The Wayward Podcast Episode 26: Wayward Taboos

PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 16: Actress Dania Ramirez poses for a portrait during the 2012 NCLR ALMA Awards at Pasadena Civic Auditorium on September 16, 2012 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Mark Davis/Getty Images for NCLR)
PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 16: Actress Dania Ramirez poses for a portrait during the 2012 NCLR ALMA Awards at Pasadena Civic Auditorium on September 16, 2012 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Mark Davis/Getty Images for NCLR) /
Hannah Waddingham, Lena Macall B. Polay/courtesy of HBO
Hannah Waddingham, Lena Macall B. Polay/courtesy of HBO /

The Wayward Podcast talked turkey about taboos. What does it mean that something is taboo? Sometimes it’s a good thing, and sometimes we’d really like to just let the traditions die.

Obviously, the day would come when The Wayward Podcast would talk specifically about the topic of taboos. By pure definition, wayward is off the beaten path and encounters taboos on the reg. From Wayward Periods to using strong language, our beloved podcast has given us more than anyone’s fair share of taboo discussion. So is that such a bad thing?

Being wayward, by definition, includes the propensity to stray off the beaten path. In this case, we’re talking about the hidden or ignored path, but that means very little to us wayward folk in most cases. Wear my slippers to the gas station for a chocolate bar? So wut?

But in other cases, you have things that are considered absolutely unacceptable. In those cases, it’s a social decision that these things are not to be done, and in most cases, even talked about. I won’t mention them, but we’ll hear some thoughts on that in this episode.

And finally, there are the things that are considered taboo, but maybe those feelings really should just go away. Our wayward hostesses feel this is especially true of taboos about our bodies or normal life things.

Like how we just blush up when someone talks about sex, body functions, or heavens forbid, both at the same time. There are others, too, and when these wayward topics come up, it’s a shake of the shame finger or red cheeks at the minimum.

Before we go on, let me remind you that since this is a review of Episode 26, there will be plenty of spoiler content from here forward. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to the show just yet, you can go over and listen to “Wayward Taboos,” before you continue.

And never fear! If you want or need any assistance ingesting this fine, educational wayward material, you can find that at the end of this post. Follow along to the very last page of this story for a link to transcribed and translated versions of The Wayward Podcast.

For now, we will continue discussing what happened on “Wayward Taboos.” So let’s go ahead and talk about Kim’s and Briana’s takes on what it all means when something is frowned upon, or down right socially and culturally forbidden.

MONTE-CARLO, MONACO – MAY 26: Charles Leclerc of Monaco and Ferrari looks surprised before the F1 Grand Prix of Monaco at Circuit de Monaco on May 26, 2019 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTE-CARLO, MONACO – MAY 26: Charles Leclerc of Monaco and Ferrari looks surprised before the F1 Grand Prix of Monaco at Circuit de Monaco on May 26, 2019 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) /

What is taboo

The first thing we heard about on this episode of The Wayward Podcast was that which must not be said. We’re talking about everything from wayward language to body functions, or even feelings. Body parts, naughty thoughts, and more are all considered taboo by many in today’s society.

Obviously, some things are considered wayward to all (or most) and should be taboo. They could be certain words, topics, or just things that make people cringe. Every society has a basic, unspoken understanding of what is and is not OK. But some take it much more seriously.

For those very familiar with the topic, Madagascar might come to mind. The culture there is very strongly defined by the taboos and they have a word for the lists — fady. These are the things that must not be said or done.

Not only does Madagascar make regulation about how to look, act, speak, and even point at a tomb (do not do it), but there big consequences. They believe that not only will the group know, but there will be supernatural consequences for your naughtiness. People just don’t break these rules. Wear red to a sacrifice? I think not.

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The lists change over time, due to experiences, and they are also a way individuals and groups are defined. For example, one culture’s fady might indicate that they are not to cut their hair, ever. To do so would be considered taboo. Cutting your hair would be a defined rebellion against your group. It would be socially unacceptable.

Even within modern America, you see such things. Amish men do not shave their beards once they are married. Certain gangs wear matching tattoos – to remove them is to walk away from your group. This is one way to see taboos — going against tradition.

