Here’s a question:
Does shaming work?
It seems propitious that I wrote about obesity and a certain virus prior to this story about an Olympic paintball player being kicked off of her team over a TikTok video she posted:
Ma’am, your kid does not need a COVID shot. Your kid needs a fucking treadmill. That’s what he needs.Jessica Maiolo
Her video superimposed the athlete over an image of a teenager who had been hospitalized for a COVID infection. The teenager in question is visibly morbidly obese. Naturally, the link between obesity and illness of all kinds (COVID in particular, apparently) is quite well-established.
The “backlash” she has received on social media has been international. She was kicked off her team and criticized online by thousands of individuals, and dozens of major media groups… all aligned against one individual accused of “fat-shaming.”
What is the aim of such a response? What are Maiolo’s countless critics seeking seeking?
Is there any other way to frame it than shaming Maiolo for her view? Is it not a campaign to pressure her to recant, and to make her feel bad for having stated her opinion? Is it not moral shaming, on a scale orders of magnitude heavier?
I think in the confusion of athe details of a particular incident, there is a danger of losing sight of the underlying assumptions.
Generally speaking, “fat-shaming” is frowned upon because there is an assumption that it does not work. All it does is make the person feel disempowered and ashamed, failing to motivate any change in behavior. So it is believed.
Yet in the case of Maiolo, we see an assumption — among the critics — that perhaps shaming is warranted sometimes. And it seems to have worked. Maiolo apologized in ritualistic language that is beginning to sound familiar:
If I were to have such a moment again to convey my full thoughts, I would choose my words more carefully and consider how my opinions may affect others […] It was never my intention to shame any individual.”
It sounds like a hostage reading from a script. Or just a broken spirit.
I’m reminded of the fate of August Ames, a Canadian porn actress who refused to shoot a film with a man who had done gay videos over concern about STDs:
whichever (lady) performer is replacing me tomorrow for @EroticaXNews, you’re shooting with a guy who has shot gay porn, just to let cha know. BS is all I can say🤷🏽♀️ Do agents really not care about who they’re representing? #ladirect I do my homework for my body🤓✏️🔍August Ames, 3 December 2017
The “backlash” over her purported “homophobia” (Ames had acted in several lesbian scenes) was severe enough that she killed herself two days later.
I wonder if such an outcome would count as moral-shaming “working.”
If so, then what is the harm in Maiolo suggesting that obese people exercise for their health?
Suppose she was more vicious, and had several dozen blue check-marks from Twitter retweet and pile on. Suppose the individual felt sufficiently ashamed that they went out and… went for a walk.
Or suppose they killed themselves.
But then again, they were doing that already. Just slowly.
At the end of the day, either shaming works or it doesn’t. If it does work, then Maiolo was 100% in the right. If it doesn’t work, then whence cometh the moral shaming of Maiolo?
Clearly, somebody in this equation believes that shaming works.
It might actually be everybody.
For myself, I won’t go out and fat-shame. I don’t want to become that sort of person. But for those who go after fat-shamers, I will do my best to make an exception. Hypocrisy aside, there is some number of Americans who are saved by peer-pressure to lose weight and get fit. It is probably in the tens of thousands yearly (though it is admittedly hard to calculate). The “anti-bullying” crowd online are bullies. It’s only “bullying” when you do it; when they do it, it’s “speaking out,” even if there’s 5,000 of them and only one of you. And they will happily trade American lives for the dopamine hit of tribal vindictiveness and the feeling of self-righteousness.
Perhaps they should be reminded of their role in all of this.