It’s the latest SJW craze and they aren’t stopping with fat acceptance. They are on a crusade to completely erase the concept of shame from society. And it wont end well.
How does the country reconcile our desire to live forever, to end all injuries, to avoid all things unhealthy, with the politically correct movement for fat acceptance? How does it happen that our schools will ban tag because it can be too rough and cause bruises, that mothers worry about concussions from soccer and football games, that bicycle helmet laws are taken so seriously, that smoking makes you literally Hitler, but this same society would applaud if these well-protected children grew up obese?
And what happens to a society when you remove the concept of shame entirely from the culture?
In recent years tacking the word “shaming” onto a word is supposed to indicate that someone is engaging in a behavior that was previously discouraged, or disapproved of, but which is now completely acceptable. Slut-shaming, fat-shaming, etc.. But isn’t it healthy to have a little shame? Isn’t it ok, as individuals and as a culture, to be ashamed sometimes? Doesn’t the very concept of shame limit us from doing things that are bad for us or for the community at large? Should we really be proud of being fat? Of being promiscuous?
Imagine tacking that suffix onto any other word and see if it makes sense. If I yelled at a kid riding his bike down the street at break-neck speed and told him to put a helmet on, would you tell me to stop safety-shaming the young lad? If I told a pregnant woman her two-pack a day habit was horrible for her unborn child would I be smoke-shaming her? Or is it possible she should be a little ashamed and that the shame she feels may lead to some introspection?
Sometimes an entire country can feel shame and, if the prevailing modern culture embraces it, can be prevented from recreating the events that caused it. If you do not remember the past you are doomed to repeat it, the old adage goes. But what if you remember the past but lack the concept of shame to put it into context? What if Germans were to remember the past but were told shame is no longer part of the modern lexicon? Well, then The Holocaust and the entirety of World War 2 becomes a stale history lesson with no emotional impact. And if you aren’t sometimes ashamed of your history, or your countries history, simply remembering it wont cause you to NOT repeat it. And if I bring it up I suppose I am history-shaming. The next time I see someone go on a diatribe about Americas past dalliance with slavery I am going to try telling them to stop “History-shaming my people,” and see how that goes over.
Shame is an important concept, a safety tool. Like a governor on a cars acceleration system the notion that you might later be ashamed of your actions can, or should, cause you to slow down and think a little more carefully about what you do next. I once heard a woman say that she lives every day of her life as though “It will all be broadcast on tonight’s 11 o’clock news” for all the world to see. Why would that matter? Because in her hypothetical she wants to be proud of what the world sees her do, her interactions with people, her code of ethics, the raising of her family. And if she didn’t live up to her standards and people saw it she would be ashamed. The fear of feeling shame guides her. Take away that concept, if she is to feel no shame for any of her actions, who would care if it was on the nightly news or not? You’ve removed the rudder she, and a fair amount of people I would bet, use to steer their lives into meaningful ones.
Ruth Fulton Benedict, an anthropologist who studied under Franz Boas (the father of Anthropology) noted that the concept of shame was one of the rare universal conditions found across all cultures and in every country. She concluded that excepted behaviors, and the shame one felt when straying from these socially accepted behaviors, was effective in guiding the standards and behaviors of large groups and societies as a whole.
So if society as a whole establishes guidelines of behavior, presumably because adhering to them benefits the community as a whole, and the fear of being ashamed keeps people generally in line with this set of social norms and rules, what happens to a society when the concept of shame is eradicated?
Look at more specific examples. 40-years ago if you were a single mother you had made some poor life choices and there was a stigma attached to it. Societal rules of behavior specified two parents raise a child. This was for the good of the child and society at large. It was better economically, it was better emotionally for the children, and it provided a more stable foundation on which to build nations. Don’t believe me? That notion sounds antiquated to you because you were raised in a time when being a single mom was no longer associated with any shame? Well, a 2009 study by Cornell University (and there are many others) proves my case:
- “Researchers reported that children living with married, biological parents have lower levels of risk-taking behaviors. When compared to single-parent and step-parent families, these children reported lower levels of substance abuse such as smoking, drinking and drugs. Less likely to be sexually active when young and more likely to have long-lasting romantic relationships, children in this study were also more likely to start families at an older age and when they were married.”
- Also noted in the study: More than half off all single mothers lived below the poverty line. In 2-parent households this number is fewer than 1 in 10 families.
- And I will close with this one last stat: A child living with a single mother is 14 times more likely to suffer serious physical abuse than is a child living with married biological parents
But then one day we decided women who become pregnant with no intention of marrying or staying with the biological father should no longer feel any sense of shame or even entertain the notion this might not be the best of plans. Instead, the term “single mother” became a badge of honor, something to be proud of. “I’m a single mom,” became the line uttered by every woman who wanted people to know how strong and independent she was. So what happened to illegitimacy when Murphy Brown wandered in and made single moms modern day heroes and removed the concept of shame? This:
And consider abortion, although this article is not a debate on the pro or con side of it, but still consider that having one used to come with a sense of feeling ashamed. Society in general didn’t agree that having an abortion was some act of courage or protest; nor did they think it was just some hum-drum ordinary procedure some people just opted for and went about their business. There was a stigma attached.
And even if you’re pro-choice you have to admit feeling a sense of shame in this regard still falls in line with your professed word views. For decades pro-choice people have been using the same quote: Abortion should be legal, safe and RARE. How do we ensure they’re rare? By letting people internally debate whether the sense of shame they will feel is worth it. Surely in such a massive decision shame should be a factor, right?
But we removed the stigma and what happened? According to the Centers for Disease Control nearly ¼ of all US women will have had an abortion by the end of 2017. Further, they report that a full 44% percent of these will be REPEAT abortions. 1 in 5 of these will be a third or higher abortion.
There is a clear and unmistakable pattern that when you remove the concept of shame from a behavior you lose all ability to regulate or limit it. I wont even bother digging up the numbers on obesity rates, you can figure that one out with a quick glance around your child’s classroom. But one thing I can guarantee is that the new “Fat Acceptance” movement wont help lower them nor is it doing society in general any favors.
Shame and its societal uses are as old as humans. It’s a tool used to build stable societies, healthy people and global powerhouses. Like anything there can be such a thing as too much shame, people can go overboard; like telling a new mother she’s unhealthy because you think her latest Instagram picture makes her look fat. But there can also be too little. As a culture we in America are busy removing the concept of shame entirely from our lexicon. Taking it right out of our societal-regulation-toolbox. Everything is acceptable, every behavior to be tolerated if not applauded. I for one am ashamed of this new direction were heading.