A few weeks ago I stumbled upon several shocking trends that, in conjunction with some trends I was already aware of, really disturbed me. Now, this is no small task but somehow the internet manages to do this to me on a regular basis.
Based on what I read there is a trend out of China and other Asian countries where women are attempting to get their waist to be smaller or equal to the width of an 8.5"/11" piece of paper (your standard print and writing paper). Essentially it is a challenge that some women started that infected North America.
In accordance with an evolutionary perspective of the region it is not unheard of to be able to be healthy while still having a forward profile of 8.5 inches. Asian women are, on average, shorter than Caucasian women and because of differences in dietary consumption Caucasian women tend to have larger waists in order to better fit their larger bone structure and frame.
But because social media ultimately dictates what people do (the pass-out challenge being one of the first) Caucasian females have started to starve themselves and choose exercises regimens in a desperate attempt to fit this unhealthy mould. The A4 ("technical term for 8.5"/11" copy paper) Challenge puts new shaming on those who do not fit the sheet, including those who are already at risk physically and mentally.
That's just Problem 1 of this scenario. The response has become equally shameful.
When I work with youth and parents I try to help develop "proportionate response" basically meaning that the punishment, in the case of a parent-child event, has to be consistent with the severity of the action. When you catch your child drawing on the wall you have them clean up the mess and maybe have no dessert for a few days.
There is a middle-ground, proportionate response campaign labelled #NotPaperThin which is awesome and gets the point across however there are some who are going the extra mile and skinny- or thin-shaming. Those whose waists are wider than an A4 sheet of paper are essentially starting to bully their skinny counterparts instead of opening factual and healthy conversation. Shaming in either direction stigmatizes - adds a negative trait to - the intended target(s) for the purpose of putting that person down. Psychologically this is similar in some regards to positive punishment but it misses a key element.
In operant conditioning, where terms like positive and negative punishment and positive and negative reinforcement come from, there is an intention to what is being done. Back in the day spanking was a form of "positive punishment" where in an unfavorable punishment was presented (hence positive) for an undesirable behaviour. [Many parents and caregivers took this option too far and spanking has since become a form of abuse.] The point of spanking was to get the child to stop doing the thing the parent didn't want them doing. Less extreme forms of positive punishment are being scolded by a professor for not putting your phone on silent before class and getting a speeding ticket.
Each of these punishments has an intention, whether it be to reinforce good behaviour, social contracts, or safety.
Shaming has no intentionality. The point of it is to bring the person being shamed to a low point. In a sense, one intention may be to have that person idealize the values of the shamers however this is not what happens. Shaming adds to depression and anxiety, and in many ways reinforces negative behaviours.
Take, for example, Wentworth Miller (Prison Break, The Flash). Following massive success as the star of Prison Break in 2009 Miller sunk into a deep depression. Common symptoms include overeating/undereating and corresponding weight gain/loss, sadness, anger, sleep changes, fatigue, and so on and in 2010 a picture was taken by paparazzi of Miller, who was out for a stroll with a friend, that showed he had gained quite a bit of weight, compared to the physique we were used to seeing in the television show. A shameful meme sprung forth rather quickly that he recently responded to. The point of the meme was to make others feel better while getting a good laugh at a celebrity who, remarkably enough, are humans, too.
Long story short, there is no point to shaming people. Odds are, they are already quite ashamed of themselves. Respect, generosity, and time are what these folks need in order to make the changes they need to make to improve their function and health.
Just a way to get a few thoughts across outside of the office. In this blog you may even find entries that assist in your healing without needing a session