Custom «Response Paper: Stigma» Essay Paper Sample

Response Paper: Stigma


Stigma pertains to a predicament where an individual is disqualified from full social acceptance. The stigma bearers ought to be concerned of what others think and internalize the social norms they have digressed from in an attempt to manage their disgrace. Therefore, stigma management is related to the ways, in which dishonored people protect their sense of self as they strive to gain social acceptance. The paper will define and discuss Goffman’s understanding of stigma management. It will also illustrate the responses using examples from specified articles.


Stigma encapsulates an abomination of the body, blemishes of an individual character as well as the tribal stigma of race, nation and religion (Goffman 4). Stigma management involves different strategies that people embrace while dealing with it. Stigmatized individuals attempt to manage stigmatization by trying to correct the objective basis of their failing. Moreover, they can improve the situation indirectly by devoting much private effort to other areas of activities. For instance, in Roschelle and Kaufman’s study, homeless kids aspire to conform to societal norms and create a harmonious atmosphere with their peers and strangers (Roschelle and Kaufman 31). Thus, this shows their struggle to establish self-legitimization in a hostile and supportive environment.

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Goffman also indicates that a stigmatized person might feel that a social situation facilitates anxious unanchored interactions, and this might make them aggressive or shamefaced. Therefore, the relationships of a normal person and a stigmatized one within a public institution can hardly be called harmonious. For example, Roschelle and Kaufman specify that the homeless kids also embrace strategies of exclusion, which encapsulate aggressive and forceful attempts to blend in. The methods do not aim at creating a warm atmosphere (Roschelle and Kaufman 31).Furthermore, Goffman notes that individuals with a particular stigma faced similar learning experiences pertinent to their plight and this is the essence of moral career (Goffman 32). It is the stage where people realize that they possess a particular stigma and become aware of the ramifications of owning it. They also incorporate the sentiments of the normal public and acquire identity beliefs in the wider society. An example is the situation when individuals behave as if they are not a part of the stigmatized group, which is the essence of dissociation.

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Goffman also acknowledges the case of those personalities who become stigmatized later in life. However, such individuals have already experienced the dynamics of normal and disgraced people even before stigma makes them deficient and discreditable. Moreover, such humans face difficulties while re-identifying themselves. As a result, they develop self-disapproval (Goffman 34). However, the re-identification aspect is based on the social context as well as the nature of public institutions. For example, in Kanuha’s study, gay individuals choose to pass with some people in certain situations out of respect. It happens because they try not to disrupt the lives of those close to them (Kanuha 33).

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Having acquired the normal point of view and having realized that he is disqualified according to it, a stigmatized person undergoes the next phase of learning to cope with the manner, in which others treat and perceive him. However, there are some individuals, who manage their stigma through the construction of a social interaction strategy such as passing (Goffman 80). It involves the presentation of oneself as a different person as this becomes the defense mechanism of fighting oppression. In this regard, the stigmatized people develop a false realistic appreciation where they focus less on the stigmatizing affliction and more on the society’s acquisition (Goffman 81). Consequently, this leads to the partitioning of an individual’s world into black places and forbidden civilization where each region is embedded on different contingencies so as to manage social and personal identity. Therefore, there is an impression that sociologists do not acknowledge stigma if the stigmatizing affliction possessed by an individual is known to no one.

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However, there are incidents where passed stigmatized individuals find the need to reveal discrediting information pertinent to their predicament. For example, a wife of a mental patient is collecting her husband’s unemployment insurance. The situation becomes difficult because individuals have to substantiate their life further (passing) while preventing a given disclosure. As a result, they develop adaptive techniques (Goffman 83). Therefore, the phenomenon of passing implies that the passer must pay a great psychological price and be subjected to high anxiety levels, which can have adverse consequences. Hence, this can be attributed to the fact that such people live a life that can collapse at any moment. An example of such ramifications is the feeling of disloyalty and self-contempt (Goffman 87).

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Stigmatized individuals also opt to use the passing strategy of presenting signs of their failing as symbols of another attribute. In most cases, the attribute is less significant to the stigma. For instance, the mental defectives embrace the strategy of passing as mental patients because they think that the latter is the lesser of social evils. For example, in Kanuha’s article, gay men attempt to appear more masculine as they believe this makes them more heterosexually male and less gay (Kanuha 32). The motivation behind such people is the matter of risk and safety.


Social stigma is any aspect of an individual’s identity that is devalued in a social context. Stigma management is a technique used to cope with a discredited selfhood. A well-known stigma management strategy is passing where people conceal their origins or downplay them. The issue with passing is that individuals exhibit false characteristics that do not depict their real personalities. However, it would also be important to pay attention to the process through which stigma management methods lead to the acquisition of attributes that spoil one’s identity.

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