Social Mobility and Class Intersectionality Week
Posted 18 January 2021Social Mobility and Class Rep, Cas, talks about the importance of intersectionality week.
In this blog, social Mobility and Class Rep, Cas, talks about the importance of intersectionality week and shares some facts on the topic.
Intersectionality provides an opportunity to explore how combined experiences of oppression can shape an individual’s experiences of the world (Crenshaw, 1991).
The Oxford Dictionary defines intersectionality as “the interconnected nature of social categorisations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage”.
This is a key study in academia in which when reminded of equality we must think beyond one singular characteristic, which is subject to discrimination and see the broader, intersectional characteristics. These categories are key in representing the ‘glass ceiling’ metaphor, which depicts the invisible barrier present which impedes those of low social hierarchy from achieving success without great difficulty as a result of this glass ceiling. To combat this we must: understand, educate, diversify, discuss and move forward actively against such measures.
What can you do about it?
Check your privilege: All your social identities play into your ‘privilege’, even though you most likely haven’t asked for it. To be a good ally reflect on these privileges and consider how these impacts others.
Listen and learn: At its very core, intersectionality is about learning and understanding views from other discriminated against social categorisations. Listen to what people of these marginalization’s have to say. However, keep in mind it’s not their responsibility to educate people on their experiences.
Make space: Ask yourself if you’re the right person to speak on certain issues or whether someone of lived experiences would be a better representation of such areas. Don’t speak on their behalf and don’t speak over their voices.
Watch your language: So many of the words we use every day are exclusionary and downright offensive to marginalsed communities. Recognise and correct your use of such terms with further research and hopefully from what you learn this week. Keynote is to accept criticism and call others out; it is letting language of this nature slide which promotes its use and existence in modern day. It might just be your friend, a family member or even an acquaintance but the first step to not tolerating such promotes better intersectionality to its root.
Throughout the week each day will consist of themes of these social categories discussing their experiences and educating our community on their intersectionality’s; the plan for this week being available at @husu_mobility_and_class_rep or facebook.com/huumobilityrep. In addition, updates will be available on all of Hull University Students’ Unions media platforms.
Today I will be focusing on social mobility and class as a whole and the origins of many of our issues and key movements.
Class Privilege: The facts
- Social mobility has been stagnant since 2014. 60% of those from professional backgrounds were in professional jobs while only 34% of those from working class backgrounds got professional jobs.
- Those from working class backgrounds earn 24% less a year than those from professional backgrounds, even if they get a professional job, they earn 17% less than more privileged peers.
- By age 6 there is a 14% gap in phonics attainment between children entitled to free school meals and those more advantaged. By age 7 the gap has widened to 18% in reading, 20% in writing and 18% in mathematics.
- Only 16% of pupils on free school meals attain at least 2 A levels by age 19, compared to 39% of all other pupils.
- Student funding for 16 to 19-year-olds has fallen 12% since 2011 to 2012, and is now 8% lower than for secondary schools (11 to 15-year-old), leading to cuts to the curriculum and student support services that harm disadvantaged students..
- Graduates who were on free school meals earn 11.5% less than others 5 years after graduating.
When it comes from the ability to move upwards in the societal hierarchy there is typically a happiness for most to move up, while those at the top of the hierarchy would prefer to halt this climb. The main issue arises when people are unwilling to move down which is necessary to achieve full social mobility. This mobility is key for fairness and for efficiency, as it would be key for economic growth to reach the social mobility benchmark as this could equal worth of 150bn per annum. In terms of social mobility internationally the British standards is at an international low and does not appear to be improving. A key truth of social mobility is being able to break the cycle through education however this education must be accessible and of equal standard for all to achieve such a feat. This is frightening as university is of the top determinant of later opportunities, pre-18 being key attainment years. To conquer this, it is pivotal that our education quality is of high standard and we continue to provide opportunities to include all students such as foundation years, no detriment policies and clearing opportunities to give those from such backgrounds the chance to break the glass ceiling and move up within social mobility.
Class struggles and the demonization of the working class
Working class: ‘’The social group consisting of people who are employed for wages, especially in manual or industrial work’’.
Middle class: "A social group that consists of well-educated people such as doctors, lawyers and teachers, who have good jobs and are not poor but not very rich.’’
There are so many conflicts around these social groups as there is no official pay category, no true definition and many different factors. However, historically the working class have been demonised and more so than ever in recent years as we work in a ‘’work-less Britain’’. Constantly being associated with benefit scrounging and being ‘’lazy’’.
This can arguably be traced back to how Margaret Thatcher stigmatised the working class. It can be suggested that she saw poverty as each individual’s responsibility to get themselves out of and refused to acknowledge the hoarding of wealth and power within certain classes. This can be visible in her destruction of the trade union which meant a lot of manual laborer’s went underpaid. She arguably imposed rules after the winter of discontent was used as propaganda against these trade unions. This punished strikers or their demands for better working conditions, which led to the deindustrialisation of the UK in which many factories and manual work went under. Some have suggested that Thatcher wanted a middle-class society by introducing schemes such as the right to buy scheme; allowing those who lived in council houses to purchase their property from the government at a discounted price dependent on the time they’d been occupying. Not everyone could afford to get on the property market however and not enough houses were being built in comparison to the rates of those being bought. This was conceivably an attempt to destroy the working class.
