The Positive and Negative Uses of Stigmatization

stigmaTo stigmatize is to “describe or regard [someone] as worthy of disgrace or great disapproval.”1 For good or ill, stigmatization puts pressure on an individual to conform to societal values of right and wrong. While certain stigmas are necessary to prevent harm to innocent people, stigmatizing labels can be used to silence free speech. If you are going to stigmatize someone, you need to have proof that they are guilty of wrong behavior. Otherwise, you may be slandering them.

Stigmatization involves a value judgment of right and wrong. When a behavior is stigmatized, a person who engages in the behavior may be called a stigmatizing name. The resulting feelings of guilt and/or shame become a deterrent against repeating the behavior. Calling someone a stigmatizing name is a form of social pressure, so they will change how they act, at least publicly. Thus, for good or ill, stigmatization is a means of social control: “the enforcement of conformity by society upon its members…”2

When a behavior is no longer stigmatized, people are more likely to engage in the behavior. For example, in previous generations, women were shamed for having children out of wedlock. Today, that stigma has largely been removed, and a much higher percentage of women have children without getting married. In 1940, 3.8% of all births were to unmarried women.3 However, by 2014, the percentage had risen to 40.2%.4 While there are numerous reasons for this social change, the removal of the stigma against out-of-wedlock births is a significant factor.

Many stigmas are justified, especially if the behavior is harmful to other people. One example is Islamophobia, defined as “dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims.”5 If someone expresses hatred or contempt for Muslims, it is fair and accurate to call them an Islamophobe. A social stigma against hatred serves an important function in society: If public declarations of hatred become widespread, it could result in violence against innocent people.

While a social stigma against hatred is justified, stigmatizing labels can be used to silence someone with a different point of view. For instance, a person can be called Islamophobic if they say anything critical of Islam. Islam is a religion, a set of beliefs and practices, and should not be immune from criticism. To disagree with the teachings of Islam is not the same as hating Muslims. Calling someone an Islamophobe because they are critical of Islam is bully behavior, an attempt to discourage them from exercising their right to free speech.

If you call someone a stigmatizing name, you need to be certain that they are guilty of the stigmatized behavior. During the 2016 President election, Hillary Clinton stigmatized millions of Americans who supported Donald Trump. She said, “You can put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables… Racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, you name it.”6 Without citing any evidence, Clinton implied that 50 percent of Trump supporters hated minorities, immigrants, women, homosexuals, and Muslims. This was not only a false accusation, but an insult to millions of American voters.

If declared publicly, calling someone a stigmatizing name can be a form of slander: “oral defamation, in which someone tells one or more persons an untruth about another…”7 Unless a person expresses hatred or contempt for a group of people, they should not be called racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, or Islamophobic. If you are incorrect in your judgment, you have slandered the person, damaging their public reputation.

When a person is stigmatized, it creates a public perception that they are a bad person. For this reason, no one should be stigmatized unless they do something bad without showing any regret or remorse. Whenever possible, a person should be corrected gently if they are guilty of wrong behavior; however, stigmatizing labels can be effective when they will not listen to reason. The proper goal of stigmatization is to make a person face the truth about their behavior, so they will stop doing what is wrong.

Notes

  1. Oxford Dictionaries, s.v. “Stigmatize,” accessed November 10, 2016, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/stigmatize
  2. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House Inc. s.v. “Social Control,” accessed November 13, 2016, http://www.dictionary.com/browse/social-control
  3. Stephanie J. Ventur and Christine A. Bachrach, Nonmarital Childbearing in the United States, 1940–99, National Vital Statistics Reports, October 2000, 17, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr48/nvs48_16.pdf
  4. Brady E. Hamilton, National Vital Statistics Reports, December 2015, 41, http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr64/nvsr64_12.pdf
  5. Oxford Dictionaries, s.v. “Islamophobia,” accessed November 10, 2016, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/islamophobia
  6. Dan Merica and Sophie Tatum, “Clinton expresses regret for saying ‘half’ of Trump supporters are ‘deplorables’,” CNN, September 12, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/09/politics/hillary-clinton-donald-trump-basket-of-deplorables/index.html
  7. Law.com, s.v. “Slander,” accessed August 10, 2017, http://dictionary.law.com/Default.aspx?selected=1969

