Talking About Recycled Water—And Stigmatizing It
The word “stigma” was used by the ancient Greeks to refer to a mark placed on an individual to signify infamy or disgrace—to show, for example, that the bearer was a slave or a criminal. As used today, the word denotes someone “marked” as deviant, flawed, limited, spoiled, or generally undesirable in the view of some observer. When the stigmatizing characteristic is observed, the person is denigrated or avoided. Prime targets for stigmatization are members of minority groups, the aged, homosexuals, drug addicts, alcoholics, and persons afflicted with physical deformities or mental disabilities. In the modern world, stigma has been generalized to products, places, and technologies that are perceived to be unduly dangerous or aesthetically displeasing. The aim of this paper is to introduce water-industry professionals to the concept of stigma and show how their language and communications may contribute to the stigmatization of recycled water facilities and products.