• Supporting those affected by the misery of stigma and exclusion

External social stigma

By external social stigma we are referring to social stigma from the person assigning the stigma to a target person or group of people from the position of assumed privilege or power. If you want to find out about social stigma from the perspective or position of the stigmatized person or group of people we refer to this as internal social stigma. The difference is that external social stigma is usually directed towards someone else, and internal social stigma is usually an effect of social stigma where the stigmatized person or group of people stigmatize themselves.

The motivation for external social stigma is a desire for domination and control over another human being for different reasons. These reasons include a desire to access social, economic or political power, otherwise known as social privilege, emotional insecurity relating to one's own social position and economic status, fear, ignorance, emotional insecurity from cultural changes which are taking place too rapidly, it could be a response to cultural decline or social fragmentation, or it could be motivated by a desire to conform and fit in with an authoritarian government or control system.

There are various factors involved in external social stigma, which can be charactized as an attachment to an existing social or cultural belief for the purposes of achieving power or a sense of privlege over another person. Often this is done to achieve access to a greater degree of social, economic or political power. T^here is the over simplification of people into broad categories, labels and stereotypes which is used to create a sense of division and separation into 'us' and 'them' categories. Then there is the status loss, othering and assumption of privilege over the target which creates a division between privilege and marginalization. The attachment to the existing social or cultural belief is defended even to the point of placing someone else sharing the same 'privileged' characteristics who stands up for the marginalized or stigmatized person in the same 'them' category as the stigmatized person themselves.

Social stigma takes place on the basis of existing social and cultural beliefs which are shared between people who have no connection with one another, either socially or otherwise. Attitudes and social behaviour shown towards those stigmatized or marginalized vary between indifference, shunning and avoidance to passive hostility, unfriendliness, and even verbal and physical attacks.

Social stigma creates and maintains social divisions which can be extremely difficult to overcome. One such example is the ignorance shown by those who have greater access to social, economic and political power towards people who are much more disadvantaged, marginalized and affected by poverty or inequality. There is a widespread social belief that wealth and a better material status is achieved through hard work and effort when in reality is it also dependent very much on social mobility and opportunity. As a result of this belief, which is widespread those who are better off find it hard to envisage, let alone empathize, with those who are much worse off.