The “Privileged” Poor

April 5th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink


Geeze Liz,

You’re right. This is deeeep and extremely layered.

When I first read this article and your post, the first questions that came to mind are: “What is really the problem here? Why is it considered controversial in the first place?”

Obviously, there is no simple answer to those questions, but I think that they are pretty good starting points when attempting to think through these issues.

One of the first things I reacted to when I initially read the article (on hipsters using food stamps at local farmers markets and organic stores), was that it was almost completely lacking in seriousness. Which to be honest, was extremely off-putting. The purpose seemed to be to highlight the irony of being young, college-educated, unemployed, BUT (….wait for it) still privileged—continuing to hold a wealth of cultural and social capital, while learning to maintain it on a budget. You are right. We are not given much background information for the individuals profiled in the article, but I think it is safe to say that they are used to certain lifestyles, which would not normally include financial assistance from the government; hence, the irony. At the same time, however, the article brought up several interesting points about the ways we think of the poor in this country.

There is a general “expectation” or assumption about those who are on government assistance. We don’t assume that one would use food stamps at a farmers market or an organic store (first of all, I really didn’t even know that you could until I read the article). We assume that if you are on food stamps, you can’t afford organic foods. We assume that if you can’t afford organic foods, you can’t afford to live in areas with organic grocery stores and locally grown fresh produce (which is a reality for many).

So there it is—privilege, stigma, and access.

How do stories of “hipsters” (and other individuals who do not “fit into our framework”) on food stamps change the way we think about the “poor?” What is the relationship here between cultural, social, and economic capital? How does this complicate our understanding of being “poor”…and “privileged?”

I agree with you—the stigma isn’t decreasing. “Hipsters” and other “middle-class” individuals on food stamps get a pass. If you’re young, college-educated, unemployed, and struggling—blame it on the recession (which is legit). BUT, if you’re uneducated, unemployed, and have always been poor—you have nobody to blame but yourself. (Hmmm…really though?)

Personally, I am pro-food stamps for those who need it. To be completely honest, after reading the articles, and reflecting on my own situation—living in a studio apartment with two other people in order to front all that I can of my meager salary toward bills, student loans, and sending funds home to help out my own family who have been hit hard by the recession in the past year—I checked to see if I was eligible. As it turns out, I’m not….but…I checked. And that’s real talk.

***shrugs*** Just sayin. :-|

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