Stigma vs normal (Post 5)

What is normal behavior? Who decides what is normal? This is a question many of us may ask ourselves because we are just placed in society with all the rules just laid out for us to follow. We live in an area where society rules and what society wants as a whole is what society gets. Therefore, what society considers as normal behavior is what we are supposed to do. Normal behavior is what the majority of people find acceptable in society, which is usually the upper class. As defined normal behavior is “conforming to the standard or the common type”. Normal behavior is seen as sane and free from any mental disorder. Abnormality is seen as a taboo in our society whether its racial, religion, class or disability. People tend to generalize these people by adding negative stereotypes to them also known as a Stigma. As stated in an article, “Stigmatized people are those that do not have full social acceptance and are constantly striving to adjust their social identities: physically deformed people, mental patients, drug addicts, prostitutes and more.” There are many ways that individuals manage various types of stigma to save what Goffman describes as a normal moral career in society.

In the book “Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity” written by Erving Goffman, this author focuses on the idea of stigma and what it means to be stigmatized. He puts his attention on these people and how they live their life in society where they are constantly pointed fingers. Goffman uses autobiographies and case studies to analyze stigmatized individual’s feelings about their own self and their relationships with other people in society. He observes these people to see how they deal with rejection of others and how they portray themselves to others. There are three types of stigma discussed in the book, which are stigma of character traits, stigma of group identity and physical stigma. All of these stigmas are no accepted in society. Stigmas of character traits are those with disabilities such as mental disorder, addiction, alcoholism, homosexuals, suicidal attempts and even unemployment. Physical stigmas are those with deformation of the body that isn’t seen as normal. Stigma of group identity is negative stereotype that comes from being of a certain race, nation or religion. 

There are solutions for those who are stigmatized, like some can go under plastic surgery but once they are labeled that label sticks with the person. Some individuals can balance out their stigma by focusing on another part of their body like a disabled learning how to do other activities like swimming. These stigmatized people may take upon their stigma differently some may use it to criticize the normal people or they can use it as an excuse for not being able to succeed in society. They can see it in a positive way and use it as a learning experience. There are those who hide, and tend to isolate themselves from society, this may lead to depression, suicidal thoughts, and anxiety and when out in public they can turn very self-conscious. Stigmatized individuals can also team up with other stigmatized people and sympathetic others for support. They can form or even join self-help groups, clubs or other groups to feel a sense of belonging and safety. They might also build their own conferences or magazines to raise their self-confidence.

Goffman also talks about the stigma symbols. Stigma symbols are symbols that involve things like skin color, hearing aids, canes, wheel chairs and even a shaved head. Some of these stigmatized people use symbols to try and blend in with the rest to become “normal”. They constantly have their guard up, aware of their surroundings at all times. 

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2 responses to “Stigma vs normal (Post 5)

  1. Its so sad that people are still being judged for what they have or seem to appear. Any little thing that a person has that does not seem normal, i believe it isn’t right. people shouldn’t be judged upon what they look like at all. they should be looked upon on what they know what to do and who they are.

  2. You make some very good points, the first being that the upper class generally get to determine what is ‘normal’. I once heard someone say that a person of wealth, or high social status, or both, who could otherwise be referred to as ‘crazy’ by others was usually labeled eccentric, generally speaking; and a person of no means, or low social status, or both, was termed ‘nuts’. Sad but true. It is even sadder when a physically stigmatized person is in that position.
    One other point you referred to had to do with social stigma being different at different times in history. The stigma being the difference between the virtual and actual social identity, in all directions of a lot of different levels of society, is one of the big contributing factors of the current state of disharmony of the world today. I believe it was the Motown Temptations who once sang it best in a song titled ”
    ‘Ball of Confusion!’.

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