The Shaming of One's Smarts in the Filipino Culture

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Smart-shaming is a growing social issue in the Philippines (Sison, 2015). It rampantly occurs not only in social media but in institutions or in public as well. However, there are currently few studies that try to define and understand smart-shaming. Some articles explained smart-shaming as a form of shaming intellectual people while some stated that it is the Philippine context of anti-intellectualism. According to Elias (2008), anti-intellectualism is the act of opposing or contradicting the growth of ideas in an intellectual conversation and the act of being hostile to intellectual pursuits. Sison (2015) highlights smart-shaming as a trend of giving negative feedbacks and usually sarcastic comments to individuals who give intellectual opinions on a certain topic. Individuals who show a different way of thinking are being ostracized. It is said to be the negative attitude towards the life of the mind (Eigenberger & Sealander, 2001).

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This phenomenological study focuses on determining the context of smart-shaming and on analyzing student leaders’ lived experience of the phenomenon. This study also tries to identify coping strategies used by student leaders when confronting smart-shaming. The current study also reviews relevant concepts and literature to develop a solid foundation in understanding smart-shaming. Anti-intellectualism is an emerging disease that makes Filipinos value ignorance Barcelon (2017). In the history of the Philippines, Filipinos have severely limited education during the colonization of the Spaniards. It is either they have not received any education or they were only taught about reading and writing. When Americans also colonized the Philippines, the culture of mistrust against individualism and elitism which are both associated with education have been brought out (Pieraz, 2018). It is also rooted in the history of the Philippines that only elites could afford education. There has been a belief that people who are intelligent are elitist (Rigney, 1991).

In the Philippine Politics, the late Mirriam Defensor-Santiago was called “baliw” (crazy) for her quirky attitude despite being highly educated and having excellent career in politics (Sta. Romana, 2015). Intelligence was seen as a negative trait (Mulder, 2016). Hence, downplaying the educational and career achievements of politicians running for public office became a trend just to get the votes of the people. One of those politicians who tends to celebrate ignorance is Former Philippine President Joseph “Erap” Estrada. He celebrates the fact that he was kicked out of school (Sta. Romana, 2015). There were also politicians who campaign for their personality rather than their platform in order to appeal to the people. They use charisma rather than intelligence. Likewise in Philippine Entertainment industry, some artists and comedians also tone down their intelligence to get the attention of the people. Ruffa Mae Quinto is one of them. She is famous for playing dumb as if she doesn’t speak English very well even though she was born in the United States (Pieraz, 2018). On the other hand, some famous personalities use shaming as humor. Vice Ganda is famous for his approach of humor which is through shaming. He shames people by attacking their intellect. The phrase “Edi Wow” was popularized by Vice Ganda. He smart-shamed his co-hosts and the contestants in their noontime show.

Most Filipinos celebrate education but at the same time ashamed to be too intelligent due to the fear of being smart-shamed. In a survey conducted by Pieraz (2018), 51.1 percent of 45 people claimed that they are intelligent but they will never say it out loud. Individuals who share knowledge or those who give strong intellectual opinion on a particular topic are usually the victims of smart-shaming. These individuals usually receive depreciative comments such as “Edi wow!”, “Ikaw na magaling!” (Aren’t you the great one?), “Nosebleed!”, or “Dami mong alam!” (You’re a know-it-all!), which are usually articulated in a sarcastic manner. Throughout this paper, smart-shaming will be generally defined as the act of mocking, opposing ideas, or giving sarcastic comments to individuals who give intellectual opinions on a particular topic. Individuals who usually experience smart-shaming are those who know more than the other.

According to Talisayon and Ramirez (n.d.), Filipino leaders are known to be magaling (intelligent) and marunong (capable) (as cited in Alfiler & Nicolas, 1997). They are also expected to possess qualities such as being makatao (humane), mapagkalinga (caring), matapat (with integrity), maka-Diyos (God-centered), malakas ang loob (strong-willed), pantay ang tingin (fair), and makatarungan (just) (Talisayon & Ramirez, as cited in Alfiler & Nicolas, 1997). With this in mind, student leaders are chosen to be the focus of this study. They are seen as capable and as more knowledgeable than other students in the university.

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