Monday, May 9

Of shamers and bullies and snots

by Liz Flaherty

I just read on Facebook that actress Kristen Bell said her mother told her, "If you do decide to go on a prescription to help yourself [with depression], understand that the world wants to shame you for that..."

People are "shamed" for being obese, for being Christians, for not being Christians, for being liberal, conservative, vegan or carnivore. Young girls are shamed for not having the ubiquitous thigh gap and boys for...I don't know, not wearing their jeans low enough. Rural people are shamed because--obviously--you can't be smart if you don't live inside city limits. Urban people are shamed because...well, because they're urban, I guess.

It's obvious that One, I spend too much time on Facebook, and Two, shaming has become the new epidemic. And I'm feeling bereft.

Because.

I'm a Christian, I'm fairly liberal, I once took medication for two years because of clinical depression, any thigh gap I might have boasted closed (I think for good) more years ago than I can remember, and I'm probably doomed to being overweight because I love to eat far too much.

But no, that's not why I'm bereft. It's because I've never been shamed. I pray when and where I want, I vote my conscience, and I wouldn't hesitate to medicate again if I felt hopelessness circling my life's perimeter. I think people who love me wish I'd lose weight (and keep it off) to keep me healthy, not because they're ashamed of me.

I will admit, I remember being made fun of because I was poor and dressed accordingly, because I was a geek, because I was shockingly uncoordinated, but I don't remember "shaming" even being a word when I was growing up. I was very familiar with "Shame on you!" accompanied by a shaking finger and a frown of motheresque proportions, but that was mothering, right? Not shaming. 

And people who made fun of me were being rotten little kids, weren't they? Rotten like I was being when someone had a lot of trouble reading aloud and I snickered. Or when someone I didn't like tore her dress on the slide and I snickered. Or when someone else I didn't like started her period during 7th grade English class and I snickered.

But I wasn't shaming. I was being a snot. While I'm not saying it's okay to be a snot, I do think it's part of the human experience and that the recipient of said snottiness and shaming is often better and stronger because of it. And maybe they learn a little about forgiving, about taking the high road, about how not to treat a person who's different than their particular definition of cool. And the snots grow up and cringe at what they said or did to someone else. It's not necessary to brand them for life, is it?

But there's another part, too, that I have to admit to. Not all snots do grow up; some of them stay that way forever. And they will pick on people because that's what they do. We need to recognize that, roll our eyes, say "consider the source," and go on better and stronger. What we don't need is to ever say the world's going to shame you, to indicate that the world is full of bullies and...er...snots, because in truth it's full of pretty nice people with some crummy ones on the periphery. Keep them there. Do what's right for you and don't hurt anyone else in the process. That's not really hard, is it?

Okay. Off my soapbox. Have a great week!

15 comments:

  1. One of the things I hate (among the many I love!) about social media is the shaming thing - it's like we've somehow lost the ability to say, "Oh, okay, I disagree, but you're entitled to your opinion." Instead, it's as if everyone has to have the same opinion and if your opinion differs then the shaming begins...*sigh* Social media, for all the connections it helps people to make, also seems to disconnect common sense and kindness. Great post today, Liz!

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    1. Thanks, Kristi. It was hard to write without sounding as though I think bullying and meanness is okay--it's not!--but neither is living your whole life as a "poor little me."

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    2. Totally agree with Kristina! When did we lose the right to agree to disagree? Now it's 'I'll ram my opinion down your throat and if you don't like it, that's just too damn bad', then brag about how you've been blocked or unfriended because they 'couldn't handle it'. Sigh....If we all AGREED on everything, the world would be pretty boring!

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  2. Great post, Liz! I love how well you bring reality into a situation that's gotten so far out of hand. Yeah, we all acted like snots and got treated badly by other snots--but most of us outgrew it and hopefully, those coming up will, too. I'm counting on it anyway. People are too easily victims in this world that seems way too over-connected, thanks to social media. Live your life, make your own choices and don't worry overmuch about others' opinions.

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  3. There would be a lot less shaming without the detachment of the Internet. Saying such things to someone's face is liable to get you punched in the nose, whereas online shaming has few repercussions. The bullies can be as nasty as they like and get away with it, which, unfortunately, encourages more bad behavior. Glad you aren't letting the turkeys get you down!

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    1. I think you're right about that. Social media has made meanness really safe (for the perpetrator) and horrifyingly widespread.

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  4. Ironic that the biggest bully on the block might just become our next president. AGH!


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  5. I was dirt poor all my life and teased unmercifully. Shamed? I don't remember that. Now? I refuse to let anyone "shame" me. I won't be treated that way by anyone and consequently they don't usually try it with me.

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  6. Looking back, I know the ones who teased had heard it at home and were products of that. We are friends now, most of us-- we all grew up.

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  7. Great, extremely well-written post, Liz. I was bullied and teased all my youth. Don't know about shaming. As an elder adult I no longer hurt from bullying or snide remarks. I usually say a little prayer for the person responsible. However, the only shaming I recall is what I do to myself. I am so ashamed and guilty about various things in my life and haven't been able to let go of the guilt. Can you shame yourself? You bet you can. And it's painful.

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    1. I have a few of those, too, Claudia, and you're right--it IS painful. But don't let the guilt overwhelm you.

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