Slut. Whore. Fat. Snob. The words reeled through the high school girl’s mind as she cried herself to sleep for yet another night in a row. Every day she heard them whispered as she passed her fellow students in the hall, and every day they made her feel worse and worse.
She was being shamed by her peers and didn’t know where to turn. She didn’t sleep around, she worked out, she tried to talk to them, but they would only shun her and come up with new rumors every day.
Why they did this, she did not know, but it hurt her no matter what.
Though the scenario above is fictional, it holds a lot of truth. Every day hurtful words are thrown at innocent people who are being shamed by others.
“Shaming,” causing someone to feel inferior or inadequate, has become the social norm in America. It is so widely done that it has become second nature to many people.
Casual expressions like, “She needs to cover up” or “He’s such a man-whore” cause people to suffer from the act of shaming.
There are many different types of shaming, but the one that has received the most attention recently is slut-shaming. “Slut-shaming,” as defined by Urban Dictionary, is “an unfortunate phenomenon in which people degrade or mock a woman because she enjoys having sex, has a lot of sex or may even just be rumored to participate in sexual activity.” Though there are other ways to explain it, this definition is pretty clear.
A 2011 survey of 19,000 college students concluded that 73 percent of them judged someone more harshly if the person was believed to be sexually active. And though slut-shaming is often a problem we see geared toward women, 50 percent of the students said they judged sexually active males and females equally.
A widely recognized, very early example of slut-shaming is found in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. The movie Easy A is a more modern, high school-oriented example that is loosely based on Hawthorne’s novel.
In the movie, the protagonist pretends to lose her virginity in order to protect the secret of a friend and the news quickly circulates around the high school. Even though she didn’t actually have sex with anyone, she is slut-shamed by her peers and is mercilessly persecuted and bullied.
This movie shows how slut-shaming can be a very negative thing and how it can be based in nothing but rumors.
Slut-shaming, or shaming in general, can have dire consequences. These can include such things as eating disorders and mental illnesses, such as depression or anxiety.
Shaming may just be a new twist on name-calling, but the Internet has made it much worse than the old playground variety. It is a form of bullying and is extremely harmful to those being shamed and to those doing the shaming. Before people open their mouths to address someone else in a negative way, to their face or behind their back, they should consider the implications and the consequences of their words.
By: Wingspan Staff