Friday, January 29, 2010

The People of Walmart an Exercise in Shame and Discipline

Blogging is used for many different purposes.   One of the most common is to create a space in the hopes of viral attention to make money.   This normally results in a book deal based on the subject  of the blog.  If you can come up with the right idea, blogging can be quite lucrative.  Unfortunately the pursuit of viral fame often leads to blogs that denigrate people in the name of good fun.  The internet has spawned places like the This is why you’re fat, and the now defunct Tranny Alert. 

While surfing the web, I recently came across a site called The People of Walmart.   The premise of this blog is to post images of people that are not conforming to the norm and ridicule them. 

image

 

This image is called The Belly Flop. Underneath the photos it says: “Someone go tell this guy what “just hanging out” actually means”.

 

 

 

image

This image is called, Put Your Belly On ‘Em Son. The caption reads: “Hey, thanks for making all of the flowers smell like hair and belly sweat, my wife is going to be super excited when I bring them home for her”.

 

image This image is called, Fashionista.  The caption reads: “Don’t worry everyone, I’ve already forwarded this pic over to Burberry. I figured it would be rewarding for them to see this and remind themselves why it was they got into the fashion and design business in the first place. I’m sure they will be ecstatic seeing their vision come to life”.

image

 

This image is called Shore Thing.  The caption reads: I haven’t seen her fist pump, but I bet her Jersey shore name is “Cindy Lou Who”.

 

 

 

image

This image is called Flippin’ Some Flapjacks.  The caption reads:  “If you are short enough that a normal 5th grader would be able to look down at your business, then maybe it’s a good idea to take notice of gravity and cover up those sweater puppets”.

 image

 

This image is called Feel The Burn.  The caption reads: “I don’t think that whole ‘working out’ thing is really working out”.

 

 

image

This image is called, Do You Want Fries With That Shake.  The caption reads: “Shake, shake, shake. Shake, shake, shake. Shake your booty. Actually, please refrain from any further movement. My stomach couldn’t possibly take any more”.

 I suppose by now you get the point.   Many of the people that this site has decided to hold up to ridicule, are those that are fat or disabled.   They also throw in a bit of slut shaming from time to time for good measure.   I believe that this is predicated on what our inner monologue is, as we walk through the world. We are highly invested in judging one another and by so doing we affirm the very same hierarchy of bodies that ultimately effects us all.  A consciously aware person will realize that these thoughts are unacceptable, however it seems to be the purpose of The People of Walmart to perpetuate these biases.

Whether the owners of The People of Walmart realise it, there is also a class aspect to this site.  Individuals shopping at Walmart do not exist with class privilege.  These people usually range from the working poor to the middle class.   Because success is often understood as the ability to consume, those that have limited resources are often held up to ridicule and shamed, even though the system is designed to assure their failure.  Class manifests itself through markers as well as behaviour.  These markers will serve to indicate a persons class position and then they are treated accordingly.  Before the very first picture was taken, the owners of The People of Walmart,  had already decided to shame based in class.

It is quite disheartening to read through the various comment threads and see so many that are dedicated to shaming people that they have never met.   It is like a meeting site directly for the purposes of expressing hatred; Orwell would be pleased as this is not far removed from the two minutes of hatred ceremony.  We claim to praise individuality and yet anyone who steps outside of what we have constructed as the norm is duly shamed daily.   The overwhelming message is conform, conform, conform.  We are highly invested in making sure that discipline is a huge part of our culture.  This site is panoptic because now the idea of being photographed and watched, will serve as just enough incentive for some to attempt to change their appearance, whether or not it makes them happy to avoid ridicule.  In this way, we can see how power is enacted upon each and every one of us.  We are always and forever being disciplined.


Editors Note:  I have been informed the site Tranny Alert is indeed up and running.  It is my hope that it will soon be scrubbed from the internet as its sole purpose is to perpetuate transphobia.