Monday, February 13, 2023

Body shaming, modesty policing and "inappropriate" dress: what's REALLY behind it?

Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to modesty police. Every day, my home page features a woman saying she's been body shamed for "inappropriate work attire" and asking if her outfit is appropriate. Often, a large number will chime in faulting the clothing as immodest, NSFW or worse, especially when the woman is curvy. When we start down the path of criticizing others, it's a short, slippery slope to shaming. 

What's behind this obsession with body-shaming? Why do we feel entitled to comment and judge another's clothing choice? Well, the superficial answer is, that she did ask. But what prompted her to ask is, that supposedly her style choice was commented on in real life. I say supposedly because I sometimes wonder how often it really happens and how often it's an opportunity to show off. 

Now that sounds like shaming in itself. But it's not. We're a world, obsessed with looks and bodies, AKA, the superficial. We've rewarded people, particularly women, for flaunting themselves. We've told them that looks only matter. We've turned many people, again, particularly women, to pathological, unquenchable attention-seeking. 

Are many of the women who post images of themselves, what social media calls "pick me?" "Pick me" is another term for exhibitionist, someone so desperate for attention that s/he will attempt to one-up others of the same gender, usually in objectifying ways. So the answer is, yes. Often the original poster does come across as "pick me." 

But that doesn't answer why so many people negatively comment or "modesty police" the outfit in question. Some seem to get a thrill out of body shaming. They aren't objective or helpful and are insulting, almost slanderous. And it seems to be to be getting worse thanks to social media. 

We don't know anything about the commenters themselves. They hide behind anonymity and say things in much more exaggerated ways than they would if they would in real life. They feign this brash courageous outspoken, "telling it like it is" when if they were face to face would never say such outlandish things. We also don't know how they personally look or dress or if they might also be questioned on modesty. 

Unfortunately, the loudest are usually the most vulnerable. People in glass houses are often the first to cast stones. The most outspokenly critical, like the Duggar family, usually have the most skeletons. I have made it a stern policy to avoid casting stones. For one thing, I'm not perfect. I know that judging others opens me to judgement. Mostly, because stones hurt. 

So why is shaming such a national pastime? Folks like the Duggar family have a reality TV show based on criticizing others. I suggest the reason stems from hypocrisy, fear and schadenfreude. Hypocrisy tells people like the Duggar family, and social media body-shamers that they are ubermensch, above the rules, and that it's their job to blame and shame others to get them on their definition of righteousness. 

They also fear exposure of their own foibles, immodesty and inappropriate behavior. And schadenfreude is the love of seeing someone made to look foolish, to distract attention from their own foolish behavior. Of which modesty policing is an example. Because the truth is that no one can really define what is and isn't appropriate in the wide world of clothing. And it isn't even about clothing but a need to see someone else feel uncomfortable.  

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