The internet is a notoriously dangerous place to be a woman, with misogynistic trolling rife across all social media platforms – from Twitter to Instagram to Reddit – and women famously being the victim of a gendered double standard, whereby they're shamed and judged more harshly for taking revealing images of themselves (remember the 4Chan hacking scandal a few years ago?).
The latter is the subject of a new 20-minute BBC Three documentary, You’ve Been Shamed, which went live on iPlayer this week. It promises a "tough-love approach to making extreme social media ‘offenders’ confront how they’re really coming across with the pictures they post online."
With the help of south-London DJ and influencer Yinka Bokinni and fashion influencer Sophie Milner, it dishes out some harsh truths about the participants' social media presence, before plastering their "worst" and "most shocking" photos over a real-life gallery and asking the public to judge them. "It only takes seven seconds to make a first impression," says the show's narrator in its introduction, adding that if you're posting sexualised photos, "you could be doing yourself a lot more damage than you realise, but luckily we're here to help."
Among the participants is 21-year-old Tara from Glasgow, with 2,800 Instagram followers and a particular penchant for posting photos of her physical assets and an "If you've got it, flaunt it" attitude. But her boyfriend is less keen on her "provocative, racy" posts, and members of the public are shown dubbing her "a desperate tart" and "so overly sexual that it's embarrassing".
The influencers also had a lot to say about her feed. "If you don't want to attract the wrong kind of attention, just think. When you post a picture, anyone in the world can look at it, so have a think about how you want to come across," advises Bokinni.
The show's aim, apparently, is "to take the nation's more unapologetic social media users and confront them with how they're really coming across". An intriguing enough idea for a short documentary, one might think, but many viewers have said the execution left a lot to be desired.
Critics on Twitter said the show simply perpetuated the gendered double standard that sees women judged more harshly than men for posting revealing photos of themselves online, and encouraged social-media shaming rather than tackling the problem.
So disappointed in the @bbc programme ‘you’ve been shamed’- during sensitive times of victim blaming in relation to sexual harassment and violence, negative attitudes and judgements against how women present themselves are so damaging to individuals and society. #rapeculture— BC (@djpidgeonbexoxo) May 16, 2018
BBC3 programme called “You’ve been shamed” is horrible, basically just shaming the girl for posting “sexy” insta photos. The girls bf didn’t like her posting pics of her in her underwear but I just found his insta and he posts tons of a half naked gym photos. Men are shit 🙄— Emma (@123emmab) May 16, 2018
8 minutes in to BBC3's 'You've Been Shamed' and it is inviting random people to spout archaic nonsense about how women can't be sexual if they want to be respected as human beings using an ACTUAL PERSON-SHAMING GALLERY. #youvebeenshamed— Phoebe Joanne (@hmebeohp) May 16, 2018
“You’ve been shamed” on BBC. Why have we spent so long focusing on empowering women for these people to tear this poor girl down? I completely understand the digital foot print but she is an adult and she has chosen the photos she wants to post?— Alice Monk (@alice_monk) May 15, 2018
Some emphasised the view that people should be free to do what they want online without judgement if they're not harming anyone, as Tara was.
Really thought it'll be an educational insightful look into social media. Yet they just get strangers- who have no idea who you are- to say horrible things about you so you'd change to make them happy ffs— Faith Adams (@Faith_adamsxxx) May 15, 2018
Brilliant, let's take a young woman, blow up her social media pictures in an art gallery and snarkily invite a cross-section of local curtain-twitchers and pearl-clutchers to come and judge her. GTFO BBC this is not progress.— Misha (@Mish_the_Mash) May 15, 2018
The BBC’s new ‘You’ve Been Shamed’ is horrendous! Such a patronising, one-sided attack on free expression. #youvebeenshamed— Alex J. Fynney (@alex_fynney) May 16, 2018
At a time when the UK's advertising watchdog looks likely to be ban companies from perpetuating harmful gender stereotypes and body shaming in their campaigns, and the population is increasingly awake to violence against women in our society, it's a shame that BBC Three didn't seize the opportunity to tackle the sexism that underpins online shaming.
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