(Anita Willcox solidarity poster)
What does it mean to be working class today? I spoke to several young women who defined themselves as working class and feminist.
Victoria felt it was more than a socio-economic thing – being working class is more a question of culture, politics, what interests you and how you spend your time than how well off you are. Hannah thought it was about permission, entitlement, confidence and how various factors can conspire to narrow the horizons of and constrain the working classes. Chloe said being working class meant not being able to afford to go on holiday or have a car.
The term “workings class” seems outdated, a throwback from an industrial age that has now come to represent something different to everyone. But while it is hard to pin down, it still has a power to conjure strong feelings.
It would be nice to think that in 2016, class has become more fluid – a permeable membrane through which people, ideas, culture and music move freely. Yet instead of moving forwards we’re hurtling backwards.
It’s dizzying. The rhetoric around Brexit is creating the equally ugly images of pompous London-centric metropoles protesting into their ‘liberal’ right-on echo chambers on social media, in opposition to the red-faced, UKIP proles dragging their knuckles and dribbling into their Stella. This is coupled with a Tory government aiming to bring back grammar schools (make ten-year-olds sit exams that will define their entire future prospects and self esteem – nice!). Despite the social mobility protestations, this ultimately invests in those who are already more advantaged. On top of this, there are unaffordable university fees, an increasing prevalence of unpaid internships and nauseatingly high rent prices in our cities, all of which are pricing young people from lower income backgrounds out of the best opportunities.
“We’re all middle class now,” sang Labour, with their shiny faces in 1997. Jump forward and the yawning fat cat gap is widening like never before.
Although the incredible work by Everyday Sexism, UK Feminista and He4She as well as US big shots Lena Dunham, Sheryl Sandberg and the rest cannot be dismissed, working class women’s voices are missing from these feminist dialogues that get all the column and TV inches. Are feminist voices really reaching the people that arguably need them the most? Are they even relevant if they do?