The reaction of opponents against the decision then of President Duterte to move tambays (derived from “stand-bys” or loitering freeloaders) off the streets included attempts to de-stigmatize tambays. They say things like “not all tambays are crooks” or “being tambay is not wrong.” But these are not really true because increased number of tambays has been associated with higher crime rates, and it is still related to the freeloading problem of society. And… tambaying is still prohibited since Republic Act 10158 still penalizes loitering.
I know that de-stigmatizing is an attempt to stop hatred of others and to prevent violence against them. But de-stigmatizing efforts can go overboard, often falling to the fallacies of painting with a wide brush or hasty sweeping generalizations. The satirical Tyler-Baines Cadbury post above does carry the spirit of this problem. Same as when a person says, “stop stigmatizing shoplifters, they are poor and have trouble, so stop jailing them.” But the problem is that it comes off as wanting to give impunity to shoplifters. There was this feminazi I encountered in a forum who insisted that other people use “s/he” instead of he and she. The problem with that is they come off wanting to dictate other people. Or someone says, let’s stop jailing people with severe mental illnesses; so if serial killers are diagnosed with serious conditions, like Ed Gein and Ted Bundy, they might be let off the hook and allowed to do more killing.
A while back, we saw the now-infamous woman who wanted to de-stigmatize drug using with the sign “I am a drug user. Will you kill me?” Problem is, that message ended up promoting illegal behavior since narcotic drug use is outlawed. Rather than de-stigmatize, she helped further enforce the stigma. The is the stigma that being a narcotic user means that you are seeking escape without handling your responsibilities and therefore a sign of weakness.
Lately, ABS-CBN is in the news for apparent closure of its business. I’m ambivalent on this issue, so let me just focus on the station’s content. A local showbiz writer said that what ABS-CBN (and other local) shows are intended to de-stigmatize broken families and such. However, there is a risk of going overboard, in that it can cause the abnormal to be considered normal.
For example, shows may impart it’s OK to be a single mom, don’t be sad or oppressed that you’re a bum, do not look down on criminals, etc. But it’s having an unintended effect: inadvertently sanitizing the wrong. For example, single moms will oppose the family with a father present and just demand to be impregnated so they can have a child and own them. This will create a confused family situation. And on being a bum, while one should not be discouraged by it, they should do something to stop being it. If they’re still not looking for work, then they’re looking for trouble. Lastly, why stop looking down on criminals? They’re criminals, they did something to harm society!
Instead of encouraging people to solve problems, TV plot “de-stigmatizations” teach them to embrace the problem. Viewers will think, oh, so there’s no problem being a drunkard or a drug dealer… so let’s get drunk or do crimes because we’ll be loved anyway! It’s better if TV continue to portray a character suffering the consequences when they make a mistake, and help themselves through discontinuing the wrong decisions. That if a poor guy is lazy, they will stay poor; if he decides to get a job and do it well, he should be portrayed as doing well, and not be portrayed as becoming villainous because he is getting rich. And, TV writers should study the laws of our country (a local TV episode had separated parents quarreling over custody of a child, when the law already said the mother automatically has the child upon separation), and should stop making stories that glorify lawbreakers.
The body-positive movement also demonstrates a misguided attempt at de-stigmatization. Telling a person to go in front of a mirror and say to themselves, “I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful,” doesn’t really reduce the depression long term. Instead, it caters to vanity. It can even cause more depression when the person steps out and finds that the world reacts contrarily to their “mirror ritual thoughts.” It actually goes the opposite way from the real solution to esteem problems: just give up the vanity search. It’s better get away from the mirror and think, just keep calm and carry on, and, “I’m OK and happy without all that vanity.” We need to stop the glorification of obesity, as it still has greater health risks. Convincing people to shed off fat is not fat-shaming. Just don’t go extremes either, such as going paper thin. Remember the normal level as health experts recommend.
There are some things that can’t be de-stigmatized, because they’re just wrong. Pedophilia for instance. Someone might say, oh how poor the pedophile is, he just wants love; but that’s the wrong kind of “love,” and it must never be given. But that’s the thing: some de-stigmatizers want to de-stigmatize the wrong things. As a result, they twist right and wrong. There are some things that remain “stigma” simply because they are harmful to people and society.
De-stigmatization efforts need to be rethought. They should stop trying to appeal to emotions and appeal more to reason. The message should be emphasized that you cannot force people to accept you or something that you are trying to de-stigmatize. People should not be punished for not supporting de-stigmatization efforts, as that can be bullying. Seemingly innocent things such as trying to gain acceptance can still run the risk of violating others’ rights.
Remember, many cultures are based on stigmas. You can’t remove the stigma without removing the culture that created it. It starts at the grassroots. The philosophy at its root is the desire to get rid of anything undesirable. Stigma helps identify something undesirable to you can get rid of it later. Unless you remove this philosophy of removing undesirables, you can’t get rid of stigma.
It’s also better to call for more support for the individual rights of people. A stigma can only be broken if a person decides to drop it by themselves – similar to how you let Facebook users decide on what is fake or not for them, and not let anyone else decide for them. Stigma is something you can’t force away in a flash, but is a slow and steady process. One had better be willing to work that long, arduous process to the end. But of course, remember to ask the question: should I really de-stigmatize this thing, or am I twisting right and wrong?
Then you have things like the Blue Collar Logic Youtube channel that says we still need stigma in society. This is because there are still norms to follow, and things that are not normal may need to be dealt with because they may harm us. Norms may change, such as changing of laws promoting racism and violence, but their purpose is to keep society stable and livable.
Even if we want to de-stigmatize or stop violence against perceived deviants, let us not forget what is normal. Changing the norms does not always have good motives, so there is reason to suspect each attempt.
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