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Section 2: Experiencing
Experiencing Stigma
Pages 205-217
Experiencing Stigma
• Privilege: Advantages that are attached to
some statuses
• Stigma: An attribute for which someone is
considered bad unworthy or deeply
– Erving Goffman distinguished between:
• The discreditable-Hidden Stigma
• The discredited-Stigma is Obvious
The Discreditable: “Passing”
• Discreditable: If stigma is hidden, and
individual does not publicly acknowledge their
stigmatized status, then they are able to
– Examples? Why would someone want to “pass”?
The Discreditable: “Passing”
• Inadvertent passing
– Passing occurs by chance as well as choice
– When stigma is hidden, people generally make
assumptions that an individual is part of the “norm”
• I.e.: Gays and Lesbians, Multiracial individuals, Some
disabled people
– Those whose stigma is not apparent have to decide if they want
to reveal their status to others depending on whether or not they
see it as positive or negative in that situation
– When they do reveal their status, the announcement of one’s
stigmatized status moves one from discreditable to discreditedthey are no longer passing
» This can be a tough decision that is faced daily
• Negative vs. positive consequences?
Positive aspects
• Individual is in control over
situation; exerts power
• Controls information, flow
of events, and privacy
• By passing for a period of
time and then revealing
status, this might challenge
people’s prejudices
• Limits exposure to
abuse/bullying and
Negative aspects
• Diminishes possibility of
contact hypothesis
• Passing is time consuming
• Can be hard on one’s energy
and emotions
• Denies others the
opportunity to prove
themselves unprejudiced
The Discredited: The Problems of
• Stigma is apparent/obvious
– The case of race
• The discredited suffer from undue attention and
are subject to being stereotyped and
discriminated against
– Visible stigma is likely to shape interaction in complex
ways, sometimes positive and sometimes negative
• Florence Kennedy: The problem with being black in America
is that you never know whether what happens to you, good
or bad, is because of your talent or because you are black
The Discredited
• W.E.B. Du Bois (1903)-The Souls of Black Folk
– Double Consciousness-The sense of seeing oneself through the
eyes of a harshly critical other
• Objectifying oneself in the eyes of others
– The discredited often feel that they are “on stage” when in a
situation dominated by non-stigmatized people-They are more
closely monitored, receive more attention, and their behavior is
filtered through stereotypes
• Examples?
• Research shows that people react in different ways: Some people will
attempt to behave in ways against stereotypes, while others may take
pride or entertain themselves by overtly playing on stereotypes
The Expectations of Those Who Share
One’s Status
• The discredited often feel that they are a
representative of all members of the category
they occupy
• Members of stigmatized categories may
monitor one another's behavior and may
expect loyalty to the group
– Examples???
Complexities in Understanding
Privilege and Stigma
• 1. Stigma doesn’t always produce disadvantage, it can sometimes
bring benefits, but not as frequently as the benefits that follow
from privilege
• 2. Those with privilege are still affected by stigma, even when they
aren’t stigmatized
• 3. Every individual occupies many master statuses, so we cannot
easily put an individual into one side of the stigmatized-privileged
• 4. Some stigmas are so strong that they cannot cancel out the
privileges that other statuses may provide
• 5.The understanding of what it means to be stigmatized or
privileged changes in the course of a person’s development