Definition, ‘Classism’: The prejudice against people belonging to a particular social class.
Classism is a social issue very much rooted in the UK’s history. Our children read history books about the challenges poorer classes faced in Victorian England - long forgotten to the dusty pages in libraries, right? Except that’s not where it ends. We also see it on our televisions, hear it in our streets, and read about it in our newspapers. Classism is in our policies, laws, and institutions. It’s baked into our society - impacting people from all walks of life. And unless we actively recognise and work towards eradicating classism, our grandchildren will continue to read about it in their history classes. Intertwined with society’s biggest movements (including feminism), anti-classism is a powerful movement that strives to do just that.
Although we see very obvious examples of classism in our lives (we’re looking at the cost of living crisis dominating our news - but more on that later), there are also times it may not seem quite so obvious to everyone.
Classism & The Cost of Living We see the topic of classism twist through our basic human needs, particularly food. With McDonald’s saver menu you can get a beef burger for as little as 99p. The saver menu is not just an end to the night out those living with privilege purchase on a Saturday. It’s also a lifeline to many people.
With the cost of living crisis clawing at us here in the UK, a 99p burger is crucial sustenance for the homeless community and those living on the poverty line. But it’s no longer just that, families are taking refuge in the brightly-lit restaurants to avoid the surging energy prices we’re facing in the UK. And with the saver menu, people can stay all day. Fast food outlets are not just a place for children’s parties, a holiday breakfast on the drive to the airport, or night-out munchies. From a mother’s disapproving comments when an Ad comes on TV “Awful, it’s not even real beef”, to the judgment on the street from those peering through the glass windows on a Tuesday lunchtime, “McDonald’s at this time, really?”. The reality is, that many people don’t have a choice. And unfortunately, this continues to perpetuate ‘the divide’, reinforcing the classist mentality still rampant in our communities.
Learning about classism from an early age, the effects are also happening in our schools. As the summer months approach, teachers and children ask one another where they’re going on holiday. But for many, a summer holiday is not a trip on a plane to an all-inclusive. Families from lower-income backgrounds may stay in the country, drive down to the nearest Butlins resort, or oftentimes - nowhere at all. As Caragh Medlicott explores in her article, this is a subject that screams classism, “Frankly, the whole thing stinks of middle-class privilege, and ignorance to boot.” And she’s right of course, why should a ‘staycation’ be deemed a poorer choice? Because once again our society is dripping in classist views.
Most commonly classism is linked to our identity, especially in the UK, and it has inevitably become intertwined with various other parts of society such as race, gender, education, and much more.
While this article just begins to shed a light on the unconscious ways classism manifests in our society, it’s a starting point. We’re asking you to continue to learn (as we are), to notice, and make conscious efforts to point out and address this type of prejudice we see every day. Throughout this month we’ll continue to share content around the the subject of classism and how it affects people from all backgrounds and experiences.
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Cover art by @growing_designer
Lucy Gordon (She/Her)
Hello! I’m Lucy, an intersectional feminist passionate about community activism. Working as a senior writer in the public sector for the last four years, I’m delighted to be part of the Our Streets Now team, joining a collection of passionate and truly inspirational people working to create a fairer society for all.