Something that is taboo is deemed by society as totally off limits.
Taboo topics are treated as improper, and range from politically incorrect all the way to completely unacceptable.
Things that are taboo are considered:
- beyond the pale
- frowned upon
- off limits
You seldom get a second chance to make a great first impression, or a last one, for that matter. So keeping within social norms is important. As an example, in mainstream media, words that are considered unfit for broadcast, words that are taboo are ‘bleeped.’ But if you’re there in person, absorbing the context of the conversation doesn’t filter them out.
The idea of separation gives taboo a completely different meaning in other cultures. For example, in various places in the South Pacific, something that is taboo is set apart as sacred, and is therefore forbidden from ordinary, everyday use. Much the same as when you set aside special dishes and only use it on special occasions.
The Written Taboo
According to a New York Post report, The Department of Education has made the following words taboo for standard tests:
- abuse (emotional, physical, psychological or sexual)
- rap music
- religion and religious holidays
… and a host of other common words and subjects.
Their rationale for banning these words is because of their potential for bias and controversy. They also don’t want to confuse, embarrass or upset students.
The Unwritten Taboo
There are some definite taboos, and then there are some that fall into the “unwritten, but you should know” category. The general rule of thumb is that you are never supposed to talk about politics or religion.
When you look at the definition of politic, it means wise and tactful, sharp and discreet; a very useful set of characteristics necessary to every relationship.
What is really meant about not talking about politics and religion is never get into issues discussing your system of beliefs, power over people, or the abuses of power. If you do venture into political discourse, you’re expected to be “politically correct.”
Yet, political solutions are sought where freedoms have been denied. One such example are journalists who report on corruption and human rights violations in certain countries and are subsequently censored and/or arrested.
Taboo topics are governed by ‘invisible rules’ and they’re things that no one cares to hear about. Taboo means they’re also things that no one is supposed to talk about.
Yet those who are less tactful talk about things that go beyond the pale. They do not concern themselves with being sensitive to offending others. Some things they talk about are an abomination — things that incite hatred, things that go beyond the boundaries of normal, everyday, decent conversation.
There’s a time and a place for everything, but here are some things better left unsaid:
- Anything ending with -ism. Isms create schisms.
- Anything in poor taste; crude jokes.
- Death and taxes never make for great table conversation.
- Racial epithets, or prejudicial biases.
- Your salary.
- Your sex life. Intimate details are always better left private.
Social Stigmas Seen As Taboo
Some people perceive certain subjects to be taboo, and are therefore reluctant to talk about them. But perception doesn’t necessarily make it taboo. One such issue is mental health.
English musician Adam Ant believes that creative people are prone to depression. He says,
“Mental health needs a great deal of attention. It’s the final taboo and it needs to be faced and dealt with.“
In another situation, a lady by the name of Frances Reimers recently appeared on global television talking about loneliness and how many people think being lonely is taboo. Even though she is attractive, outgoing and gregarious, she still feels lonely.
Why should anyone suffer any social sanction for having such a feeling?
If you struggle with loneliness, please read 10 Ways To Overcome Loneliness and Have A Happy Life.
Some consider it taboo to talk about suicide, but I think this is one of those issues that definitely needs to be talked about. While not a very pleasant topic, it is important that you know what the warning signs are. It requires going beyond taboo labels and any social stigmas to find out what signs to watch out for.
If you missed it, you may see want to read Suicide Prevention is Everybody’s Business on Lisa Buben’s website.
Tattoos and Invisible Labels as Taboo
In certain cultures and belief systems, tattoos are defilement to the body. They permanently (unless removed) place images beneath the skin that are visible identifiers of a personal statement.
Yet, in other cultures, such as when I was in the military, I was expected to get a tattoo.
Mine is on my left arm. Even though the colors have faded from nearly 40 years ago, it reminds me every day.
Just like a tattoo, invisible labels brand people with such names as…
Do you know, for example, what you are if someone labels you a smellfungus? A habitual fault finder or complainer. How about a milquetoast? They’re labelling you as a timid, unassertive person. If someone brands you a pecksniffian, they see you as one who pretends to have high moral standards but is a hypocrite.
While such words may be strange or unfamiliar to you, perhaps the feeling of being invisibly branded by someone is not. Leo Buscaglia wisely said,
“To love you must free yourself of labels.“
That is, the tendency to label others.
Another thing considered taboo is vulnerability. I’m not talking about vulnerability that puts you at risk of being a crime victim. (But even then, everyone should be aware and identify what such risks are.)
The kind of vulnerability I’m talking about is that in which you risk being misunderstood or risk your authenticity being misjudged by others.
Some people think that if you display vulnerability, that you are weak or that you lack character. They brand you, like an invisible tattoo, with a label on your forehead that says you are “crybaby” or “sissy” or “too emotional.”
What some see as a label, I think is a badge of courage. If you’ve seen Brené Brown on a Ted Talk, or you have read any of her material, you know that being vulnerable is not taboo at all.
“You’ll never be able to control what others think, so don’t worry about it. Just be yourself.“
I also encourage you to read my previous post, The Power of Being Vulnerable.
Over To You For Your Say…
Are things now taboo that you were once free to talk about and you feel you should still be able to?
What do you think is responsible for the change?
Does this interfere with your right to free speech?
I love to learn. Please add your valued thoughts here.
Thanks very kindly!