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Taboo Talks discusses shame culture

(photo by Kaitlyn Johnson) Panelists address questions about Shame Culture.
(Photo by Kaitlyn Johnson) Panelists address questions about shame culture and the Facebook page Weber State Confessions.

When a woman posted on the Weber State Confessions page that she thought she was pregnant and didn’t know what to do, the first response read in part, “Maybe you should stop whoring around . . .”

The Weber State University Center for Diversity and Unity’s monthly Taboo Talks discussed this comment, and other forms of “shame culture,” on Wednesday afternoon.

Shame culture is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as a culture in which conformity of behavior is maintained through the individual’s fear of being shamed.

“One way to look at shame culture is a way of controlling the boundaries of what’s acceptable,” said Pepper Glass, a professor of sociology who was on the panel.

Donna Hunter from WSU Counseling & Psychological Services and WSU senior Mark Zigweid joined Glass on the panel. The administrator of Weber State Confessions page was also invited via conference call in order to protect their identity.

Amy Pittman, the Common Ground chair for the CDU, moderated the panel. “I’m a follower of Weber State Confessions,” she said. “I like it a lot , but I just see a lot of shaming on there.”

Weber State Confessions is a Facebook page where users anonymously post their secrets, rants or just random thoughts about their personal lives or issues on campus. The page has almost 3,500 likes.

The panel discussed the impact of Weber State Confessions. Pittman said she wasn’t trying to demonize the page.

“It was more to raise awareness that this (shaming) is going on,”she said.

Hunter discussed how shaming is based in the current social structure. She said the culture is based in one dominant and subordinate dynamics, and that shaming is a way to keep that social structure intact. “They get some sense of power from doing it; it’s not about caretaking the other person or about their development.”

The panel also discussed a case in Steubenville, Ohio, of two football players who were convicted of raping a 16-year-old girl. After the incident, the football players and other students at the high school shared pictures of the assault over social media. Some people blamed the victim for putting herself in that situation. The panel discussed how this showed the willingness of people to shame victims. The anonymous group posted pictures of two high school students laughing and making jokes about the assault, thus creating the shame on both sides.

The panelists also discussed the labeling of criminals, saying people should separate the behavior from the person.

Pittman brought up how she thought language contributed to the shaming culture. She mentioned how, for instance, people say “I am stupid” as opposed to “that’s stupid of me.”

“They definitely addressed some great topics and some issues that are going in our culture right now,” said Feilx Baca, a WSU sophomore.

The panelists said that ultimately society needs to make changes to prevent shaming. Zigweid said he thinks it’s up to the victim to decide how they let shaming affect them.

“We need to support other people, don’t take it personally, and then realize that other people are going to take it personally and say to those other people, ‘It’s OK, this guy’s a jerk’ and move on,” he said.

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