Trump and a blood-stained sheet: talking about confrontation and bullies in French

Bullies want to fight victims, not adversaries.  –Bruce Tegner

When I was a kid, instructions for dealing with a bully were clear and unambiguous: fight him.  Bullies deal in the currency of fear and intimidation, and what they told us is true: if you come at them, they will typically back down.  My favorite Navy fight stories are not about fights–they’re about fights that didn’t happen, because I didn’t back down from a bully, and then he backed down from me.  (This probably makes me sound like a badass.  I’m not–I’m a total wimp.  But, at some point, the possibility of being beaten shitless is a lot less painful than continuing to be bullied by some asshole.)

At this point in our bizarre election cycle, all of the talk is about confrontation.  Last night was what the French press called the first passe d’armes between Clinton and Trump.  I would guess that most of us turned on the TV to watch the debate with a fair amount of trepidation.  What would Trump do?  Would he literally beat his chest like a fucking gorilla?  Would he lash out from the git-go?  (This expression explained below in the English notes.)  As it turned out, Clinton did what they told us to do when I was a kid: she got right in his face.  She took the fight to him.  Trump did what he’s done in the past when confronted with a woman who wouldn’t back down: he folded.  (I’m thinking here of Carly Fiorina and the Rev. Faith Timmons.)

When I was a kid, everyone advised fighting bullies–parents, teachers, the world.  In American schools today, kids who are involved in anything remotely resembling a fight are suspended from school, whether they initiated it, or they were attacked–see here, or here, or here for news stories about kids being thrown out of school for standing up to a bully.

How kids are supposed to deal with bullies under those conditions, I have no clue. I mean, I can read, so I know what the current advice is:

  • Reframe the problem of bullying.  By changing your attitude towards bullying you can help regain a sense of control.  Try to view bullying from a different perspective.  (That’s Tip #2 from this page.)
  • Feel good about you. Nobody’s perfect, but what can you do to look and feel your best? Maybe you’d like to be more fit. If so, maybe you’ll decide to get more exercise, watch less TV, and eat healthier snacks. Or maybe you feel you look best when you shower in the morning before school. If so, you could decide to get up a little earlier so you can be clean and refreshed for the school day.  (I think that’s what you call “blaming the victim.”  I found that gem of anti-bullying here.)
  • It is incredibly important that you go through the appropriate reporting channels by firstly telling a teacher/parent/guardian/learning mentor or another responsible adult.  (Anyone in the reading audience have success with this as a child?  Found that one at the Ditch The Label site–they describe themselves as “one of the largest anti-bullying charities in the world.”)

…so, yes, I know what kids are told to do.  But, what are kids supposed to do that might actually work?  ‘Cause I’m pretty sure that “reframing the problem of bullying” would not have done much for the girl I was in the Navy with who our bully decided to go after one day by hanging up the sheets that she’d been sleeping on for her 24-hour stretch of ambulance duty so that it would be clear to the world that she was on her period.

Anyone know how kids are taught to deal with bullies in France?  Surely it’s nothing this stupid…

French notes

  • un affrontement: confrontation, battle, clash. Premier affrontement musclé entre Hillary Clinton et Donald Trump (headline, RFI, Clinton-Trump: un débat qui devrait fracasser des records (headline, Huffington Post Québec, L’affrontement entre les deux prétendants à la Maison-Blanche a été rude, avec dans le rôle du chœur les internautes et les médias (Le Temps,
  • une passe d’armes: échange énergique; sparring.  Premières passe d’armes entre les deux candidats (TV5MONDE tweet)  Vive passe d’armes. “Je ferai revenir nos emplois, vous ne pouvez pas le faire” – Trump. “Donald, vous vivez dans un monde à part” – Clinton  (AFP USA, tweet)  Première passe d’armes entre Clinton et Trump sur l’économie (headline, Libération)
  • la brute, le tyran: bully.
  • la brimade: bullying, baiting, vexation, aggravation.  This is the title of the French Wikipedia page on bullying.

English notes

  • from the git-go: from the beginning.  Here‘s a post about the expression from the Grammarphobia blog.

The English word bully can have other meanings besides brute or tyran.  Here are some:

“Bully” is an affectionate term for any kind of bulldog, usually used by “dog people.” Picture source:
Canned or pickled beef. says that this comes from the French “boeuf bouilli.” Picture source:
Bully stick: dried animal penis, usually purchased for dogs to chew on. Picture source:
The bully pulpit: a position, usually in public life, that gives you the ability to broadcast your views widely. Picture source:


9 thoughts on “Trump and a blood-stained sheet: talking about confrontation and bullies in French”

  1. There’s not such bullying culture in France among kids, hence there are no general advising structures or sites against it . When this happens it’s considered as an occasional personal phenomenon or problem which requires a specific answer according to the situation . At least that’s how it seems to me .
    There’s a form of bullying that appears in the news, it is at work . Due to protective laws in this country, some managers developed many ways to make an employee resign instead of sacking him or her, using different forms of bullying . Against that advices are generally using the Unions or Occupational Medicine .
    About your presidential dilemma I sympathize . In our last elections, considering that the so called Socialist Party had proven for long that it was just another instrument of the Capital I sat a little on the fence, wondering if it wouldn’t be better to have an official enemy of “humanity” in its double meaning in power instead of a false friend fooling his elecorate . As Clinton and the Democratic Party have proven for long whom they serve I don’t see any hope nor utility to choose . They both are henchmen of the same plague, so the difference might only be with Trump the end of the world would be closer . If you need a bit more time vote for Hillary .

