According to mathematician and journalist Cathy O’Neil, the stigma has been around since the first humans set foot on Earth. But more recently its evolutionary function—encouraging prosocial behavior by enforcing norms that help maintain society—has been hijacked by parties seeking profit and power, O’Neill argues.
O’Neill explains in his new book that efforts to shift responsibility from institutions to individuals undermine Shame’s original mission,” Shame machines: Who benefits from the new era of humiliation?. ”
Rather than establishing fairness and justice to re-engage people in their communities, stigma “has been used by corporations for profit and institutions to maintain power.” Often, she said, “it’s a form of intimidation and Done in shameful repression. »
Recognizing and confronting the “shame machine”, O’Neal said she hoped we could come together to “attack” the real source of the problem.
This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
CNN: What is shame?
Cathy O’Neal: Shame is a police tool used to enforce rules and taboos in order to promote the survival of a society. When the desires of individuals conflict with the expectations of the group, shame can inhibit their behavior.
But it can be painful, and the damage can be profound, making us feel worthless and robbing us of our humanity. Shame comes with a vicious blow.
CNN: Does shame have a positive effect on society?
O’Neal: Shame is a social mechanism. When it works, it feels a bit like persuasion, and if you don’t play by the rules, it can be rejected. The idea is to discourage selfish behavior in order to support the needs of the community.
E.g, Hope Pueblo Clown Party Including attracting villagers who break the rules during rituals to humiliate them. Publicly humiliated and told them to do evil in front of the whole village.
But no one was arrested, physically punished, or banned forever. Instead, the festival aims to help individuals become “more Hopi” by convincing people to stop making choices that are detrimental to the community. A striking feature here is that the target of shame can choose to obey.
CNC: you write this huge sectGold in today’s economy is organized and optimized to foster the stigma of bullying. how?
O’Neal: The disgraceful industrial complex has an old-fashioned legacy section and a state-of-the-art big data section. Companies have long tried to make you ashamed of something in order to sell you products that make you feel better. Products often fail and even make the problem worse.
A scary example is a recent campaign by a company to get teenage girls to smell their vaginas so they could sell them deodorant. First, there’s nothing wrong with our body’s natural scent. Second, these types of products can actually cause problems like yeast infections.
Particularly insidious is the use of “trolling” by a for-profit company to claim that no one should be physically shamed for creating the stigma it claims to condemn.
The new incarnation of the shame-industrial complex is the big tech companies and social media platforms that create the perfect environment for us to be ashamed of ourselves.
Algorithms are optimized to pit us against each other and drag each other down. When we shame each other and ourselves, we are actually working for their benefit.
CNN: What do you mean by “shattering” the stigma?
O’Neal: Shaming someone for something they have no control over is punching or bullying. This usually involves strangers exaggerating the humiliated individual’s ability to “correct” the situation or behavior, acting as if making a simple choice would solve the problem, even if the choice is not easy – such as shaming someone’s opioid addiction ,E.g.
Or, from my personal story, being stigmatized by my parents and society, as if dieting to lose weight was actually a simple and effective remedy.The weight loss industry profited from this assumption, despite the fact that dieting doesn’t work.
An important message I want to convey is: Don’t be ashamed that people don’t have a choice. Remember, it’s easy to overestimate other people’s options.
Instead, let’s turn the downstroke into an upstroke.
CNN: What does “fist” look like?
O’Neal: Strikes include humiliating those in power—those who have a voice and a platform to defend and/or redeem themselves—for making choices that hurt others. This can encourage abnormal people to refocus on the greater good.
The war on the stigma machine will involve scrutiny of public services, such as welfare offices, job requirements, and all the grueling bureaucratic nightmares that poor people have to go through to get access to basic services.
People often complain about being polite to fists. We should all agree that no one looks “civilized” when expressing shame because they are against the status quo.
I spoke with the owner shortly after (former White House press secretary) Sarah Huckabee Sanders was denied service at the Red Hen restaurant. She stands by her decision.
People likened the situation to the Jim Crow era when black southerners were denied service. Not at all. Sanders can choose her job in the Trump administration, and as White House spokeswoman, she has a very clear definition of her voice.
CNN: How does our perception of shame help?
O’Neal: I have a fantasy for those with unreasonable student debt burdens. Instead of being ashamed, which is the typical response we expect and provoke as a society, what if they came together to cancel the debt? Recognizing the shame machine will enable us to move towards eradicating policies that shame the poor.
CNC: You suggest that you notice the shame and put a sticker anywhere you see it. What specific actions are you calling for?
O’Neal: When you look at the world through the lens of shame, you can see when it’s weaponized, whether it’s body shaming to sell a product or shaming victims of abuse to shut them up. Then, if he knocks on the door, you can disturb him.
To build healthier relationships, we need to speak out against shameful interactions. Maybe immigration officials shaming a refugee or a mother shaming her 12-year-old. A distraction might require you to walk between two people and say, “What’s going on here?” Why are you embarrassing this person? »
I also ask people to look beyond denial or inferiority complex and recognize when society offers the raw deal.
Too often, our system blames the victim. An unwillingness to change the status quo reinforces the idea that individuals are at fault. If people could see that and act collectively, that punch would be beautiful.
CNN: If shame isn’t a habit that we can “eliminate in a day or even a decade,” as you put it, how do we overcome its painful effects?
O’Neal: Shame is like a bruise that never fully heals. I wrote a piece about how I stopped dieting and thought I had moved beyond identifying myself just by my fat. I have three children, a successful marriage, a successful career and a Ph.D. But a rude comment from one of the staff reminded me of all my fat stigma. At that time, I was completely humiliated.
I don’t think long-term shame will go away. There are no 10 easy tricks to get rid of shame. absolutely not. But it’s still worth considering, if only to help us avoid passing it on to our kids or others.
CNN: Does shame pay off?
O’Neal: Shame reminds people of the rules and the ultimate risk of ignoring them. Being evicted from the community can mean dying from exposure. So it makes sense that we feel shame is an existential threat.
Think about how people react in a crisis. Stockpiling food during times of scarcity is a natural impulse, but it’s also bad for the community as a whole. Now in Ukraine, people share what little food and water they have with each other.
I saw the same thing after Hurricane Sandy in New York. In times of crisis, people are so generous. Shame can be helpful when someone isn’t being generous.