Shaming isn't the answer

A judge in Ohio sentenced a man to a public shaming for being a bully and harassing his neighbors, a woman and her disabled children.  While there is no question that what the man did was awful and illegal, I don't believe the judge's sentence served justice.  When a man is harassing his neighbors for being different, especially using racial slurs against disabled children, he's not doing it from a place of confidence and strength.  Men typically act like bullies from a sense of weakness, where the typically "macho" behavior is meant to compensate and bestow manhood on them.

What the judge did in this case is demonstrate that she's the bigger man, by publicly humiliating him.  Maybe this will break him, maybe he will be more self-aware and change his ways, but it seems more likely that this public shaming will reinforce the feelings of insecurity that caused this problem in the first place.  Even if he doesn't retaliate against his neighbors, I would bet that he will take this out on other people in his life. 

The judge also sentenced the man to 15 days in prison, take an anger-management course, and to write a letter of apology.  I believe the time in prison and the anger-management course were well justified and probably helpful.  I'm agnostic about the apology letter, as while it might be forced and un-genuine, it does provide an opportunity for reflection.  I believe any good done by these measures, however, will probably be undone by the shaming.

When we attempt to publicly shame or humiliate men for behaving poorly, we are only serving to reinforce the system that makes them act this way in the first place.  Making someone feel weak and insecure is no way to stop them from acting out of a sense of weakness and insecurity.  That does not mean that you do not hold people accountable, or that you cannot punish wrong-doing, just that it should come from a place of justice and seeking to make others whole, not out of retribution.

The full story is here.