Personal reflections are an important tool for any student, professional, or job applicant. The following personal reflection, written by one of the professional writers at Ultius, demonstrates the ability of an individual to look back on his or her own life, objectively determine what occurred, and then suggest ways to improve on similar situations in the future. Above all, a personal reflection outlines the ability of an individual to self-analyze their actions and beliefs, as well as offer genuine insight into their personal character.
In thinking about issues like class, race and gender this semester, I have thought about my past as I look towards my future. In this essay I will discuss the background I came from—my class, race and gender, the neighborhood I grew up, and my family’s impact on my education. I will address the privileges I have lived with and speculate on what my life might be like without them.
Product of the middle class
I grew up in a upper-middle class neighborhood with an upper middle class family in Scottsdale, Arizona. My family has always shared middle class values and has had the opportunities to indulge in our middle class desires because of our class privilege. My dad came from an upper middle class family while my mom came from a lower middle class family, and when they got married my mom’s life became more upper middle class because she got to partake in my father’s class privilege. In turn, my parents have created an upper middle class environment for me, so I am privileged through it as well. According to Martin N. Marger, professionals like my upper middle class family
“typically own spacious suburban homes, drive upscale cars, and generally engage in trendy consumer behavior” (113).
An example of this class privilege is that my parents bought me a Black Lexus SUV for my sixteenth birthday which is exactly what I wanted.
Class intersects with other identity traits such as race and gender and contributes to social inequality. As far as race goes, being white puts me in a place of privilege. The neighborhood I grew up in is white and so is everyone in my family. The thing about white privilege is that if you are white, you do not necessarily realize you are privileged—you don’t think of yourself in racial terms since white is the norm. In “Privilege paradox” Allan Johnson claims that you can be privileged without feeling privileged (118), and in my case I have realized that I am lucky but never thought of myself as privileged. That is the “benefit” of being white, you don’t have to think about race unless you want to.
Life in a patriarchy
Because of my class and race privilege, the fact that I’m a woman in a patriarchal society does not harm me in the same way that it would harm a woman without those other privileges. Because I do not have to struggle through class and race oppression though, I have been sheltered from understanding how much gender oppression really affects me and everything I think of as my own individual experiences and goals. In “Patriarchy, The System,” Allan Johnson explains that to understand patriarchy, one must not look at individuals but at how society behaves as a whole, as a system (92). Living in a male-dominated culture has influenced me to want certain things that I may not have wanted if it were not for the structural conditioning of patriarchy—which includes sustaining class differences (capitalism) by oppressing all marginalized groups, including women. Part of that oppression includes putting pressure on women to get married and have children, and then firing or not hiring mothers because they are viewed as
“less competent and less committed to work” (Correll et al. 1298).
One of my goals in life is to get married and have children, but studies show that I will be punished for those goals eventually because I do not have male privilege.
The way my family brought me up has a lot to do with the way that I see the world. My parents sheltered me (lovingly) and I was never exposed to what it might be like to not have class and race privilege. It was not until high school and college that I realized how much privilege I have, and I am realizing even more so now. I would say I have never been oppressed as a woman, and Johnson claims that my class privilege may have made me feel this way. He points out that I have
“avoided a direct confrontation with many of the consequences of being female in a society that privileges maleness” (119),
especially because I have had privileges in other areas. If I was a upper middle class black woman, society would treat me differently than it does since I am white. I would not have the privileges of seeing myself fairly represented in mainstream media and my self image would suffer as a result. I would have to worry that if I swore or had a stain on my clothes or spoke publicly that people would view me as a representative of my race. I would have to realize that I might be discriminated against:
- While shopping, from buying clothes (I might be suspected of shoplifting)
- In buying a house (I might not be wanted in a white neighborhood)
- As a working class black woman, I wouldn’t have any of the privileges that I do now, and my opportunities would decrease greatly
If I was a working class black lesbian the cards would be pretty much stacked against me. But, since I am a upper middle class white straight woman, the only oppression I may ever face is due to my gender, and I might never face that oppression (or be aware of it anyway) at all.
What may be stacked against me is my hope to be a mother, and in that case my gender will not allow me the privileges I am used to. If I do have children, I will most likely be put in the feminine role of the household and my job will likely come second to my husband’s. According to Cotter et al.,
“gender inequity in the labor market persists” today and only three out of four women work while nine out of ten men do (189).
Women are still paid less than men on average, so we know women’s work is less valuable and men are more likely to be hired. And being a mother devalues women’s work even more—in this climate of intensive parenting women are expected to be supermoms which leaves them much less time, energy and even motivation for work. On the other hand, if only three quarters of women are working, is it because some of them have the class privilege to not have to work? Since the Great Recession class privilege is less likely, but for the people who are still wealthy—the people at the very top of the social ladder—this is still a possibility. In this economy women usually have to work, but if it were any time before 10 years ago and I married someone else (likely a white man) from the upper middle class, I would have the class privilege to have the option not to work. Since people of color are discriminated against in the workforce (as they are in most areas) and therefore get lower paying jobs, women and men both have to work. As a white woman with a white husband in the upper middle class, I would have the benefit of living off my husband’s salary, so working would be less necessary than it is for women of color or of the working class.
Having a career one day is a goal I’ve always had and even taken for granted. Because I grew up in the white upper class neighborhood that I did, with the white upper class parents that I had, I have not even been encouraged to go to college—it was always just an unwritten but clear expectation. Both my parents both graduated from the University of Miami, and have motivated me to become the student I am today. I realize now that if I came from a working class family or a neighborhood that was not upper class but working class and subject to diversity, poverty and crime, I might never have believed that there is nothing holding me back from doing whatever I want to do with my life and experienced the educational discrimination that many Americans do. I would face limitations that my class and race shelter me from, but it is only by coincidence and luck that I was born into the privileges that I have.
In Writing Assignment 1 I said:
“When you have people around you that are doing significantly great things to challenge their lives and further educate themselves it is almost as big of a motivation as the motivation you have on yourself to proceed in the same direction.”
I still feel that way. My friends and family may be succeeding because they have privilege in the system of patriarchy we live in, and hopefully they can use that privilege for the better. Knowing that I have the class and race privilege that I do inspires me to think about the world differently, and I can only hope that one day my good fortune will not be a privilege for a few but a natural right for everyone.
Did you enjoy this sample work? Check out our other sample work, like thisSample Personal Memoir.
Correll, Shelley, Stephen Benard, and In Paik. “Getting a Job: Is There a Motherhood Penalty?”American Journal of Sociology 112.5 (2007): 1298. Print.
Cotter, David, Joan Hermsen, and Reeve Vanneman. “Gender Inequality at Work.” Gender and Work: The Continuity of Change. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2004. 189. Print.
Johnson, Allan. “Patriarchy, The System: An It, Not A He, a Them, or an Us”.” The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1997. 92. Print.
Johnson, Allan. “Privilege as Paradox.” White privilege: essential readings on the other side of racism. New York: Worth Publishers, 2002. 119. Print.
Marger, Martin N. “The Middle Classes.” Social Inequality: Patterns and Processes. Columbus: McGraw-Hill, 2011. 113. Print.