    Liked by 1 person

      1. There is no general rule, and I’m glad there is not since all these cases have different settings . I used to work in teenagers schools and usually administration, that was still made of humans – and even by French-, examined the forms of the bullying and the exact circumstances of the stroke . If the punching is not ultra violent and the bullying is serious the puncher comes out unscathed . All depends on proportions of both acts, and it is how justice should always behave IMO .

        Liked by 1 person

  2. A sort of robotization of human rules is what I always dreaded, as soon as I was confronted to Northern European spirit, from Switzerland to Scandinavia through Germany and UK . That’s why I want to preserve this French fluzziness in the relation with laws . Law should never be stronger than “le bon sens” .

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dans le contexte scolaire français, du moins à l’école primaire, des conseils tels que prendre une douche, moins regarder la télé et se nourrir plus sainement pour restaurer son image, dans l’optique d’affronter plus sereinement le lendemain la “brute” de la cour de récréation, ne sont pas du tout d’actualité. Celui de se défendre physiquement, rendre coup pour coup encore moins.
    Les équipes pédagogiques dès l’entrée à l’école maternelle (on y entre l’année de ses 3 ans) travaillent avec les enfants (qui deviennent des élèves) à la construction du vivre ensemble. Jusqu’à la fin de la scolarité il en sera question sans cesse, impliquant la construction, l’explication, l’intégration de règles de vie, de devoirs mais aussi de droits. Les parents laissent leur enfant le matin à l’école dans l’idée que sa sécurité est assurée, que les adultes (principalement des enseignants) sont les garants d’une équité et de clairvoyance dans le traitement des conflits entre les élèves.
    Jusqu’au Cm2, (les élèves ont au maximum 10 ou 11 ans), les bagarres, rackets, injures, vols, pressions (…) sont réglés sur le vif. Le contre venant est en général tancé, puni (très peu), surveillé de près ensuite. La victime écoutée, réconfortée, un œil gardé sur elle pour voir si tout rendre dans l’ordre.
    Auparavant les deux auront été écoutés pour démêler l’histoire et faire la part des choses.
    L’école primaire française est très “contenante”. L’exclusion d’élèves n’est pas autorisée. Les sanctions peuvent paraître ridicules à un enfant “perturbé” qui ne vit pas dans le contrat tacite du reste de cette micro-société qu’est l’école. Il faut donc à tout prix arriver à trouver les solutions en interne et dans le temps pour que la vie collective se déroule au mieux pour tous. Le dialogue et la considération de chacun prévalent. L’exclusion parait violente et contre productive. Un élève qui explose dans le cadre scolaire ne se trompe pas: il sait qu’on va s’occuper de lui et que la constance d’attitude des adultes et des règles de vie commune s’imposant à tous est une planche de salut. L’exclusion tant pour une victime qu’un bully me semble synonyme d’abandon. Injustice complète pour la victime, rupture de contrat pour l’élève violent qui entrevoit dans cette sanction la possibilité que l’institution n’est pas à la hauteur. Donc pourquoi s’arrêter?
    L’exercice de contenance est bien sûr épuisant sur la durée, mais la bienveillance (sans crédulité) est à mon avis la seule voie quand travaille auprès d’enfants: adultes en devenir et parents potentiels de la prochaine génération.

    nb: Dans des cas extrêmes, un élève peut être changé d’école après un travail important avec la famille qui devient un partenaire du parcours scolaire de leur enfant (elle l’était de fait dès le départ mais souvent en posture de défiance vis à vis du système éducatif). On entre dans un concept de “projet” et non pas d’exclusion.
    Quand aux années collège, c’est une autre histoire….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Je te remercie de cette réponse ! Ça m’intéresse que tu evoques cette expression :

      > des règles de vie commune s’imposant à tous est une planche de salut.

      …parce qu’aux EU l’idée de “règles de vie commune” n’est pas vraiment aussi courant qu’en France, j’imagine, et l’attitude qu’ils puisse être “une planche de salut” et ne pas une contrainte contre l’individu encore moins. C’est à cause de cette différence attitudinale qu’on a besoin de livres comme “French children don’t throw food,” j’imagine !

      En lisant la réponse de M. dAnge j’étais sceptique de l’affirmation (déclaration?) que

      > There’s not such bullying culture in France among kids

      …n’ayant jamais entendu que ça existe, une culture sans brimade enfant-contre-enfant ! Mais dans un pays très connu pour l’éducation des enfants, peut-être c’est en effet possible… Pays chanceux…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There are some cases of bullying, they are individual incidents, we don’t see a mass or a group of barking dogs around a victim as in US movies . It’s just not a French common attitude .
        Regarding “les règles de vie communes” seen as “planches de salut” this is related to the deep French background . In social life (hear work, money and public services) the idea coming from the Enlightenment through the different revolutionary attempts is that individual contract is a death trap since the would be worker is not in a position of equality with the boss . Therefore all working class governments tried to settle national laws instead : le Code du Travail, les Conventions Collectives, all the stuff the Capital and its tools (hear the European Commission and the “French government”) are willing to destroy now . This was made with the idea that the Capital is controlled by soulless predators so laws are needed to protect the majority . This point of view has naturally been extended to human life interactions and starts being ingrained in kids, so at school .
        My name is Philippe and Dange is only a private joke . I discover you can be skeptical about my words . Tss Tss … Man of little faith, you won’t be saved …

        Liked by 1 person

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