The Shaming thing: eight points for thought

(elaborated version)

  1. Shaming is something serious: it means causing someone to feel inadequate or ashamed because of their behavior or even identity.

Inadequacy and shame are among the most powerful causes of mental suffering. Both are deeply associated with trauma and abuse. Shame, for example, is one of the reasons for the huge gap in rape and sexual abuse reporting: the victim feels shame and silences about the crime.

Feeling inadequate can be a lifelong sentence and an important cause of depression and even criminal behavior.

Also, inadequacy is a component of invalidation. Invalidation is related to other sub-sets of mental illness and can be a lifelong torture itself. The idea that one’s suffering is non-existent, unimportant or even one’s own fault can shatter the construction of reality parameters.

Bottom line: inadequacy and shame are extremely serious. One must think several times before attacking someone’s behavior on the basis of shame or inadequacy.

  1. It isn’t good or bad: it is serious and should not be done lightly or irresponsibly.

Shaming someone for doing something shameful is an important choice: someone may be shamed by others for acting in an abusive manner, for stealing, for failing their responsibilities, etc. These are all things to feel ashamed of.

Should it ever be done? There is no answer to that. There are horrible actions that become public and elicit in people a shaming reaction, such as physically or emotionally abusing a child or an elderly relative, abusive behaviors towards pets, or stealing from the vulnerable. It is hard to blame people for digitally lynching (shaming) certain people.

At other times, it is argued that shaming certain behaviors is a form of social defense. As in shaming sexist or racist behaviors.

Other things are even more serious and our society has professionals to handle them: the law enforcement agents. Rapists shouldn’t be shamed: they should be arrested, investigated and submitted to trial. Shaming someone that is suspect of sexual abuse may lead to the destruction of an innocent person’s lives. Rape, serious racial and hate crime are not matters for digital lynching: they should be handled by law enforcement.

  1. Being excessively (and what is excessive?) fat, or thin, or muscular, or promiscuous, or any other behavior one may disagree, reprove or openly reject is not a reason for shame.

Although certain behaviors do cause indirect harm to others, individuals with such behaviors are usually targeted for shaming because of a prejudiced behavior towards them. One should certainly feel ashamed and guilty if one abused a child. But for being fat? I can understand it is annoying to have someone invade your private territory in crowded environments and fat people will do that unwillingly. Even in this case, isn’t the stress of crowded places to blame for this, rather than the size of the fat person?

  1. Therefore, shaming is a reproachable behavior. Doing it face-to-face is bad. Doing it in a public environment, as a group action is much worse: one is cowardly benefitting from group protection. Doing it from behind a keyboard has no other definition other than dishonorable, coward and disgusting. It is a reason for shame

Today, most shaming happens on the internet. Teenagers commit suicide for slut shaming, there are shaming wars on the digital environments and there are hate groups based on shaming (from those shaming a group of people of from the group of people being shamed). This is dangerous. It involves potentially millions of people. The consequences are unpredictable and can be huge.

  1. Being excessively fat, consuming toxic drugs (to alleviate suffering or to feel good – the line between the two is really not that clear), adopting a promiscuous behavior or having a religion are no reason for shame

Again, nothing against the law or morally unacceptable was done by any of these people.

  1. However, many of these behaviors can be unhealthy and/or can hurt society. Pointing this out verbally or in published form is part of the democratic dynamic and it doesn’t mean shaming.

The whole “fat shaming protest” movement confused the public opinion concerning the very harmful consequences of excessive body fat. It is not true that it is harmless. But then again, drinking more than very few drinks (and I frequently do) is equally harmful. Ingesting toxic substances, mostly prescription drugs, is harmful. Pointing this out and alerting those who are at risk for such behaviors is something actually mission-oriented and protective of the common good. It is not “shaming” anyone.

  1. “Crying shaming” for every published piece that points out a disagreement concerning a certain behavior is reproachable. In a very clear way, it is denying to participate in the democratic “game”.

For example: an article points out that all drugs should be banned and their use severely punished because it is morally wrong to consume them. I completely disagree with this, but, first, I acknowledge and defend the right of anyone to express this point of view. Second, I can elaborate a better counter-argument in a polite and logical fashion and engage in a competitive debate for the public opinion. It is my choice. And it is on me to be good enough to win this game or not.

  1. The same applies to all other conditions.


I have been anorexic and it was not fun or associated to any beauty standards: it was a result of profound mental suffering; I have been fat (as a kid, either fat or skinny) and, again, it was a result of profound mental suffering; I have been promiscuous: not only it was the result of profound mental suffering, but in one occasion I overdosed and in another I slashed my jugular after a period with this behavior. I have been a junkie. It was the way I found to stop feeling so much pain. Eventually I found something better (powerlifting). These experiences should illustrate my point that shaming people for any of these behaviors is outright wrong.

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