Regarding the shoe tossing

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Insulting.

To address something that has been raised by several people: Is there a culture in which throwing a shoe at someone is not highly offensive? The consensus would seem to be that in most cultures, throwing a shoe at someone at very least signals great hostility. It is true that in Arab culture, use of the shoe has a meaning somewhat different than it does in Anglo-Saxon culture: In the first place, it not as clear in Anglo-Saxon culture that the shoe is especially offensive as an instrument of abuse. Shoe throwing might be recognized as a hostile act, as a means of inflicting pain, but it would not insult the victim in the way that it would in Arab culture. In either case, the insult is obvious: Few people of any culture would take having a loafer or sneaker thrown at them as an expression of endearment. Is it necessary for a head line to describe the incident as “the worst Arab insult”? Perhaps, if only to inform culturally illiterate readers of the intent and significance of the act. But the result of describing every situation where an Arab throws, shows, or uses his shoe to bash something or someone as “a high insult in Arab culture” is that it presents something is easily appreciated as the particular behavior of an exotic people whose customs are [inordinately] Otherly and different from “world” conventions. This is not the case. Throwing shoes is seen as an insult in at least one other culture: “Throwing shoes is particularly insulting in Thai culture, which considers feet the dirtiest part of the body.” Still, given that in many Western European (and Anglo-American) cultures throwing shoes is associated with women (throwing heels, for instance) and irrational or strange behavior, mentions of the “importance” of the shoe as a device of insult in Arab culture is to a degree relevant and necessary. Regardless, it might be better informed to emphasize that in many cultures, including Arab culture, throwing shoes is especially insulting. Or something.

5 thoughts on “Regarding the shoe tossing

  1. Pingback: CultureWizard Blog

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