Goffman defines stigma as being a discrepancy between actual and virtual social identity that causes us to alter our estimation of them downward. Stigma is an attribute that deeply discredits people’s attributes. There is a strong relationship between attribute and stereotype.
In class today we discussed stigmas that have changed over time. For examples tattoos used to be seen as something only criminals had, however now it is more mainstream and not seen so much as criminal. Many girls have tattoos as well, and many people see it as beauty. Premarital sex is another stigma that used to be extremely frowned upon, however in today’s society it is becoming more and more normal to have premarital sex and is not as serious as it used to be.
If someone can keep their stigma a secret they can get away with “passing”, which is when people with a stigma that is not noticed pass for “normals”. If someone has a physical disability and is visibly seen by other people that is called a discredited. When someone has a stigma that is not known about he or she becomes discreditable. This is something you can hide, for example being bipolar or being gay.
Not all stigma is completely negative, some would see the prestige symbol as being positive (maybe just the wealthy). The prestige symbol can show where you rank on the social ladder by the car you drive, the way you dress for work (suit/doctor outfit) and even simply having MD written on your license plate.
Goffman describes stigma as “deeply discrediting” (pg.Pdf6) attribute of a relationship with people or society. An example he brought up is that in American society there are jobs that discredit workers due to not having an education. “A stigma, then, is really a special kind of relationship between attribute and stereotype, although I don’t propose to continue to say so, in part because there are important attributes that almost everywhere in our society are dis- crediting.” (Ibid) I believe that we in society often do this especially when we meet new people or trying to understand them. I know there are parts in society that people judge you were you are from there are some stereotypes that judge the whole community instead of the person (individual ).
However there are people who try to change their stigma by changing their condition around them in a private sense approach (pg. 11). An example for this could be someone never giving up on learning how to swim or even try to set an imaginary line where people will one day respect them not for their looks but for what they are able to bring in the table. This reminds me of an anime I watched called Naruto where the main character Naruto is stigmatize as “that kid” and a negative being in society because he had a nine-tale fox demon sealed inside his body. He overcomes those sayings from his village by making them see he is a person and not a bad or worthless. Naruto said one day the village would respect and acknowledge him as a person and become (one day) the leader of the village.
(I do not know if this is relevant but I felt that we as people in our own society feel that there is noway to give up in our dream to move up in society. I know that one way that someone could up in society is education. But there are people who are unable to afford to go to school to move up in society which other people perceive lazy or not worthy of being there.)
In class we talked about different aspect of stigma and how some stigma stays with you. In addition we talked about the fact some people believe in the stigma society gives them and become what they are. Also we discuss that there are symbols of prestige and stigma which is some what they mean in social aspect of life. There are three symbols that convey of social information: prestige, stigma, and disidentifiers. Prestige symbol is a status symbol that indicate you are in a high class or not. Stigma symbol shows the attention of identity through discrepancy (reduce society’s value of the person). Disdentifier symbol are the signs intended to break up the stigma (what people or society perceive you are – similar judging you) but in a positive way.
An blog that was mentioned in class about being poor interested me because usually the poor are the one being judge more on their looks and where they are from. An example of being judge is the video that was shown in class about the poor are in UK, people in the town was judge as “Chavs”. So in this blog, Drawing Blood: Being poor Person in America is about the blogger was introducing himself with other grad students where they are from. He mentioned that one of the students mentioned that the mother works as an administrative assistance and not as a secretary and this made him feel what was the purpose of the other name. However he mentioned that he did not say that his father was unemployed before he died was because it was shameful. I somewhat understand his feelings about unemployment because in American society you must have that high level pay jobs to be in a high status. Or even have a job at least so you are able to be part of the working world.
“Much of my experience as a poor person in America is either invisible or unrecognizable to my middle- and upper-class friends. In order to get to a place where I can fully understand my own experience and background, and to help facilitate my friends’ own journeys in acknowledging intersections of power, oppression, and privilege in their own lives, I want to describe some of my experiences.” I decided to use this quote from the blog because it is true that the high class people do not see what the poor people in America experience everyday of their life. So I feel even if we try to achieve a better status profession (as this blogger want to become a professor, yet still have to live as a poor person because of all the loans he had to take to achieve the goal he wanted in his profession) there are still the hard road to live a leisure life.
There are two videos that I found that is interesting about stigmatizing poor people in America. The first video is about the stigma of finger printing for food stamps and Coumo states that people are hungry. However this video we see that people feel shame for applying for foodstamps and some people are suffering from hunger. Another video is about the stigma of poverty. It is hard to live in a society that prices goes up and poverty increases. These changes are literally making people stay in the cycle of being poor.
I believe that struggling to fight the stigma is a cycle that is going to occur over generations. I do not know if I could achieve a good life but I know that one day my family could achieve a good life but sometimes working hard would not cut it. (I know people who does not work hard earn more money than people who work hard.)