Three Reasons to Delay Sex Until Marriage: The Other Boleyn Girl (2003)

003486_dvd_the_other_boleyn_girl_bbcIn Philippa Lowthorpe’s The Other Boleyn Girl (2003), Anne Boleyn (Jodhi May) wants to marry King Henry VIII (Jared Harris) and become Queen of England. Although Henry wants to have sex with Anne before they are married, she refuses for three reasons: to avoid a pregnancy, to increase Henry’s desire for her, and to give him an incentive to marry her.

Anne’s refusal to sleep with Henry is not because of any moral objections. She previously had sex with Lord Henry Percy (Oliver Chris) when he promised to marry her. Rather, her concern is the risk of a pregnancy, which would prevent her from becoming queen. A year earlier, her sister Mary (Natascha McElhone), a married woman, was Henry’s mistress, but after she became pregnant he abandoned her. Anne tells Mary: “I do not intend to be the king’s whore. I will be his queen.” In 16th century England, a king could never marry a woman who had a child out of wedlock.

A second reason Anne refuses to have sex with Henry is to increase his desire for her. She also flirts with him, kisses him, and dresses provocatively to entice him. Her refusal to have sex is a risk because Henry could move on and pursue another woman; however, Anne’s gambit pays off: Henry desires her even more and falls in love with her.

Anne’s actions show how a woman can test a man’s love for her. If she doesn’t want to have sex before marriage, and the man she loves leaves her, it proves that sex was more important to him than a relationship. If he loved her unconditionally, he would be willing to wait.

Anne is unable to make Henry wait until their wedding night to make love, but she does make him wait over two years, just prior to their wedding. This shows how delaying sex can give a man an incentive to get married. Anne’s decision to remain chaste motivates Henry to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon (Yolanda Vazquez). If Anne had slept with Henry right away, he would have had no reason to annul his marriage. She would have been his mistress but never his wife.

In the end, Anne’s marriage to Henry implodes because it wasn’t founded on companionship. She married him because of her ambition to be queen, and Henry married her so she could bear him a son. He claimed he loved Anne, but he was not faithful to her. Anne should have known that a man who would have an affair with her sister would also cheat on her. Needless to say, Henry was not a good choice for a husband. When Anne could not bear him a son, he had her executed.

The Pig Who Loved Mud Wrestling: A Short Story

muddy-pigLong ago, in a land far away, a young boar named Bart went to a Swine Party. In villages and towns, a Swine Party—usually held in a large barn—is where young single pigs went to meet.

As soon as Bart walked through the front door of the barn, one sow standing alone in the corner caught his eye. She had pink ears, a pink snout, a perky pink tail, and she was wearing a pretty pink dress. Her name was Wilma.

His heart racing, Bart walked up to her and asked, “Will you dance with me? You’re the prettiest pig I’ve ever seen!”

Wilma blushed and said, “Sure I will!”

Then Bart, offering Wilma his forearm, walked her to the dance floor.

In the center of the barn, a three-boar band was playing hillbilly music with a banjo, fiddle, and drums. The dance floor encircled the band, and dozens of sows and boars were stomping and swinging to the beat.

After dancing for seven straight songs, Bart and Wilma were sweating from head to hoof.

“I need to take a break,” Bart said, out of breath.

“Okay,” Wilma laughed. “You sit down, but I’m just getting started!”

Bart sat on a bench beside several other boars, and watched Wilma dance, shaking her body and stomping her hooves on the dance floor.

After that night, nature took its course, and six months later, Bart and Wilma got married.

