January 30, 2011

The problem of the term 'hard–working family'

A not-so-recent media trend which I have grown to dislike is the ubiquitous reference to the idea of ‘hard working family’. This mediatised metonymic label which seems to have received its birth in some murky area between the tabloid and broadhseet press, intends to designate the ‘hard working family, as a primarily exploited, marginalised group, thwarted at every turn by money-grabbing (mainly Labour) governments, benefit cheats and all manner of villains and tricksters, intent on bringing down the very fabric of decent and upstanding society. What I find most intriguing and annoying, however, is the exclusive ‘club’ that this term designates by default. Indeed, it suggests many default options that have not been questioned: for instance, that there are families that are not hard working (i.e. those where the adults are not in paid employment); that it is possible to be hard working, in fact, but not part of a family. It also presupposes that all adults that do go out to work are, of necessity, hard-working (which we know to be untrue). What is clear is that this label forms part of a conservative-based (note, wiith a small ‘c’) rhetoric which seeks to establish binary opposites, denigrates in any case the hard work involved in being a parent in the frst place, and which, instead, views success as engaging in paid employement at the expense of caring for one’s family and children. I am a parent of two children, and I work hard; however, I would have to come very far over to the right in ideology to want to label myself as a ‘hard working family!’

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  • Thanks for this, Gerard, very helpful and perhaps something to consider across the University as a w… by Helen Ireland on this entry

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