• Supporting those affected by the misery of stigma and exclusion

The differences between social stigma and bullying

People are often confused between what is social stigma and what is bullying. Nowhere is this confusion more apparent than so-called hate crime legislation which is most often motivated by social stigma, and not hate. This is not to say that hate and bullying cannot be motivated, at least initially by social stigma, or in part motivated by social stigma, as much of the anti-social behaviour commonly asssociated with bullying is pretty much the same as that motivated by social stigma. But there are very clear differences between the two.

While both bullying and social stigma have the same or very similar motivations and motivating factors, i.e. a desire for domination or control over another person, Bullying is usually directed towards someone with whom the bully has some preexisting social interaction and relationship and a very clear conjnection through either a school or the workplace. Social stigma does not require or need any preexisting social contact or prior knowledge of the target, as it is based on assumptions and attachment to an existing social or cultural belief. Most victims of bullying know who their bully is, while someone who has been stigmatized may not know who has stigmatized them or indeed had any prior social contact with them.

While bullying may be motivated by social stigma and similar emotional and psychological reasons it is also motivated by hate which is based on personal knowledge of the target or victim. While social stigma involves similar degrees of antipathy toweards a person or group of people it is motivated much more out of fear or ignorance and is far mroe attached to an existing social or cultural belief, and thus is less personal than bullying. Bullies tend to target specific victims, whereas with social stigma those with the attachment to the social or cultural belief tend to target anyone who fits their negative stereotype.