Friday, July 31, 2015
This story from Slate tells about the suicide of a young girl after her father shaved off her hair in an act of public shaming.
Public shaming online is a particularly awful trend that is the 21st-century equivalent of the parent who makes a big production of whipping their kid in public (not that that's gone away). The parents might be thinking, "Look how terrible my child is and how hard I'm not putting up with it." But I actually think, "The real shame lies with who's taking the picture."
Online shaming has very real (and sometimes tragic) consequences. It can destroy relationships between parents and children. It often overrides the magnitude of the transgression, assuming there's even a real transgression. And, again, it says more about the mindset of the shamer than the shamee. What it says is not good. So knock it off and deal with such conflicts in private, where they can solved and not linger in photo form forever.
As for pet shaming, that's just ... weird.
Think of the children! You know, the ones who are too engrossed in their smartphones to look up anymore and are overprotected and helicoptered, not like the older generations who grew up dangerously without namby-pamby seat belts and political correctness and, by gosh, aren't lily-livered for it!
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously defined pornography in Jacobellis v. Ohio as such: "I know it when I see it." Some people don't consider Playboy proper pornography. Others think Cosmopolitan belongs in a protective sleeve and should placed under a trenchcoat. Kirk Cameron saw porn in Growing Pains scripts in scenes where he and his girlfriend would lie next to each other fully clothed in bed, talking. We know it when we see it, and our eyes are all differently calibrated.
The effort to obscure Cosmo at the checkout counter is nothing new; Walmart's been doing it for about a decade, and other stores have since followed suit. They employ plastic black shields to block each side of the cover, where all of the copy blocks each month scream SEX SEX SEX (and the occasional "BE HAPPY AND IN CONTROL AT WORK").
To be fair, the checkout counter is a place full of idle children, and you don't want to turn it into a firestorm of awkwardness by exposing kids to concepts that they may be far too young to understand. Maybe stores should buck the psychology of the last-minute impulse purchase and place the magazine a little higher and/or a little farther away.
On the other hand, I was a kid once, and I don't recall ever taking even the slightest interest in Cosmo (I was too busy begging for the National Enquirer). But had there been blinders obscuring the cover, I might very well have asked my parents about it. And they probably would have pulled it out and said, "Because they don't want children reading about sex." And then Mom would probably have bought the issue, as she so often did, and left it all unlocked on the living-room table. And I would have been totally fine, because I was raised to understand that there was a big, mysterious, uncensored world out there, so maybe I should be mentally and emotionally equipped to handle it. Beats trying to block it all out.
When that doesn't happen, you really know it when you see it.