For their honeymoon, Bart took Wilma to a resort with hot springs and mud baths. On their first night, when they were sitting up to their necks in mud, Wilma said, “Ever since I was a little pig, I’ve wanted to be a mother.”

Bart smiled and said slyly, “Ever since I met you, I’ve wanted to make some little piggies!” And then he grabbed Wilma and carried her out of the mud bath.

Following their honeymoon, Wilma and Bart bought a barn just outside their village. It was a small barn with four bedrooms and a loft, but big enough for them to start a family.

Bart had a job in a corn mill, grinding corn with his feet ten hours a day. Wilma stayed at home, made the meals, and planted a garden; and three months after they were married, she gave birth to twelve healthy piglets.

Bart and Wilma were a happy family. Bart worked hard and was promoted to boss-hog. Five years went by, and their piglets became full-grown. And then, as all young pigs must eventually do, they moved out, got married, and lived in their own barns.

The day after the last pig left, Wilma was sitting with Bart at the kitchen table, when she said sadly, “Our barn feels so empty without our little piglets.”

“I know,” Bart sighed. “What’s life all about? What’s the meaning?”

Wilma thought for a moment and said, “We’ll both grow old together, go for long walks, and enjoy each other’s company.”

“Yes,” Bart said, forcing a smile. “Until death do a pig part.” But in his heart, that didn’t sound very exciting.

One Friday after work, Bart was trudging home, when Fred, a boar he worked with, caught up with him. Fred was middle-aged and divorced.

“Hey, Bart! You want to go to mud wrestling tonight?”

Bart shook his head. “I don’t think Wilma would approve.”

“She doesn’t need to know. Just make up an excuse.”

Bart thought it over and grinned. “What the heck? Every boar deserves to have a little fun now and again.”

Fred slapped Bart on the back. “You got that right! You won’t be the same pig after tonight.”

Bart went home, and after supper, he told Wilma: “I’m going to play cards tonight with Fred and some of the boars from work.”

“Okay,” Wilma said. “But please be home by eleven. You know I get worried if you’re out too late.”

“I’ll be home on time,” Bart promised, and then he and Wilma rubbed their snouts together.

After dinner, Bart met up with Fred at a place called The Mud Pie. It was a sand pit with a large pool of mud in the center and stadium seating on one side. A hundred other boars were there, and most of them were drinking swill. Fred bought tickets for the front row, and he and Bart bought a bottle of hogwash.

Not long after Fred and Bart sat down, a massive boar, holding a hammer, struck a bronze gong beside the pool of mud, and the first match began. Two young sows came out of separate tents in the corner of the pit. They were both very beautiful, had shaved bodies, and weren’t wearing any clothes.

Fred said excitedly, “Look at the ham on the short one! Oh, yeah!”

“I like the tall one better,” Bart blurted. Then he counted. “She’s got twenty teats!”

The two sows walked around the pool of mud, taunting each other with angry stares, and when they wiggled their rumps, all the boars roared.

The two young sows pushed, slapped, and tried to trip each other until they both fell down and rolled around in the mud. Each sow scored a point when they pinned their opponent. The match lasted for a half an hour, and Bart enjoyed every minute of it. He felt like a young boar again, grunting and squealing at the top of his lungs.

After that, there were three more matches. When the wrestling was over, Bart thanked Fred for inviting him and hurried home to Wilma.

He found her sitting on the bench in the living room, pigging out on a bowl of buttered corn. “Did you have a good time with your boar friends?” she asked.

“I sure did!” Bart said, his face beaming.

Then he grabbed Wilma, and he tried to pick her up, but she was too heavy. So he offered her his forearm, walked her into the bedroom, and they made wild pig love.

The weeks went by, and every Friday, Bart went with Fred to mud wrestling. One night, after he got home, he said to Wilma, “I think we should start exercising.”

She frowned. “Why? Do you think I’m fat?”

Wilma and Bart’s jowls had tripled in size since they first met. They were both fat pigs.