Since then, jobs have been replaced with low paid service jobs and those with better livable wages are extremely locked behind educational barriers. Demonising the working class as them being they as they deserve to be as they ‘could get out if they wanted to’. The working class being seen as lazy has resulted in a lack of representation in politics and the attack of policies which are there as safety nets to working class individuals. This propaganda against the working class is arguably visible within the representation of such in entertainment and media. This can be seen in comparisons between older shows such as only fools and horses which romanticizes and glosses over the struggles of working class; without demonizing. In comparison to modern media such as The Jeremy Kyle Show, Wife Swap and The Little Book of Chavs, which depicts working class as low valued job workers who are essentially ‘scum’ and describes ‘working-class bashing’ as necessary to promote social mobility. Wife swap especially appealing to middle class family in which typically middle-class families swapped with dysfunctional working-class families as entertainment to show how uncivilized working class are. Jeremy Kyle being the pinnacle of demonization in the name of entertainment showing working class as nothing but benefit seekers, drug addicts and dysfunctional.
It is these demonisation’s which normalise the bashing of working-class and promote the normality around this toxic behaviour and attitude towards the social group. This is a deep-rooted problem which needs more awareness and education around the topic to truly break the cycle of this interpretation. It all starts with acknowledging this negative stereotype and calling out such discrimination when it is witnessed to truly break this repetition of our countries failing social mobility. Without such acknowledgement and awareness, we will never reach social mobility equal to our international neighbours and the decline against working class will remain stagnant and gatekept.
Key Historical Movements
- Glasgow rent strike 1915: Since 1885 working class have struggled to find affordable housing as a result of the housing crisis. This is due to it being seen as a service rather than a right. This resulted in working class living in poverty which local councils refused to assist with which resulted in landlords capitalizing on their struggles via increasing rent and evicting those who couldn’t pay. This resulted in the formation of the Glasgow woman’s housing association in 1914. They wore their Sunday best to avoid appearing working class in union to prevent eviction which resulted in them being viewed as respectable middle class. They adorned placards and badges and accumulated 20,000 households to join the strike. When 49 strikers were issues court citations and demonstrated outside the courthouse backed by thousands of marchers the rent strike came to a halt. On 25th November the rent and mortgage interest restriction bill were introduced which restricted rent increases. This protected tenants from extortionate rent rises however the law was weakened after 1915.
- Northampton general lie in of 1977: Northampton general hospital was involved in a battle against the current labour government’s attempt to capitalize and market off the NHS. Rita Ward was a patient in the hospital who had been told she had to wait another year for her operation unless she could instantly come up with £500 for it that weekend. On 16th July, Rita walked into the hospital accompanied by her family and local trade unionists. She removed her coat and lay down in an empty bed; the hospital workers were made aware of her situation and proceeded to treat Rita despite orders to remove her without treatment. This demonstrates class solidarity as her lie in made national news.
- Brixton uprising 1981: The ongoing recession highly impacted working-class areas and the black community; leading to low employment rates, high crime rates and poor housing. This saw an increase in police presence around Brixton. On 18th January 1981, a fire widely assumed to be a hate crime broke out, which killed a number of black teens, however police refused to investigate. Instead, the police decided to conduct thousands of unwarranted searches on the black community. ‘Black people’s day of action’ took place following this on 2nd March with protests of around 5,000-25,000 participants marching 17 miles. The protest was demonised by media and attacked. On 10th April a young black man died in police custody which saw two days of mass riots around the area with the black community fighting for their rights against police brutality and racial profiling. 25th November saw the release of the scarman report. This provided solid evidence of disproportionate use of ‘stop and search’ powers by the police against black individuals. This resulted in a new police behavioural code in 1984 and an independent police complaints authority in 1985.
- Lesbian and Gays Support the Miners 1984-1985: Working class in the mining industry were struggling under thatcher rules mid 1980s as they fought for better working conditions and support in their industry. Working class miners were made to choose between working dangerously with low wages or fighting for better treatment and wages. This escalated to the miners’ strike of 1984-1985 where miners all across the country were fighting for their jobs and communities. Thousands of arrests were made and 8400 charged with breach of peace; a declaration of a state of emergency was published resulting in the presence of the army. It was during the AIDS crisis the LGBTQ+ community came in support of the working class; the two groups joining in mutual support against this discrimination. By 1985, a total of over 20,000 pounds were donated to families of those striking by ‘Lesbians and Gay Men’s Miners’ Support Group’. Despite mines going onto close within the next few decades the solidarity between working class and the LGBTQ+ community will always be remembered.