It seems as if every time I glance at the Yahoo headline stories, somebody’s been “shamed”.
They may have been body-shamed, lunch-shamed, dating-shamed, fit-shamed, or fat-shamed. But unavoidably, somebody somewhere has been shamed.
If you’re not an avid reader of Buzzfeed or poorly edited Yahoo spotlight stories, you might be unfamiliar with this wave of public shaming. Essentially it has come to mean that somebody made a comment or behaved in a certain way that made an individual feel bad about himself or herself. It may or may not have been a public comment or behavior in the beginning, but either way, it ultimately becomes front-page news on one or more source when the person with the damaged feelings decides to air their grievance.
Here’s a handy guide to help you identify whether or not something is really shaming.
- True statements made in an appropriate context do not qualify as shaming. When the cashier tells me that my coupon won’t work on the loaf of bread I’ve selected, I have not been coupon-shamed. I have been given a piece of information.
- Simple statements of opinion do not qualify as shaming. When someone comments on my YouTube video saying that I look like I’m coughing up a dead rat (true story!) I have NOT been rat-coughing-face-shamed. Someone has given me their amusingly honest, albeit rude, opinion.
- Statements or concepts that are not directed at you do not qualify as shaming. When I read an article about how intolerably ugly freckles are (what?!) even though I have freckles I have not been freckle-shamed. The article wasn’t about me in the first place. It was about freckles. I am not freckles.
- Private communications do not qualify as shaming. I might feel ashamed to the point of tears when my professor yells at me over the phone, but it’s not public…until I write a post titled “First-year college student stupid-question-shamed by professor has raised $800 for stupid-question awareness”. (I made up the part about the $800, if you were worried.)
Public shaming does sometimes happen and it can be very destructive and sad when it does. It happens when an individual is called out in a public forum and receives negative attention that is intended to damage and degrade. Let’s respect the pain of those who have actually been shamed by reserving the word for appropriate situations.
What is the least accurate use of the word “shame” that you have seen?