Shame or Criticism

What is with all the shaming? Any time we disagree with something, we are shaming each other. There are pictures of babies holding signs, “shaming” their behavior. Pictures of animals “shaming” their behavior. More recently and what really got my attention was this dad’s letter that went viral in which he writes “I am not surprised to see the dress code shaming come into my house”. What the heck is dress code shaming? Well in his case it is where his daughter didn’t follow the schools dress code and they made her change. In reality though she broke a rule at school and was asked to remedy that. There really isn’t any shaming involved.

The Mariam Webster Dictionary defines shaming as “A painful emotion cause by consciousness of guilt shortcoming of impropriety” So I guess you could say she was dress code shamed, if she knew she broke the rule and felt guilty for it. The thing is this, and it is quite simple actually. We should to a certain degree feel guilty about our actions when our actions cause harm to others. I don’t think the young girl felt guilty about being asked to change out of her favorite dress, maybe disappointed but I doubt she felt guilty. I wonder if she felt a painful emotion? Disappointment? Oh my, we cannot have that. We cannot have anyone feeling disappointed that would just be wrong. (sarcasm noted).

Not to long ago singer Michael Buble was also accused of shaming. I think in his case he was accused of body shaming. His crime he posted a picture to Instagram that his wife took. In the background was a young woman wearing short shorts and he said “baby got back”. Um, is that a compliment? I honestly don’t know if it was meant as a compliment or not, but it doesn’t seem like a shameful thing.

Blogger, Melissa McEwan created the hashtag #FatMicroagression to bring attention to the inappropriate and hurtful comments directed at overweight people. One person who responded to the hashtag said that “People loudly complaining how fat they are when they are the same size or smaller than you”, was her definition of fat microagression, leaving me wondering if simply commenting on anything at all will soon be seen as a form of shaming.

Slate.com writer Mark Peters hits the nail on the head in his article “Shame on Everyone; Just because you don’t like someone’s criticism doesn’t meant they are ‘shaming’ you”. I love it, I actually want to reach through the screen and give this Mr. Peters a big kiss. Thank you. His big argument is that like certain other words, shaming has become an overused word.

Guys who are tired of being called creeps have absurdly claimed creep-shaming, for instance. Breast-feeding advocates are sometimes accused of formula-shaming moms. I’ve also seen social-media-shaming, tattoo-shaming, luxury-shaming, attendance-shaming, snack-shaming, bigot-shaming, privilege-shaming, salary-shaming, single-shaming (i.e., shaming the nonmarried or nonattached), fedora-shaming, Drake-shaming, and filter-shaming. This last word was used, with all apparent sincerity, in an article by an acne sufferer who felt “shamed” for her use of Instagram filters by “selfie queens” (a term someone else will have to unpack).

Shaming isn’t a new concept. Parents use shame as a form of punishment to get their children to behave. Courts have used shame as a way to punish offenders. Shaming is also a technique used by abusive people to divert attention away from their own behavior. Shaming is a real problem, so it is unfortunate that we overuse it. Saying something is shaming when it is just criticism takes away from pain and humiliation suffered by actual shaming.

OUT of the FOG, which stands for Fear Obligation and Guilt, focuses on information and support for family or friends of people who suffer from personality disorders, explains what shaming really is.

Shaming is a technique used by abusive people to divert attention away from their own behavior and issues by putting pressure on a victim so they can maintain control. The victim is put into an impossible situation, where they feel they are inherently flawed and so can never measure up to the standards being imposed on them, and therefore must dedicate themselves to attempting to make up from their badness.

Some examples of shaming statements include:

“You were a mistake”

“You could never do what he/she does”

“You’ve ruined my life”

“We are all disappointed in you”

“Shame on You!”

There is a huge difference between shame and criticism and it is time we start seeing the difference.

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