If you’re a part of that group of people I like to call everyone, you have two things in common with the rest of those in your (our) group. You’ve got an asshole and an opinion.
Opinions are like assholes, everyone’s got one. Right?
Well lately I’ve been hearing more than I’d like on the issue of everyone’s varying opinions. Pretty much about almost everything, but mostly about public shaming.
Are you, faithful blog reader also a part of that group of everyone, familiar with public shaming? If so, I’m sure you have an opinion on it; and if you don’t know what it is, you probably will have an opinion on it by the end of this post.
It will likely differ from mine. This just seems to be the way things are going these days.
If you really don’t have previous knowledge of what public shaming is, and can’t deduce from the basic definitions of the terms public and shaming, in a nut shell it’s: doing something openly, in some sort of a public forum, that is meant to either prove a point, embarrass a perceived offender, exact a punishment, seek revenge, or simply teach a lesson in consequences.
You might say it’s an act intended to shame…publicly…
Sometimes it’s actually done to be cute. Mom shaming, dog shaming, and baby shaming became an excessive and nauseating trend sometime in the last few years. For a very long couple of months, every other photo that went viral on the Internet was of a mom holding a sign, looking ironically coy while doing something like eating ice cream or dicking around on the Internet. Please gag me with that spoon you are supposedly-guiltily licking ice cream from. (We all know you don’t feel guilty.)
I’m not talking about these.
I’m talking about legitimate public shaming. Not flogging, not bullying. Just shaming. It’s also called Facebook parenting, or public parenting, though isn’t exclusive – in most recent incidences – to parents and their kids. In short it’s a public response to an equally offensive public violation, usually done by some asshole teenager that’s acting like a punk.
Sorry teens, but your behavior is punk-ish. At least the ones I’ve seen shamed.
It’s like this one, which garnered a lot of criticism after the mom posted this photo and forced her daughter to take a social media break. The critics said that it was a private matter that should have, therefore, been handled privately.
But weren’t the teenage daughter’s photos holding liquor public? I mean, they were out on social media – the most public of places these days. Moreover, the photos of said liquor holding were taken publicly as well. Out in public, with a group of people outside of the individual’s home.
How exactly is this a private matter?
And what are you going to do privately these days anyway? Ground her and send her to her room, where she can use her iPhone, iPad, iPod, laptop, and TV until you decide to let her go back to getting loaded with her friends? What, exactly, does that prove?
Or this video, which (if you watch will see) is a dad’s response to a post on his daughter’s Facebook profile about not wanting to do chores (it wasn’t put that nicely).
The video and all it’s aftermath is really old news; it even appeared on the Dr. Phil show. People started calling this Facebook Parenting. The public shaming phenomena, that really – if you look at it – is not phenomenal at all. A parent buys his daughter a laptop, she violates his codes of use and acts like an asshole; she loses it. What is so different or phenomenal about that? I remember when I was 16 I smoked pot after my dad said I could use the Mazda only if I didn’t do drugs. Well I got caught doing drugs, so was it really phenomenal that I then was not allowed to drive the Mazda?
This isn’t rocket science here, people.
What is different is the way in which parents are making their punishment public, and to this I get that people are a little taken aback. Why ground your kid for the world to see on a YouTube video? Well, just as the lives of our kids are more public and disconnected (thanks to the Internet and social media), parents have to reach to their level to make the point. (And, by the way, the entire church found out about it when I got grounded from using the Mazda because social media used to be a little thing we called town gossip.)
You might say that parents are doing this …to parent. That is what we’re supposed to be doing, right? Raising good people? And if our good people stray to the bad, we still have to fix it…right? (Please someone at least agree with that.)
Call it what you will – Facebook Parenting, or a more broad public shaming – I’m in favor of it. So much so that this morning, when I read an article on Think Progress about a girl that had to wear a Shame Suit after violating her school’s dress code on the length of her skirt, I didn’t see any reason why people should be so up in arms about a punishment meant to fit the crime.
People responded that it was humiliation, maliciously intended to hurt the student, not teach a lesson.
Some argued the skirt wasn’t that short.
The mom says on a number of articles and websites that her daughter had no idea her skirt was out of dress code compliance.
The girl claims that she wasn’t offered the three alternatives, and just forced to wear the suit. She’s new to the school, this is a very critical time for her to fit in.
Blah blah blah. Are we seriously accepting these as viable reasons for this to be blown out of proportion, and for the enforcement of the school dress code to be somehow a bad thing?
Well my first response was: if you are so concerned about fitting in, maybe you shouldn’t have dressed like a …ahem, ho. But that would have been harsh, or even mean; I mean the skirt could have been acceptable by some people’s standards, just not the dress code. And I don’t really want to call names, but also in the back of my mind I thought back to that time I was driving past my local high school and my ten year old daughter asked why one of the girls crossing the street was dressed so trashy. Trashy was her word, in reference to a short skirt and a bikini top (really, who the fuck wears a bikini to high school?).
I could go on.
I could go on to say that if you really want to blame someone for the poor girl not knowing the dress code, blame the mom. And while we’re at it, mom should have not only known the dress code and shared it with her daughter, she ALSO probably shouldn’t have let her leave the house dressed like that anyway.
I could go on about the fact that the Shame Suit was really nothing more than a gym uniform with a shirt that says “dress code violation.” Oh boo hoo. When I was in high school, if you violated the dress code you had to wear your gym clothes too. And the dress code really was up to the interpretation of whoever enforced it. When someone violated it, they had to wear the gym uniform – girls and boys. Did parents rail on the schools for humiliating their kids? Hell no. They grounded us and took away our TVs. Before anyone hops on their high horse and responds to my elderly comments “when I was in high school, if you violated the dress code you had to wear your gym clothes too, and we also walked uphill to and from school in 10 feet of snow…” just remember that different times don’t always actually call for different measures.
I could go on to talk about the criticisms that this just perpetrates rape culture and its belief that women “ask for it” by the way they dress, which I think is a pretty far stretch given the fact that rape culture, and rape in general, has absolutely nothing to do with a dress code that – whether anyone likes it or not – should be enforced. (And is – whether anyone wants to believe it or not – enforced on male students as well.)
We could also talk about the fact that the dress code violator claims she was given only the one option of the Shame Suit for her violation, when in fact she should have been given three. She must be telling the truth. If there’s one thing I know, it’s that teenagers never, ever lie.
But none of that is the real heart of the issue here, which explains why I am in favor of public shaming – of any kind.
Between teen posting photos holding hard liquor, teen posting nasty shit about her parents on Facebook and getting her laptop shot for it, and new girl wearing a questionable skirt and having to walk around in the gym uniform-style Shame Suit for the rest of the day, every time these stories go viral and people criticize the parents or the system those parents entrust their kids to, we devalue the idea of consequences. We teach kids that as long as people yell loud enough, defend strong enough, and claim things that are completely out of nowhere, there are no consequences for your actions. We place value in excuse-making. “Oh the skirt isn’t that short,” and “she just didn’t know the dress code” teaches children that bad behavior is somehow magically turned into acceptable behavior, if only you can justify it.
So for that reason, I’m in favor of public shaming. At least to some degree. To be clear: I’m not talking about flogging. Or name calling. Or maliciously humiliating. Or bullying. Or public abuse. But a little embarrassment to match a particular offense never – really – hurt anyone. In the end, the punishment should fit the crime. And in an increasingly public world, what right does any of us have to demand that any public act go punished privately anyway?