During the times of ancient civilization in Greece, lawbreakers and slaves were branded with a hot iron to portray a sign of failure or disgrace on the individual who was bearing the mark. This process of tattooing an individual was referred to as stigma. In the present times, the term stigma is still used to represent a feeling of shame or disgrace. According to Ervin Goffman, stigma is an essential component in the sociology of deviance. This is because the moment an individual has been labeled as deviant he develops a spoilt identity.
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There are three distinct forms of stigma; physical, tribal and moral stigma. Physical stigma is characterized by either physical or mental impairment like being blind. Moral stigma is characterized by a change in the character of an individual while tribal stigma is characterized by association with a group of individuals who are discredited by the majority in the society. Being gay and a Christian in an Islamic country are examples of moral and tribal stigmas respectively. All these forms of stigma have got one thing in common which is the feeling of separation from other people because of the status of an individual which is seen as being not ideal by the majority. This makes the social life of an individual to become even hard because people do not understand what he/she is going through.
Individuals avoid being stigmatized by using various methods. One method that an individual can use is referred to as passing. In this method, the individual tries to hide the information that brings about stigmatization and tries to interact with the group which was actually the source of discrimination. Light-skinned African Americans had for a long time trying to be identified as white people due to the fact that their skin was lighter in color and thus resembled that of the white man. They wanted to get the respect and the privileges that the white people were enjoying. This mainly occurred during the times before activists started fighting for civil rights for the people. As a result, these African Americans were hiding their real identity as Africans.
Other individuals negotiate their stigmas through In-Group Orientation. In this method, these individuals form associations that fight for their recognition and acceptance by society. This is because some stigmas cannot be concealed thus the passing method cannot be obscured. These individuals also feel that they should not change or hide their attitude, character, or status hence their status should not be perceived as defiant. In some cases, they propose the development of new standards which make their identities to be viewed as normal by societies. In-group orientation can be seen in gay associations, associations of individuals living with HIV and AIDS, groups fighting for women’s rights and so on.
In some cases, an individual may just decide to live comfortably in a manner that is seen as defiant to society. This might be because the individual wants to gain recognition or something of the sort. These people are referred to as outsiders.
I have I friend who really drinks a lot of alcohol. He does this merely because he thinks that it will make him look manly and cool to his other friends. In a real sense, this is not his real character but he has adapted to this new lifestyle and does not care about the consequences. To me, I think he is an outsider who is just trying to gain recognition from society, especially his peers.