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Psychol Sci. 2013 Oct;24(10):2020-9. doi: 10.1177/0956797613482943. Epub 2013 Aug 16.

The reappropriation of stigmatizing labels: the reciprocal relationship between power and self-labeling.

Author information

1
1Department of Management, Columbia Business School, Columbia University.

Abstract

We present a theoretical model of reappropriation--taking possession of a slur previously used exclusively by dominant groups to reinforce another group's lesser status. Ten experiments tested this model and established a reciprocal relationship between power and self-labeling with a derogatory group term. We first investigated precursors to self-labeling: Group, but not individual, power increased participants' willingness to label themselves with a derogatory term for their group. We then examined the consequences of such self-labeling for both the self and observers. Self-labelers felt more powerful after self-labeling, and observers perceived them and their group as more powerful. Finally, these labels were evaluated less negatively after self-labeling, and this attenuation of stigma was mediated by perceived power. These effects occurred only for derogatory terms (e.g., queer, bitch), and not for descriptive (e.g., woman) or majority-group (e.g., straight) labels. These results suggest that self-labeling with a derogatory label can weaken the label's stigmatizing force.

KEYWORDS:

hierarchy; language; power; reappropriation; self-labeling; slurs; social perception; status; stigma

PMID:
23955354
DOI:
10.1177/0956797613482943
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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