3 Books to Read after Monica Lewinsky’s TED Talk

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Brenna Clarke Gray

Staff Writer

Part muppet and part college faculty member, Brenna Clarke Gray holds a PhD in Canadian Literature while simultaneously holding two cats named Chaucer and Swift. It's a juggling act. Raised in small-town Ontario, Brenna has since been transported by school to the Atlantic provinces and by work to the Vancouver area, where she now lives with her stylish cyclist/webgeek husband and the aforementioned cats. When not posing by day as a forserious academic, she can be found painting her nails and watching Degrassi (through the critical lens of awesomeness). She posts about graphic narratives at Graphixia, and occasionally she remembers to update her own blog, Not That Kind of Doctor. Blog: Not That Kind of Doctor Twitter: @brennacgray

Have you watched Monica Lewinsky’s TED Talk yet? It’s a beautiful articulation of the dangers of public shaming culture and the way the internet can turn private people into public figures on the back of a single mistake. It’s beautiful and you must watch it. I’ll wait.

Actually, no. Just watch it here.


Watching her speech, I was struck by her comment that this culture of shame disproportionately impacts young women, people of colour, and members of the LGBT community. People die and lives are unravelled by public shaming all the time. I realized that there are some great books on this very issue, so here’s a mini reading list if Monica Lewinsky’s moving, inspiring speech got you thinking, too.

I Am Not a SlutI Am Not a Slut: Slut-Shaming in the Age of the Internet by Leora Tanenbaum: Tanenbaum is senior writer and editor for Planned Parenthood Federation and the author of the gender studies standard, Slut! Growing Up Female with a Bad Reputation. Here Tanenbaum revisits some of the ideas in that 2000 classic to discuss how slut-shaming changes and becomes more dangerous and virulent when the taunts and jeers follow young women through every aspect of their lives.




so you've been publicly shamedSo You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson: The newest title from the author of The Psychopath Test is an empathetic exploration of the experience of public shaming, and the way public shaming becomes a form of social control. The larger question here is what our desire to shame those who stumble says about our society in the early twenty-first century.





is shame necessaryIs Shame Necessary?: New Uses for an Old Tool by Jennifer Jacquet: Jacquet, an environmental social scientist at NYU, takes a different approach to this topic: what if there was a pro-social function for our desire to shame? Jacquet presents an argument for the use of shame to achieve significant and lasting social change against corporations and government.

If you have suggestions for books on this topic, please join us in the comments below.





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