Community News Network

October 21, 2013

Let's stop 'shaming' each other

Most English-speaking Americans recognize that the words hating and hater have been overused for years now, propped up like fluffy blankets to muffle all kinds of criticism. More recently, a similar journey from useful and specific to vague and meaningless was traversed by the word troll. Everyone's a troll and a hater these days, at least according to anyone on the Internet who sees anything they don't like.

These two words have some new company in the Overused Buzzword Club. While shaming is often used to point out legitimately horrible behavior — especially against women — it is becoming so common that its meaning has begun to leach away. Shaming, in other words, is going the way of trolling. And that's particularly unfortunate in this case, because shame, like hate, is a powerful and important idea. There are things of which we should be unashamed, like our own bodies. There are times when we should feel shame, like when we're tempted to hunt for Communists. But nowadays one suspects that Joe McCarthy would have just accused his critics of "red-shaming."

Consider the term that may have sparked the current surge: slut-shaming. It's a striking term, one that uses the very label it is both rejecting and reappropriating. In the linguistics journal American Speech, Slate contributor Ben Zimmer defined slut-shaming — which he traces back to at least 2006 — as "Publicly deriding women who engage in sexual activity the speaker considers taboo, usually to modify behavior by inducing guilt or to assign blame." Another useful definition comes from blogger Andrea Rubenstein: "Slut-shaming, also known as slut-bashing, is the idea of shaming and/or attacking a woman or a girl for being sexual, having one or more sexual partners, acknowledging sexual feelings, and/or acting on sexual feelings."

Text Only
Community News Network
  • American sunscreens need an upgrade

    The last time a new sunscreen ingredient came on the U.S. market, the Y2K bug was threatening to destroy our way of life. Intel had just introduced the Pentium III processor, featuring an amazing 500 MHz of computing power.

    April 24, 2014

  • 20140424-AMX-COFFEE24.jpg Coffee growers' prayers for rain met with threat of deluge

    Brazil's drought made arabica coffee this year's best-performing commodity. Now, farmers are facing a downpour that is once more threatening crops.

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Celebrity quack moms are a terrible influence on everyday parents

    On April 15, the actress Alicia Silverstone released a book called "The Kind Mama: A Simple Guide to Supercharged Fertility, a Radiant Pregnancy, a Sweeter Birth, and a Healthier, More Beautiful Beginning." It's chock-full of attachment parenting lessons and dangerous misinformation.

    April 24, 2014

  • Affirmative action ruling challenges colleges seeking diversity

    The U.S. Supreme Court's support of Michigan's ban on race-based affirmative action in university admissions may spur colleges to find new ways to achieve diversity without using racial preferences.

    April 23, 2014

  • A 'wearable robot' helps her walk again

    Science is about facts, numbers, laws and formulas. To be really good at it, you need to spend a lot of time in school. But science is also about something more: dreaming big and helping people.

    April 23, 2014

  • Cuba is running out of condoms

    The newest item on Cuba's list of dwindling commodities is condoms, which are now reportedly in short supply. In response, the Cuban government has approved the sale of expired condoms.

    April 23, 2014

  • The waffle taco's biggest enemy isn't McDonald's. It's consumer habits.

    Gesturing to Taco Bell, Thompson said McDonald's had "not seen an impact relative to the most recent competitor that entered the [breakfast] space," and that new competition would only make McDonald's pursue breakfast more aggressively.

    April 23, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 4.42.47 PM.png VIDEO: Leopard attacks crowd in India

    A leopard caused panic in the city of Chandrapur when it sprung from the roof of a house and charged at rescue workers.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • The top 12 government programs ever

    Which federal programs and policies succeed in being cost-effective and targeting those who need them most? These two tests are obvious: After all, why would we spend taxpayers' money on a program that isn't worth what it costs or helps those who do not need help?

    April 22, 2014

  • In cuffs... 'Warlock' in West Virginia accused of sexual assault

    Police in West Virginia say a man claiming to be a “warlock” used promises of magical spells to lure children into committing sexual acts with him.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo