In Support of Shame

By Kendra Pierre-Louis

Read the full article from Slate, here.

Shame is a form of punishment that derives its power from depriving you of your reputation within the society. When people make blanket proclamations that we should not shame others, what they are criticizing, in a very real way, is the ability to make and enforce social norms. Many of those articles that warn against shame, do so partly because COVID-19 is a systemic issue, but that ignores that even in the presence of clear rules and support, it still requires a bit of social cohesion. And as one popular meme points out: Wearing a mask is a lot like wearing pants. The reason many of us don’t stroll through town naked is not because we fear arrest but because we fear shame. It’s worth noting that early research suggests that collectivist cultures—which tend to employ shame more—better contained COVID early on in their outbreaks.

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