What is Social Stigma Essay
Social stigma is a form of discrimination which results to an unnecessarily extreme disapproval of one’s personal qualities or beliefs that is contrary to standard ways of living.
Social stigma has been in existence since the time of our ancestors and many individuals have long suffered the effects of sadness and isolation because of it. Perhaps this can be regarded as a natural human behavior that will continue to plague society’s history even if we may say that people nowadays have been particularly broad-minded as compared with individuals before. In fact, even the animal kingdom is never spared by such treatment of cruelty.A peculiar difference in their physical appearance could cost them their own lives. They will be vulnerable to predators especially if this has made them lose their camouflage for defense. To make matters worse, even their own kind would ostracize them instead of helping them.
Examples of this are yellow crocodiles, cheetahs with stripes, white lions, albino baboons, and leopards without spots. These animals are forced to work harder for a chance of survival (Plight of Animals). Humans, although considered as higher forms of animals, are capable of reason and understanding.But often, it would take a while to settle disputes between social differences. Three forms of stigma There are three forms of stigma, namely: (1) Overt or external deformations. Examples of these are scars, physical manifestations of anorexia nervosa, leprosy, and other physical disabilities.
(2) Deviation in personal traits. Examples are drug addicts, alcoholics, and criminals. (3) Tribal stigmas. These pertain to traits of race, nation or religion that deviate from what is considered as normative. An example under this category is the Jewish people in Nazi Germany (Social Stigma).Causes of Social Stigma Perhaps one would be led to ask, what is the root of social stigma? Is it necessary to the community? It is a human being’s natural instinct to flee or protect himself from potential dangers.
And dangers usually come with unchartered territories. There are instances when people get scared of the unknown. If they see something different especially in appearance, they can get overwhelmed by fear or consider that as something that is threatening to their existence. This attitude leads to biases that ultimately creates a gap between two cultures.Aside from instinctive reasons, personal intentions can be another factor that may have reinforced social stigma. Let us take into consideration the angle of power necessity (Social Stigma).
Some people tend to use stigma as a means of acquiring or preserving power. This may remind us of parents who would introduce the boogieman story to children who misbehave but then that is a different story. Another case would also be that of the teenagers’ lifestyle, where groups or cliques are often formed like in schools for example, where the campus figures are separated from the low-profiled ones, the former being considered better than the latter.According to the Link and Phelan Stigmatization Model (from Drs. Bruce G.
Link and Jo C. Phelan), stigma is associated with social, economic, and political power. Social power relates to the ability of other people to change that which provokes other people to bring about outcomes, like for instance, an individual’s influence in purchasing decisions. Economic power has no definite definitions however it is related to multiple factors like purchasing, monopoly, bargaining, managerial, and class power, the latter which pertains to the control of the minority capitalists over the means of production thus exploiting the majority workers.
Last is political power which is held by a person in a society, also related to international power if the influence goes beyond a single state. An extreme example of the Stigmatization Model is the power used by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust which resulted to the deliberate mass murder of approximately six million European Jews during World War II. This is a perfect indication of how people can arbitrarily use stigma for their own selfish reasons (Social Stigma). Disadvantages of Social Stigma There are two major disadvantages of social stigma which is status loss and discrimination.The consequences of these two are devastating enough to rob a person of his right to decent living. The labeling and isolation that ultimately comes with it deprives him of wonderful opportunities to improve his way of life as he is blocked from the resources that he needs.
These opportunities include the chance to earn a higher income, acquire good education and mental well-being, housing status, health, and medical treatment (Social Stigma). We must also take into consideration the effects of social stigma with regards to the confidence of individuals especially children.Each person has his own special talent, skill or knowledge that he can share for the progress of his community. Yet if a person becomes affiliated with an isolated or labeled group, it would be hard to enjoy the benefits of his potential. On the other hand, even those people who are part of the discriminating group are also disadvantaged by the ignorance that is caused by their stigma. Their prejudice and biases deprive them of proper understanding and learning of new things which is supposed to make life more interesting.
