GEND 356: "Some General Values of Working Class Culture"

(As an aside, I thought it was funny that my copy of this was used on the back to record inventory count for a work-related event)

The page reads:

[These are some observations of general cultural values and tendencies and are not meant to be cultural stereotypes but recognitions]

1. COMMUNICATION: To the Point
Direct (even blunt), sometimes impassioned, accepts arguing
Functional (not reflective)
Story Telling--Passing on values, history
Speak the truth (Yet keep it in the family)
Humor--Laugh to survive--Getting Down to it

2. FAMILY: Blood Ties
Support each other
Stay close to home
Parental rule--Often Patriarchy
Persistence and Ingenuity: Making do--Getting by

3. COMMUNITY: Neighborhood
Mutual Respect and Cooperation
Democratic & Egalitarian
Treat others fairly, especially the "little guy"
Often denial and anger
Difficulty is seeing multiple perspectives

4. WORK ETHIC:  Work as fabric of life
Providing for family
Hard work and Follow through
Respect for tools & maintenance
Having a good job
Functional & Practical--Getting things done
Time is money--Work sets schedule

5.  EDUCATION: Get One
Value basic education--
as a means of achieving "a good life"
as a means of achieving "freedom of choice"
But not too much education--"Don't forget where you came from."

Here are my own observations from within my own family:

Some notes on my family:

  • Both sides of my family are Matriarchal (unofficially--but it is obvious) I consider my mother's side to be from working to middle class.  My father's side is closer to upper middle or lower upper class.
  • Employment: Maternal and Paternal grandmothers both retired around the same time (in my life.  But they were rather close in age too).  Maternal grandmother was primarily alone raising four kids, Paternal grandmother had two and the help of her Doctor husband's income (though she worked more for her own sake).
  • Economics: Generally it is understood that my Maternal grandmother had a decent amount of money, but she was very frugal (and generous especially to her children--we were never afraid to ask her for something). My Paternal grandmother has quite a bit of money (before WWII, her family was of some kind of lesser nobility) but is extremely tight-pursed (and constantly deny that she is rich).  I never felt comfortable asking her for money, but she "employed" me to clean her house in exchange for money after learning that I was struggling. 
  • Education: My Maternal grandmother did not go to college and her education was not a significant topic of conversation so I don't know what kind of education she had. My Paternal grandmother has two degrees (MA in library and information science and a BA in chemical engineering).
  • Travel: My Paternal grandmother was widely traveled in the world because of her job (which I can never remember what she did because she never talked about it in detail) but she never took vacations for leisure.  Maternal grandmother was lucky to go on vacations, but when she did it was to the Azores or somewhere in the states to visit her husband's family. (and the occasional cruise)

Get-togethers are always completely different.  Mom's side of the family had get-togethers that I enjoyed because they were fun, lots of laughter and lots of noise (although not anymore since she died--that put an permanent end to our family gathering and it has been sorely missed this past holiday).  Multiple people were taking photos (especially trying to sneak shots of people eating) and video recording.  Celebrations centered on laughter and food.  Dad's side was always extremely quiet.  One person speaks at a time and generally the "children" (me, my younger brother and younger cousin) had no say in the adult conversation (and were talked over if we tried to contribute as we got older).  Celebrations here revolved around a ritualistic-like "healthy" dinner (significantly more bland by comparison) with an awkward toast and a group photo depending on the holiday.
My maternal grandmother was a big story teller (as are her daughters--but not so much her son) and always used stories as a way to pass on history.  My Paternal grandmother is never like this.  It is a rare thing for me to hear a story.  I do not know my father's family history as well as I do my mothers. My Paternal grandmother tells stories to pass on values, though, but not for entertainment but as evidence for a point she is trying to make.
Mom always expressed that laughing is keeping her going.  Everyone on that side of my family had that attitude.  As far as my Paternal grandmother--I actually remember her reading me an article on the health benefits of laughing and how she "really needs to learn how to laugh more" so that she can look younger.

Both grandmothers always wanted the family to stay close to them.  However, since my Paternal grandmother is from Europe (and the idea of the nuclear family is quite American) she expected even more of that (for example, her daughter lives literally across the street and my grandmother always complains that my dad is never over enough and he should have moved next door).
There was more emphasis on supporting eachother on my mother's side.  My dad's side is very much into the idea of individualism, and I think this is why it is so difficult for me to ask for help from them.
As far as a Patriarchal rule--this (as you have already seen) is not the case on either side.
Making sacrifices for children is an ideology that is strong on my mother's side of the family.  (i.e. Mom always is saying "I sacrificed so much for you kids.  I stopped going to college..ect")
My maternal grandmother always talked about how she Got By with her persistent couponing and ingenious meal-planning.

Holiday meals were Pot Luck on my mother's side, and family friends were welcome always.  So I guess there was a sort of "neighborly" sense of cooperation there.  My mother's side is largely democratic/egalitarian (aside from traditional gender roles) while my father's side is mostly republican (aside from my father, me, and my brother).
Tempers were usually short on my mother's side.  There was always a fight.  Nothing ever got out of hand on my father's side, however (although he was always struggling to contain his own anger).
I personally think that all of them have trouble seeing multiple perspectives.

"Providing for family" is a large part of the discourse on my mom's side.  Inevitably conversations will surround that idea.  This is not the case on my father's side.  It seems to be more important to better one's self than support a family (although it is understood that "everyone" wants to have a family some day -- but I won't get into that topic of conversation).
My mother's side all consider themselves to be hard working and that is something that everyone values.  This is not emphasized as much on my father's side--but the idea of working hard in an individualistic sense is. (i.e. if you don't work hard in school you will hurt yourself in the future).
Having a job was the most important thing on my mother's side.  But having a job that pays well and one where you do not have to physically labor is important on my father's side.
My mother's side is more into practical gifts and practical things.  Where my father's side was more appreciative of luxurious and decorative items.  So I would say that my mother's side is more into functional and practical.

Both sides of my family were into the idea of education as a means of achieving a "good life" and "freedom of choice" but neither were afraid of "too much" education.
However, none on my mother's side went to college.  Everyone was always proud of me for going, though.
On my father's side, my paternal grandmother would always complain about how dad wasted his opportunity when he dropped out of college (she was paying for him to go to some ivy league college) because he couldn't handle it.  (where i am sure that my mom's side of the family would have been supportive of him regardless)

I think this list is interesting in comparing my family to it--although I am sure it is not exhaustive.

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