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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The next person who misuses the word "shaming" is getting "shamed" right in the face with a brick

Let me tell you how sick I am of the word "shaming." It's as bad as "bullying" in terms of how frequently it is misapplied. You can barely open your mouth and express an opinion without someone jabbing their finger in your face and shrieking "SHAMING! YOU'RE SHAMING OTHERS!!"

The idea behind the word is that you shouldn't denigrate others for making perfectly legitimate decisions that happen to be different from the decisions that you made. I can totally get behind this idea -- after all, your choices don't affect me in the least, so why would I even have an opinion on them? It's not like you're having an epidural AT me or leaving tufts from your glorious pubic bush on my eyelids while I sleep. (... right?)


But here's the problem: people are regularly being accused of "shaming" when they've done nothing of the sort. I finally snapped today when I was reading a funny snark blog online that suddenly tossed the s-word out there ... when it was completely unjustified. I went from laughing to throwing my computer out the window in the space of a single sentence. 

So I'm going to attempt to tease out just exactly what is and isn't "shaming." And if something isn't shaming, then f***ing stop claiming that it is. Jesus Christ. Grow a thicker skin or something, or learn to own your choices, or stop being a giant sandy vagina -- do whatever you need to do because the next person who misuses the word "shaming" is getting punched in the goddamn mouth.

Your purple sweater is f***ing ugly. What now.

Telling a story is not shaming

In this example, the original poster is telling a story about the birth of her baby William. As part of her story, she shares the incredible disappointment she felt when she was told she would need a C-section when she was clearly planning for a natural, intervention-free birth. 

Let me describe what this type of disappointment feels like: imagine you're running a marathon. Your very first marathon. You've been running consistently the entire time, and you're at the 25-mile mark. Only 1.2 more miles and you're finished! What an accomplishment!! But then you trip on a crack in the road, fall, and break your ankle. You end up being carried off the course and off to the hospital for surgery.

No sane person in that situation would say you ought to finish the race on a broken ankle -- clearly, stopping and going to the hospital is the right move. But that doesn't mean it isn't tremendously disappointing. And if someone told you this story and told you how bummed they felt about not finishing the race, would you get mad and start screaming at them about how they're shaming you for not signing up for a marathon in the first place? I should certainly hope not, because that's f***ing crazy. That person's story, and their disappointment in the outcome, have absolutely f***ing nothing to do with you.

I see this one a lot with birth stories, and it's such bullshit. If someone gives birth a certain way, and that way is different from the way that YOU gave birth, and their story makes you feel uncomfortable for some reason, then guess what? The problem lies with you, not them. I gave birth naturally without any pain meds, and it was both the hardest and the most amazing thing I've ever done. If that sentence makes you feel judged, then please call your therapist.

Want to know what real birth-shaming looks like?

A proper shaming is equal parts rude, judgmental, and completely dismissive of any extenuating circumstance.

Expressing a preference is not shaming

Controversial statement warning: different people like different things. Some women like men with beards; some women prefer their men clean-shaven. Some men prefer a woman with 'curves'; some men prefer a woman who is stick-thin. Some women prefer to wear nothing but skirts; some wear only pants.

If you can't handle someone expressing a preference that is different from your own preference, then you need to talk to a therapist about how your crushing narcissism and need to force the entire world to agree with you is stunting your emotional development and preventing you from having positive social interactions.

I happen to prefer it when women shave their armpits. If you are a woman with hairy armpits, then I'm sorry, but I won't be attracted to you. If that makes you feel ashamed, then I don't know, either stop caring what I think or start shaving. But don't tell me I can't have or express a preference. That's stupid.

What does real body-shaming look like?

See, this winner not only expresses a preference for waxed upper lips, but also declares anyone who doesn't meet his preference to be nasty, gross, barf-worthy, and somehow unnatural. I bet he gets lots and lots of awesome girlfriends.

Advocacy is not shaming

Oh, Bertha. Bertha Bertha Bertha.

Bertha's issue here seems to be that she doesn't understand the difference between "society has a problem" and "YOU have a problem." And thus, anyone who advocates to improve upon a societal problem must by definition be hate-shaming anyone who identifies with that problem.

Americans are fat. American children are extra fat. And being obese is really bad for your health. So, lots of people advocate for things like healthier eating, healthier school lunches for kids, raising awareness of the health issues of drinking a 7-gallon jug of soda, and getting people to go outside and be physically active. These are good things.

If people advocating for positive change makes you feel ashamed of yourself, then maybe -- just maybe -- the problem isn't the person doing the advocating; the problem is that deep down, you completely agree with them, and you're disgusted with yourself.

What does real fat-shaming look like?

Ah, David Bobberson, I wish you were a real person so I could marry you and raise lots of daughters with you.

Being proud of yourself for doing something amazing is NOT SHAMING

This one pisses me off most of all. People are so f***ing sensitive that they are now insisting that people can't even be proud of their accomplishments, because their pride makes everyone who didn't achieve the accomplishment feel bad. Even when they weren't trying for it.

I know. I didn't win either. Such bullshit.

I mean, I never ever intended to wait until I was married to have sex -- it wasn't even on my radar. But whenever I meet someone who did wait, I respect the hell out of them for it because that must have taken a lot of restraint. I don't start rolling my eyes and saying "you test drive a car before you buy it, dontcha?" -- because that's what assholes do. They feel threatened or shamed by someone else's accomplishment, so they try to tear it down and make it seem worthless in order to make themselves feel better.

I've never run a full marathon. Never signed up for one. Never even seriously considered signing up for one, actually. It's honestly not something that I think I'm capable of doing. But -- when I see that one of my Facebook friends has qualified for the Boston Marathon AGAIN, I am proud of her. That's amazing!! She can not only run 26.2 miles, but she can run it FAST! I can't do that. And I'm not ashamed that I can't do that.

Oh, Bertha. You scamp.

It's a little harder to be so gracious when someone succeeds where you failed, but it's still possible. When my daughter was born, I was hell-bent on exclusively breastfeeding her for at least the first six months of her life. But, my body didn't want to cooperate, and wouldn't make enough milk for her. I tried everything to force my body to make more milk. I pumped 10 times a day, constantly attached baby to boob, took all the herbs, ate nothing but steel-cut oats, talked to lactation consultants twice a week. I persevered long past the point where a normal person would have given up. And in the end, I was glad I stuck to it and gave my all, because I ... still completely failed and rage-quit after two months.

Meanwhile, I have a friend who suffered the same problems as I did. And she stuck to it and tried everything just like me. And for her, all the work paid off and she ended up with enough milk to breastfeed her children AND fill her freezer like some kind of medieval wet nurse. And she should be proud of that! Breastfeeding is HARD, and not quitting when things aren't going well is EVEN HARDER. I failed; she succeeded. She can be proud of that without making me feel bad. She ran 26.2 miles; I got to mile 10 and said "f*** it" and went to a bar instead. No one but me can make me feel ashamed of that.

Bertha needs to learn how to be happy with her own life.

If you're running around accusing everyone of shaming you for your choices, then maybe you should take a step back and try to figure out what your problem is. Are you being shamed by others, or are you being shamed by your own insecurities?

You'll be much, much happier if you can figure that out.


  1. They should teach this in school.

    1. They can't -- they're too busy teaching kids to call 911 when their parents discipline them, remember??!?! ;-)