Thoughts on Public Shaming — 8 Comments

  1. The way that I look at it – if somebody does not have the wherewithal to physically go and beat the shit out of someone, then publicly shaming them with words is the next-best option. That is, assuming that one is into doing this kind of thing.

    • You know… That’s a great point, Ian! I hadn’t thought of this context… Maybe that’s yet another reason why I prefer to use other strategies than beating people up whether literally or with words…

    • Ian…..i can’t help hearing either strong sarcasm or downright rage in your comment. would you care to elaborate on them, or on the fact that your words had that effect? (i.e. if there IS rage or sarcasm there, what about??)

  2. i see your point……yes, the inner shame many live with has to have come about by experiencing public shaming when we were kids.

    in fact, public shaming is probably one of the most powerful control methods parents, teachers and bosses have been sanctioned to use all along our western-culture history……

    not to even mention what RELIGION had to add (and still does!) to control minds of millions of members of our society !! ……especially to women……and children……

    so that steubenville is a shockingly blunt, blind, robotic continuation of that repressive tradition.

    maybe my need is to use the same shaming that created this mess, to obliterate it…..i.e. publicly shaming the public shamer……

    only maybe…….i don’t profess to know for sure, but i like the possibility of making ‘good use’ of the original culprit to heal the sickness… know, maybe like anti-allergenics, innoculation serums, etc…..?!

  3. i remember a case i read about of a school troubled by ongoing bullying in the form of sexual harassment of girls by boys. the harassment was done by boys shaming girls by publicly verbalizing degrading sexual comments to girls in hallways and yards full of students….something which created laughter in (mostly male) bystanders cheering on the harassers.

    mind you, this was all (or mostly) verbal abuse (shaming!) yet caused the girls such distress, they feared coming to school!

    the solution found and successfully used by school counselors: setting up a roleplay where the girls humiliated (shamed) BOYS (who willingly volunteered)in the same way the boys had done to the girls.

    results: deeply healing! boys expressed deep pain and embarrassement and admitted they previously had had NO IDEA HOW PAINFUL THE GIRLS’ EXPERIENCE WAS, because they simply had never experienced what the girls did! they fervently expressed regret and sorrow for their previous behaviors..and were reported to have ceased the activity altogether…

    • I think such role plays can be very effective because they allow us to experience empathy, i.e., the boys were (basically) forced to walk in the girls’ shoes. This might be a useful approach to addressing shaming behavior. However, the role-play did not occur as a public shaming event. It was used to demonstrate the impact of behavior that already existed to people who were willing to learn. That willingness, my guess, is the key because it allowed the role-play to become a tool for change. Note that shame was not the tool for change here, though!

      I do think this is an idea worth pursuing! It’s funny because I had a similar idea just the other day: I was imagining making a comment about how handsome a guy looks and then when he complain about how I talked to him, respond with something like “it’s frustrating to be seen only for your appearance, isn’t it? That’s what women deal with all the time!” There might be something about direct experience that can be helpful. Again, though, this isn’t using shame as a tool for change…

  4. your probe into this vital subject got me rethinking, too. what stood out most for me was a previously unnoticed difference between ‘shame’ as a NOUN, and ‘to shame’ as a VERB.

    they now seem to me 2 very different concepts ! the VERB shows up mostly as a synonym of ‘to humiliate’, embarrass etc…..and is something (referring to one-time) one person does to SOMEONE ELSE !

    the NOUN usually describes a deep, internal state of mind having little to do with others’ recent actions to the one experiencing shame. the noun almost describes a way of seeing oneself, a general experience of a person’s own SELF.

    the verb shows up usually as a one-time act done to someone for a specific transgression they committed……..and thus, makes sense as an important tool to be used (carefully and appropriately, of course) in cases like, in my opinion – the steubenville culprits, including the bystanders and filmers, as well as those who disseminated the information and video further out and/or publicly.

    in such cases, shaming (again, done wisely and responsibly!) can become a powerful educational tool……..definitely safer for the culprits than being tossed away in jail to then risk becoming even more depraved than they were when sentenced.
    (i’m curious about your response to this…)

    • Unfortunately, I think these two a very much related: The shame (noun) we feel often has a specific voice of someone shaming (verb) us. Thus, the shaming incidents are internalized and turn into shame. Shame does not develop in a vacuum. It is a direct result of having been shamed into behaving a certain way. Incidentally, that is why the inner voice often sounds so familiar – it might be the internalized version of someone who shamed us years ago.

      So, even though this distinction between noun and verb is interesting, I don’t think it allows us to avoid the toxicity of shame.

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