Book Review: Bullying – Experiences and Discourses of Sexuality and Gender

Rivers, I. & Duncan, N., (2013). (Eds.)  Bullying: Experiences and discourses of sexuality and gender. Oxford: Routledge. 

pp. 192, £24.99 (paperback)

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The children in the photo’ above are trying to decide whether telling someone that their new coat is gay is okay or not. Often I find that opinions on this vignette  divide a class of 13 year-olds. Some children don’t see any problem with this; others think it is always unacceptable. Why is this? Where do these opinions come from?

The use of language surrounding homophobia and norms of masculinity are just two of the issues covered in Bullying: Experiences and discourses of sexuality and gender. Key questions for researchers looking at the gender- and sexuality-based bullying in schools include why this kind of bullying happens and how anti-bullying interventions may help to address this issue. The editors have pulled together a wealth of evidence to speak to these questions, and the result is a state-of-the-art account of the relevant research.

photo (10)The editors and authors cover the nature and effects of bullying and cyberbullying in general terms, from individual level analyses that focus on the pathology of bullies and victims, to ‘collective’ explanations that take into account the role of the peer group (giving me my first in-book citation for a research paper in the process 🙂 ). They also consider specific issues faced by LGBT+ (and heteronormative) youth: using information about sexual preferences to hurt others online, sexting and sexual bullying, the race for social dominance in girls’ friendship groups, LGBT+ issues in sport, and stereotypes concerning disability and (lack of) sexual identity. Importantly, the editors also include chapters on how gender- and sexuality-related bullying may be addressed through Gay-Straight Alliances, teacher training, and carefully planned interventions.

Notable is the wide range of research methods covered. While Helen Cowie’s findings are the result of longitudinal research, Paul Poteat uses established scales to measure homophobic bullying, Schneider reports interview data, and Eric Anderson presents a personal (perhaps auto-ethnographic) account of homophobic attitudes in sport. The work is also multi-disciplinary, with input from those working in Psychology and  Education, and accessible to those working in these and related fields.

As the editors acknowledge, several questions remain. There is an increasing amount of research on the L and G in LGBT+, yet not so much on the rest of that picture – do the issues surrounding homophobia and sexual violence also concern transphobia in the same way?  What are the optimal resources and school settings for genuine inclusion? I would also argue that there is more work to be done theoretically: why  is it that gender and sexuality-based bullying in schools is so norm-dependent, and that peers have such influence in this arena….?

Nonetheless, the central message of the book is positive: perceptions of LGBT+ identities are changing and malleable, and research is bringing us closer to a position where we can effectively confront, and ultimately reduce, the level of sexuality- and gender-based bullying in schools. A recommended read.


Guest Post: Transcripts, Tracing and (Eye) Tracking: Work Experience in Psychology

P1030691Anna is a student in Year 10 at a local secondary school. This week, she spent time on her work experience placement, in the Department of Psychology, with me. Here, she reflects on her experiences. 

This week I have been doing my work experience with Sian at Oxford Brookes University. Over the time I’ve been here I have done various things including data entry, transcription and writing a report (or attempting to). I have found out more about the goings on in the department and met several people who have shown me parts of the department. These included the eye tracker, baby lab and visual perception lab. Throughout the course of the week I have learnt how to use two programs for data; one each for quantitative and qualitative data.

Monday, my first day. Going into an unknown place can be very scary sometimes, especially when you get there to find yourself surrounded by lots of foreign students who speak little of your language (There is a summer school on at the moment at Brookes for language students from various countries). This bewildered me somewhat, but once I had found my destination all was well. My main tasks that day were data entry and learning how to use SPSS, a statistics program. The data was from the feedback forms from Sian’s friendship workshops. I found this an enjoyable task, contrary, I imagine, to what people may think.

