Women & Class

WOMEN & CLASS

“Throughout human history, three caste systems have stood out. The tragically accelerated, chilling, and officially vanquished caste system of Nazi Germany. The lingering, millennia-long caste system of India. And the shape-shifting, unspoken, race-based caste pyramid in the United States. Each version relied on stigmatizing those deemed inferior to justify the dehumanization necessary to keep the lowest-ranked people at the bottom and to rationalize the protocols of enforcement. A caste system endures because it is often justified as divine will, originating from sacred text or the presumed laws of nature, reinforced throughout the culture and passed down through the generations.”

Source: Isabel Wilkerson, “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

“Class analysis, if central to women’s history, has its limits. The class position of many women is by no means simple to assess.  Where, for example, do we place the impoverished white tenant farm women depicted in Margaret Hagood’s 1939 study Mothers of the South? They fit no easy Marxist categories.  They were near starvation, often dominated by abusive husbands; and yet they could still afford occasionally to hire African American women to help them after childbirth or when ill.  Their example illustrates the ways in which race privilege has sharply divided white women of a given class from those of the same ostensible class position who have been marked as racially inferior.”  

Source: WH

“Caste is insidious and therefore powerful because it is not hatred, it is not necessarily personal. It is the worn grooves of comforting routines and unthinking expectations, patterns of a social order that have been in place for so long that it looks like the natural order of things.”

Source: Isabel Wilkerson, “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

Gender, social class, and women's employment (hbs.edu)