I spent a bulk of my time on the PBS website looking at the documentary “People like Us.” This documentary shows how social class can be factor in our lives. It is a hidden factor though. We mostly talk about the feminist ideas around race sexuality etc., but we rarely ever hear people talking about the social class they are a part of. That is because we usually hang around the places that make us feel most comfortable. We always go to the same places, wear the same things, act the same way, and hang out with the same people.
While on the website I found a sample of the video. The sample video opens with people judging a picture of a man. They were judging this man on anything they could infer from the picture. They looked at his clothes mostly, but even his body features and where he lived. They assumed from this picture that the man was of middle or lower class. Another picture they showed was of a man and woman. The people this time guessed these people were of wealthier status. One person said that he may have inherited his money. Of course we have no idea if these accusations are correct but the fact that social class has such an impact on how we judge others is shocking. How we can look at someone and say you’re middle class, or you’re lower class etc. As the video says, “class systems exist. It is based on looks, popularity, money, how big your house is, where your daddy works, etc.”
As the video continued there were different types of judging social class. One way is saying someone has “old money.” Old money is someone who has always had money. They grew up with money and has never known anything other than that. Then there is “Snobbery.” Snobbery is what you own, essentially owns you. The car you drive says a lot. A Volvo says a person has a lot of kids, and a beat up Ford means that you have stolen it. There is “Taste.” Taste really deteriorates as we move down through the social classes. One man has the balls to say that middle class has no taste. The fact that we love gnomes in our gardens and not fine Grecian fountains shows the middle class that they have no taste. “Cliques” are a part of social order. They are based on how someone looks at first glance of where they belong in the social realm. If someone looks like a “dork” then they are of a lower class then the “jock” who can afford the newest clothes. In the sample they talked about “hired help”. This did not occur to me to be a social class but in fact it is. They lead their own lives but still fall into place when we talk about social class. Finally there is “New Money.” New money is one we see a lot. The person who has worked or come into some money and they feel the need to flaunt it. They buy fancy cars, go on expensive vacations, and buy boats to show that they have money.
I found a few videos from documentary. Bill Bear a plumber describes to us what a yuppie is. “They are self-centered and love wine tasting. They live in real expensive homes, with expensive cars, and no furniture.” This is his way of describing someone of a higher class then him. We like Bill are always making assumptions on how the other half lives, but what we don’t realize is our assumptions usually live up to those standards. David Brooks talks about marriage and class. He says, “Stanford marries Harvard.” The idea that smart marries smart, rich marry rich. He continues saying, “a Magna marries Magna because if they married a Summa it would create a conflict to great to handle.”
The working class studies website talks about the study of the working class. It makes the social structure we all live in shown. It helps to explain why economic inequality is a feminist issue. If we look at the fact that people who work are supporting those on welfare is a reason right there. We are all equal so we should all be working and supporting ourselves. Working class studies is an up and growing field and just like racial inequality the fact that we are all caught in the social infrastructure and unable to get out is unfair and should be fought for. The website states in best, “Even as traditional blue-collar jobs seem to be disappearing, the working class remains a vital part of America's culture and economy. It includes everyone from an autoworker to the waitress who serves you lunch. Yet the experiences and views of working-class people are often ignored.” We need to honor these people and help them to be able to live as a blue collar person in a white collar world.
I was in a show called “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and in the show there is scene where two characters meet from different social classes and they assume how the “Other Half Lives.” This relates because we really do make assumption, but we make them on what we see; how people dress, how they speak etc.
There are many stories we can think of that deal with this idea of social class. The story of the prince and the pauper, parent trap, and many more social economic stories of swapping places to see how the other half lives. It is the unknown secret of is the grass really greener on the other side.
I would like to elaborate on this more. If we are so about our comfort zone and living where we “belong” why do we see these stories of swapping places and wanting to get out of the social class we are born into. Is it the human nature of curiosity or does it lie deeper than that?