But there are other things and they are more along the lines of frowned upon. For example, if you were to discuss your bowel movements on a busy train, you would be looked at with some curious faces. This is taboo because people don’t want to hear it.

Briana made an interesting point on this Wayward Podcast about this type of taboo. She used the example of breastfeeding. While she is not ashamed to show her breasts, others may be ashamed to see them.

For example, you don’t want to be too wayward and say “I’m sweating to death!” while you’re at a funeral in the summer. That would be insensitive and you are likely to hit the feelings of at least one person. If the goal is to not hurt anyone, this would be a taboo subject at the time. Context often plays a part when it comes to taboo.

Generally, these types of taboos are based on causing pain or embarrassment to others. In many cases, they are fairly common sense. But there are some very specific things that could be serious, even if you are unaware.

I once read about a couple that went to prison while traveling abroad for sharing a peck in a restaurant. It’s a good idea to research the local fady when planning to go on an adventure. But don’t freak out. Just use that wayward noodle. Most of this stuff, like I said, is common sense.

2nd April 1958: Sleeveless, tent dress for expectant mothers, can be worn three ways. Material has a stripe pattern. (Photo by Chaloner Woods/Getty Images)
2nd April 1958: Sleeveless, tent dress for expectant mothers, can be worn three ways. Material has a stripe pattern. (Photo by Chaloner Woods/Getty Images) /

What was taboo

What Kim wanted to make a point of most strongly on the show is that some things should be taboo, and some things should not. And this is where a lot of people make their errors in judgment.

We can, as a society, probably come to a very high agreement rate that cannibalism should go ahead and stay on that taboo list. But should it be taboo to talk about our periods, or that there are wayward things about being a mother? Now sure, there is an element of tact to consider. But is it actually wrong? Not in my wayward book.

Like Briana mentioned, people may not want to hear about our periods, even if we are technically allowed to discuss them. But what Kim and Briana both wanted to know was, who decides what is taboo and what is not?

Our wayward gals don’t think it should be taboo to talk about things that are so normal, like poop. See? You felt weird when you read that, didn’t you? Because it’s taboo. But why? Briana thinks it’s because some people just don’t want to be subjected to the idea of things so personal.

If she talks about going poo, you might get a visual of that, and that might embarrass you or her (or Beyonce). Who knows? So in essence, we take thoughts like that, shove them into the “let’s just agree not to bring this up in the future” bucket, and move on. Rule set.

But again, who makes these choices? Long ago, (not that long ago), it was totally unacceptable to see a woman’s ankles or see her in a bathing suit. You might have been literally killed in the street for being openly transgender, and now we have pride marches in the nation’s capital. Things do change.

Some of these taboos themselves are quite wayward. As a society, people start to shift their thinking. “You know what? This is weird. It is weird that we have this rule or that we act this way. We don’t want this to be OK anymore.” And then the tables turn. Now, it is taboo to criticize a woman who shows skin. It is taboo to criticize a person’s sexual identity.

In many cases, old taboos are there to keep safe people who are afraid. But what are they afraid of? Is it a fear that showing ankles is a slippery slope to walking around in lingerie? Maybe. And we know a slippery slope can happen, of course. But what about when the thing is gross or dangerous to society?

Kim talked about some taboos that should never change. Crimes against children, sexual acts that involve injury or death, and some other things that are even too taboo to talk about. Again, we fall back to common sense, and also crime. Some of these things are beyond wayward or illegal, they are also considered inhumane.

So I agree here with the opinion of our wayward hostesses in that some things should remain taboo. Hopefully for all of time. As a society, we evolve and constantly shift our list of prohibited items based on the mindset of the whole. But Kim pointed out that more and more, taboos can also be personally determined nowadays.

Some words are considered taboo because as Kim said, they come with a history or connotation of negativity. Maybe they were once used in context, acceptable in the right way as a plain word of the language we speak. But now, no more.

I don’t even have to say the words, because you know what they are. They don’t even have the validity of use to the point that we use them at all acceptably. Let’s see, there’s the “N” word, and the “R” word — we all know it’s not cool to run around using them.