One example for this is the misunderstanding of the Muslim groups.After the 9/11 bombing of the twin towers which lead to the untimely loss of many innocent lives, the whole world’s anger became centered on the terrorists. Since the people involved were identified as Muslims, this destructive perception was unfortunately generalized on the said group which is not fair and not right because not all Muslim individuals support terrorism. Social Stigmas in America There are many stigmas in America but there are only three examples chosen for discussion in this paper based on their popularity, namely: AIDS, homosexuality, and eating disorders.HIV/AIDS Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) had an overwhelming outbreak during the late 1980s.
The continuous search for its cure is still ongoing that people have reacted to it with so much fear as well as its disfiguring outcome. This lead to the unfair treatment not only of the people infected with the disease but as well as their family members. Stigma has truly become a great obstacle for people with the disease who are already part of noninfluential groups like women, sex workers, the poor, and the homosexuals.Because of stigma, these people were judged and condemned for being is such condition. As a result, many organizations have come up with projects to address the stigma itself. This has been in a form of a research project which aimed to better understand the causes, manifestations, and consequences of the AIDS/HIV stigmas.
The main objective is to counter the discrimination against AIDS/HIV which has not been helpful in controlling the spread of the disease (Addressing HIV-Related Stigma and Resulting Discrimination in Africa).These awareness efforts have lead to significant accomplishments like the lessening of the epidemic. The fear was also lessened with more information about the new medical treatments and therapies related to it as well as ways on how it can be transferred. Homosexuality Homosexual have long been underestimated because of its nonconforming nature with society’s standards which has been used to considering opposite sex relationships as that which is normal.
The people involved in the said situation have experienced unimaginable difficulties as they suffered condemnation even from friends and families, being labeled as sinners, criminals, and mentally unbalanced. Homosexuals were then treated like they were not normal people, much to their agony as they try to justify that they cannot help it if their sexual preferences cannot simply go with society’s norms despite significant efforts. However with the help of support group, many individuals have started accepting and recognizing their sexuality (gay or lesbian) without fear of losing their place in the society.In fact nowadays, many homosexuals (specifically gay men) have been performing very well especially when it comes to arts.
Apparently, their passion for life’s beauty and other inherent skills have opened a different world for many people who are longing for the good life or simply for some humor that will lessen the burden of this world’s troubles. Many top-rating TV series like “Will and Grace” and “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” are proofs of how homosexuality is gradually making its way to society’s acceptance. Anorexia and Bulimia NervosaAnorexia nervosa is a psychiatric diagnosis about an eating disorder characterized by low body weight and body image distortion with an obsessive fear of gaining weight. (Anorexia Nervosa: Wikipedia) Bulimia nervosa, on the other hand, is an eating disorder in where one engages in recurrent binge eating followed by feelings of guilt, depression, and self-condemnation (Bulimia Nervosa: Wikipedia). These are just two of the popular eating disorders faced usually by teenagers.
The stigma related to this made affected individuals to suffer in isolation.The effects of the stigma had been crucial enough to inhibit funding for relevant research as well as necessary treatment. The lack of information deprived both the public and professionals in learning about the dangerous consequences of these life-threatening eating disorders (Teenage Problems: Eating Disorders). As prevention, many helpful strategies have been undertaken like the enhancement of one’s body image, specifically with the orientation to everyone’s body uniqueness and individuality.
Another one is by preventing healthy eating practices and attitudes. Even parents are reminded to reevaluate their dreams and goals for their children as another contributing factor in this issue. According to research, there are 10 million females and 1 million males fighting the life-threatening battle against anorexia and bulimia. It is also a sad fact that researches related to this continue to lack the necessary fund as well as insurance coverage (Teenage Problems: Eating Disorders).
ConclusionDo social stigmas have any useful purpose at all? If we are to look at the definition once again, it contains the words unnecessarily extreme. Protecting oneself is indeed very important and necessary for survival. But not learning to face one’s fears can just be as damaging. Life is filled with so much diversity that sometimes we need to take certain risks in order to have a deeper learning about them for they may contain the necessary information the world has long been searching for, like for example the cure for HIV/AIDS.As social stigmas are deemed unnecessary and extreme, we are being reminded that too much fear should not rule our lives just because they have not been a part of traditional norms.
The social issues related to it are meant to be dealt with positively. This goes not only for big organized groups. In fact it would very much help if every single ordinary person would take this important role by simply “understanding” the people involved. Because no one will ever know. Perhaps the next people to become victims of social stigmas could either be our loved ones or our selves.