Using the eye-tracker

Using the eye-tracker

On Tuesday, the bus was 20 minutes late. Thankfully, I had allowed plenty of time between bus arrival and my starting time, so wasn’t late. I think that 20 minutes was quite an impressive achievement on the Bus Company’s behalf! At work I finished the entry of the quantitative data, and also saw and used the eye tracker. This is a clever little device which is useful for lots of things. I met a past student after that, who showed me some of the university and talked to me about being a student. She showed me the baby lab, which was fascinating. The baby lab has a baby eye tracker amongst other things, which I thought was rather sweet.

Wednesday- I looked at the qualitative data from the feedback forms today and also started to write a report about the workshops and evaluation. I have concluded that writing reports isn’t my greatest strength… In the afternoon I was shown the visual perception lab. I saw lots of visual illusions and now know how and why they work. There I did an activity to help one of the research fellows.



On Thursday, I learnt how to use another computer program, and how to carry out a thematic analysis on a transcript. I then started to write a transcript of an interview. At lunch today, Sian took me to another campus of the University for a slight change of scenery.

Today, Friday, I finished transcribing the interview. After that, I had a go at doing a mirror tracing task. I had to try and draw objects such as a five point star only looking at my hand in the mirror, and not at my actual hand. This is harder than it sounds. In fact, drawing a star with my left hand became easier than drawing with my right hand (the one I normally use). I also tried writing so that the text looked the right way up in the mirror, another challenge.

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Mirror Tracing

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The Results of Mirror tracing; not the neatest ever!

After lunch, I continued to write the report on the friendship workshops.

I think my favourite part of the experience was learning more about the sorts of things which the research fellows do, and also meeting lots of new people. Everyone here is really friendly and welcoming. Overall, I have really enjoyed my experience. I would recommend this as a great work experience placement to anyone interested.

And, on reflection, I would recommend welcoming an ‘Anna’ to anyone working in academic Psychology. It was fun to show her some of the psychological phenomena that fascinate us in the Department, and for her to see them for the first time. Moreover, Anna was diligent, quick, and intelligent about her work (as well as being a downright lovely person to have around), and did some really useful things for me (and others in the Department), making us all the more efficient this week. And, as you can see, her report-writing skills really aren’t that bad, either. Who would like to apply next year……..? 

New Notifications Pending

I returned from holiday, to work, on Tuesday this week. As I was on retreat at Taizé in Central France, for eight days, I voluntarily did not check, receive, or send email messages. In fact, I didn’t make any use of the internet or ‘phone while I was away – and I didn’t miss it, or feel a need to check messages, as I do, now that I’ve returned to work.

This experience has led me to reflect on email, and this is the topic for the rest of this post.  This will probably show my age….before I was a sixth former, I had never sent an email. During sixth form, it was barely used. When my first lecturer at university said that all communication about the course would be sent via email, I was terrified: I wasn’t sure what I was doing with email, and the thought of inadvertently (or otherwise) messaging a lecturer was petrifying.

Now, I’ve overcome that fear, and can’t imagine how a university or academic community could function efficiently without email. Taizé gave me glimpses, with notices given at the beginning of group studies, and poster information, and photocopied sheets, but….it would dramatically increase my workload if I had to communicate via those methods. To borrow the words of Lola [email] is more friendly and straightaway. 

Because – as I understand it – the common courtesy reply time on an email message is 48 hours, I didn’t feel I could leave my desk, without setting up an auto-reply (without this, I would have panicked about appearing rude, or missing something vital). It turns out I wouldn’t have done, and was swiftly able to deal with the 100 or so messages that appeared in my absence, and to re-enter academia smoothly.


With kind permission:”Piled Higher and Deeper” by Jorge Cham

I am so bound by electronic communication, that I have to inform the world  when I’m not using it. In previous times, surely, I would simply have pinned a note on my office door, and messages in a pigeon hole would have had to wait, without response…. I’m not even sure it’s a good idea to let everyone know you’re not at work, is it?

Of course, during  writing this post, I have received new notifications – better check out what they are……