“Not at all,” Bart said. “But we’re getting older. If we don’t exercise, we might get — heart disease.”

Wilma exploded in anger. “I work hard in the garden, walk to the market every day, and you think I’m a fat, lazy pig! I hate you!”

Bart tried to stay calm. “That’s not what I said, Wilma.”

“That’s what you’re thinking.” Then Wilma started crying, ran to the bedroom, and locked the door.

No matter what Bart said, Wilma wouldn’t change her mind. She didn’t want to exercise, and she was hurt and angry every time Bart suggested it.

So Bart exercised on his own. He lost a lot of weight, lifted sacks of corn, and became really buff.

The weeks went by, and Bart continued to go to mud wrestling with Fred. One Friday, after the final match, he was about to go home when Sally Strong—the number-one wrestler—sashayed up to him. She wore a beautiful red dress, and reminded Bart of Wilma when she was younger.

“Hi there,” Sally said. “I see you here every week.”

“I come to see you!” Bart said with a big grin. “You’re an amazing wrestler.”

“You should be a wrestler. You’ve got the muscles for it.”

“Yeah, I’ve thought about it,” Bart said offhandedly, “but I’m happy doing what I’m doing.”

“What do you do?”

“I’m a boss-hog at the corn mill.”

“I like a boar who can command other boars,” Sally said, fluttering her eyes.

“I am a powerful pig!” Bart boasted. “Look at these.” And then he flexed his chest muscles.

Sally giggled. “Ooh! My tail is wiggling!”

Bart and Sally talked for a while, and then she asked, “Do you want to get a glass of swill?”

“Sure I do!” Bart said.

They walked to the Wild Boar Inn, sat at the bar, and drank several glasses of swill. Then, at one in the morning, Bart realized how late it was.

“Whoa, I gotta go!”

“Oh,” Sally said, disappointed. “Will I see you again?”

“Maybe. Probably. I’m not sure.” And then Bart put money on the table and ran home.

When he unlocked the barn door, Wilma was sitting at the kitchen table, wrapped in a blanket. “Where were you?!” she asked angrily.

“I—uh… Fred and I had a few glasses of swill at the Wild Boar.”

“Is that the truth?”

“Yes, what did you think I was doing?”

Wilma frowned. “You can sleep in the loft tonight.”

“If that’s what you want.”

“It’s what you deserve—for being so inconsiderate.”

Then Wilma trotted to the bedroom and locked the door.

The next morning, Bart and Wilma didn’t eat breakfast together, and when he came home after work, they barely talked to each other.

That night, Bart decided he would sleep again in the loft.

“I think I’ll sleep better tonight if I have my own bed,” he explained to Wilma. “I’m getting older, and I toss and turn when I sleep.”

Wilma sighed. “Sleep wherever you want.”

For the next week, Bart continued to sleep in the loft. Then on Friday, after the first wrestling match at The Mud Pie, he said to Fred: “I’ve got to be honest with Wilma.”

“Are you crazy? She’ll kick you out of the barn. That’s what my wife did.”

Bart shook his head. “I’m not going to tell her about mud wrestling.”

“What are you going to tell her?”

Bart didn’t answer Fred. He got up and left, and as soon as he got home, he went into Wilma’s bedroom. She was sitting on the bed in her pink pajamas, reading a book.

“You’re home early,” she said.

“Wilma, I’ve decided something.”

“Oh? What?” Wilma asked, a nervous expression on her face.

“I want to live on my own.”

“What?!” Wilma said, her face stricken. “Why?”

“We’ve grown apart. I don’t love you anymore.”

“You’re seeing another sow!” Wilma yelled. “Who is she?”

“I’m not seeing anyone,” Bart said, and then he left the room and packed his things in a sack.

Before Bart left, he went back to Wilma’s bedroom and said, “I’ll send you some money—until you can make it on your own.”

