What is social stigmatism?
Social stigmatism is a strong aversion to personal characteristics that do not follow the general norm of the locality. These come in a wide verity of forms, such as; religion, ethnicity, disabilities and sexual orientation. As stigma falls into three categories no one is excluded from this generalised grouping of people.
The three categories
The first is external deformation, this is where differences that can be seen. This includes scars, marks caused by illness, issues related to weight and disabilities i.e. those that are bound to a wheel chair.
The next is flaws in ones personal habits; such as addiction and criminal acts.
And the last category is known as tribal stigma. This relates to people of ethnicity, religion and nationality; all of which do not follow the popular trend.
Stigma can be closely related to stereotyping where we label people by few or many characteristic commonly found in certain groups. For example all Chinese people are good at martial arts or blondes have a low IQ. As you can see from the two examples stereotyping is seldom accurate and more often than not it is in favour of the negative; blondes have a low IQ.
Sociologists believe that this form of grouping is an essential part of human nature. By quickly accessing the situation and recognising the potential threats through labelling, we avoid endangering ourselves. Each locality sets their own traits based on the general beliefs of those within it. This variation in opinion can be found within a country, state and even town or city where individual social groups form their own opinions.
In applying stigmas we alienate certain people from our society, finding them undesirable to mix with. Then by forcing upon them our negative beliefs many feel that they are obliged to live up to what is expected of them. This is what physiologist call a ‘self fulfilling prophecy.’ When a general belief is repeatedly forced on an individual or a group they are more likely to act upon it. For example when we say, ‘all naughty children under achieve’ we encourage the child perform poorly for they believe this is what is expected of them. However these negatives can be reversed. By recognising desirable qualities we encourage the same to be expressed.
We can see in society today that when stigma is applied it is almost always followed by rival disputes. This leads to protest, demonstrations and in severe cases riots, where innocent people are killed when they have falsely been labelled with undesirable traits. A well known example of this would be the persecution of the Jewish people by the Nazis.
History is filled with examples of social stigmatism of this nature; however, we find it still a reoccurring part of daily society. Therefore the only way to change this is to enforce positive traits to be acknowledged and avoid elevating the negative.
Stereotypes effect people in all aspects of their day to day life and are not just based on the how they are treated in their leisure time. It has been noted that people with disabilities are often disqualified from certain jobs were employers feel, that due to their physical disadvantages, they are unable to perform the duties of the role. Women within, what is called, the child baring period, are also marginalised when applying for work as there is a belief that the company may see them taking maternity leave in the near future. Where there are laws to prevent this kind of discrimination employers find alternative reasons not to hire someone.
Once a stigma has been applied the effects generally lead to a loss of status and discrimination. Whereas it is not commonly believed that this is solely due to stigmatism, it can be found as an unavoidable factor. This is because the labelled party is now socially disadvantaged.
Government and fear
Stigma has been publicly discouraged by the government through certain programs to improve the country we live. However, personal views have a way of expressing themselves.
During the late 1940s to the late 1950s in America the fear of communist influence led the government to persuade civilians to announce anyone they suspected of being involved in the party. This led to neighbours turning in those of their own community without any proof but expressing ideas that differed from their own.
We see the same pattern arise throughout history once again and even in our own time our government has announced a confidential hotline to turn in suspected terrorist. Where this initiative could prove to be vital tool for recuperating society, there will still be many led to use it to discriminate and isolate certain groups which in turn, through media attentions, enforces the stigmas that rule over us all.
As long as the root cause to negative stigma is fear we will continue to see segregation in our communities. But when the fear is removed, the labels are also taken away and communities work together for their best interests. However, when minority sects set a general opinion for others to believe, this is unlikely to change anytime soon.