FYI 3rd October, 2018
Is Taunting Harmful? Or Are We Being ‘Too Sensitive’?.

Consider these two scenarios:

  • Ekta gets a promotion and her colleague Sunil is not happy about it. Every morning, after Ekta arrives in the office, Sunil and his friends gather near her desk and loudly pass comments about women who dress a certain way to get promotions. He makes sure Ekta hears him. This is so subtly done that if Ekta calls him out on this, Sunil can back himself up and deny that he’s referring to Ekta.
  • Harsh is angry that his daughter-in-law Anita works for a living, but cannot really do anything about it because the rest of the family supports Anita’s right to work. So Harsh takes to passing obnoxiously loud comments about working women and grumbles about other daughters-in-law who serve tea to their in-laws in the morning, while Anita leaves for work.

Should this have happened? Was it right?

Ekta and Anita were subject to relentless taunting. Taunting is a non-physical form of abuse that involves making a mockery of someone based on who they are or something that they may or may not have done. It also entails jeering at or provoking someone to the point of them having an immediate negative reaction.

Taunting is a textbook tactic for bullies. It cannot be disguised under playful behaviour or a litmus test to examine someone’s sense of humour. It is damaging to psychological wellbeing and cannot be folded under ‘light teasing’ – it is a cruel tactic and its only purpose is to only harm someone else.

Taunting is a choice to subject someone to emotional and mental violence out of contempt and disrespect. It is demeaning and it is a one-sided action. There is no guarantee that one will be able to defend themselves against people who are taunting them. Taunting is a display of power to grant oneself a superior position in whatever space that they are in. It is also a tactic to control someone’s behaviour by wearing them out.

Direct, provocative commentary to hurt people can be disguised as light-hearted joking. Except, there’s nothing funny about it. When it comes to a competitive arena such as sports and workplace goal fulfilment, taunting has been normalised as a ‘part of competition’. Taunting will not motivate our colleagues or team members to do better. They will be alienated.

Some examples of taunting are:

  • making disparaging comments about someone, especially their appearance and work.
  • jeering at someone till the point of provoking them into a volatile action. E.g. – a sudden action of physical violence.
  • demotivating someone to the point of affecting their willpower.
  • rubbing your good fortune in someone else’s face – someone not as fortunate as you are.
  • mocking someone by doing a crude imitation of them.
  • grouping up with people to make fun of and alienate someone else.

Bollywood actresses are subject to a lot of taunting and trolling, for the most ridiculous reasons:

Taunting harms another person’s self-esteem and confidence. It is damaging to workplace performance when you tear someone down for the heck of it. In previous workplaces and during college, I was subject to years of fat-shaming or being rundown for the way I dress. I did not find an iota of that funny – it only made me feel terrible about myself and I convinced myself that I was frumpy and ugly. The only way I got over it was by frequently reminding myself that these people were taunting me to hide their own insecurities and complexes.

To conclude, taunting someone is subjecting them to systematic violence. Acknowledge that sometimes words can leave behind deeper emotional/mental scars than physical wounds. Let us address it for what it is – it’s bullying. While we are at it, let us also take a moment to call out someone if they are taunting another person. If it has happened to you, you know how terrible it feels – so take a moment to prevent someone from going through the same phase where they feel bad about themselves. The repercussions of taunting are such where the phase of feeling worthless can translate into a permanent pattern.


Featured image used for representational purpose only. Source: The Line Break

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