DeConstructingShame is the name of the game. Name of the blog, name of the job. And you know what? It’s hard work. Picture a hard-hatted woman (yes, there is a hard head under the hard-hat), wearing overalls and work gloves. Digging into a moldy, smelly, rotting foundation; taking it apart brick-by-brick.
The de-‘construction site’ metaphor may not be a perfect description, but I’m going with it for now. Because shame has to have sources, doesn’t it? The supplies come from lumber yards, cement mixers, plumbing, electrical and hardware supply warehouses. The shame messages were passed along, almost slyly, unobtrusively, ubiquitously, by my grandparent’s and parent’s generations, and updated, (essentially unchanged) by Seventeen Magazine and it’s media cohort.
In my daily writing on DeConSha, I’ve been exploring the impossible task of achieving adolescence in the late 1960’s, where fitting in & looking good (the requirements haven’t changed much for the teens of today) inevitably led to sexual harassment and shame. Gotcha comin’ and goin’, I say. But nobody said that to me, to us, then. We were displayed in our mini-skirts and it was open season for boys and men to evaluate us. To follow the hunting metaphor, they took pot-shots at us. My grandfather, my father, my Geometry teacher and every boy or man seemed to feel confidently superior in their maleness and comfortably entitled to rate, berate, mock or praise us.
Without a language to understand this phenomenon, without a sense of worthiness and pride, other than attractiveness to males, where could/did I go in my confusion? If I failed to please, or if I received ‘unwanted attention’, either way, it was my fault, I was to blame and the shame of it all settled into my being. Having been thoroughly primed, as a child, to accept responsibility for any short-comings, the searing moments of embarrassment that clustered in those years still sting.
So, I’m digging them out. Threw away the work gloves. Bare hands are the only way I know to do this. Scraped raw knuckles, dry, cracking cuticles, fingernails that never were a proper feminine accoutrement… Every day I get up and I dig in the slime of the shame and although it seems endless, I choose, I must choose, to believe that it is not.
Two other notes:
Someone showed me the recently released Special K (Kellogg’s) youtube video called ‘Shhhhut Down Fat Talk’. Don’t know what I think about it…
As a large woman I truly detest fat talk and it is everywhere. But I have some uneasy feelings about a member of the PPFIC (Packaged & Processed Food Industrial Complex) trotting out this campaign. Of course, they have the money to do the research, set up a fake store and make the video. Would love to hear what you think…
My second note is in the “Come on, who wrote that title?” category. In the March 2014 issue of Journal of Experimental Social Psychology there will be an article entitled “The Ironic Effects of Weight Stigma”, based on studies done at UC Santa Barbara. Of course I haven’t read the article, so I could be over-reacting (who me?) Somehow ironic is not the word that seems most appropriate when talking about the effects of weight stigma. Suppose I could be glad that research is happening at all. Same with the Kellogg’s video.