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I Can Claim This Identity with Pride

Women! I am excited to finally compose a report on the Middle-Class Women’s Workshop.*

I can now share, with no shame, my story as a middle-class woman. I can claim this identity with pride. Before the workshop, the idea of being a proud middle-class woman was a joke to me. I considered being middle class a circumstance that I should spend my whole life apologizing for. My best tactic was to cover it up as best as I could. That kept me very alone.

As a young adult schooled in campus-based activism, I learned to feel bad about the benefits a middle-class upbringing had afforded me. That kept me from acknowledging and feeling gratitude for them. I could only discharge on them as a grand and public apology for my people and the horrible things they had done to provide me with the life I had.

I now understand the circumstances under which my family moved into the middle class, as white working-class Irish, Italian, Portuguese, and French-Canadian Catholics. I shake as I write this. Now I will not allow anyone to speak disparagingly of the middle class, especially my own middle-class people. I can keep in my mind a profound respect for the life and decisions of my mother, and her mother, while mourning the loss of connection and compromise of integrity that middle-class assimilation entailed. The compromises made by my people are not permanent. I can honor the experiences of my family, and live a female middle-class life full of integrity and connection, with no limits.

At the workshop I led a topic group on violence. Violence in middle-class families and communities is often kept secret in an effort to look good and all right. As young people we had to reconcile the lie that “everything is okay and good” with the violence we witnessed and experienced.

The story of violence and women is often told with women as victims and survivors, but this is not the whole story. As girls we were angry. Many of us had and have violent feelings. Many of us have acted out these feelings on others and ourselves, directly and indirectly. It is not our fault that we have these distress recordings, it does not make us bad women, and we deserve a place to work on them and find relief.

I took time to discharge while leading the group. Acknowledging when I am scared, not pretending to be “fine,” is a big part of my liberation as a middle-class woman. I was able to show all the fear and still respect myself and my intelligence as I led.

Amy Calandrella

Holyoke, Massachusetts, USA

Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion
list for leaders of young adults


* A workshop held in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, in February 2015, led by Diane Balser, the International Liberation Reference Person for Women

 


Last modified: 2020-07-17 20:50:52+00