2013 was The Year of a lot of things. It was the year of Beyoncé (again). It was the year of royal babies, Jennifer Lawrence, white girls twerking, teens sending dick picks and Robin Thicke's emergence as a feminist scholar (again). It was — as concluded by Rembert Browne's sprawling and thorough "Who Won 2013" bracket — the year of cultural appropriation. But there's another not-so-silent-yet-often-ignored star of 2013 that deserves its due —- and that star is shame. (The feeling, NOT the 2011 movie about sex addiction.)
2013 was the year when everyone felt shamed no matter what they did and yet somehow, despite all that shame, never managed to shut up about how shamed they were feeling. Now, it goes without saying that some types of shaming are very real and damaging. Shaming someone for the shape of their body, the color of their skin, their gender, the number of people they've slept with or their sexual orientation is both fucked up and — most unfortunately — a deeply institutionalized part of our culture. Those specific types of shaming deserve addressing because they degrade people over arbitrary bullshit that they cannot (and/or should not be expected to) control.
But what about those of us who have been lucky enough to live our lives in relatively shame-free comfort? I mean, it seems unfair that only victims should have a right to victimhood. Don't WE have a right to feel shamed, too? Well, if 2013 has proven anything, the answer is a resounding YES. And luckily, we can all get a piece of that sweet sweet victim pie by using this very simple trick: Take whatever dumb-ass thing that you want to feel righteous over and add "-shaming" to the end. Voilà You've successfully been shamed!
Go ahead, try it. Thought you were ordering a black sweater from Madewell only to realize once it's arrived that it's actually navy and now you can't return it because you bought it on sale and also cut the tags off to wear it to brunch last Sunday? You've been RETURN-shamed. Miss the bus because your alarm didn't wake you up on time and yeah, sure, you probably could have made it anyway, but you really wanted to grab coffee on the way to the bus stop? That bus was LATE-shaming you. See? It's fun! Idiotic and selfish, but FUN.
If you want to see this shaming appropriation in practice, here are some very real examples of nonsense-shaming from the past year: There was snack-shaming, attendance-shaming, salad-shaming, Shame-shaming, INSTAGRAM FILTER SHAMING, selfie-shaming, pop music shaming, tattoo-shaming and Drake-shaming. We're even shaming fake people now — that's how pervasive "shaming" has become.
Oh, no! Am I shaming-shaming?
To put the sarcasm aside for a moment (I know, I feel naked without it, too), let's address how all of these types of shaming are all pretty basic bullshit (except for the Drake-shaming — that's a real problem). If someone says they do not like your taste in music, that is not shaming. That is someone having different tastes in music than you. It sucks if they make you feel bad about it, but you have two options — pretend to like cooler musicians or rightfully dismiss whoever is giving you a hard time as a dick.
It is not shaming for someone to post "#nofilter" on an Instagram photo. In fact, that is not about you at all. Besides, that person is probably lying because EVERYONE uses filters. Tattoos — and I know this is a controversial topic among these parts — are a choice, so if you get an ugly or stupid one, I am going to think that it's ugly or stupid and — in the sake of fairness — I expect you to do the same thing if you ever see my lotus flower lower back tattoo.
An athlete saying he's bummed to see so many empty seats in a baseball stadium is not "attendance shaming" and "snack shaming" and "salad shaming" are just more diluted ways of saying body-shaming. It's time we chill the fuck out.
Look, there a moments in life where someone else is going to make you feel bad about something, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you've been shamed. Here are some good questions to ask yourself in a moment of embarrassment or hurt: "Is this a part of a larger systemic oppression?" "Will this stop me from getting a job?" "Will this stop me from getting healthcare or deny me basic legal rights that are available to everyone else?"
If you answer no to all of these, you are not being shamed. You just happen to like or have an opinion about something that's unpopular and probably kind of stupid.
Happy New Year, everyone! May your 2014 be completely shame-free. #oldyearshaming
Image via Shutterstock.