The Shame in Shaming The Shamers
I think shaming is perhaps the 2015 buzzword / trend / excuse that most annoys me. Well, not actually the shaming, but rather people who insist on taking every negative opinion and trying to turn it around as shaming / blaming.
What is shaming? Well, defintion is “shaming (of a person, action, or situation) make (someone) feel ashamed.” Sort of circular, but it’s the act (in words or other) to make someone feel ashamed of something, to feel bad about something, or to cause them emotional hurt or pain. In modern terms, shaming is the new word for criticizing or complaining about someone or some situation.
The two most typical or “common” types of shaming stories are fat shaming and slut shaming. In fat shaming, it’s about point out that someone is fat and trying to make them feel ashamed about being fat. Meme-wise, it’s a fat person eating a giant pizza with the caption “careful, I might eat the box too” or something equally unsubtle. The second is slut shaming, typified by things like a Toronto police officer telling college girls they could better avoid sexual attack if they stopped dressing like sluts. You can imagine, that little phrase set off fireworks and actually prompted the SlutWalk movement. It’s being referred to as blaming the victim.
To lesser degrees, you have everything from “parking shaming” (posting images of people parked in handicap spots without a permit) to “vote shaming” exposing a politician’s record on specific votes, mostly without context. The real issue here is that everything can be shaming.
For those of you playing along at home, you will understand that the anti-shaming movement (in various areas) is a strong force. Well, it’s a loud force, not sure how strong, but loud and in your face and all over the place. It’s also perhaps the ultimate in straw man anti-conservative concepts.
Let’s be honest here: Outside of a small portion of the population, most people are obese because of other reasons than pure health issues. We as a people consumer 30% more calories than the generation before us, we consume much more medication, and our consumption of things like high fructose corn syrup and such is at insane levels. A significant part of the US population is outside of the recommended BMI, and a smaller but still significant number are off the end of the scale to not just overweight, but in fact obese. Should it be a bad thing to point out that someone is living an incredibly unhealthy lifestyle that is likely to kill them sooner? Can we not state the obvious?
As for slut shaming, let me say first that I understand the basic concept: Rape is committed by rapists and nasty people. However, we also have to accept the concept that we live in a sexualized society, where navels, cleavage, butt cheeks, and seemingly much more are displayed more often than we want, especially coming from the “star” machines of music, tv, movies, and such. We live in a world where the average 13 year old (boy or girl) knows more about sex than their parents did at 18, and more than their grandparents probably knew on their wedding night. This hyper sexualization (of both girls and boys) is a really scary thing, and the constant re enforcement of these images and ideals are powerful and appeal to the very basic instincts of the animal that is human. So while calling a girl out for dressing like a slut or telling a girl to not dress so much like a slut to stay safe sounds bad, it’s perhaps reasonable to draw a level of cause and effect here.
See, the problem of shaming the slut shamers (as an example) is that to do so, you must also condone and support the underlying act of “slutdom”. It’s an acceptance of hyper sexuality that is in itself part of the problem, part of the catalyst to bad ideas, bad actions, and yes, rape and sexual assault. it would be foolish to claim that it’s the only cause, but it is perhaps something that contributes to a tipping point of people committing bad acts.
The anti-shamer movements seem all about shutting down discussion and not taking at least some personal responsibility for the situation. Yes, the comments are not nice, they are mean, and they are hurtful – but covering your ears and saying “I can’t hear you” means that you fail to capture the underlying message, that perhaps you too can work to make things better.