      1. That’s awesome. My personal feeling is that homogenizing people instead of enjoying the wide variety of human appearances is a bad and slippery slope.

      2. I love the idea of fairy ears!

        I’m fond of the work of actress Anne-Marie Duff. She’s played some wonderful characters over the years, fairy ears and all. Best of all, I’ve seen her in films where no attempt was made to cover them up. You can see them in all their ‘outie’ glory in The Way We Live Now and in The Magdalene Sisters.

        So if your daughter ever needs a role model for rocking fairy ears to remind her of how cool they are, Anne-Marie Duff might be your girl.

  6. One of the things that got the other kids coming after me in packs was that I was too smart. Among other things, I read at high school level in early primary and I had a huge expressive vocabulary with excellent grammar. I taught myself how to speak ungrammatically and use small words in an effort to change myself so that the bullies would leave me alone.

    The bullies just hammered more on my neuro-atypicality. Also, I’m past 40 and teaching three homeschool students and I still drop into bad English when I’m stressed.

    1. I, too, had a huge vocabulary and read at college level by third grade. And yes, I got merry hell for it all the time from other kids.

      I chose the opposite coping mechanism, though. I read more advanced books with more obscure vocabulary and peppered my conversation with the most archaic words I could muster.

      They were going to be nasty and beat me up no matter what I did, so it became a matter of principal for me not to bow to them.

      And to this day, when I’m stressed or threatened, I start sounding like a cross between Jane Austen and Frances Hodgson Burnett with a dash of PG Wodehouse and George Bernard Shaw thrown in for good measure.

      1. Same here. Tested as reading at “college freshman” level in 4th grade (my father, a college professor, was deeply insulted–“you read MUCH better than a freshman!!”, he said). Being the tallest, and the furthest into puberty (bra at age not-quite-ten) AND the smartest kid in the class, as well as being chubby and clumsy and no good at sports … well, it was hell. Sheer, unrelieved hell.

      2. Me, too! I was the kid giggling madly at Shakespeare during recess, and when we started actually studying it in school, I wondered why they didn’t make us have parent consent forms, considering all the dirty jokes he put in there. We couldn’t read “Catcher In the Rye,” but we could read “The Taming of the Shrew”? Seriously?

        Of course, most of the kids had no clue. Sometimes, when they started swearing and talking crudely, I’d translate it, into more erudite language.

        “Oh, you have a really copulating time in class, did you? I’m surprised the teacher allowed it. With whom did you copulate?”


        My sister pointed out to me a few years ago that she can tell when I’m absolutely livid, because I become strictly precise with my grammar, and start saying things like, “That is behavior up with which I will not put.”

        1. I was tormented for overlarge vocabulary as an adult at work – which was at AN IVY LEAGUE UNIVERSITY. you can’t win….

          1. When I was working as a temp, I once had a manager tell me that she didn’t know what the word “hence” meant, because “We didn’t learn those big words at my high school.”

    2. Yep, the same thing happened to me. I just stopped talking to people unless I absolutely had to. It took years of therapy for me to be able to make small talk at a party and/or speak confidently with strangers as an adult. One of the things I love about my therapist is the fact that I can unleash my full vocabulary when I’m with her, and not only does she understand me, she reciprocates!

      1. I was bullied for being smart. Often I was the smartest in the class. I never had any friends, I sat on hallway benches by myself.

        One year my mom made me get a perm, and I looked like Ronald McDonald. Other kids would approach me during the lunch hour as I sat on the benches, and ask me for the entire time if I would make the “M”. I never did, so they continued to harass. My dad said “they’re just trying to be friends, you should do what they want”.

  7. Last school year, my little nephew had a miserable time. He was bullied, because…

    He had allergies and a chronic cough.

    Yes, this little boy was bullied because he coughed. And the teachers? They “weren’t aware there was an issue.” Yeah, that was the excuse why they did nothing to stop the bullying. Because they simply never noticed it.

    I don’t buy it. I think they just decided it was easier to let the bullies have their way.

    Same story, different details. “So, you want the bullies to stop bothering you? Just give them your lunch money. THAT will show them!”


  8. I saw a video about this similar situation (it might even be the same incident) in which the doctor not only pinned her ears back “so she wouldn’t get bullied anymore” but talked her into even more surgeries that she didn’t even come in for. It was ridiculous and so sad. On that video I left a comment that was 100% inspired by you, something along the lines of: “This comes dangerously close to implying that the way to end bullying is to give the bullies what they want” or something to that effect.

    It’s exactly the same type of situations you’ve frequently talked about. Before, if I had watched a video like that I would have been like “hmmm this REALLY doesn’t sit right with me, but I can’t put my finger on exactly WHY this is such a bad way to go about it”. After reading your blog for the past few years, I knew as soon as I watched it exactly why it was such BS.

    1. That’s like when you take you car in to get tires rotated and they want to sell you a new compressor, muffler, engine, and windscreen.

  9. I tend to eat what is deemed by society as “healthy” (lots of veggies, fruits, small portions, etc…) I get a lot of guff from coworkers about my eating habits, harassed even for what I choose to eat. I don’t comment on their food, but they always insist on letting me know that I eat “like a rabbit” and should eat more. Meanwhile, I would never dare comment on their choice of food or portion size. I’ll never understand why anyone feels entitled to comment on what I put into my body.

    1. Food is supposed to be a “social” topic. Or “safe” topic, which gives too many people a license to pry into things which are none of their business. I used to do this more often, but I’ve managed to dial it way back in the last few years, at least.

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