Hazel T. Biana


"Configuring Smart-Shaming in the Philippines"


Hazel T. Biana

(De La Salle University, Manila, Phillipines)

Anti-intellectualism is a global phenomenon. It can be seen as a virus that spreads easily from one host to another, with attackers targeting either a person’s polished accent, profound words, or academic credentials. Anti-intellectualism has also resulted in social problems such as strongman politics, anti-immigration sentiments, antiglobalization, local protectionism, anti-women, anti-environment thoughts.

In Philippine popular and/or social media, anti-intellectualism is evident through trendy phrases such as “Ikaw na matalino!”, “Nosebleed”, or “Dami mong alam!” The message of these phrases is to shame the person who seemingly expresses a trait of intellectualism whether it be deep insight or “smart content”. Smart-shaming is telling the individual that being well-informed is worthless in the current context. The smart-shamer calls for the shamed individual’s negative evaluation of oneself, and attacks the person’s self-relevant “smart value”. Ironically, though, while one’s smart value is attacked, one’s lack of smarts may be ridiculed as well. In 2011, social media made Filipino Christopher Lao famous. Lao drove his car directly into a deep flood and was violently cyberbullied for his lack of information. His statement, “I was not informed” is treated as comic relief. Apparently, one cannot be too smart and too uninformed at the same time in the Philippines.

What I intend to do in this paper first is to look at the values, practices, categories, and representations of smart-shaming in the Philippines. The concept of hiya (a loose but not direct translation of shame) is a dominant Filipino value. Expressions such as “mahiya ka naman” or “walang hiya ka” exhibit the need for Filipinos to be conscious of not showing too much confidence in something such as one’s intelligence. One is shamed for knowing too much, and people should at least try to foster a sense of false humility when it comes to the intellect. Crab mentality plays an important role as well, wherein one puts down a more intelligent individual so that they may not outshine others.

I will also examine smart-shaming in connection to the systems of domination and interlocking oppressions. Anyone who is considered “smarter” or “more intelligent” is seen as a threat to one’s own class standing or even power. In fact, anti-intellectualism is a social condition that is part and parcel of the modern-day class struggle. Understanding the shamer’s class or behavior, values, expectations, etc. should be addressed before one can fully decipher the nature of smart-shaming. What is the relationship of class to systems of shaming? In Philippine social and cultural contexts, shame is mostly a function of one’s membership in a certain social class. In this paper, I assert that while there are various configurations of shaming in Philippine culture, class-shaming is more prevalent and it is made obvious by anti-intellectualism and smart-shaming. Classism, or prejudice and discrimination on the basis of class, is very much the foundation of smart-shaming.