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.