Today, being outlandish or outspoken may not be viewed as a negative attribute, especially if you are in the public eye. However, medieval Europe didn’t exactly look upon these traits in the same way, and they had controls in place to prevent them.
If you committed a social faux pas, such as gossiping, being promiscuous, or just being foolish, you would be sentenced to wear a Mask of Shame. The Germans called the masks Schandmaske, and people throughout the region used them well into the eighteenth century. The masks were heavy and strange, and often were designed to signify your crime. For example, long tongues to represent a gossiper or tall ears for those that “hear all”.
The social criminal would be forced to don the mask and walk through the town. While the masks were heavy and torturous to a degree, the primary intention was to humiliate the wearer.
To further the sentence, the social criminal was often forced into stocks as well, where they were subjected to jeers and leers by those passing by.
Often a metal spike was inserted into the mouth, which would prevent the person from speaking as well as eating. Both the mask and spike could be left in for up to 24 hours.
Women’s behavior was unequally targeted by men and the justice system. Women who “mistreated,” “hen pecked” or “bossed”, or in general didn’t “know their place”, could expect to be punished. Because of this, more woman were sentenced to wear the Mask of Shame.
These masks were borne during an era where reinforcing cultural structure was very important to Europeans, enough so that they developed methods such as these to manage it. Luckily, the world has softened a bit on “crimes” such as gossiping and nagging, although I wouldn’t hate it if we got to see people walking around in these every day.