To get an idea of how embedded sexist and classist ideas are in our culture, take a look at yesterday.
We get up really early, and spend all day shopping! There’s lots of amazing bargains and deals for all the shoppers, and it does great things for our economy, right?
Consider the assumptions.
- Someone isn’t shopping. The retail force (who probably need those sales just as much as anyone else) is instead required to be there. Everyone I’ve talked to who has worked retail on Black Friday (regardless of where – from upscale clothing stores to WalMart) has said that it and the day after Christmas leave them completely exhausted.
- It assumes that one member of your household isn’t working. In the 60’s sitcom family, this wasn’t a problem. The “woman of the house” could get up early and shop. Single income households are extremely rare these days, and largely due to economic pressures.
- It assumes you can take time off work. My wife went shopping with a friend who did exactly this. I, also, could have called in and had a paid day off. Even if it was an unpaid day off, I’m not living literally paycheck to paycheck (yet – give the recession some more time), and could survive. I also remember when I was living paycheck to paycheck, and a cut in hours, let alone a day off, meant the difference between making rent or not. And that’s assuming you work in a job where an unscheduled absence won’t get you fired.
I don’t think anybody – retailers, shoppers, media – is *consciously* going about being sexist and classist when they talk about Black Friday. But the fact remains that the habit was formed in an openly classist and sexist time in our history – and the effects of that persist today. We must look at the routine assumptions of our habits to see these subtle institutionalized discriminations.
And once we have seen them, then we must act to remove them.