Every woman knows exactly what it feels like, what it looks like, what it lingers like, to be completely humiliated in front of what seems to be the world. It could be the time someone that you thought was your friend spreads your embarrassing business around your whole social circle. It could be the time you got your period in public and were not only unprepared, but unaware. It could be the time you had to share space with the him that chose her over you. Or even the time that your intimate pictures sent to a person with whom you are no longer intimate found their way into the public sphere. To be a woman is to experience shame in almost as many forms as we experience love. We should be ashamed to dress so sexy or ashamed to be so frumpy, ashamed to enjoy sex with more than one man in our whole lives but also ashamed if we can’t throw our asses back into porn star positions on command. Ashamed we haven’t found a man; ashamed that we brought ourself so low to keep the one we got. Problems that are typically uniquely female are automatically programmed to trigger self-abasement.
The most gripping aspect of female shame is that we are so often taught to be ashamed not because we have acted ignobly, but because we have not sufficiently thrown the towels over the mirrors of ourselves that reflect the insecurities of those around us.
That’s probably why the scene in Sex and the City (the film) where Carrie (after Big leaves her at the alter) beats Big with her bouquet in the middle of the street as she screams to him how much he has humiliated her always shorts my breath. I feel that shit so much. To look at someone you placed so much faith in and wonder how you could have gotten there, how he could have taken you there, how you could have not seen it coming. We have all felt that.
One of my great loves is the HBO show Sex and the City. Of course, I understand the show had its issues (namely, the severe lack of diversity that has afflicted so much of our television), but it is a truly great show. I think Samantha’s character was my first antidote to the deeply entrenched shame of enjoying sex.
So, basically, every time the Sex and the City movie comes on TV, I watch it—as I did last night. I have to. Even if just for that scene, the full minute and a half of which leaps off of the screen and morphs into my memories. And, after Carrie’s wrath is exhausted into open humiliation and she turns to embrace her friend Charlotte, Charlotte does what all sister-friends do and keeps Big from causing any more damage, that day. “Nooooo! No!” She shouted at him, as he attempted to take a step toward Carrie. That “no!,” was from the depths of the spirit of every friend who has had to bring the wine and comfort to a humiliated woman. We’ve all been there too, the circlers of the wagons around the wounded soul of our sister. Reflecting love when our shame projects insecurities. In a later scene in the film, as Miranda struggles with the humiliation of facing New Years Eve alone, Carrie hops on the subway so that she can show up on Miranda’s doorstep and let her know “you’re not alone.” The crux of humiliation is to feel that you are; the beauty of sisterhood is to know that you aren’t.