Social stigma

Social stigma is a social process based on belief attachments


Social stigma is a belief attachment about another person or group of people based on an existing social or cultural belief or stereotype which creates social division. The outcome of this social division can be anything from a denial of opportunity to suicide. The mechanism of social stigma, created out of fear, ignorance, and emotional insecurity, is a desire for domination and control through the imposition of one's identity, culture and values on another human being.

How social stigma works

Social stigma is a social process which comes out of discrimination (a normal part of the social process) and has an external component (perpetrator) and an internal component (victim). Discrimination is a normal part of the social process where people pick out similarities and differences between themselves and others as a way of getting to know them.

The mechanism of social stigma

Social stigma is a belief attachment which is not too dissimilar to the belief attachments associated with addiction (and some mental illnesses). There is the same base of emotional insecurity but there is also a lack of cultural awareness and ignorance. There is a desire for domination and control of another person or social group based on a social or cultural belief which is based on one or more of the six categories of stigma.

stigma groups

Apart from the category of personal beliefs all the above categories are rooted in personal identity and are characteristics about someone which appear to be fixed and immutable. However personal beliefs also makes up part of someone's identity.

The difference between social stigma and hate

It's this distinction which differentiates social stigma, which is rooted in emotional insecurity and ignorance, from hate which can be based on reasons not connected with someone's identity.

Despite the fact that hate crimes define crimes which are motivated by social stigma, there is a clear difference between hate and social stigma. Hate is an emotion or feeling between two individual people who have a preexisting relationship, intimate knowledge of one another and comes out as a response to separation, a rivalry, or some other negative or traumatic experience. Hate is felt by one person towards one other person. It's got nothing to do with social stigma. It's personal.

There does not need to be any social interaction or relationship between the perpetrator and victim with social stigma, because the division is created by a desire for control or superiority which usually has a cultural or social basis and is somehow tied to that person's identity.

The process of social stigma

Social stigma is a symptom of cultural decline and is a means of either maintaining or creating further social division which can be either part of social engineering or serve as a preliminary to social cleansing. It is a staple means of enforcing control and order in society from politicians, political parties and movements through authoritarianism. This is supported by the media through 'media heroes' and also the placement of people through common purpose (or common core) particularly on the internet and social media.

These people create a sense of fear and division using psychological techniques, such as false flags, psy-ops, code words, false information, and dog whistles (dog whistle politics). But dog whistles are not just political, or found in the media, but can also be found throughout broadcasting and advertising and can even appear in popular TV shows and soap operas. Much of what reality television is really all about is fear motivation and the creation of social stigma.

This conditions people to make comparisons between themselves and others, setting up the broad 'us' and 'them' categories. The process involves de-personalization, status loss and even dehumanization to elicit various social attitudes and behaviour - everything from indifference, avoidance, shunning, denial of opportunities, passive hostility, through to verbal and physical attack.

People who are especially vulnerable to social stigma

On a broader level almost everybody can be affected by social stigma but it generally affects some people more than others.

Arguably the most common form of social stigma is directed towards women, so much so that an examination of how the media and broadcasting treats women can often provide a real education in what social stigma is really all about. It is enough to get hold of a woman's colour or glossy magazine and pick out all the articles and features which seek to create fear, use fear motivation, diminish someone's sense of self-worth, use labels, dog whistles, through which you can get an idea of the reasons and motives for social stigma.

Generally other people can be affected by social stigma if they do not fit in with the socially desirable norms, social privilege and social hierarchy - which is false and artificially manufactured. Such people include people of a different ethnicity or nationality, the mentally ill, people who are affected by poverty, unemployment or underemployment, young people, people with a different sexual orientation, a different gender identity, ex-offenders, the homeless, the elderly, and even, in some cases, wealthy people.

Outcomes and effects of social stigma

The outcomes and effects of social stigma are usually serious and in some cases lethal. Social stigma is the primary characteristic or feature of suicide. External social stigma can very quickly cause internalized social stigma because people develop perceptions and attitudes towards themselves from their social interaction, and this can quickly lead to someone either stigmatizing themselves or choosing to isolate themselves, which can lead to depression, mental illness and social anxiety. Social stigma is a leading cause of social exclusion.

Social stigma is also a very major public threat, both to local communities and society as a whole. It is an unnecessary drain on public services, complicating the work of such people as doctors, social workers, medical professionals, social workers, support workers and many others.