“Guilty Pleasure”: A Lesson in Mindfulness in Language Usage
You’ve heard the phrase, most likely concerning watching a vapid reality TV show or listening to an infectious pop singer: “That’s my guilty pleasure.” We all know what it means – we know we shouldn’t like this particular thing, but for some reason we don’t fully understand, we do. Yet, we are ashamed and guilty of this preference. Why does guilt have to interfere with pleasure, if no one is being harmed in the process? Why does innocuous pleasure have to be viewed through such a judgmental light? And why does this phrase disproportionately apply to things that girls and women do or enjoy?
Until recently, I will admit that I didn’t notice what the phrase “guilty pleasure” fully implied. I used it without thinking, as I’m sure most people do. However, in my constant search to practice mindfulness and gain awareness of the language I use and what this language actually represents, I have been rethinking the phrase “guilty pleasure” and have decided not to use it anymore. What does this language represent, you ask?
To me at least, the phrase “guilty pleasure” assumes the harmful sexist stereotype that girls and women can’t purely enjoy something – be it the new TV drama, macaroni and cheese, what have you – without feeling guilty. (However, I do recognize that as this phrase has passed into popular culture, boys and men have used it too, but it is more commonly used by girls and women or about stereotypically “feminine” things.) We as women don’t need to apologize for unnecessary things, or feel guilty for that matter. We as women can feel joy and pleasure from something without feeling guilty, ashamed, embarrassed, worried, anxious, or selfish for feeling this happiness. It is a difficult terrain to cross over, since the ideal of the female self-sacrificing caretaker is so ingrained within our culture, but it is necessary to understand this background in order to move forward purposefully, unrelenting and unapologetic for our feelings, our successes, our actions.
Taking pleasure in an action, even as simple or mundane as enjoying a television show or a song on the radio, doesn’t – and shouldn’t – require feeling guilty. Girls and women have been feeling guilty for long enough.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons – Highcarbonsteel