Title

I Hate My Voice: Coming to Terms With Bodily Stigmas

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1998

Keywords

Ethnography, Autoethnography, Narrative, Stigma, Bodily Stigmas, Minor Bodily Stigmas, Imperfections, Arts and Humanities, Communication, Health Communication, Quantitative, Qualitative, Comparative, and Historical Methodologies, Social History, Social Psychology and Interaction, Sociology

Abstract

This article presents a narrative, autoethnographic, theoretical account of the public and private negotiation of “minor bodily stigmas,” which are mild physical “imperfections” that make us fear we stand out and might be rejected. To examine the situated complexity of stigmatized identity, I tell a story that shows concrete interactional details of an episode in which minor bodily stigmas evolved into a significant topic of conversation between strangers. My personal narrative explores the felt experience of minor bodily stigmas from the perspective of the experiencing and interacting holder. Thus, my work problematizes Erving Goffman's sociological approach to stigmas, which examines inclusively all forms of stigmas from a distanced observational stance of beholder that privileges the outsider perspective of how others see us. Using minor bodily stigmas as a heuristic category, I emphasize how they are experienced as a double bind in interaction (to notice or not to notice) and a double bind in personal feelings (of moral character as well as physical appearance). I seek to connect theoretical and categorical understandings of minor bodily stigmas to their concrete felt experience in day-to-day life in order to examine possibilities for resisting and reframing stigmas in everyday life.