Recently I was in a gay hotel in Sydney when in came 10 police and a sniffer dog. This is not policing, it is bullying and what was worse, our small group of four men were the only ones protesting about it.
The other patrons just looked on. If we put up with bullying in any form we are condoning the behaviour. It is up to all of us to be quietly assertive to protest against bullying in any environment.
Bullying happens in the playground, at home and in the workforce. When the boss or the manager misuses power to make you do what you don’t want to do, this is bullying.
Using ‘I’ statements to be assertive lets that person know you don’t approve of this form of intimidation without directly blaming them.
“I’m not comfortable with doing what you ask and I want to discuss this further,” is all that is necessary. If we say nothing then we make a rod for our backs for further bullying behaviour.
Being assertive does not mean being aggressive it is just stating that you do not agree with the misuse of power. In relationship counselling you often see one partner intimidating another with demands that have become the norm because no protest was raised years before.
This destructive dynamic, developed over time, can be corrected when revealed and with each partner’s willingness to make changes. The person being bullied has to be seen as condoning the practice though as no protest was raised and therefore is a party to the offence.
I can recall the police strip case in a Melbourne club where brave patrons took matters to court and won. This act of protest resulted in sweeping changes to the way policing was undertaken in Melbourne clubs, thank goodness. What about our revolution for civil rights generated by Stonewall? I’m not saying we need to be rioting or taking matters to court but we do need to protest.
When I looked around the pub, when all these police invaded our space, I was quietly shocked by the non-reaction of others. Simple booing would have let them know we were not happy with their storm trooping manner. My partner was nearly arrested for his protest, which was a little louder than mine, but they heard the message. The next day we wrote protest letters to the police minister and the press.
We all have the right to experience life without the misuse of power in a healthy Australian democracy, whether that is out relaxing, working or at home. The right is taken away from us when we sit back and don’t quietly protest against bullying.
Learning to be quietly assertive with ‘I’ statements takes practice and judgment, but in the end it helps us all achieve the environment we want to live in.
Gerry North is a gay counsellor.