So it has been brought to my attention that the news have been filled with women’s reproductive rights issues. I’m not going to get into that discussion, because everyone and their dog has an opinion on the issue (side note: I still can’t believe they are still arguing about contraception, really?! Come on!). In fact, that is one of the reasons I have refrained from writing this past month; there is not a whole lot more to say on the subject that has not been said already. However, I do want to briefly touch upon Rush Limbaugh’s comments about Sandra Fluke, along with Foster Freiss advising women to use aspirin between the knees as contraceptive, which are both very blatant examples of “slut-shaming”. The thing is though, I’ve noticed that shaming is a common reaction to almost any lifestyle choice. Outside of slut-shaming, there is also body shaming, food shaming , and even shaming of different tastes when it comes to music, books, and alcohol. It makes me want to yell “live and let live!”, but instead I am going shame all of the shamers by writing about the different types of shaming.
I am going to start with my personal favorite, and the one that’s been all over the news: slut-shaming. Now, when most people think of slut-shaming, they think of some old man wagging his finger at you for having too many sexual partners or telling you that wearing a mini-skirt can get you raped. I’m going to skip that. It’s easy enough to identify, and does not require more elaboration other than “don’t do it, it’s bad”. What I want to discuss is indirect slut-shaming. This particular technique is harder to spot because it’s very passive and is usually not verbally directed at the person who is feeling shamed. For example, a woman who refers to herself as a slut after a single sexual encounter. In reality, she just wants the listener to disagree and tell her that she is, in fact, a very respectable and upstanding woman. And we do it, we tell her that it’s okay and that it has no bearing on her character, but on the inside, a lot of women may be thinking, “If one night makes you a slut, what must you think of me when you hear about all of my sexual exploits?” Even though the whole tirade has nothing to do with her, the listener still feels shamed.
I want to issue a blanket statement in response to this attitude: Enjoying your sexuality does NOT make you a slut. A brief history lesson: slut, and other synonymous words, were created in patriarchal agrarian societies in order to control female sexuality and ensure the legitimacy of heirs. It’s outdated. Sex is a healthy part of any romantic relationship, and desiring and enjoying sex is not something to fear or be ashamed of, and if women are still calling each other and themselves sluts, how can we set a different standard for men?
My second favorite kind of shaming is food-shaming. Check out this great xojane post on the subject . This one is great, because you can’t get away from it, no matter what you actually eat. Personally, I’ve developed a pretty thick skin when it comes to food-shaming because my family has been doing it to me since before I can remember. Between grandma setting down a plate of food in front of me and saying “you don’t have to finish everything on the plate,” and my mom still keeping a running tab out loud of every morsel that goes in my mouth when I visit to do laundry (if it’s not about the fat content it’s about evil-breast-cancer-causing meat or dairy), I’ve grown accustomed to the circus of food-shame. I make allowances for my family’s behavior (because you can’t teach an old mother new ways of communication), and I’m sure they make allowances for mine, because we do tend to let our manners go around family. However, when has it become acceptable to make negative comments about the food choices of people outside of your immediate family? I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing, but I was brought up to never call another person’s food “gross”, it’s just bad manners. The best part is, I’ve encountered this reaction with almost anything that I’ve eaten: carnivores have said this about my veggie burgers, vegetarians have said this about my steak, and most recently, a few co-workers felt the need to repeatedly say this about my sushi throughout the whole time I was eating it. I feel like these types of comments I could expect from young kids who haven’t been taught any better yet, but when they are coming from full-grown adults, it’s completely inappropriate. I would actually like to hear some input about this one. Do you think it’s okay to make derogatory remarks about another person’s meal? Have you encountered this trend as well?
Finally, I want to touch upon shaming people based on their personal tastes. I’ve raged against this one for a very long time: at least since my college radio station days, when your value as a person was determined by how many obscure indie bands you can rattle off in under 60 seconds. Music is the most common subject of shaming out of all the other personal tastes, but my anti-shaming protest reaches farther to literature, alcohol, video games, and even operating system choices. The biggest issue I have with this type of shaming is that it targets personal tastes. They are called personal tastes because they are …
wait for it…
If you like a band/book/video game that I have not yet encountered, by all means, introduce me, I always welcome fresh sources of entertainment, but if I try it, and don’t like it, then shrug your shoulders and move on with your life. Why does it irk people so profoundly when someone does not enjoy all the same things that they do? I’m gonna take a guess and say it has something to do with looking for validation of their own choices.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but when I listen to music, read a book, play a video game, or have a drink, I am actively seeking an enjoyable experience from that activity. True, some tastes can be acquired or trained towards something you wouldn’t naturally find pleasing to your senses, but even the process of acquiring a new taste for something is a personal choice. I’m glad to hear about your Mac or your love of scotch whiskey, I’m sure they make you very happy, but please, for the love of all that is good, let me have my Windows and Riesling in peace.
Some people have gotten into their heads that if they don’t share particular tastes with another human being, then they are unlikely to get on well together. But contrary to popular belief, difference in personal tastes is not a communication barrier, because let’s face it, listening to music is fun, but talking about music is incredibly boring. Let’s discuss politics or philosophy or religion, or we can gossip about our love lives or our jobs. Please don’t tell me about the lyrical depth of your favorite band, instead I would like to hear about your last sexual experience, in graphic detail. Conversation is a time for sharing, not a teaching moment.