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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Challenge Your Stigma: How to Reframe and Revalue Negative Stereotypes and Slurs

  • Author(s): Wang, CS
  • Whitson, JA
  • Anicich, EM
  • Kray, LJ
  • Galinsky, AD
  • et al.

© 2017, © The Author(s) 2017. Stigma devalues individuals and groups, producing social and economic disadvantages through two distinct but reinforcing processes: direct discrimination (e.g., a White person not hiring a Black person based on race) and stigma internalization (e.g., women believing men are more qualified for leadership positions). We review strategies that individuals can use to not only cope with but also challenge their stigma. We discuss how attempts to escape stigma can be effective at the individual level but may leave the stigma itself unchanged or even reinforced. We then identify two ways individuals can reappropriate and take ownership of their stigma to weaken it: reframing and self-labeling. Reframing highlights stereotypic characteristics as assets rather than liabilities—for example, framing stereotypically feminine traits (e.g., social intelligence) as essential for effective negotiations or leadership. Self-labeling involves referring to oneself with a group slur. We discuss ways to utilize these reappropriation strategies as well as how to handle potential pitfalls.

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