Saturday, April 28, 2007

More on Class Triggers

by Fabulous Apparatus Collective and the Fabulous Participants of our February workshop (sorry for the delay!)

Fabulous Apparatus Collective's February workshop included an activity where we explored our different responses to some class-related stimuli. We put newsprints around the room, each of which described a particular situation. Then we walked around and each person wrote down the first thing that came to mind for each poster. It could be the first thought, the first feeling, or what they would first want to say or do in the situation.

The purpose is simply to notice how we may think/feel/experience the same situation very differently, based on our class background and situation, as well as other factors. The purpose was not to decide what a good or right or useful response would be. That part, we saved for the April workshop; see previous posts.

You might have a different response that's not listed here. You're welcome to add your responses by posting a comment. (First, take a look at the comment posting policy, on the right side of the screen.) Here are some highlights from the activity: (some items have been edited to reduce redundancy & ensure privacy)

A person on the street asks you for money.
  • Those are some expensive piercings you got there.
  • Argh. I could…Should I…? Shit. I dunno. This time?
  • I’ll give my last quarter…they’ve done the same for me…
  • I’ll only give a person money if they’re playing music, because I played music…hmmm…
  • I’ll give what change I have in my pocket
  • “Do you want my leftover food from dinner I just went out to”?
  • I feel terrible not giving money-if you need it badly enough to ask a stranger then I want to help-but I need my money too.
  • Feel guilty. Not always the same response-depends on the stated purpose of the request.
  • I go back and forth in my mind-sometimes give, sometimes don’t.
  • Depends. Sometimes I feel scared, especially if the person is flirting or calls me "sweetie".

"Where’d you go to college?"

  • Um…a community’s small…*awkward*
  • I always say “Amherst” and never correct if people say “Oh, UMASS”. Most other students get angry if you say the wrong one.
  • Smith (How come they’re assuming I went to college?)
  • I say where I went for my undergraduate work
  • Safety now.
  • Partly at GCC, the woods, and my book collection.
  • UMASS (Insert awkward smile here).
  • Why, so you can size me up and smile when it’s not Smith?
  • Just as long as you don’t see my community college transfer I’ll be fine.

In a social situation, people are discussing their recent vacations.

  • Vacation? What’s that?
  • Jump in. Maybe even add future plans.
  • Hey, If I’m going to pay back $50,000 in school loan debt, I might as well have fun over winter break!
  • Embarrassed about the quality/frequency of my own.
  • If I just opted not to work, I could go home; would that be okay? Could I really do that?
  • Try to be invisible so they can’t say: “Oh you just have to go!”
  • Jump to tell pieces that could be shared.
  • I retreat quietly to the edge of the conversation because I have nothing to contribute.
  • I think about my last vacation.
  • Depends on who is talking.
  • Lots of listening and “wow’s”.

“Well, the world isn’t fair so you should just appreciate what you have”.

  • “You’re right, finishing my pasta may just make the starving children less hungry”.
  • That’s not fair!
  • Maybe, but I’ll dream and reach for what I want in life, that way I do appreciate what I have.
  • Ever heard of systematic/institutionalized classism/racism/etc.?
  • Don’t tell me how to be!
  • Oh, that’s helpful!
  • Fuck “the world isn’t fair”.
  • I do appreciate what I have and I don’t want to turn into a materialistic yuppie…but I want other people to have the chance to decide what they want with out your judgments.
  • That’s great Mom. Next time I see a homeless guy, Ill be sure to buy more food than I need…and then ‘really appreciate’ it.
  • Part of appreciating what you have is appreciating what others don’t have.
  • It doesn’t feel good to me when I ignore reality.
  • Can I borrow your bootstraps for a minute?

“Why aren’t you working?"

  • Like it’s any of your business anyway.
  • I am.
  • Defensive/Justifying
  • Um…Disabled and hard to find employment I can do/hours I can work.
  • Which part of the story is okay to tell?
  • “Gah. Becauuuuuuuuse myparentsgavememoney”.
  • I work all the time.
  • Judgments
  • Because I figured out how to fuck the system through play.
  • Because I couldn’t handle my last job emotionally, now you’re going to tell me I should just make money when I can.
  • When am I not working?

“I’m not rich. It’s not like my parents give me money whenever I want”.

  • My mom sent me a $200 money order and it got lost in the mail. Then two of us had to figure out other ways to pay our rent.
  • “How many people’s parents do you think do that?”
  • Rich is all relative
  • Mom gives me five here, ten there, we help each other out.
  • …but they could.
  • But how many houses does your family own?
  • But would they if you asked?
  • They don’t have to because you have their credit card!
  • My parents could, I wouldn’t ask, but I know they could.
  • Need to connect. Need to not be boxed and shipped.
  • I have to take free and expired food from work to my parent so she can eat…I’m not rich either.

Some other situations that trigger us around class:

  • Expensive sports: Skiing, crew, etc.
  • Debt. Credit cards. Debt to relatives.
  • "What do your parents do?"
  • "What’s your favorite restaurant?"
  • "Where do you grocery shop?"
  • "Where do you shop?"
  • "Why aren't you going to a 'better' school?"
  • "What did you do this weekend / over break?"
  • "How many shows do you go to?"
  • Thinking about what brand pet food I buy / other people buy.
  • Thinking about where I set my thermostat in winter.


ElliotManning said...

This is all very interesting. I think I'm going to try to generate a discussion about class conflicts with my friends in sociology.

Dane said...

Okay, second try at commenting on this entry. Here are some of my answers/thoughts.

A person on the streets asks me for money.

I've thought many of the given responses including the one about piercings and the one about creepy flirtatiousness. There are two I'd like to add: one, I'm more inclined to give change to a woman or someone younger-looking.

I'll sometimes ask if a person wants food, and if they say yes, I'll buy some from the nearest store/restaurant and give it to them.

Second, from now on, when someone in the US asks me for money on the street, I'll be thinking about how "beggars" function in the Czech Republic.

The accepted way to beg in Prague is to crouch or with one's head down, palms extended, completely silent. It looks both uncomfortable and humiliating.


I occasionally challenge people's notion of what vacation means when I get into conversations with them. I've learned that travel doesn't always mean relaxation. I mostly participate actively in conversations about vacations.

Why aren't you working?

I *am* working. I'm a full time student with an unpaid internship on the side, and a housing situation that requires constant emotional energy and work.

Why am I not earning money? It's illegal for me to earn money in the Czech Republic because I'm here without a visa or working papers. And I'm damn lucky to be able to be here without "working."

The world isn't fair..

The concentration camps weren't fair either. So that's an excuse for not doing anything about it?

I'm not rich. My parents don't give me $$ whenever I want.

That's a parenting decision, not an indication of wealth. There will always be *someone* you can point to who's wealthier or whose parents are more indulgent than you/rs. Lose the defensiveness.

Chlirissa said...

My responses:

A person on the street asks you for money.

I say I'm sorry, I'd give it to you if I had it. I don't have a job either.


I start insisting that I love living in VT, about how beautiful it is all year long, why go anywhere else when you practically live in a postcard...I hope that they don't notice it's been a year since I visited my family.


I would if anyone would hire me.


Where did the expectation come from that your parents should buy you anything? I'm an adult. My mother's finances are hers and mine are mine.