Goffman’s theory of stigmas explain just how powerful they can be. Society has a way of grouping people into categories based on certain attributes. Everyone is guilty of this simply because we are one with society. First, Goffman explains stigma as being, “a discrepancy between actual and virtual social identity that causes us to alter our estimation of them downward.” This is the relationship between an attribute and a stereotype. An example of this would be having many tattoos. In some professions it is completely normal but for others it is not. A good point brought up in class when discussing this same example, is that it all depends on the location of the tattoo(s) and whether they are visible. This leads to Goffman’s next point when he mentions that some stigmas are “known about” and some are not. If it is not known about then that person is seen as normal (discreditable- e.g. Not knowing how to read); however if it is known about than it is not (discrediting- e.g. Obesity, physical disabilities). I can definitely agree with this because if a stigma was originally not obvious or “known about” but suddenly revealed, your view/opinion/idea may, in some cases, negatively change about that individual. This is all because of the “norms” society has implemented for everyone to follow. I can see why opening up about something that is not particularly “normal” can be extremely difficult. However, if you are the individual who does not have a “known” stigma, most of your time is spent managing the information related to your stigma. Individuals in this dilemma may desperately attempt to conceal their stigmatizing attributes in a conscious strategy to pass which can put a lot of stress and pressure on you.
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- Nicole Hala