You don’t have a stigma You are playing Victim- Goffman’s stigma and social identity

In Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity, Goffman offers several examples of stigmatized individuals. We constantly fail to see others for their “actual Social Identity” or, of what a person can prove to be capable. This relates, to some degree, to the “double consciousness” of DuBoise. Stigmatized people are aware of their differences and are looking at themselves through the eyes of others.

Goffman explains multitudes of effects of being the stigmatized other. One major understanding to take away from this piece is that the uncomfortableness we feel around others are based on assumptions. An unemployed individual during the Depression  states, “they no longer offered me a cigarrette and their eyes seem to say,’you are not worth it'”. The man is upset. This is a feeling which usually occurs because of an unfulfilled expectation. He has an expectation of how people “should” treat him. When it does not go according to this ideal, he feels defeated. He wasn’t offered a cigarette, but made an assumption (clearly, through the word “seems”) this was because he doesn’t have a job. It was the Depression. Most people don’t have a job. This brings me to another point of how we use our differences to play victim. It is so much easier to express our frustration based on our diagnosis (one of which almost every human being has). We are too tall so we can’t buy those cute shoes, we don’t have a job so we can’t  go out. Yes we all have situations, but we are telling ourselves they are  preventing us from moving ahead in life. Playing victim leaves us with no power. Making our bodies or minds wrong and our lack of power Right is satisfying and we don’t even realize it.

As the article mentions, FDR had polio but was not recognized by this fact. He was labeled as President. Those who play bigger games in life can move past those small labels. It is so much easier to be known as the poor person with polio  than pushing past a physical difficulty and not worrying about how you look in order to be something bigger, like the President. It is in overcoming these assumptions that everyone is staring and judging that you can be something for other people. A simpler example  would be Martin Luther King.  In his society, African Americans were stigmatized. It was probably not expected that he could make the changes he did. He had to make invisible the assumptions others may have of him as well as HIS assumptions he  had of others. This is the difficulty but the result is amazingly admirable. We can all be just as admirable. We have to see past our physical and mental “faults” that we assume society sees as wrong. They are not wrong and we all are just as worried about how we look as the next person.


4 responses to “You don’t have a stigma You are playing Victim- Goffman’s stigma and social identity

  1. Yes, Goffman reveals how much “baggage” we carry with us into our interactions with others, so many assumptions about what they must be thinking about us, and how often we make incorrect inferences. And if we reflect on our interactions, we know this is true, Goffman insists, because we’ve been on both sides of the interaction: the object of others’ faulty assumptions and the one who makes faulty assumptions about others. Similarly, we all have experiences on both sides of the ‘Normal-Stigmatized’ encounter.

  2. After reading this in a previous class and once again for this class it is easy to see how this work is still relevant today. I know for a fact their have been times where I have looked at someone differently because of some “stigma”, while someone has probable judged me for some “stigma”, whether external or internal

  3. I agree with Grace and I think she made some wonderful points about stigmas. I really enjoyed reading about FDR because he is someone I would never think of as having a “stigma,” but because of his polio he did. Because he was our president and seen as a leader, people put the fact that he had polio in the back of their minds. I thought that was really a great example. It is really unfortunate how we as a society are so quick to judge others. I know this sounds crazy, but growing up and living on Long Island all of my life, when I started attending QC last fall I felt like people passed less judgement here. It is hard to explain but on LI everyone seems so critical and judgmental and you have to fit a certain “image” and go with the flow. However, in Queens I felt like the people were so diverse and it seems like everyone pretty much keeps to themselves and for the most part are very nice. I honestly felt a sense of “relief” in Queens. It is somewhat refreshing and comforting to be in a more “judge-free” zone. Granted, I know it would be foolish to overgeneralize and say the whole Queens population is friendly and less judging, but that is just my viewpoint transferring from a Suffolk college to a college in Queens. If the world could be less judgmental, it would definitely be a more relaxed and enjoyable life for everyone!

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