12 April 2009


When I was describing to a colleague the goings-on in Somerville, he commented that bullies always attack the weak. I thought: in Somerville that meant the vulnerable. If you have motivation or aspirations you are vulnerable; many of the young women arriving at Somerville were ambitious and maybe needed to make up for past deprivations, so they were vulnerable to Dame Janet’s[1], bullying by threat and intimidation. The only undergraduates safe from being bullied were the people who were not needy in any way, such as ___ (daughter of ___ ) who, even if sent down from Oxford, would have suffered little setback in her pursuit of wealthy upper-class men as suitable husbands.

The ‘bullying’ issue is interesting because I think the psychodynamics that produce bullying are closely related to those that produce the socialist ideology; i.e. a sense of inadequacy and impotence leading to a compensatory reaction against it in the form of a drive to have a strong effect on other people.

[1] Dame Janet Vaughan, Principal of Somerville College, Oxford, 1945-1967.