High class Women

Flying Toward the Light: Women Transitioning from the Working to the Upper Class
March 4, 2017 – 08:38 pm
High class women returned

celesteharmerWhen I was a teenager in the mid-80s, my parents laid out how my life was to be lived even before I lived it. As a girl, I was expected to find a job in a secretarial pool, or in a similar service-sector career, before marrying and having several children by the time I reached my mid-20s. Had I been a boy, I would have been encouraged to find a manual-labor job, ideally in a high-paying trade and as part of a union. Why go to college and struggle for a degree? My parents asked. Why reach for the stars when I could be happy on earth?

My dilemma was emblematic of the struggle so many professional women from the working-class have faced: the struggle to break free of the constraints of the working-class world and successfully segue into that of the upper class. Little is expected of children from the working class, and for working-class girls, even less is expected. This is why I opted to change the status quo by blazing a path to college instead of by following the path of least resistance and taking a clerical job, as so many of my peers had done.

What I learned by taking a different path was that all the struggles men have to escape the working class are amplified for women. This is because the working class traditionally defines women more strictly than it does men. In this world, where women as a rule don’t have parity with men, they are usually valued only for their ability to be mothers, housewives, and caregivers. Working-class parents, knowing that their daughters have especially poor life chances, will encourage their daughters into either working within the home or, at best, working within the aforementioned service sector, steering them into life and career paths that they believe will not disappoint them.

Working-class women face steering early on, while they are still very young. For example, a working-class girl tells her guidance counselor that she’s good with numbers and wants to go to college to be an engineer. She’s told that she could instead pursue a teaching degree and become an elementary-school math teacher, or that she could pursue a nursing degree because nursing uses a lot of math. Of course, working-class boys with an aptitude for numbers could face an equal amount of steering into professions deemed appropriate to their social standing. But for working-class girls, the struggle is always greater, and it all has to do with the perceptions the working class has of its women as nurturers and protectors.

Working-class women have traditionally been stereotyped by the professional upper class as obese, unattractive, undereducated, and prone to raising children alone and on public assistance. No matter how well-educated a working-class woman is these prejudices can often militate against her in her struggle for upward mobility. Also, in the upper-class world, where women are encouraged to be highly accomplished, even the educated working-class woman sometimes strikes a discordant note, either for her mannerisms or for her way of speech and comportment.

Source: www.classism.org
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