Stigmatization was described by Erwing Goffman as a discrediting process which strikes an individual who is considered as "abnormal" or "deviant". He/she is reduced to this single characteristic in other people’s eyes.
This “label” justifies a range of social discriminations and even exclusion. Stigmatized individuals then shape themselves based on these rejections by developing a self-devaluation, impairing their body image and legitimizing these negative judgments most often irreversibly.
Erwing Goffman himself had not studied obesity stigmatization. We owe this first definition to W. Cahnman.
By stigmatization, we mean rejection and disgrace associated to what is seen (obesity) as a physical distortion and a behavioral aberration (Cahnman, 1968).
Many authors have studied the social impact of stigmatization by showing how a number of negative behaviors toward obese people can be transformed into real discrimination. Statistically significant correlations have been shown between obesity and:
- access to higher education (Canning and Mayer, 1966),
- access to employment (Matusewich, 1983, Benson et coll, 1980),
- income level (McClean and Moon, 1980),
- professional advancement (Hinkle et coll, 1968),
- domestic life (Karris, 1977, Myers and Rosen, 1999).
Making judgements starts very early in life. Three-year old children already make stigmatizing judgments. (Cramer and Steinwert, 1998). Studies made by Jean-Pierre Poulain confirm these results, as well as those made by Jean-François Amadieu on employment discriminations.
These negative behaviors are widespread even among medical practitioners:
Numerous American studies confirm the stigmatization process by medical and paramedical staff in the health institutions (Maddox et coll., 1968 ; Price et coll., 1987 ; Najman and Munro, 1982 ; Myers and Rosen, 1999), and also among medical students (Blumberg and Mellis, 1985).
Numerous accounts of this situation in here in France confirm this trend, although a change seems to have appeared over the last years. The prevailing epidemiological position labeling obesity as a deviance encourages stigmatization indirectly, but significantly.
The prevention position, although well-intentioned, is massively reinforced by media which serves as a sounding board. Fears of obesity risk factors are constantly brought up, and slimness and thinness images are promoted at the same time. All of this depicts obesity in a strictly negative way.
- Dernière mise à jour: 19/11/15 16:53