Category: guilt

A Grim And Gruesome History Of Public Shaming In London: Part 1:

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Confirmed criminals were thus clamped in a position of acute and pitiful vulnerability in full view of the jeering mob to whom they proved irresistible targets and who were at liberty — encouraged, even — to chuck whatever they could get their hands on; clumps of earth, rotten eggs, cucumbers, turnips, offal and in their less charitable moments dead cats, paving stones, shards of glass and bricks at the victim’s head. The stakes were high; an unlucky few died in the pillory (around 10 in the course of the 18th century, according to the historian Robert Shoemaker). Aside from sodomites who fared particularly badly, no creature was more despised than false-accusers who, for reward money, swore robberies against innocent parties. John Valler stood the pillory for just that in June 1732 and a pamphlet gleefully described how ‘the mob began to pelt him with cabbage, cauliflowers and artichoke stalks …[then] they pulled down the pillory, by which the skull of this unhappy wretch was fractured’. Still not satisfied, ‘as he lay on the ground, they stamped so hard upon his body that they broke his ribs’. He was dead within the hour. This had not been the authorities’ intention; two members of the crowd were convicted of his murder three months later.

Yet the crowd could be forgiving; sympathetic even, especially when they felt the defendant had been treated unfairly.

A pamphlet gleefully described how ‘the mob began to pelt him with cabbage, cauliflowers and artichoke stalks…

Famously, when Daniel Defoe was pilloried in 1703 after publishing a faux-bigoted rant against religious dissenters (of which he was one) on the orders of the pro-dissenter, irony-deaf whig government, the only thing anyone threw at him was flowers, while the very pamphlet itself was casually sold by his supporters. And in June 1763, the Post Boy reported how the crowd reacted to two elderly men in the New Palace Yard pillory for attempted buggery — ‘their tears, which flowed in great abundance, drew such compassion, that they treated them with the greatest lenity, and some money was collected for them’.

The most interactive and democratic of all of old London’s shaming rituals, audience responses could damage, destroy or save someone’s reputation or, in rare cases, kill them; in 1509, three pilloried offenders are recorded as ‘dying of shame’ — could they have been driven to suicide, like victims of online trolling in extreme cases?

Digital Human, Series 12, Episode 6 – Shame

Listening to shame | Brené Brown

Digital Human, Series 12, Episode 6 – Shame

Lunchtime lecture for you guys, with Aaron Balick on the Psychodynamics of Social Media –  just watch out for the opening music if you’re wearing headphones. Learn from my pain… meep.

Digital Human, Series 12, Episode 6 – Shame

Adaptive and Maladaptive Shame:

The bottom line is that humans come equipped with the potential to experience shame for good reason. Tempered, situationally-based shame and self-blame can functionally guide us toward humility, foster learning, and be socially sensitive. However, when shame and self-blame are characterological, there is a cancer at one’s core sense of self, perhaps hidden, but eating away in a destructive manner.

Digital Human, Series 12, Episode 6 – Shame

Women Who Eat On Tubes: ‘I was hurt and humiliated’:

A few weeks ago, I was on a Tube train eating an M&S pasta salad. It was a fairly inoffensive snack but even so, I’d purposefully moved somewhere quiet so that I could do it without disturbing anyone.

Halfway through munching it, I noticed a man get up out of his seat to move opposite me and take my photo. I knew that he’d done it – he’d pointed the phone at me and adjusted it for an angle. I moved away and didn’t think too much more about it. But then a friend noticed me on the Facebook group “Women Who Eat On Tubes” (20,000 members and counting) and texted me to let me know.

When I saw my photo, I felt vindicated and almost relieved that I hadn’t just been paranoid about what he was doing. But I also felt hurt and humiliated – especially by the comments mentioning my “gaping orifice” or sarcastically pondering, “I’d like to know the name of her finishing school.” I was the butt of a joke without my knowledge, in front of thousands of strangers. I’d been “stranger-shamed”.

And unlike other women who have since got in touch with me to say that they’ve been featured on similar sites and felt “helpless” to do anything, I wasn’t going to let it slide. Not only am I a journalist with time on my hands to sort this out, but with a few internet searches, I found the email address of the man who had uploaded the photo of me. I asked him to remove my picture, and although it’s now been taken down (by Facebook, not by him) hundreds of other women’s photos are still up there.

The thing is, I’m also of a generation whose default setting is “broadcast”. I tweet prolifically. I Instagram a new picture each day. I’ve perused blogs such as “Look At My F**king Red Trousers” and properly laughed at “Jeans and Sheuxs” (anonymous photos of the fashion crime of wide-legged denim with smart pointy shoes). I admit that I’ve taken photos of people without their permission and uploaded them to social networks or texted them to friends – although it’s never been broadcast to thousands of people and it’s never for something so basic as eating food on public transport.

It’s not illegal, but it is a bit odd when you think about it. When we’re in environments such as the Tube or on the web, we feel anonymised, and looking through the periscope of our cameras, we’re disconnected from the situation. Obviously, since my experience, I’ve decided that I’m never going to stranger-shame again.

Since I appeared on the Facebook group, dozens of people have been in touch, including creators of a women-eating-on-the-Tube flashmob set up with the intention of getting lots of women to eat on the Underground to overwhelm and defy any would-be photographer. There is also now a group setting out to shame men taking photos of women eating on the Tube.

