The first time shame is mentioned in the Bible, is when Adam and Eve are in the Garden of Eden, “both naked, but they felt no shame.” Shame, a painful feeling of disgrace for having done something dishonorable or improper, is ‘first’ associated with nudity. In the Bible, there is no difference mentioned in the male or female experience of shame.
Unfortunately, this experience has not been passed down from those mythical ancestors with its egalitarianism intact. In our modern world (and in the religious world ten-fold), shame has become a heavily female burden. In secular society, women are “slut shamed.” There is no equivalent “stud shame,” or even a derogatory, shameful male version of the word ‘slut’. In the world of Orthodox Judaism, although there is plenty of shame all around, it is women who are heavily burdened with “modesty” and (all kiruv babble aside) the deep sense of shame for one’s body and sexuality and existence that extreme “modesty” fosters.
What is the anecdote for the suffocating blanket of shame our cultures want to spread over women?
Journalist Lara Logan was raped and beaten by a mob of hundreds of men in Tahrir Square, in Egypt. In our culture, women don’t go around talking about being raped. They are ashamed. And of course, that silence perpetuates the shame, because no one is talking about these issues that are happening all the time. Victims keep silent, encouraging the shaming of any woman who speaks up.
But not Lara. She’s been talking about the assault and will be featured on CBS’s 60 Minutes this Sunday, to discuss her awful experience and to raise awareness of this issue, which is often silenced in shame.
The NYTimes reports that from the hospital, Lara issued a statement that she: “suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating.” Explaining why she issued that statement, she said her statement “didn’t leave me to carry the burden alone, like my dirty little secret, something that I had to be ashamed of.”
If only all women were as brave as Lara.
What if we all told the secrets that we have hidden out of “shame”? What if every woman (and every man) would speak easily and openly about those taboos that we have experienced?
Perhaps, in the glare of a thousand eyes, shame would evaporate, and all people who suffer could speak of their suffering and get help, and perpetrators of violence and cruelty would no longer be able to hide behind the veil of self-inflicted shame that their victims protect them with. Then shame could fall on those who deserve it: the rapists, the sadists, the cruel and the perpetrators of dishonor and impropriety.Printable Version