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.
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 defines Stigma as “.. a process by which the reaction of others spoils normal identity” The Greeks originated the word Stigma to signify and identify those who were criminals and slaves by bodily evidence such as cuts and burns. In today’s society Stigma is used in a a very different context. It is used to disgrace an individual or type of population based upon labeling and stereotyping. Using these labels and stigmatizing an individual or population spoils the identity of the individual causing a “spoiled identity”. It makes them feel lesser than normal, when that is not the case. When interaction occurs between a stigmatized (SI) individual and a “normal” individual there is anxiety and self consciousness that occurs.
A great example of a population that has acquired a spoiled identity seen in todays society are those who suffer from Mental Illness. Those who suffer from mental illness are often categorized and labeled as crazy. They are seen as different and as outsiders to the world around them.
To label and to stigmatize is unfair and not right. Those who do stigmatize sometimes don’t understand that they are doing so due to their social norms and how they were taught to perceive others. We must be open minded and become more careful not to judge others right away.
In Goffman‘s conceptualization, stigma is an attribute that is deeply discrediting for members of a particular social category. It’s a particular kind of relationship between attribute and stereotype. Below is another social media campaign aimed at countering stigma (i.e., destigmatization). Below, individuals address assumptions made about them based on their various virtual social identities, or how they tend to be categorized by others who don’t actually know them.
This interview showed that regardless of your education attainment, status in society or knowledge you can still be labeled by the color of your skin. Mr. Howe had a great insight as to why the youth were rioting in London. He was addressing the fact that they were tired of being pushed around by the government. He explained that the youth in the country especially young blacks were being discriminated against by the government and they were fed up. He said that this was in fact NOT a riot but instead an insurrection. Over the years there have been many protest organized solely based on the fact that people were tired and wanted to be heard. Never once during this interview did Howe stated that he condoned the incident. He simply said that he understood why it was happening. He even tried to explain the event that served as a catalyst for the rioting and the reporter purposely cut him off and label he statements as having no merit. The reporter went on to try to make it seem like he though that the means by which the rioters expressed their frustrations was the right thing to do. Then she tried to insult him by saying that he was no stranger to rioting himself and that he had participated in riots himself. The amazing thing was that she was doing this on live television where people could see her stereotyping this well known writer and broadcaster. I wonder if this had been a white writer or activist would she have behaved the same way? Most likely not because it was easier to just associate his statements with the fact that he was black rather than reality which was that he was just an understanding citizen of the same society.