I read this phrase in an article:

"there is a stigma attached to being a female business owner."

What does "a stigma attached to" mean here? And how to use it?


Originally a "stigma" was a mark or blemish on the skin, usually a sign of disgrace as when the mark was the result of punishment for wrongdoing, for example being literally "branded" with a hot iron to show that you were a criminal.

Now "stigma" refers to the reaction of disgust or condescension which other people have when they recognise the mark, because they associate it with disgraceful or dishonourable activity. For example, the heads of disgraced women (traitors, adulterers) were often shaved. Short hair on a woman suggested that she had done something shameful, and she was despised.

In this case the "mark" is any sign that the woman is doing something traditionally reserved for a man - eg wearing trousers or short hair, ordering men around, negotiating on the same level as men.

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The actual physical fact of stigma is forgotten by many speakers who use it figuratively to mean some sort of shame.

They use the phrase attached to to mean "associated with".

There is shame associated with {X}.

That is, those who do {X} feel shame (are made to feel shame, regarded as though they were engaging in unacceptable behavior).

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