Ask A Reenactor: Bullying in the Hobby
Given that bullying has been making some significant headlines recently, I figured that now was a good time to bring up this concerning message I received from one of my readers:
There’s a reenacting group who I use to be associated with kind of. I had several friends in the group and I liked hanging out with them. Until I learned they were making fun of me. Making fun of what I looked like and making fun of my boyfriend. We left the group and still reenact but the group makes me uncomfortable and now someone from the group (who I have no idea if was involved in any of this) is trying to add me again on facebook. How do I handle this?
Indirect bullying is one of the elephants in the room in the reenacting hobby. Though it is extremely rare to be confronted about something to your face, many reenactors have faced name calling and finger pointing behind their back. Generally, but not always, this is done in the name of shaming a farb. Not only is that a disgusting habit for an adult to indulge in, it’s also completely ineffective at getting people to raise the authenticity of their impression.
Reenactors do have a reputation for being snippy, elitist, and harsh on those who don’t measure up to their standards, and I think that this attitude needs to change if we are to recruit new, young members to our units. Being elitist is different from having standards – one is an attitude, the other is a protocol. The prospective reenactors that I’ve talked to through both this site and Daily Reenactor are all interested in being in units with high authenticity standards, but they have been turned off by the perceived elitism that they have encountered while trying to find such units.
Look at it this way – what good does it do to point a finger behind someone’s back? The only purpose it serves is to make the pointer feel superior, to feel better about themselves. It certainly doesn’t help the farb improve his or her impression, as they’re not just getting a lack of feedback about their impression, they aren’t even aware that the teasing is going on (and if they are, such as the original questioner was, it can be very hurtful and incline people toward leaving the hobby).
The next time you feel inclined toward making fun of someone at an event or in someone’s photos, pause a moment and think about just why you feel that you need to make fun of them. If it’s just about you feeling better about yourself, maybe you should look into improving your self-worth instead of taking away someone else’s. If you genuinely are concerned about someone’s impression, try to talk to them about it, in a non-confrontational way. Help them see the light by opening the door to a better impression, rather than thumbing your nose at them from behind the window. Before you make fun of someone for the way they look, the way they act, or even their opinions…think to yourself, “Is this the way I want people to think of reenactors?”. If the answer is no, then don’t do it – such actions shame upon the hobby for all of us.
[Note: my use of the word "farb" is meant in a non-insulting way. The only reason I used it here is that it is a commonly-used term in the hobby and there isn't really a short, easy way to say "person or item or action or thing that is generally inauthentic or incorrect".]
To the original questioner:
I’m sorry that you’ve had to deal with such individuals while participating in this wonderful hobby, and I hope that you will continue to reenact. Unfortunately, such behavior is fairly common in the hobby, so my best advice is to learn to steel yourself against it for now, and to call out those whose actions are, shall we say, less than adult. If your old unit is making fun of you in a malicious way, let other reenactors know that. Let that unit become known as one that bullies its own members, and eventually, their numbers will dwindle. As for the moment, I would disassociate yourself from them as much as possible, and definitely don’t friend any of them on Facebook or other social media. Avoid them at events when at all possible, and take solace in the fact that you seem to have found a better group now. Success is the best revenge, so enjoy your new unit, have an awesome time at events, and generally just do a good job of showing them how much happier you are without them. Eventually, bullies go away when they realize their barbs don’t stick anymore.