Pinoy Culture: Why Do We Smart Shame?
Mocking someone doesn’t make you seem smarter
We Pinoys are known for a lot of things: Creativity, talent, work ethic, hospitality and closeness to family. But for every positive and world-known fact, we do have an underlying negative habit that we just can’t seem to shake: Lack of discipline, crab mentality and—as the subject of this piece—smart shaming.
The act of mocking someone who is smarter than others
Sure, we’d deny it if anyone asked, but we all do smart shame. No matter our educational background and no matter our upbringing, we are all guilty. Mga hirit palang, talo na.
Stating facts in normal conversation, whether simple or complicated, is met with ill-placed jeers. Giving a strong opinion gets you stares from across the table. Correcting someone’s grammar gets you called one of the worst labels in human history. And graduating with a degree in law, engineering or medicine is enough for people to mock you.
For some godforsaken reason, society makes it seem like being smart is an embarrassing—even wrong—thing.
“When you’re dumb, you’re made fun of;
when you’re smart, you’re made fun of.”
We spoke to 45 people, 60 percent of whom admitted they are turned off when someone asserts their intelligence. 51.1 percent of them said “Yes [I’m smart], but I would never say it out loud.” 26.7 percent admitted they would judge someone who offered an opinion without being asked. And yet, a vast majority of these people would rather be intelligent (as opposed to beautiful) and want to be recognized for their talent (and not their looks).
The Philippine society is, indeed, an odd place to be part of.
Being Filipino is weird because when you're dumb you're made fun of but when you're smart you're made fun of
Being Filipino is weird because when you can't speak English very well, you're stupid, but when you speak English too well "nasa pilipinas ka mag tagalog ka!"
Ano ba lol
— Inka Dinka Deux (@InkaMagnaye) April 11, 2018
Think about it: When Gibo Teodoro ran for president, he was criticized for being more intellectual than he was approachable. On the other side of the spectrum, Tito Sotto has apparently cemented his seat in the Senate for life. Another: Rufa Mae Quinto made a name for herself by playing dumb bimbos with no grasp of the English language, but she was born in the United States and is married to a Fil-American.
If you want something that hits on a more personal level, check out the comment section on a post that resembles anything intelligent. Or better yet, reply to someone and disagree. Soon you’ll find yourself attacked instead of corrected, made fun of instead of spoken to. And even if you’re right and present the facts, someone will try to pick apart your wording and question why you’re even taking part of the conversation.
So why the fuck do we still smart shame? Because ignorance is bliss? Because we’d rather stay unaware? Do we just not value education and intelligence? Are we really that simple minded?
The short answer is: No. The longer answer is outlined in a book by Dr. Virgilio Enriquez, often hailed as the Father of Filipino Psychology.
In Sikolohiyang Filipino, Doc E explains that togetherness (AKA pakikisama) is the core construct of the Filipino psyche. We put importance in things like conformity, empathy and social relationships—which aren’t bad, per se—but our time under Spaniards and Americans brought out the dark side of things. That is, a culture of mistrust against individualism and elitism—two values that have been and are still associated with high education.
Doc E’s theory explains and makes sense of a few things, but it really shouldn’t hold out after more than a hundred years of independence. But then again, that statement would have more bearing if education was fair game. Chances are, smart shaming will remain a thing until the playing field is a little more level—but we don’t know when that will be.
Nevertheless, should we stand for it? Of course not. Speaking your mind is not a bad thing (as long as you say it well-meaningly). Correcting someone should not feel embarrassing (for you or for the one you’re correcting). And if someone is turned off by your intelligence, let it be their problem and not yours. What’re you doing wrong anyway? Nothing—just try not to sound like a know-it-all.
Art Alexandra Lara