In 2016 39.8% of all Americans were obese: the estimated annual medical cost of this epidemic was some $147 billion. In response to this crisis, we are cautioned against “fat shaming.” The Battle of Bulge Acceptance has even seen its soldiers fight for the hated Orange Man. In response to a popular #maralardass tag attached to an unflattering photo taken at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, the Obesity Action Coalition complained:
The OAC strongly condemns the trending hashtag on social media targeting President Donald Trump for his weight. The disease of obesity knows no political boundaries. It is very much a bipartisan issue currently affecting more than 93 million Americans.
Weight bias and fat-shaming can have a very harmful impact on individuals affected by obesity. Psychological effects include depression, anxiety and poor body image. From a social and physical aspect, weight bias can lead to social rejection by peers, unhealthy weight control practices and more. Additionally, studies have shown that this type of behavior — that which shames someone due to their weight or size — actually causes individuals to gain more weight caused by the stress of public humiliation, rather than to lose weight.
In 2017 the Center for Disease Control reported that half of all new sexually transmitted diseases occurred in people age 15-24 and that one in four sexually active adolescent females has an STD like chlamydia or human papillomavirus (HPV). Faced with these numbers, third wave feminists have launched campaigns to combat the menace of “slut shaming.” As author and anti-bullying activist Sherri Gordon describes it:
According to a study conducted by the American Association of University Women, slut-shaming is one of the most common forms of sexual harassment that students in middle and high school deal with. In fact, a third of all students experienced having someone make unwelcome sexual comments, jokes, or gestures about them…
As a result [of slut-shaming], girls are often left with a sense of deep humiliation, shame, embarrassment, and pain. They also may feel worthless and hopeless and resort to self-bullying and eating disorders to cope with pain.
What’s more, many girls who have been slut-shamed often have body-image issues and depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide are linked to slut-shaming.
In 2017 the USDA found that 15 million American households found it challenging to keep their refrigerator stocked. Many providers kept their families fed only by tightening their own belts: in 250,000 American households (0.7%) both children and adults occasionally skipped meals or did not eat for a whole day because there was not enough money for food. This has led to much discussion about “poor shaming.” As an woman fallen on hard times due to a family health crisis writes:
What if we end up, inadvertently, distressing the underprivileged and under-earning in our community? Perhaps you asked a neighbor where you should go for vacation or what she thinks of that fully-loaded car you are considering. You meant well when you asked your friend if he wanted to play golf with you or attend that pricey barbecue fundraiser. All of these are the subtle ways in which we undermine those among us who are secretly struggling. It’s poor-shaming, and it’s everywhere. I have done it too, often without realizing it.
All these concerns seem well-meaning enough. Bullying is distasteful and schoolyard taunts don’t improve with age. But consider how the focus has shifted from facts to emotions. There is less concern about solving problems than with ensuring we don’t make the afflicted feel bad about them. Instead of filling bellies, we prop up egos. And for all their efforts to eradicate “shaming” it’s hard to miss how the Left has come to rely on it as a weapon.
In December 2013, on the last leg of a trip to South Africa Justine Sacco sent this admittedly tasteless tweet to her 175 followers. As Canadian LGBT activist Tiffany Regaudie gleefully noted in a 2016 article:
Before Sacco landed, IAC had all but announced her firing via Twitter. The hashtag #HasJustineLandedYet began to trend worldwide as people waited with communal glee for Sacco to land, turn on her phone and face her online flogging.
Sacco spent the next year of her life unemployed, in hiding and experiencing symptoms akin to post-traumatic stress disorder. The online public had essentially sentenced Sacco to one year of punishment for her insensitivity, ignorance and crude display of white privilege.
Public shaming has long been used to maintain social order. Shame has also served as a form of recourse for marginalized people when institutionalized forms of justice have failed them.
This trend has only continued. In a May 2018 Nation article entitled “The Social Shaming of Racists is Working” Laila Lalami wrote:
This is what happened to Aaron Schlossberg, the Manhattan lawyer who threatened to call ICE on the Spanish-speaking food workers and customers in New York. His law practice soon plummeted in customer ratings; he was hounded by reporters seeking comment; and his corporate landlord terminated his business lease. Protesters even brought a mariachi band to perform outside his apartment building. The public shaming that followed his rant could have a salutary effect: Maybe, just maybe, racists will think twice before making frivolous reports or issuing threats.
It is easy enough to mock the hypocrisy of a movement which condemns shame whilst shaming its enemies into submission. A wiser approach might be to explore what this fetish says about the Left. According to French Existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre shame is:
a shameful apprehension of something and this something is me. I am ashamed of what I am. Shame therefore realizes an intimate relation of myself to myself. Through shame I have discovered an aspect of my being. Yet although certain complex forms derived from shame can appear on the reflective plane, shame is not originally a phenomenon of reflection. In fact, no matter what results one can obtain in solitude by the religious practice of shame, it is in its primary structure shame before somebody
People who are inordinately concerned with shame are more often than not desperately afraid of being shamed themselves. They are very concerned with their place in the social order and ready to do whatever it takes to maintain their status. They will respond with great discomfort to anything which threatens their fragile self-image. (The tearful apologies we see every time a “male feminist” gets #metooed are as much self-affirmations as pleas for mercy: they want desperately to believe “this is not who I am”). And when they realize nothing will redeem them before their community, they will either fade quietly into the night or lash out against their former peers with a blind and terrifying rage.