Chris Uggen's Blog: okcupid and shy pride: <i>why not pretty soon?</i>

Sunday, March 18, 2007

okcupid and shy pride: why not pretty soon?

press releases ranking cities or states on various characteristics are a sure bet to attract media attention. as a minnesota booster, i'm a huge sucker for anything that identifies us as the healthiest or smartest or exercisin'est or votin'est or home-ownin'est or even the most colon-checkin'est state in the union.

one can't take them seriously, of course, without knowing how such rankings were compiled. aside from a vague disclaimer about not being "scientific," the cheesier press releases don't even mention methodology. sometimes, however, i'll find some face validity in certain rankings. for example, something called has just identified the great state of minnesota as having the nation's loneliest women and shyest men.

i can't speak for lonely women, but is our men's #1 ranking in shyness a surprise to anyone? my first reaction was denial -- oh yeah, cupid? then how do you explain our voter turnout? for cryin' out loud, we're #1 in colonoscopy! this is not shy behavior. ultimately, though, the ratings matched my personal experiences inside and outside of my home state. for example, i'm considered a raging extrovert by minnesota standards but almost creepily shy whenever i cross the state line.

in minnesota, we're brought up to believe that shy is beautiful. yet even bill ward's local story in the strib treated shyness as some sort of disease, ostensibly brought on by "lower self-image." clearly these folks haven't read any of the foundational work in the shy pride movement. here are a few excerpts from garrison keillor's appropriately tentative made-in-minnesota manifesto: shy rights: why not pretty soon?

As you may know, we are not ones to make threats, but it is clear to me that if we don't get some action on this, it could be a darned quiet summer...

Hundreds of thousands of our shy brothers and sisters (and "cousins twice-removed," as militant shys refer to each other) are victimized every year by self-help programs that promise to "cure" shyness through hand-buzzer treatments, shout training, spicy diets, silence-aversion therapy, and every other gimmick in the book. Many of them claim to have "overcome" their shyness, but the sad fact is that they are afraid to say otherwise.

To us in the shy movement, however, shyness is not a disability or disease to be "overcome." It is simply the way we are. And in our own quiet way, we are secretly proud of it. It isn't something we shout about at public rallies and marches. It is Shy Pride. And while we don't have a Shy Pride Week, we do have many private moments when we keep our thoughts to ourselves, such as "Shy is nice," "Walk short," "Be proud — shut up," and "Shy is beautiful, for the most part." ...

Most shy lawyers agree that shys can never obtain justice under our current adversary system of law. The Sixth Amendment, for example, which gives the accused the right to confront his accusers, is anti-shy on the face of it. It effectively denies shy persons the right to accuse anyone of anything.

there's more, but you get the point. i just hope that minnesotans won't be further stigmatized by such rankings. it could be worse, i suppose: according to okcupid, wisconsin men are both shy and lonely.


At 7:14 PM, Blogger Carla said...

Thanks for linking to the Keillor piece, Chris. I performed that article in Speech competition one year in high school -- did horribly, as per usual; I even got so nervous that I forgot half of it the first time I was off-script, appropriately enough. I have since lost my paper copy, but shall now save it for all eternity to the External Hard Drive of Great Memory.
Carla Mantel

At 11:26 PM, Blogger christopher uggen said...

hey carla, i bet you gave it a fine reading. i hadn't thought of shy rights as a potential speech, but it would be perfect. i'll definitely pass along the idea to tor and esperanza.

At 1:59 PM, Blogger Minor Threat said...

I own a book called "The Introvert Advantage" -- the only self-help I have ever purchased (and am still cringing over). I bought it during a fit over my inability to give presentations without my cheeks turning red or feeling faint -- I'm not sure it helped with my presentations but the book made me feel good about being shy little me...

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