Cultural identity never was a common topic of conversation for me in growing up as I have, for much of my life, been a part of the majority within my immediate community. In Utah, there is no part of me aside from being a woman that is a minority; my time in Las Vegas was a bit different than others as I may not have been the majority, but I was never aware of this as my parents were pretty set on keeping us sheltered. From what I understood, I was the same as everyone else. I never attended school in Las Vegas, even though I was there for most of my childhood, so I never experienced life outside of what my family chose to show me. My parents created a bubble that showed my gender, religious, sexual, and racial identity as similar to everyone. My being in this “bubble,” however, made it very difficult when I did realize there are not only differences in identities, but injustices and privilege attached to those differences.
My cultural identity, as I have come to understand it, in terms of socioeconomic class, gender, and race, emphasize my privilege in many ways. I come from a middle-class family, and although my siblings and I have been put on our own since turning 18, we were raised with enough financial stability that I had many more opportunities to still do decently on my own because I could prepare before turning 18 without having anything holding me back. Being cisgender, I classify as a woman and therefore have not faced as much discrimination as those who do not classify as the same as their birth sex do. I am also of the Caucasian race, which in Utah, is the majority, so I have never faced any form of real discernment while living here, nor did I while in Nevada. My religious identity is LDS as well, and in Utah and Nevada it is still a part of the majority. Needless to say, regarding my geographic location, I have had a pretty privileged life.
While living in Utah while growing up, I was in Morgan, Layton, and Beaver, all of which are not very big. During this time, my family would follow where my father was currently working much of the time, so I was in Las Vegas through each place. I was technically a Utah resident, but lived in Vegas for much of the time. In Utah, I did not come in contact with many people of a different culture from me, but in Las Vegas I did within my limited exposure to the culture, even though I did not realize it. My parents’ consistent telling me we were all the same and to treat people the same no matter the circumstance changed much of my view, but after looking back I can see those cultural differences.
Being a woman is one of the only categories in that I am considered a minority. I have not dealt too much with sexism, at least not yet, in my life, but I have felt it in a couple of circumstances. For example, I am the assistant opinions editor at the university newspaper, and I have experienced sexism from my editor from dealing with articles, to giving critiques. I have been fought on critiques I have given him up until another man is brought in to confirm my ideas, and I have been told to change articles I have written for no apparent reason; he refused to tell me any reasoning at all other than he did not like the opinion. There has not been anything of the stereotypical sexism, yet I have felt it through small instances such as these.
Much of sexism deals with where we are and in what context; it is present everywhere, but there are many places that I have learned have much more substance in the inequality than others. I have come to learn there are many differences between men and women and that, at least in my own life, many men (especially white men) have a feeling that they deserve things that further their comfort, whereas women are more likely to settle. To me, that is where the main issues of sexism stem from. Because men expect comfort and women settle, they are treated differently, and it is definitely a societal issue. Although I have not experienced it personally, I have seen the differences in salaries and otherwise that prove the inequality.
Men, just as women, obviously have different levels of intelligence depending on much more than gender, but I do not think one gender is more intelligent than others. Referring to the societal beliefs though, I do think men are perceived as more intelligent and more able, because of the innate confidence they are born into in the U.S. Perhaps values change, but I still believe that depends on more than gender. However, views such as “boys will be boys” is extremely dangerous as it can alter those values very quickly, both for men and women. The values change when one succumbs to that idea. Men definitely behave in a different way. Again, I attribute that to the societal confidence. If you are told you deserve more, even if you are not doing anything to earn that, I see it as much easier to maybe take that for advantage and to behave differently because consequences do not seem nearly as extreme. A perhaps extreme but too common of an example refers to female survivors of sexual assault that, when coming forward, are told not to do anything about it because, “He’s such a good guy. He really has a future and you shouldn’t risk that for him.”
Maybe it is because I am considered a minority because of my gender, but I have had many struggles with men in my worldview who embrace the patriarchy. It is not something that is easy to escape quite frankly, so I have just come to accept that while fighting for equality, I also need to be putting in that much more effort to get what I want—just so I have a chance to get as high as a man could in my career or otherwise.
Being a part of the middle socioeconomic class has given me plenty of opportunities. Sure, I have had to make my own way since moving from my parents, but I, as I said before, had enough resources to hit the ground running for when I was put on my own. The working class, on the other hand, may not have had those opportunities, and would have a much harder time than me.
