The Reappropriation of Stigmatizing Labels: The Reciprocal Relationship between Power and Self-Labeling
Coauthor(s): Galinsky, A. D., Wang, C. S., Whitson, J. A., Anicich, E. M., Hugenberg, K., & Bodenhausen, G. (Psychological Science, 2013)
The current research presents and tests 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 establish 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 willingness to self-label with a derogatory term for one's group. We then examined the consequences of self-labeling for both the self and observers. Self-labelers felt more powerful after self-labeling and observers perceived self-labelers and their group as more powerful. Finally, the label was evaluated less negatively after self-labeling and this stigma attenuation was mediated by perceived power. Importantly, these effects only occurred for derogatory terms (e.g., queer, bitch) but not for descriptive (e.g., LGBT, woman) or majority group labels (e.g., straight). These results suggest that self-labeling with a derogatory label can weaken its stigmatizing force.
Galinsky, A. D., Wang, C. S., Whitson, J. A., Anicich, E. M., Hugenberg, K., & Bodenhausen, G. (Psychological Science, 2013) "The Reappropriation of Stigmatizing Labels: The Reciprocal Relationship between Power and Self-Labeling." Psychological Science 24, no.10 (2013): 2020-2029.