Thanks to the current political climate, most of us are well aware of the existence of the “isms”: racism, sexism, heterosexism. While these isms are often interconnected, there is one that is rarely addressed: classism.
In order to address this ism and what happens to those whose daily lives are affected by it, we need to bring classism into our conversations about injustice, just like the other isms. Read below to find out what it is, how it works, and what you can do:
WHAT IS IT?
Classism is defined as a prejudice or discrimination against or in favor of people based on their social class-–aka we treat some people better, and others worse based on their economic position within society.
In the US, the ideologies of capitalism and individualism associate wealth with success and hard work. This ignores the fact that not everyone is born with the same opportunities. Initial inequalities are not easy to overcome, yet ideas like “The American Dream” and the false promise that it is equally available to everyone, works to invalidate the experiences of people who have to work twice as hard for the same results. When a lack of money is blamed on individuals rather than the social systems that perpetuate the huge income gaps, responsibility is taken off of society and placed onto the person.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Classism emerges all throughout our social lives. In the workplace, classism can be seen in the dress code that does not account for people who cannot afford “professional” clothing. At schools and universities, classism is apparent when it comes to “activity fees,” in this case linking networking opportunities to one’s ability to afford being a part of a club or greek life (for more on classism in universities check out this podcast).
In our social circles, classism emerges under assumptions that everyone is able to meet for drinks or brunch, and often goes under the radar due to embarrassment of bringing up $$ issues. Social media idolizes the lives of the rich and famous, and many people perform in accordance with what they think looks cool, chic, and successful.
All of the examples above work to marginalize the voices of people who are in lower-middle classes. Instead of working on ways to be inclusive of these voices and experiences, we say the only “cure” for the feelings associated with poverty is hard work towards standards that are not possible for everyone to achieve.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
The first step to understanding any “ism” is realizing that while they may be carried out by individuals, the isms are a result social systems. Social systems work to build and protect privilege in many ways, whether it be based on gender, race, sexuality, or class. When we switch our mindsets from blaming individuals to blaming social systems, we must take on a new kind social responsibility, for social systems do not function without our participation in them.
It is so important to get educated–enter the internet. Some key players in the fight to change systems of oppression are bell hooks, Judith Butler, and Barbara Jensen just to name a few. Once you do some “research”, start talking. Have conversations in your friend groups, make links to classism and other isms, and be aware of who you praise and why. Taking a look at ourselves and how we contribute to classism is a huge step in validating the experiences of the lower-middle class. Understanding intersectionality and multi-vocality is not an easy feat, but it is one worth going after. Get together with a group of vinas and talk about what you know, and what you need to know more about.
Know any “must read” authors for those who are new to understanding this ism? Post them below in the comments!
(Feature image via pintrest)