The Perception of Shame

It occurs to me that I’ve seen a few posts on Twitter lately that reinforce the idea of shaming as a virtue. This idea is specifically aimed at women in the Twitter posts in question, but it can certainly take various forms. What exactly am I getting at?

It’s the notion that women should be modest. That women should be shamed for having sex and getting pregnant outside of marriage, and shamed for using bad language. This post comes from a source that does not surprise me, and it betrays the typical mindset of blame culture that still exists in the minds of many.

Why should a woman feel shame for having sex? Why should sex and pregnancy out of wedlock be a cause for it? Does a ring on the finger suddenly transform sex to a different category of activity? I don’t know if the tweet’s author is merely suggesting sex outside of marriage that leads to pregnancy is a valid reason to shame someone, or if they’re suggest both sex and pregnancy out of marriage should be considered condemnable behaviours (specifically in respect of women), but it doesn’t really matter. Sex is a normal part of any consensual adult relationship, and if a couple should choose to have a baby, being married or not should have no bearing on how that choice is perceived.

Shaming a woman for how they choose to dress is a classic piece of victim-blaming mentality. The idea is also quite demeaning to men as well. Why can’t a woman dress in a way that’s comfortable for them? Would it be right to except women to wear only clothes they are uncomfortable in (imagine having to wear winter clothes in the height of summer), just because a man’s eyes might wander? Surely the man should be capable of some restraint? A measure of self-control?

This is the attitude that suggests women should shoulder at least some of the blame when they get sexually assaulted. ‘She was asking for it by wearing that skirt or tight top’. The other notion is that women should not be free to be themselves – instead they should conform to male expectations of behaviour, to be pleasing to men, on men’s terms. It’s a joke.

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