Definition:Stigmais an attribute or characteristic that makes a person to be perceived asdifferent from others and that extensively harm the reputation of his or heridentity. In other words, Stigma refers to attitudes and beliefsthat lead people to reject, avoid, or fear those they perceive as beingdifferent.
Stigma is a Greek word that in its origins referred to a kind ofmark that was cut or burned into the skin. It identified people as criminals,slaves, or traitors to be shunned. Erving Goffman revived the term stigma and referredstigma as an attribute that spoils a person’s identity, reducing him/her inother’s minds “froma whole and usual person to a tainted, discounted one.” Stigmatizing isrelated with negative evaluations and discriminating stereotypes and prejudices. These negative evaluations and stereotypes are generally wellknown among members who share a same culture and become a basis for excluding,avoiding, and discriminating against those who possess (or are believed topossess) the stigmatizing mark.One important characteristic of stigma is that it does notpermanently reside in a person, but it resides in the person in a socialcontext. Forexample, within the wider social sphere, gays and lesbians are stigmatizedacross a wide range of situations, but not when they are in a gay bar. Thiscontextual aspect of stigma means that even attributes that are not typicallythought of as being stigmatizing may nonetheless lead to social devaluation insome social contexts for instance, being heterosexual at a gay pride rally.
Some marks, however, are so pervasively persecuted in society that they causebearers of those marks to experience stigmatization across a wide range ofsituations and relationships. The consequences of stigmatization are far moresevere for these individuals than for those who experience stigmatization onlyin very limited contexts.Types of Stigma:The sociologist Goffman categorized stigmatizing marks into theremajor types: tribal stigma, abominations of the body, and blemishes ofcharacter. Tribal stigmas are transferred from generation to generation throughsocialization and include membership in discriminating racial, ethnic orreligious groups.
Abominations of the body are devalued physical characteristicsthat are not inherited, such as obesity or physical deformity. Blemishes of character areindividual personality or behavioral characteristics that are devalued whichthe individual acquired for himself, such as being a child abuser or rapist.Dimensionsof stigmas varies according to the extent to which they are concealable,controllable, and believed to be dangerous. These differences have importantimplications for how the stigmatized are treated perceived by others, and howstigma is experienced by those who have a stigmatizing condition.Functions of Stigma:Stigmais something that is socially constructed which means the characteristics ofstigmatization are socially determined ones not self-perpetuating ones. The evidenceof this is the absence universal bunches or sets of stigmatizing characters.
Inother words, each culture or society has its own attributes of stigmatization. Evenwithin the same culture, there can be variations of stigmatization. Another intriguing character of stigmatizingis that it changes over time. For instances being a divorced was perceived muchmore stigmatizing in the past than it is today.Fromfunctionalist perspective, since social stigma is in every society in every timeit should have some both negative and positive functions for the existence ofsociety.
First, at individual level stigmatizing some one else makes us feelbetter because when we stigmatize we feel psychologically better. At the grouplevel, discriminating another group may help people feel better about their owngroups by comparison hence increasing the bonds within the same group. This alsoleads “othering”