Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: May 28, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963930 | Print ISBN: 9781412941655 | Online ISBN: 9781412963930 | Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
A stigma is any social marker that refers to a deviation from the norm. It can be a trait that the general population deems unacceptable or undesirable or a mark of disapproval based on undesirable beliefs, ideas, behaviors, or even personal characteristics. Individual societies determine what is acceptable or “normal.” Anything that deviates from the acceptable is stigmatized. What may be a stigma in one society or community at a particular moment in time may be an acceptable attribute in another. The stigmatized are sometimes thought of as deviant, since their stigmas may have caused them to deviate from what are considered to be societal norms. Stigmas are often based on race, ethnicity, culture, social and economic status, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and even educational attainment. For example, racial/ethnic minorities, people from non-Western cultures, the poor and/or working class, women, non-heterosexuals, non-Protestant Christians, and people with less than a college ...