Shame, shame, shame

A history of shaming

It’s almost like a hot dog vendor at a baseball game, “fat shaming, fit shaming, skinny shaming…come get yer body shaming served fresh!” If you spend any amount of time on social media you’ll run across someone that’s been shamed or someone that’s doing the shaming. Hell, if you spend enough time on social media you’ll probably BE shamed or be doing the shaming – social media is like a doughnut, just a little bit is ok but any more than that and you’re going to run into problems. But I digress.

It’s come to this, I’m not even forty years old yet but I’m about to use the “when I was a kid” line…allow me a defeated sigh….when I was a kid, we got picked on. I got made fun of all the time. And I mean All. The. Time. Let me explain why I think this happened.

I think I was fortunate enough for my mom to catch me right as I was about to get in my first fight, around 4 or 5 years old. She saw me, fists balled up, and fire in my eyes. She yelled my name, I snapped to and saw her. I don’t remember her saying anything at all, at most it may have been “Don’t you dare.” Just seeing her look at me told me that if I punched my potential target, my dad would be laying the law down on my rear end later that night. My parents didn’t want me fighting. They didn’t want me lying. They didn’t want me stealing. Go figure, they wanted to raise a good kid, who’da thunk it? Fast forward the next few years of my childhood and multiple occasions of neighborhood bullies picking on me, knowing I wouldn’t punch them, knowing that I would always be the bigger person. Yeah, it got old. Sure there were times that I wanted to rage out after the 15th time of being called “fag” or “bitch” (those were typical insults in the 80’s, I’m not trying to sex-shame anybody here).

My parent’s good morals and always-do-the-right-thing lessons managed to single me out as a target for much of my childhood. But guess what, it worked. I have no criminal record. I have no regrets for hurting anybody, stealing anything or getting into any trouble. However, I also have painful memories of mean things people have said and done. I remember playing with my best friend out in the front yard only to have a group of other kids ride up on their bikes and say, “Come on, quit playing with this loser.” Maybe that’s why I have such a good imagination, too much alone time as a kid.

None of us are alone

My point in all of this is that we all suffer at the hands of others. But we all handle it differently. Some of us handle it like I did, in solitude, trying to make sense out of why people could be so cruel. Others bundle it up until they snap and take it out on their peers, which the media is so grateful to share at the drop of a hat. And yet others cry out about their abuse. Who’s to say which method of dealing is correct? Obviously lashing out is not the way to go, but bundling it up can lead to self-inflicted emotional and physical trauma. However, society be a salty beast, and anybody that cries shame to the public too often is sure to get lambasted and lampooned.

Unfortunately, I don’t see shaming going away any time soon. How could it, being so complex an issue? After all, I don’t blame the kids that picked on me, they were kids and as we all know they can be cruel. But why? I think the cruelty stems from the very thing that makes them not-yet adults, their innocence. Kids are cruel because they don’t think about how their words and actions are affecting others. So could it be that those who are doing the shaming are lacking that same amount of emotional empathy? Of course. That’s a very real possibility. I’ve seen tv shows that put someone in a fat suit and have them “live” as a fat person for 24 hours. They inevitably finish the experiment saying they had no idea what it was like. Or the YouTube videos showing what women have to hear on the streets of NYC every day that involve a handful of rude comments peppered among innocent attempts at conversation. People don’t always think about what they say and when emotions get jumbled into the mix, fuh’ged abou’dit (I couldn’t resist, since we were just in New York and all).

Maybe that’s the problem, we don’t think before we speak. Hmm. How ’bout that? Maybe if we made it a habit to be more mindful of our thoughts, words and actions we could lessen the impact we have on those around us. But then, I can already hear people telling me that they don’t want to have to police their own thoughts just to avoid hurting a stranger. I wonder, is there a solution?

A shameful conclusion

I definitely do not claim to hold the secret to solving the shaming, but I do have my own opinions. At the risk of being accused of different forms of shaming, I’m going to share them. I do think we are living in a hyper-sensitive period but I also think there are many groups out there who still suffer discrimination. I think we overreact on occasion, but I think we are less often empathetic to how others feel. I do think shaming is a real thing. I think sometimes people have the right to be offended but I also think sometimes shaming can be a beneficial thing.

This may be the most controversial bit of this blog. I think shaming to be cruel is pointless. It does nothing to help the other person and will generally send them further in the opposite direction. However, avoiding the subject is just as dangerous, probably quite a bit more. If you have a friend or family member who is extremely overweight or underweight it’s almost your duty to say something. By skirting around the subject, you’re allowing them to continue to hurt the quality of their health rather than just their feelings. This does not give you the right to be rude or to call into question every little discrepancy that you deem abnormal to your way of living, but it should at the very least open a dialogue between you and your loved one. Voice your concern, gently. Hear them out. Keep emotions out of it. Be civil, be respectful.

Above all else, realize that just because someone is living their life differently from the way you live yours does not mean they’re living life incorrectly. We are all alive. We all deserve respect. We are all given the ability to live our lives how we see fit, hopefully free from the judgement of others. But then, that seems a little too innocent, doesn’t it? Maybe I haven’t grown up much after all.

Thoughts? Comments? Shaming? Leave it down below!
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