Belfast Telegraph

How the war against bullying is now a battle royal

By Harriet Walker

Forget Le Creuset: Catherine Middleton wants you to donate to the charity Beatbullying instead of buying her a wedding gift.

Quite right, too. There isn't a department store on earth with a gift-list that could trump the trousseau she's about to acquire.

The charity means more to her than any new linens or 36-piece cutlery set ever could, because the future Queen was, allegedly, the victim of intolerable bullying at her school, Downe House.

She stayed there only two terms before transferring to Marlborough College. The cause of her victimisation? The fact she was 'too perfect'.

'Oh poor her,' you might wail facetiously. 'Oh it must have been so hard to be the sort of teenager who wasn't fat, ugly, smelly or nerdy. Oh she's got my sympathy. No, really, she has.'

But Kate Middleton deserves your pity for suffering at the hands of her peers, whether it was because of her uncannily shiny hair and 18-inch waist or not.

In an interview with Marie Claire this month, Mad Men star January Jones spoke of her experiences of teenage tormenters.

She was asked about the rumour that she had gone into modelling to show the bullies who told her she was ugly that they were wrong.

"Where are you getting this from?" she replied. "The bitches in high school were bitches because I was pretty."

It may seem laughable to start proselytising over the trauma of being an attractive teenage girl, so let me say now that that's not what I'm going to do.

Having been one of the fat, ugly, smelly and nerdy ones, I'm certainly not going to whinge about how hard it is coming first in the looks lottery.

But what I will whinge about is the hideous power-play and envy-debt that such practices engender.

For every spod who got thumped on the head by a jock, for every spotty, bespectacled girl who got picked on for not filling out her bra, there's another January Jones or Kate Middleton under a barrage of bullying from their aesthetically-challenged peers.

Of course, academic girls' schools are notorious for their hothouse climate of catcalling, where you can be picked on for just about anything, from weight or race, to what colour socks you have on or whether your name has a vowel in it.

I don't give extra weight to incidents of bullying that occur because of jealousy (as opposed to simply focusing on the easy target), but they are indicative of a pattern that women consistently fall into.

We mistrust each other based on looks alone. We assume that the more attractive of our sex must be less competent or intellectually able, or that they have tried less hard, worked less hard, achieved less. And when we do that, it makes it okay for men to do it, too.

It begins in school, of course, where we're pitched against each other: brains on one side, beauty on the other.

In spite of girls consistently outperforming boys at school, they're still locked in battle with one another to be the best, to be perfect. No wonder they resent and scorn the ones who seem perfect.

Ultimately, yes, neither Kate Middleton nor January Jones lead terribly difficult lives. Perhaps we can be jealous of them for that.

But don't resent the millions that special cases like hers will raise for a charity like Beatbullying either. It's not just for pretty faces.


From Belfast Telegraph