Now in the case of the last one, the “R” word, there are literal uses for it that are unrelated to the negative use. However, as Kim pointed out, enough people take personal offense to the sound of the word alone, because of the history and connotation it now carries, that it is on the list of “DO NOT” words.

While we can refer to people by skin color or disability as an identifying factor, this is also a practice that has largely gone into the taboo behavior bucket. There are positive and negative ways to approach identification these days. Our “black friend, Dan” is “Dan, the lawyer.” the “Six-fingered man” is simply, “The Prince’s Henchman.”

Kim likes that our individual barriers also mean that many boundaries are falling. But she also likes that she doesn’t want to have to look for the good in something that should stay bad. It’s important to try to embrace the uniqueness of others, but we don’t have to find acceptance in little Johnny’s penchant for torture.

She likes Briana’s thought process about whether to do something or not. It applies to taboos as much as anything else. Her process isn’t very wayward at all and it will keep you right on track if you follow the path.

If it feels warm to break the taboo (passionate speech or supporting menstrual equality), move towards that. If it feels cold to break that taboo (does Octavia have a point about eating people for protein?) MOVE AWAY from it.

Three Windmill Theatre dancers enjoying the sun on the beach at Angmering during a break in rehearsals. (Photo by William Vanderson/Getty Images)
Three Windmill Theatre dancers enjoying the sun on the beach at Angmering during a break in rehearsals. (Photo by William Vanderson/Getty Images) /

Love it or leave it

One way or another, you’re going to encounter a wayward path here and there, and have to ask yourself, “do I uphold this taboo?” Is it worth it to break the pattern? Is it OK to try to? You have to think about why it exists in the first place.

In general, Briana has excellent wording for ways to guide our hearts and behaviors. The warm and cold feelings that Kim talked about are a fine start. Briana says that she always thinks of taboos as things that people are uncomfortable with but not necessarily hurt by.

However, Briana also points out that people tend to defend their “thing.” For example, cult leaders always have great reasoning behind their actions — never thinking they’re hurting anyone. So again, the line is blurry.

Sometimes we can see a taboo in action where someone else does not. Kim says that when that happens, she just hopes they’re not deliberately being an a–, just that they don’t know better.

Briana likes to take those opportunities to educate, when possible. Like the time she was at the party with the guy who thought menstrual equality was something hilarious. Briana took the time to explain that it was not simply some feminist term.

She explained that it was about people having access to what they need during that time of natural, unavoidable body function. The guy was happy to understand and this was a positive experience. But Kim knows, as do we, usually if someone is using one of these taboo terms or words, they do already know it’s offensive. Briana had a unique experience that time.

All things considered, taboos are not inherently bad. Some are quite useful and keep us protected as individuals and as a society. Others are the result of old thought patterns and in time, many fall away or change.

A thing doesn’t have to be illegal to be something that should be kept to ourselves or not even thought about. Like Kim said, when enough people agree, “this is hurtful, let’s not do it anymore,” then it should be taboo.

Whether we’re talking about a word or a practice that’s insensitive, it’s not enough to just say, “Oh, you know what I meant,” or “I was just joking.” There are things in life that just should not be said or done.

Kim wants us to remember that we should have taboos but always question them. Some are there to protect us and should be remembered and carried from generation to generation. But at the same time, some should be left in the dust.

Briana wants you to embrace yourself and be proud of who you are. While some are empowered by showing their bodies, others are empowered by their modesty. Remember that just as you want your boundaries respected, so does the next human.

So, when it comes to taboos, it’s all about comfort. Taboos might make us cringe or blush,  identify us as individuals or groups, or cross lines of humanity. If we all embrace our wayward selves and respect others, taboos will stay where they belong, keep us cozy, and not weigh us down. Carry on, my tolerant friends.

Next. 15 Questions that need answering for Supernatural S15. dark

What is one wayward taboo that you would be happy to see die? What taboo do you think is important to keep? Let us know in the comments below or send us a tweet!

All episodes of The Wayward Podcast are available for free listening anytime on Podbean! If you want or need assistance enjoying the podcast, you can find translations and transcripts of the show here!