“No Stigma Zone”: A Case for VAWA Grants’ Being Issued to Provide All Government Offices with Dictionaries so Their Employees Can Look Up Words like “Stigma”

Posted on March 6, 2016


stigma poster

I had occasion to visit the city prosecutor’s office on Friday. The decor was sternly clinical. The only ornamentation was some small posters on a bulletin board under glass (which was probably there to protect them from cynics armed with Sharpies). One of the posters notably featured the phrase “No Stigma Zone.”

The poster was about bullying, and its message was bullying is bad and won’t be tolerated. If I didn’t have better reasons to distrust bureaucrats, I’d distrust them for being immune to irony.

To municipal lawyers, “bullying” means playground taunts and insults, like “fatso, “slut,” and “queer.” The state’s applying cruel labels to people like “stalker” and “molester” based on three minutes of finger-pointing (and permanently inscribing those labels on people’s public records)—that isn’t the same thing.

Accusations are typed up on government forms, and that makes them different from name-calling.


I bumped into a teenage girl yesterday whom I used to swing around by the arms in another life. That was about the time I was first falsely accused—10 years ago—and she was still a twerp. (I was more carefree then. My body wasn’t run-down, and tomorrow still held infinite promise.) She told me another girl had called her a “whore” on an Internet medium called Snapchat. She explained that posts there only linger for a few seconds, so kids can snipe one another without leaving a trail of evidence.

This is what the state means by “bullying”—a zinger with a half-life of moments—and count on it that some lawmaker somewhere has designs to stop this conduct in its tracks(!)…by enacting more laws to facilitate accusation.

This is what my old journalism teacher would have called missing the forest for the trees.

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*The girl I chanced into yesterday asked me why she always finds me at Starbucks hunched over my beater laptop. I spared her (and myself) a truthful answer but did have to tell her my dog, whom she grew up with, had died in August (while I was still hunched over my beater laptop composing commentaries like this one instead of swinging children around by the arms or playing with dogs).