“I don’t need anything from you!” Wilma said with contempt, but after Bart was gone, she broke down and cried.

The next day, Bart rented a small barn; he started seeing Sally, and he soon discovered that she was totally different than Wilma.

Bart and Wilma often went for walks in the woods, but Sally liked to run through the fields and wrestle with him, and he got a sore back.

On weekends, Bart and Wilma went to sleep before midnight, but Sally liked to party until sunrise, and Bart felt exhausted when he went to work.

When Bart got home from work, Wilma always had a hot supper waiting for him—corn, potatoes, or onions—but Sally didn’t know how to cook, so they went to a cook-house to eat.

Although Sally earned a lot of money as a wrestler, she wasn’t a smart shopper like Wilma, and didn’t save anything. She often asked Bart if he could buy her new clothes.

The weeks went by, and Bart woke up one morning and realized how much he missed Wilma. So that same day after work, he went to see her and knocked on her door.

Wilma opened the door and said calmly, “Hello, Bart.”

“Hi, Wilma,” Bart replied, and then he just stood there, not knowing what to say.

“Is there something you want?” Wilma finally asked.

“Wilma, I made a mistake.” Bart said sadly. “I love you, and I’d like to come back. Will you forgive me?”

“It’s too late for that,” Wilma sighed.

An old boar with white hair came to the door and put his arm around Wilma.

“Bart,” Wilma said. “This is William.”

Bart was shocked. “You have a boar-friend?”

“Yes,” Wilma said with a smile. “We met a month ago.”

“At a Senior’s Swine Party,” William said.

“But he’s old,” Bart said, wide-eyed.

“Yes; and I’m fat,” Wilma said.

“She makes me feel young again,” William said with a big grin. “She’s full of energy and spunk.”

Bart couldn’t argue with that.

So Bart left, went back to his barn, and he asked Sally to move in with him. Day after day, he tried to change her, but she was who she was.

And six months later, Wilma married William, an old boar who loved her just as she was.

Image Credit: https://www.livescience.com/13953-pigs-evolved-mud-wallowing.html

The Consequences of Acting on Impulse: Psycho (1960)

psychoAn impulse is “a sudden strong and unreflective urge or desire to act.”1 In Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) makes an impulsive decision: She steals $40,000 from Tom Cassidy (Frank Albertson), and plans to run away. The film shows how acting on impulse can have consequences that are devastating.

Marion steals $40,000 to solve a problem in her relationship with Sam Loomis (John Gavin). She wants to marry him, but he won’t marry her because he can barely support himself financially. With a struggling business and obligated to pay alimony to his ex-wife, he can’t provide for her if she wants to have children. Marion takes the money because she believes it will give her and Sam financial freedom. In 1960, $40,000 was a small fortune, worth $330,437.84 today.2

When Marion goes on the run, she doesn’t consider the consequences. However, the following day, she imagines what the likely consequences might be. After reflecting on her decision, Marion decides to go home and give the money back. When a person takes time to think about the possible consequences, they are more likely to make a wise choice.

Unfortunately, Marion’s impulsive decision has consequences that are unforeseeable. During a rainstorm, she stops by chance at the Bates Motel, and meets Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). Her tragic death serves as a warning: Bad things can happen to good people when they make one bad choice. Marion is an innocent victim, but if she hadn’t taken the money, she never would have met Norman, a “psycho” who is controlled by violent impulses.

Marion’s actions reveal three reasons why people make impulsive decisions: They have an overpowering desire; they act quickly, and don’t think logically. While it is possible to make an impulsive decision, and not suffer any negative consequences, the individual who fails to think before acting risks making a serious mistake. There is, however, a silver lining to acting on impulse. If the consequences are negative, you may learn a lesson that you will never forget.

Notes

  1. Oxford Living Dictionaries, s.v. “impulse,” accessed July 4, 2017, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/impulse
  2. US Inflation Calculator, accessed July 4, 2017, http://www.usinflationcalculator.com/