Does the stigmatized individual assume his differentness is known about already or is evident on the spot, or does he assume it is neither known about by those present nor immediately perceivable by them? In the first case one deals with the plight of the discredited, in the second with that of the discreditable. This is an important difference.” Erving Goffman, 1963
I don’t have anything new to add to the thoughts I had when I wrote about PTSD in “Trauma Culture: Who’s a Normal Now?” But, I continue to read about PTSD because as someone with it, I believe the more people like me know, the less we suffer. Having PTSD is something I can talk about and give presentations on now, but when I was a student, I kept it a secret because I was concerned about the perception of others. I can speak to the experience of having a stigma that is discredited (I’m a fat, mixed race woman) but I feel that it is the discreditable whose experiences we understand less so.
Being discreditable is having to manage a secret, one that the bearer knows will change others perceptions the moment it hits air. We also know that if we tell our secret publicly, we risk everything. Having PTSD and doing the work of “passing” and concealing trauma impact physical and mental health but also learning and motivation. I came across one of the best pieces I’ve ever read about learned helplessness last week and it’s an important read for teachers and people in healthcare or social work.
And, here’s something for you from an open source, peer-reviewed journal about “Discredited” versus “Discreditable” identities and how those affect health disparities (mental and physical).
Julie Garza-Withers, former award-winning community college Sociology instructor who’s currently using Sociology to organize and research for racial justice in rural northern California. She was a facilitator in the film “If These Halls Could Talk” with Director Lee Mun Wah, and has published at Working Class Studies, and elsewhere.
Julie has a particular interest in class and classism as a form of social stratification, and the role of cussing and anti-intellectualism in stratifying society. A fan of cussing herself, she says she only “Cusses when necessary,” which is often. She considers herself a working class academic because she is a first generation college grad who grew up in rural southern California where her options post-high school included getting married or working at Del Taco and selling tacos to fast food customers until she got married.
Julie has an M.A. from California State University, Chico, where she studied how social class and gender impact work-place conflict between women. She lives in rural northern California with her husband Larry where they enjoy the forest, their dogs, and gardening.
You can follow Julie on twitter where she posts as WorkingClassTeacher, and also check out Julie’s anti-racism work at Rural SURJ of NorCal-Showing Up for Racial Justice. Currently an inactive author, awaiting a poke with a sharp stick.