What is exclusion? The Cambridge Dictionary says it’s “the act of not allowing someone or something to take part in an activity or enter a place.” So one can easily imagine where exclusion figures into bullying. The bullies simply do not allow the victim to join them or make friends with them. I use the plural here because in many cases with exclusion, it involves a group of people. Sometimes it’s one bully and the others are hangers on and there are the occasions when a former friend drops the victim as a friend because that person feels that hanging around the victim is social suicide. But often it is the whole group who excludes the victim. However, for the victim, the numbers don’t matter, it’s the effect.
Many people scoff at the idea that exclusion is a form of bullying at all. There’s no physical pain and the victim can always find other people to be friends with. True there’s no physical pain but like actual violence or threats of violence, the victim is left feeling humiliated. Many times there is no obvious reason given just bullying taunts like “Because you’re a loser” or “Nobody likes you.” As we know, names can hurt but the result is a blow to the victim’s probably already low self esteem. After being on the receiving end of exclusion too many times, the victim will feel that nobody really does like them. If the victim has further problems like Asperger’s Syndrome where everything said is taken to heart, the outcome is even worse.
Victims of exclusion become loners. They may have one or two friends but for the most part, they are ignored. It is often these loners who are sought out for more direct bullying, so the knock on effect of exclusion is easily seen here. Another aspect of exclusion is that because the victim may want to be included or have people like them, they will do the bully’s bidding in an attempt to gain their favour. The bully will get the victim to do outlandish things or even break the rules. The victim, thinking it will get their bully and friends to like them will do it not realising they are being used for the bully’s own amusement. When the victim does realise they’re being used, it’s too late; their self esteem has already taken a nosedive.
In “He Was Weird,” Mark suffers exclusion in the very first chapter. Class hero Andrew Blumenthaw doesn’t allow him to join the rest of the class to play football because Andrew deduces that Mark isn’t good enough because he didn’t play well in a soccer game in PE class. Another instance is when Mark befriends another boy who suddenly drops him after about five months because by then, associating with Mark is considered social suicide. Further along in the story, another bully gets Mark to say horrible things to a girl. Mark does this for two reasons: one, to get people to like him and the other is because the bullies tell him that if he doesn’t, it means he likes her romantically.
What can we do about exclusion? The counter argument here is that we can’t make children be friends. True again, but they can be taught to be more tolerant and that associating with a particular child isn’t social suicide.