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Shame on shaming
Can't stand people who stuff themselves up with fast food? Stuck on a long-haul flight with a passenger who stares at your in-flight entertainment screen all the time? Name it, shame it, give 15 minutes of fame to it. It's what everyone is doing online.
The trend has taken flight in recent years, fuelled by microblogging sites such as Tumblr and Facebook. Slut shaming is the act of making a woman feel guilty or inferior for engaging in certain sexual behaviours that violate traditional gender expectations. If a woman is sexually active and unmarried most people will not hesitate to label her a slut. It is also used as a form of victimblaming for rape and sexual assault, such as claiming a woman was raped because she wore revealing clothes or is sexually forward. In one post, a blogger writes with accompanying pictures: "Hey girls, uhm did you know - open books, NOT legs?"
Body shaming happens everywhere and to pretty much everyone, especially women. Being too tall or short, buxom or flatchested, too sexy or frumpy, too smart and even too pretty can draw comments but the most cruel variety are reserved for the overweight. The most recent victim was reality television star and girlfriend to rapper Kanye West, Kim Kardashian who was attacked for her pregnancy weight. One blogger even put up a picture of Kardashian sideby-side with a whale. Of course, a lot of people think that fat-shaming is perfectly acceptable, and that their comments will actually motivate fat people to lose weight and stop being fat.
Sitting next to a person on a flight who likes to hog arm space or keeps falling asleep on your shoulder? This is a story many passengers can swap over coffee. But it's the turn of airline staff to get back at passengers. Several online forums have cropped up to provide airline employees and customers an opportunity to vent about awful fellow fliers. Aided by social media, "passenger shaming" is a new practice in which 'bad' passengers are photographed and shamed online. The infamous disruptive passenger taped to his seat on an Icelandair flight in January is just one example. One flight attendant started a blog RantsOfASassyStew six years ago and in January earlier this year she launched Passenger Shaming, a Facebook-based photo blog that features anonymous pictures of passengers behaving badly, documenting people who don't flush after using the toilet, change their babies' dirty diapers in their seats, have sex on the plane, or do drugs. On the Facebook page for Passenger Shaming, one can read this post:
Dear Flying Public,
WE ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THE SIZE OF YOUR SEAT, LEG ROOM, THUNDERSTORMS, MAINTENANCE ISSUES, DELAYS, THE GUY IN FRONT OF YOU PUTTING HIS SEAT BACK, SNOW/ICE, TURBULENCE, LACK OF PILLOWS/BLANKETS, PEOPLE SNORING, HOW FAST WE ARE GOING OR WHEN WE WILL GET THERE, ETC.
Flight Attendants of the World
In recent years, big corporate entities like Starbucks, Google, Amazon and Vodafone have been shamed publicly into paying tax that is perceived to "have been avoided in the past". Everything these companies are doing is legal - it's avoidance and not evasion - but the public isn't interested in such details. In India, defaulters were named and shamed on loudspeakers. The South Delhi Municipal Corporation's property tax department took to the streets with drums and loudspeakers, standing before the homes of defaulters and shouting out their names for all to hear. They promptly paid up. One impact of tax shaming is that individuals can boycott brands but what is more dangerous for the image and equity of the company is social media. Hashtags or Twitter accounts take seconds to create and go viral.
It's the revenge of the chefs. After being subjected to ridicule and slander on social media and blogs, restaurants and chefs are enjoying playing a little power game. Restaurants are now dealing with reservation no-shows on social media like Twitter by naming diners who didn't even bother to cancel. Red Medicine, an upscale restaurant in Beverly Hills, California, was among the first ones to take shaming no-shows to Twitter. In March, the business' official Twitter account listed all the people who hadn't bothered to show up for or cancel their dinner reservations with enough notice. "Hi Kyle Anderson (323), I hope you enjoyed your gf's bday and the flowers that you didn't bring when you no-showed for your 815 res. Thanks, " snarked one tweet.
Like most shaming trends, this too owes its birth to the internet, a meme that originated on Tumblr in August 2012. It is where an image of an animal is uploaded with a sign which describes some recent negative behaviour. The very first image posted was of a Dachshund who had eaten its owner's underwear. The concept was conceived by Chris Mohney, editorial director at Tumblr. He described dog shaming as "a half-baked joke that I didn't think would amount to much beyond a few hours' amusement". Just like the millions of cat memes, this one went viral after Mohney added the ability to upload additional images to the site. Celebrities have subsequently posted or tweeted dog shaming images of their pets, including Wil Wheaton and Lauren Conrad, whose puppy had chewed up one of her shoes. And somehow, all the animals in the picture manage to look suitably guilty, adding to the aww factor of the picture.
Very simply, food shaming is, commenting, positively or negatively, on what someone else is eating. The shame surrounding fast food in particular is so deep that people feel it's OK to comment on how disgusting burgers and fried chicken are and that they would never put that in their bodies. Or how much healthier diet cola loaded with aspartame is than regular cola. Of course, it works both ways, and people are guilty of food-shaming those who eat in an exceedingly health-conscious manner. People who prefer their bread to be made of stone-ground whole wheat and their eggs free range and greens free of pesticides and watered only by natural sources - ok, the last bit is made up - are often chided for being too fussy.
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