Football Bullies Act Like Chickens

440px-Day_old_chick_black_backgroundWhat do football bullies and chickens have in common?

Ellen Chase bought some chickens, both for the eggs and the entertainment value. They quickly formed a pecking order, leaving the bird at the bottom madder than a wet hen. Eventually, that chicken realized that a blind hen was even more defenseless than her. “Fearful and isolated from her short lifetime of harassment,” Chase says,

It didn’t take her long to realize that here was someone more defenseless than herself, and all her pent-up anger came out in merciless attacks, random and unprovoked.

Miami Dolphins bully Richie Incognito is a lot like that chicken: 

As a boy Richie Jr. was timid, mocked for both pudginess and a gentle nature. Folks still remember the teasing. His dad finally told him: “If you let anyone give you s— now, you’re going to take s— your entire life.” So the young boy delivered a pounding that ended the harassment.

Richie seems to have relished that taste of power, which has culminated in recent brawls with teammate, Jonathan Martin, who endured a year of physical and verbal abuse, including a racist voicemail message and threats against his sister.

Turns out, all this henpecking is locker room norm. But why?

Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin

Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin

Sociologist, Timothy Jon Curry, has spent some time in locker rooms. He says teams are focused on competition, status and winning – both inside and outside the locker room. And athletes, who don’t feel secure since an injury or poor performance can easily take them out, become prone to hostile competition.

The locker room pecking order mirrors society, with straight, white males placed on top by way of putting down women, gays and people of color–which reflects the Incognito-Martin debacle.

Even where jocks seek camaraderie, they want it without vulnerability, intimacy or caring. Because that’s girly and weak. So banter, even when playful, is tough, violent, and dominating.

Meanwhile, none of it is publicly challenged. The athletes are desensitized from repetition. And folks commonly side with the powerful because they fear becoming the next victim.

Too bad locker rooms are so full of chickens.

Related Posts on BroadBlogs
Textual Harassment
Community Bullies Rape Victim
Raping, Shaming Girls to Impress Guys

About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on November 15, 2013, in feminism, men, psychology and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. I just discovered your blog and was pleased that my comments about chickens in the New York Times got noticed. But the main issue I was trying to draw attention to was the roots of bullying: how those who are rejected and abused from an early age become bullyers. We need to apply that observation to child-rearing and early education in order to raise secure and empathetic children (and chickens, apparently).

    • That was a fascinating article.

      I do believe that this is the first time I’ve received a comment from someone who has written for the New York Times. So thanks for boosting my ego.

      I agree. Probably all the bullying that he experienced as a young kid, and in the locker room contributed to his bullying adult behavior. Maybe I’ll write another article that focuses on that aspect.

      Thanks for all the work you do!

  2. Thank you for writing which is quite good and best wishes always, and greetings

  3. When I first joined the British Army I was 17 1/2 years old as thin as a “matchstick with the wood scraped off” and was picked on by a beefy 26 year old and his 2 mates. Although I knew that I was about to be slaughtered I challenged him to a fight, stood up to him, and amazingly he backed down and we became friends. I was scared but couldn’t show it at the time. Ralph xox 😀

  4. This was an interesting read, although I hate that we are calling this ‘bullying.’ I was bullied very harshly in school. It’s nothing to joke about and it should not be taken lightly. When you verbally harass and shove people into lockers in school, you are a bully. When you verbally and physically harass someone beyond school, you are guilty of harassment.

    I understand this is like “adult bullying,” except that harassing and threatening behavior can be punished by law (as it should be).

    • There are varying degrees of bullying. Maybe yours was more extreme. But I feel that I have been bullied in ways that were less extreme than what Mr. Martin underwent. It was still hurtful and depressing. So I don’t feel we need to make a distinction between “mere” harassment and bullying.

      And while you may see this as humorous, and it is, I think that comparing bullies to chickens could actually be one of the more effective anti-bullying techniques.

      Because the last thing a bully wants to be called is a chicken.

      • I do see the humor in that. I guess I’m just afraid of bullying become ‘trendy’ to the point where people stop believing it’s a problem.

        My problem is not with the bully chicken comparison, because that is spot on. I just worry that people will start to consider bullying a non-issue because everyone is crying wolf. There needs to be a distinction made between what qualifies as bullying and when that behavior escalates to harassment.

      • Well, I have no idea why anyone would see what happened with these football players and call it “crying wolf.” I think it’s horrible. I can’t say that I have ever heard of a bullying case that would lead me to take it lightly.

        But thanks for offering your perspective.

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