Tuesday 20 May 8.30pm on SBS ONE
Whitney, 30, recently took a novel approach to overcoming her body weight shame.
She put on tight fitting clothes, turned up the stereo and filmed herself doing what she loves – dancing. The video, titled ‘A Fat Girl Dancing’, has had almost three million views on YouTube.
This week, Insight hears from guests about their experiences of shame – from those who’ve been ostracised by their families and communities, to those who have decided to publicly shame others for stealing or drink driving.
With case studies ranging from internet humiliation to cultural exclusion, the program finds out whether shaming can be helpful or destructive.
Kerry Tucker was sentenced to seven years in jail in 2004 for stealing and defrauding almost $2 million from her friends and employers. She says she felt no shame about what she was doing up until the moment when she was arrested. “I was embarrassed, I was humiliated,” she says.
When Justin Xiao was a teenager in China, he told his father he was gay. “He spat on my face,” he says. “I'm just a shame to the family.” After running away from home, Justin eventually settled with his mother in Australia. Later, he was diagnosed as HIV positive and felt alienated by the gay community. “That’s when I really felt that I don’t belong anywhere,” he says.
Whitney Thore is a hit on YouTube. Her Fat Girl Dancing video has had almost three million views. Whitney says she made the video to celebrate her passion for dance despite her body image issues. “I’ve been feeling ashamed about my weight from the time I was ten years old,” she says. Whitney now runs a campaign called No Body Shame.
When three men stole a birthday cake from Declan Lee’s gelato store, Declan decided to take action. He posted CCTV images of the culprits on social media – along with some ridiculing captions and speech bubbles. He wanted to publicly shame them into apologising. “I wanted them to know they were caught and I wanted them to come in and say sorry,” he says. It worked.
June Tangney is a Professor of Clinical Psychology at George Mason University in Washington. She says some instances of public shaming are concerning because they’re stigmatising and not effective. “Feelings of shame don't generally encourage people to change their behaviour. Feelings of guilt can move people towards apology, confession, reparation. But feelings of shame about the self seem to encourage more of defensiveness, denial.”
Insight is hosted by Gold Walkley Award-winning journalist Jenny Brockie and airs every Tuesday at 8.30pm on SBS ONE.