On “chavs”… Here’s a clip from a BBC documentary on chavs. It’s interesting in a number of respects. First, it provides more background on this stigmatized social category and how it’s constructed. Writer Julie Burchill, who hosts the program, sees chavs as the latest object of middle-class derision — but thinks that the sneering reveals more about their detractors than the chavs. The clip also features an interview with the English rapper, Lady Sovereign, herself a target of “chav-bashing.” Throughout her career, in fact, she’s been condemned for all kinds of “failings”: “You’re white. You’re a girl. You’re British. You’re crap.” This was the gist of the commentary when her earliest tracks, and photos, appeared on music websites. Obviously, it’s not easy overturning stereotypes, to identify as an MC when MCs are expected to be black, male, and American.
Owen Jones, author of Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class, has his own theory about what’s going on:
The word “chav” has become a way to stereotype a vast underprivileged section of our society. It’s a term that has become synonymous with the white working class, a way of rationalizing inequality. After all, if the working class is full of spendthrift layabouts who lack aspiration, then social programs aimed at poverty reduction become a waste of time and money.
More recently, Jones has argued that “chavs” served as “scapegoats” for the UK riots. In this “Thinking Allowed” podcast from the BBC, Jones joins sociologist, Imogen Tyler, to discuss the prejudice and status anxieties driving all this contempt (start at 13:45).