Stigma, Deviance, and Social Control
One reason why it is difficult to approach the study of stigma with much confidence is that there are so many kinds. Consider just a short list: old age, paralysis, cancer, drug addiction, mental illness, shortness, being black, alcoholism, smoking, crime, homosexuality, unemployment, being Jewish, obesity, blindness, epilepsy, receiving welfare, illiteracy, divorce, ugliness, stuttering, being female, poverty, being an amputee, mental retardation, and deafness. One of the few common denominators of these characteristics may be that all of them generate ridicule and scorn. However, there is another, more important reason why the study of stigma must be approached cautiously. Conceptualization and use of the term have been so vague and uncritical that one may reasonably ask: What is a stigma? To many, the answer is simply a “flaw,” “shortcoming,” “blemish,” or “taint,” but that answer does little except to imply that stigmas are opprobrious.
KeywordsSocial Control Ideal Person Physical Attractiveness Normative Belief Conceptual Issue
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