When It's Not Okay to Claim Shame

Shame is an all-purpose word these days, but how does that affect the real victims?


Did you hear about “sweat-shaming?” You know, sweat-shaming? Where someone makes you feel bad about sweating? Like when you’re in Starbucks and someone asks why you’re sweaty and you hate yourself until you realize you’re the victim here? An American writing for The Guardian sure has, and she’s exporting this puzzling phenomenon across the pond. Some Brits have responded to this quite brilliantly, asking for a return to common sense. But here in the US of A, we haven’t given much thought to common sense since the days of Thomas Paine, and we’ve become so overly sensitive that college students can’t take jokes; you can’t say "retarded" with its literal meaning; and no one can ask you why you are so sweaty in Starbucks. Why does it matter if we are so sensitive? Doesn’t it just mean that we’re more aware of each other and don’t wish to offend? Or is this sensitivity making us see ourselves as victims when we are not, at the expense of those who really are suffering?

We’ve become so overly sensitive that college students can’t take jokes ... and no one can ask you why you are so sweaty in Starbucks.

Beyond pit-stained latte sippers, there is a lot of actual shaming going on in our culture. Both men and women appropriate certain terms to make women feel bad about themselves, whether it’s for their weight, their sexuality, or anything else deemed not okay for a lady. Which is why inventing things like sweat-shaming is damaging. As soon as we bring in erroneous claims, by association the real problems seem less true. "If she thinks she’s being shamed for sweating (or halitosis or foot odor), why should we believe her when she says fat-shaming is a thing?" we wonder. People like myself, who try to err on the side of Political Correctness, are losing credibility every time the writer cries wolf.

The shame issues need to be taken seriously. The way I hear women talked about in the media or in real life is often skewed toward how someone's idea of a woman should act, rather than how real women do act. I’m sure the author of The Guardian piece genuinely felt embarrassed and called-out, and for that I say, "Sorry, that’s a bummer." And I’m sorry you’re getting such a negative reaction to your work, I know how that goes. But, please, reconsider the next time you mistake embarrassment for shame. Starbucks tends to write people’s names comically, terribly wrong. But this time, you got the name of your feeling just as incorrect as when they write “Murry” on my cup, and I’m kind of embarrassed for you.

Philosopher Slavoj Zizek on the dangers of hypersensitivity:

Develop mindfulness to boost your creative intelligence

Sharon Salzberg, world-renowned mindfulness leader, teaches meditation at Big Think Edge.

Image: Big Think
Big Think Edge
  • Try meditation for the first time with this guided lesson or, if you already practice, enjoy being guided by a world-renowned meditation expert.
  • Sharon Salzberg teaches mindfulness meditation for Big Think Edge.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

For a long time, the West shaped the world. That time is over.

The 21st century is experiencing an Asianization of politics, business, and culture.

Videos
  • Our theories about the world, even about history or the geopolitics of the present, tend to be shaped by Anglo perspectives of the Western industrial democracies, particularly those in the United States and the United Kingdom.
  • The West, however, is not united. Canada, for instance, acts in many ways that are not in line with American or British policies, particularly in regard to populism. Even if it were united, though, it would not represent most of the world's population.
  • European ideas, such as parliamentary democracy and civil service, spread across the world in the 19th century. In the 20th century, American values such as entrepreneurialism went global. In the 21st century, however, what we're seeing now is an Asianization — an Asian confidence that they can determine their own political systems, their own models, and adapt to their own circumstances.
Keep reading Show less

Vikings unwittingly made their swords stronger by trying to imbue them with spirits

They didn't know it, but the rituals of Iron Age Scandinavians turned their iron into steel.

Shutterstock
Culture & Religion
  • Iron Age Scandinavians only had access to poor quality iron, which put them at a tactical disadvantage against their neighbors.
  • To strengthen their swords, smiths used the bones of their dead ancestors and animals, hoping to transfer the spirit into their blades.
  • They couldn't have known that in so doing, they actually were forging a rudimentary form of steel.
Keep reading Show less

Why the ocean you know and love won’t exist in 50 years

Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?

Videos
  • Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
  • The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
  • If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
Keep reading Show less