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.
Simmel defines society as “merely the name for a number of individuals connected by interaction…It is not a ‘substance,’ nothing concrete, but an event: It is the function of receiving and affecting the fate and development of one individual by another”. In class today we learned that we are all apart of different groups each with different forms of interaction. Some of these groups may be family, friends, work, and religious communities. Everyone acts a different way in each different group that is appropriate for that setting. For example the way we act with our friends may not be the same way we interact with our family or coworkers.
Simmel defines sociability as the “play form of association”, driven by “amicability, breeding, cordiality and attractiveness of all kinds”. As human beings, it is natural to want to socialize with others, even if there is no cause or purpose. Some ways people find themselves in sociable conversations is by starting a conversation on the train with the person sitting across from them. There is no purpose, its just a friendly gesture and it makes the time pass quicker. There is no motive to these social interactions, its just something that happens naturally. People are social beings so this leads to a feeling of satisfaction for many. However, sociability is somewhat artificial, because there is no room for deep conversation. When someone asks, “how are you”, we are socialized to answer with “good”. No one would start listing their problems right away without getting into a much deeper form of conversation and connection.
We are taught from a young age that men and women must have different interests, act a certain way, and achieve different goals. For example girls are taught to like pink, and to “act like a lady”, while boys are taught not to cry and to “man up”. In society it’s okay for a girl to express her emotions but is seen as gay if a guy is emotional. This is all so wrong because we are all really just the same.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman would refer to this as gender socialization. Gender socialization is how individuals learn to observe gender norms, to behave in “gender-appropriate” ways, relative to a given culture. This promotes gender inequality. Gilman states that the traditional family roles (stay at home mom / working dad) only promotes women’s economic dependence on men. Luckily in todays society, it is becoming more and more normal for women to branch out and support themselves. Women are beginning to realize they don’t need a man to support them.
The YouTube video we watched in class, “Shrinking Women”, also demonstrated more ways that men and women experience gender differences and inequalities. She spoke personally about her family at home but these norms stand for most Americans in todays culture. First she stated that the women shrink while men get fatter as we age. This is because women are always pressured not to eat a lot. Women are taught to absorb and be quiet while men are taught to shout and speak their mind. When she asks questions in class she always apologizes for asking, which is a huge sign that she was taught not to ask questions. She also stated that women are taught to cook and clean for their man and to do whatever they ask.
The video “Status Anxiety” explains the reasons why so many Americans have negative feelings towards status. Weber defines status as stratification according to principles of consumption of goods and services (lifestyle). First off, most people are envious, it is a natural emotion, and when we see people we consider our “equals” succeeding, it causes anxiety. Succeeding can be anything from getting a job promotion, buying an expensive car, etc. Status is so important to people because it shows where you stand on the social latter. The more you have the more respect you think people will show you. Everyone is always trying to compete and hope to appear a certain way when really they are not like that at all. For example, just because you have an expensive car it does not make you rich, it just shows that you spent all your money on the car so people think you are rich but really you are not. I actually know someone who spent all their money on a beautiful Porsche, and I wondered how someone so young could afford that on their own, but it turns out he blew all his savings on that car just to appear a certain way. It is so sad what lengths people will go to these days. For some reason these materialistic objects make people feel superior to others, which is why other people may get angry, especially when its just to impress other people. In Weber’s theory of The Distribution of Power: Class, Status, Party, he explains that power is the chance a man has to realize their own will in a social action even against the resistance of others. Every man wants power and people feel they must look and act a certain way to achieve that.
After watching the videos, “Land of the Free, Home of the Poor” and “Wealth Inequality in America” I am shocked by what I learned. First of all the wealth distribution is so beyond unequal and is way off from what most Americans believe it to be or what the ideal would be. The wealth of the top 1% couldn’t even fit on the chart. The top 20% had much different wealth distribution on the spectrum. The bottom part of the 20% was basically middle class and the middle class was not much higher than the lower class. In “Wealth Inequality in America” they even mentioned an employee of the CEO has to work over a month just to make what the CEO makes in just one hour. These workers are made to be like robots and it is definitely not fair how little they are being paid. In “Land of the Free, Home of the poor” I was surprised to see how Sweden’s wealth distribution was so equal and that when the man asked Americans which pie chart of wealth distribution they thought belonged to America, they chose Sweden’s. This showed how uneducated Americans are about how unfair the wealth distribution is. It is just not right how the top 20% of Americans hold 84% of US wealth while in the meantime there are so many people falling under the poverty line. These videos are similar to Marx’s views on capitalism and how it was an engine for inequality. Marx’s theory explains how working class people don’t have much of a choice when it comes to jobs because they really just need to pay their bills and put food on the table. The wealthy and big companies take advantage of these people knowing they can pay them minimum wage for working long hours and getting much done in those hours (working like a robot). These working people cannot lash out because they can’t take the risk of losing their job because that means no money. This is probably why most people have negative feelings towards work, as we learned in class today.