Saturday, June 23, 2012

Relational Aggression: The Medium as the Message

Relational aggression, also known as covert aggression, or covert bullying is a type of aggression in which harm is caused through damage to one’s relationships or social status. Although it can be used in many contexts and among different age groups, relational aggression among adolescents, in particular, has received a lot of attention with the help of popular media including movies like ‘’Mean girls’’ and books like ‘’Odd Girl Out’’ by R. Simmons (2003) and ‘’Queen Bees and Wannabes’’ by R. Wiseman (2003). Relational aggression can have various life-long consequences. This type of aggression has been primarily observed and studied among girls. However, research shows that it is quite commonly used by boys as well.

Shame may be used by those people who commit relational aggression and may occur in the workplace as a form of overt social control or aggression. Shaming is also a central feature of punishment, shunning, or ostracism.

I believe I was a victim of relational aggression, or mobbing behaviors, during my employment at the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld.  I was subjected to sexual rumors and innuendo.  I believe also that I was shunned and ostracized -- that I was kept physically isolated from other employees and was somewhat of a social pariah.

I find it ironic that a form of aggression that relied on spreading rumors that I was a homosexual, namely, relational aggression, is actually a form of aggression used primarily by females.   This perhaps is circumstantial evidence that the harassment ringleader at Akin Gump, if he was a male, had a strong latent homosexual trend in his personality.

It may be said that at Akin Gump there was a symmetry between the behavior of spreading rumors about someone (a commonly female activity) and the content of the rumors (imputing homosexuality to the victim).   In effect, the medium (the behavior of spreading rumors) was the message (the victim is a homosexual -- a projection of the statement I fear that I am a homosexual).

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