I remember one day in the fifth grade while talking about socioeconomic learning from those I went to school with who were also in the middle class that the working class was uneducated, dirty, and poor. That idea stuck with me for a long time, and I recall feeling very bothered by it. As I have gotten older I have been able to see that lower income does not deem one as dirty or poor, but it does emphasize the idea of less opportunity for those people. I have a hard time knowing exactly of my privilege, but I know enough that I can see my life is much easier than theirs in that much more is handed to me than it is to them.
A popular topic is referring to the working class as unintelligent. Perhaps this is based on the idea that they do not have higher education, but a lack of degree does not mean one is inane. My parents did not attend college, but they are extremely intelligent and logical people. My mom can make sense of numbers and formulas, while my dad has an innate idea of how to design and build essentially anything, and it is the same for those in the working class.
Values in priority may be different for the working class as they have to fight for what they want much more than the middle and upper classes, but I think as for morals, they are the same. In Layton, we lived in a low-income apartment complex, but those people had strong values, with or without religion. They took care of my mom, who was taking care of all five children under the age of 12 as my dad did not live with us for much of my childhood. Our apartment complex created unity with my mom, and although they were a part of the working class, their values of taking care of each other saved my mom much anxiety.
The working class may have a behavior more based on survival rather than comfort, but I have not noticed much other difference than that. Perhaps I am just being ignorant because of my privilege as a middle-class person, but again, lower income does not instigate anything other than that of less opportunity. They have been part of my worldview as I have always been surrounded by those in the working class. They took care of us, so I have been taught to then take care of them, not because they are to be pitied, but because everyone can use some kind of help.
Regarding men, I have gotten my ideas from the media, the people who helped raise me, and from personal experience. I know everything is not what it seems, but I have a difficult time seeing at least white men as differently than the way I described above. However, I think the media is the main source for my reasoning other than the personal experiences I explained. The media had an influence in both encouraging the patriarchy and encouraging the fight against it. Especially in older films, books, and news sources, men were seen as heroes while women were there only for support. Men were to fight for what they wanted while the women “fulfilled their duty” in being mothers and taking care of the children at home. Men were to be the bread winners while women were to be compliant in not getting an education. Now, media is better about putting things to fight the patriarchy, but for the most part it still pertains to the same ideology. It is hard to break the societal mold, and therefore, the subtle connotations that men deserve more than women still remains, which does nothing to help the fight for equality.
With the working class, I gained my negative and positive ideologies through knowing people of the different classes. I think my main sources of positive knowledge was from living with people of the working class, as I saw a lot of good from those in the working class, but my negative, although it included personal experience, is mostly from films and other media. Films often portray the working class as uneducated and oftentimes, sad, and for some reason they are pitied or are ignored to avoid confrontation of the issues at hand. Some films and television shows use satire to present the working class, but I think even that sometimes makes for a mistake in that not everyone gets the satire. The Office for example has the boundaries between the warehouse guys and the salesmen, and although elusive, I think it makes an important comment on the differences and privileges of workers. However, some think the show is just a joke, and it furthers their ideas of the working class. The negative connotations of being in the working class is wrong, but there is such a universal idea of the dirty and unintelligent people that it is very hard to beat. However, pitying them is not the answer. To be honest, I do not know how to change the differences of classes, but changing our ideas of the classes would be an honorable start.
Some areas of interest that I would like to know more about with intercultural communication are if there are any solutions to either closing the gaps between socioeconomic classes or inequalities in identities, how cultural identities can not only combine to make a complex person in enculturation but to make complex communities, and the ways a strong personal identity can further interpenetration rather than breaking into fragmented identities. I think these concepts are vital in creating a better society, but all of it seems a bit out of reach for one person, and I would just want to know how to help in any way I can.
By the end of the class, if I could just figure how to handle the above situations and to realize my privilege more fully so I can actually contribute positively to other cultures, I would be content with the semester. I so badly want to be able to help in everyday situations but also in traumatic ones, and I think becoming self-aware of where I stand culturally would help me to do that because I then could see the gaps in identities. Instead of smothering another’s identity, I want to be able to help it flourish; so if this class can help me achieve a start on how to do that, I can hopefully figure out the rest.