Since this blog is, essentially, cultural commentary, I’d like to make a comment on something I’ve been seeing a lot of in the culture: Shaming.
This is not an essay on the evils of Shaming or Shaming culture. There are many an varied articles of that nature out there, written by better people than me. Go read them. They can be enlightening.
Here I want to discuss two things about Shaming that strike me as important to think about:
1) The difference between Shaming and Observation.
2) What the appropriate place of Shaming in any culture might be.
So, let’s start with the difference between shaming and basic Observation. We all pretty much know what Shaming is. We’ve seen it, been disgusted by it, (even sometimes engaged in it without thinking – let’s give ourselves the benefit of the doubt for a moment.) Basic Observation is a different animal. By Basic Observation, I’m talking about simple, unadulterated statements of fact.
Here’s a for instance: Noting that someone is fat.
Simply noting that someone is fat is not Fat Shaming them. It’s just stating an observable fact. That one’s fat, that one’s skinny, that one’s short, that one’s tall, etc…
There is nothing inherently shameful about being fat or short or tall or skinny, or whatever you choose. Nothing at all. There is also nothing inherently wrong with noting, or stating an observable fact.
But, this where I’ve noticed people often veer into pure Dick-i-tude. It has become a habit, in our culture, to note a fact about someone, and then suggest or state that the given fact somehow contributes to whether or not a person is worthy of respect.
It’s one thing to say someone is fat – that’s just observable, valueless fact. It is another thing entirely to state that someone is worth less as a human being because someone is fat.
For one, the latter is just bad logic. To say someone is worth less does not follow from them having some physical feature.
Secondly, it’s just rude. And it’s rude without reason.
(Those of you that read my posts regularly have probably figured out that I am not against rudeness, per se, but generally take a dark view of rudeness for no good reason. And trust me, in this me, me, me, objectification culture we live in, there are plenty of good reasons to be rude.)
So, if you find yourself being a dick just to be a dick, I recommend taking a long and serious look at what’s going on inside your own head and heart before you start trying to explore the rest of the populace at large.
This brings me to the second part of this discussion: What is the appropriate place for Shaming – if there is such a thing – in a society?
Let me state that I think there is a place in our culture for appropriate Shaming, that is, when it is used to make things better.
Generally, I think Shaming, as it exists in our culture, is simply inappropriate Ridicule.
So, what then would be appropriate Ridicule?
As I said above, I think Ridicule is appropriate when it makes things better. And it can make things better. Social groups have used it effectively, instead of violence, for centuries to curb antisocial or harmful behavior. Ridicule is a useful tool to help societies maintain cohesion. Let’s face it, sometimes people don’t have better angels in their nature, and sometimes their self interest grows so out of control it becomes like mutant kudzu bent on covering and sucking the life out of everything around them. Times like this, an inspirational speech just won’t cut it, but maybe we don’t want to go with the nuclear option of just killing the selfish, inconsiderate bastard. Let’s face it, sometimes the crime just isn’t worth the death penalty. It’s times like this, where Ridicule, and its effective variations, can and should be employed to try to reign in the more undesirable behaviors of said selfish bastards.
So, Ridicule does, in fact, have its place in a modern, functioning, and civilized society. Sometimes we just have to tell people that they’re being dicks, and we have to do so in a public way.
Why do I think Shaming is inappropriate Ridicule?
Because, more often than not in my observation, Shaming is used to hold people up to public ridicule for things that are not really harmful to our culture or our society.
Being fat, while harmful to that given individual, is not really harmful to the public at large. And quite often, (and I realize this will be a controversial statement), being fat is not something the individual is able to control at that moment.
(Calm down Free-Will enthusiasts. I don’t mean they could never control it, I’m just pointing out the obvious, they can’t control it at the moment. If they could, they wouldn’t be fat.)
In that way, Shaming someone for being fat is just like Shaming someone for the color of their skin. It doesn’t make sense, even if they’re really ashy and blotchy and could maybe use more time in the sun.
The color of someone’s skin, or the adipose tissue content of their bodies, or their sexual proclivities are just facets of that individual’s nature at that particular time. Again I say, if it’s not hurting anyone else, why give a fuck?
In the end, Ridicule is supposed to have a helpful goal. Some people will use that to rationalize actions that are still, obviously, not helpful, but usually we can recognize those sophist fuck-wits a few sentences into the conversation.
I challenge you to watch your culture, the media, the people around you, and your own thoughts. When someone is held up to public ridicule, does it serve a purpose that aims at making things better?
If it doesn’t, think about how you feel about that.
And if it bugs you like it bugs me, take a chance and make a stand. Say something about it. Get people to listen.
You might not change everyone, or anyone, but you’ll change yourself – and for the better.
But maybe you have different ideas. I’d love to hear them.
The comment section, as always, is open.
(Some of my readers comment on social media – where I post links. I’m cool with that, but it’s easier to keep the conversation coherent if you post your comments here, on the specific blog.)
Until next time…