The price women pay for shame

Wednesday March 18 2020

We are a generation of women who were raised to hide the parts of ourselves that we think are shameful. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Social media has become the tool through which shame is amplified and we are paying the price.

The last time I got an ass whopping from my mother, I was 15 years old. It was the school holidays and I had gone for a youth church event which ended late.

She thought I was out with a boy. "Why are you trying to bring us shame?" she asked repeatedly as she came at me with a pipe.

She found out that I had been telling the truth much later after she had inflicted the bumps on my face and my head.

Shame. We are a generation of women who were raised to hide the parts of ourselves that we think are shameful. Our darkest fear is getting shamed.

We spend a great deal of time trying to hide our vulnerabilities and our mistakes, and when we cannot anymore, we let these weakness consume us.


It's no wonder social media has taken over our lives. It's a place we can feign perfection and hide the less than perfect parts of our lives.

Social media has also become the tool through which shame is amplified.

It's where private messages and images are splashed when relationships go sour. It's the platform in which meme's making fun of people's misery is shared.

Monica Lewinsky was perhaps the first woman to lose her reputation globally and instantaneously when her love affair with President Clinton became a scandal.

In a 2015 Ted Talk, she talks about being publicly shamed almost to death. Shame is costly

I fell pregnant four years after that ass whopping by my mother, at 19. Thinking that I was protecting all of us from shame, I hid my pregnancy for as long as I could.

When I couldn't conceal it any longer, I inflicted the pain and shame on myself before anyone else could.


I fed myself all the negative stuff that I thought was what people carried about me.

I isolated myself on campus, stopped being friends with my neighbour's college-going daughter for I was certain her mother would forbid her from keeping my company.

By the time I delivered, there was nothing more anyone could have said or done to me that could have made me feel worse than I already was feeling.

If I could go through that phase of my life again, I would be kinder to myself though I would still own my shame.

You see, when you admit your mistakes and vulnerabilities to yourself, nobody can use them against you.

Research has shown that humiliation is an emotion that is felt more strongly than anger or sadness.


Women have been humiliated to death. The most recent case on my mind was this one that happened last year when a young mother was bullied on a Facebook group when she shared her frustrations as she tried to get the man who had defiled her daughter arrested.

She was shamed for not having protected her daughter from him. Soon after she jumped in front of a speeding bus on Waiyaki way.

It's for this reason we should be wary of amplifying another person's shame. Take a pause the next time a meme pops in your inbox.

Is the suffering you are about to inflict by sharing another woman's shame worth the three seconds of giggles you will elicit?