But I do question whether e-vigilantism is the way of getting things done. Instead, I hope that by identifying the phenomenon of stranger- shaming, people will think twice before doing it. I don’t want anyone – female, male, old, young, wearing a diamante belt buckle reading “porn star” – to be shamed like this. Sure, it’d be lovely if Facebook closed down stranger-shaming groups or if the British Transport Police could ban people taking photos of strangers on public transport. And I have every faith that Project Guardian, a scheme from BTP which sets out to deal with harassment, will tackle stranger-shaming.

But to really stop this from happening, we need to police ourselves. Next time you see someone wearing or doing something weird, don’t get a phone out. Do your friends really want to see that picture of the guy in socks and sandals? Are you really going to be the equivalent of that old family friend who would come round to show you a slideshow of their holidays? Shame on you if so.

Digital Human, Series 12, Episode 6 – Shame

There’s an Evolutionary Reason Humans Developed the Ability to Feel Shame:

In order to be treated well, others in your community had to value you enough to protect you, share food with you, and help take care of your children. If they found out you were diseased, physically weak, stealing stuff, acting sexually out of the mainstream, etc., they might not deem you worthy of their help — they would “devalue” you.

As far as biologists can tell, organisms on this planet have one job: to make more of ourselves before we die. The behaviors that go along with that — finding food, selecting mates, figuring out how to not die today — are all just ways we all support this one biological imperative.

But from there, things get complicated. It’s pretty clear, for instance, why a cheetah would have evolved lightning speed. But why would a panda, who at one point evolved the gut of a carnivore, sit around eating bamboo all day? And it’s fairly obvious how living in cooperative social groups has helped humans claw their way to the top of the pile, but a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences looks at why we evolved one human behavior — feeling shame — that, at first glance, seems to do us more harm than than good.

Shame doesn’t make intuitive sense. It causes pain — a feeling usually reserved for helping us avoid damaging our physical body tissue — and often makes us act against our own best interests. Shame is an emotion responsible for the lies we tell, the paranoia and depression we feel, and can sometimes lead to dramatically self-damaging behavior.

But researchers at University of California Santa Barbara claim to have discovered an evolutionary root of human shame, and argue that it’s necessary for the complex navigation required by living in a tight-knit community.

“Our human ancestors in the African savanna lived in a world without nation states, a police force, supermarkets, social security or savings accounts,” says study lead author Dr. Daniel Sznycer, of the UC Santa Barbara’s Center for Evolutionary Psychology. “Because of this, your reputation was even more important 100,000 years ago than it is today.”

Digital Human, Series 12, Episode 6 – Shame

Digital Human, Series 12, Episode 6 – Shame

An activist, a little girl and the heartbreaking origin of ‘Me too’:

Burke is the program director for Brooklyn-based Girls for Gender Equity. Its goal is to empower young women of color.

But the seeds for the movement were planted earlier than that – in 1996, when Burke was a youth camp director.

After an all-girl bonding session, a young girl asked to speak to Burke privately.

This is how she describes the encounter on the Just Be site:

“For the next several minutes this child … struggled to tell me about her ‘stepdaddy’ or rather her mother’s boyfriend who was doing all sorts of monstrous things to her developing body. … I was horrified by her words, the emotions welling inside of me ran the gamut, and I listened until I literally could not take it anymore … which turned out to be less than five minutes. Then, right in the middle of her sharing her pain with me, I cut her off and immediately directed her to another female counselor who could ‘help her better.’ ”

Burke said she never forgot the look on the girl’s face.

“The shock of being rejected, the pain of opening a wound only to have it abruptly forced closed again – it was all on her face,” she wrote.

“I couldn’t help her release her shame, or impress upon her that nothing that happened to her was her fault. I could not find the strength to say out loud the words that were ringing in my head over and over again as she tried to tell me what she had endured. …

"I watched her walk away from me as she tried to recapture her secrets and tuck them back into their hiding place. I watched her put her mask back on and go back into the world like she was all alone and I couldn’t even bring myself to whisper … me too.”

Digital Human, Series 12, Episode 6 – Shame

It’s not because I’m short that I feel ‘paranoid and suspicious’,:

The women each wore a virtual reality helmet and took two virtual tours of the London underground, in one of which they were shrunk by about 30cm. This, the researchers claim, caused increased feelings of paranoia and suspicion, concluding that shorter people have more negative evaluations of the self, and being shorter makes people feel more vulnerable. To me, however, all the study showed was how changing a person can alter their perceptions, not truly how being small can make one feel and the reasons why.

As someone with dwarfism, I certainly feel paranoid when out in public and to some extent more vulnerable. But it is not my size that makes me feel this way, it’s the way people react towards my size. Every outing will involve stares, name calling and even the odd photograph. Whether it is standing at a set of traffic lights or sitting in a bar, people have taken out their mobile phones and clearly aimed them towards me – as if that is perfectly acceptable.

Digital Human, Series 12, Episode 6 – Shame

On the Ethics of Online Shaming:

Online shaming may also pose a conflict between justice concerns and virtue ethics. We might want to be the kind of people who stand up for ourselves or people we agree with — but do we want to be the kind of people who shame others, meting out (potentially disproportionate) vigilante justice? In fact, sometimes the people who start an online shaming “wave” later regret their actions. Regret, in this case, seems to be a recognition of the fact that their own actions didn’t match up with their values.

Digital Human, Series 12, Episode 6 – Shame