Public shaming has been used throughout history; today we are faced with the question, “should we or shouldn’t we.” Public shaming has become a controversial topic; neither the pros nor the cons outweigh each other. People must take it upon ourselves to make this important decision. When deciding we should ask ourselves does the punishment fit the crime, and is it the only other possible punishment? The Scarlet Letter
, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is an early example of public shaming. The main character, Hester Pryne, was shamed for adultery, she had to wear a red “A” on her chest so the people could see the horrible sin she had committed. At first her punishment worked well and it forced Hester and her daughter away from the town and into the woods where she could be more secluded. Yet as time slowly passed the people in the town began to forget the significance of the “A.” Towards the end of the novel, Hester was no longer the talk of the town and she didn’t need to hide anymore, she no longer felt ashamed.
Hawthorne does a great job telling Hester’s story and explaining all that
Hester and her daughter went through. He shows us examples of the guilt and the exclusion that Hester felt after she had been shamed in front of the whole town. Our society has changed so much since Hester Prynne’s time. Today guilt no longer bothers us; things that were considered sinful in Hester’s time are now normal. It doesn’t matter if we are told it’s the wrong thing to do, if other people can do it then
we can too. What is it that makes us believe that the same types of demeaning punishments will work today. The crimes that are committed are now much larger and more dangerous so would a sign or one shaming session truly work?
In the article entitled “The Two Faces of Shame” by The Association for
Psychological Science, an author discusses public shaming and criminals. A study was conducted with criminals that had been found guilty, some received shame as a punishment and others didn’t. June Tangney, a George Mason University clinical psychologist and the scientist behind the experiment. wanted to determine what the better punishment was: self-guilt or shame. Tangney discovered that when some people are found guilty in a court of law, they begin to feel remorse and regret for the crime they committed. Conversely when certain people are shamed as a punishment they begin to feel worthless, diminished and bitter about the crime they had committed. This led Tangney to believe that shame would not work well as an alternative to jail time. At the end of Tangney’s research she reported,” Shame did indeed cause former inmates to blame others for their misfortune, which in turn kept them from learning from their mistakes- and led to repeat crimes”.
As a society looking into public shaming we need to view all of the effects of
Public Shaming. In a way, we need to put ourselves in the criminals shoes to understand the full effect