Elitism and Social Pressure: Discounts, “Clean Food,” and Gender – Things On My Mind, Series #4

I’ve had several thoughts things on my mind today, and I’d like to share those with you.

Today after having lunch with my mother we went to Bath and Body Works. I enjoyed looking around at the different products and enjoying the different smells. I was basically off in my own world until I heard one of the cashiers say to a very young boy, “That has glitter in it, I don’t know if you want to” and off he ran to put the product back on the shelf. Such microaggressions do real harm and help perpetuate harmful notions of masculinity, as we know the cashier wasn’t warning him about the environmental dangers of products with glitter.

I have also been thinking about the articles I have read recently that articulate why and how it is expensive to be poor in the United States. Then it occurred to me that the coupon we used at lunch (which was sent as a text message), the coupon I used for supper yesterday at another restaurant (which requires the use of its iPhone App and building “points”), and coupons and discounts at so many places are an example of opportunities to save money that aren’t necessarily available to those struggling for survival. Not everyone has or can afford a smartphone, especially an iPhone. Even if someone does, it takes real time to sign up for various deals and keep track of everything. We can’t forget that more and more people have multiple jobs and multiple responsibilities and zero time to “think” about other things. 

Panera Bread has started a big campaign that promises all of their food will be “clean” by the end of 2016. Customers have been complaining by asking, “Then, what have I been eating so far. Dirty food?” Tonight it occurred to me that such rhetoric is harmful and somewhat classist, as well. Panera already has many, many selections that are “healthy” – certainly healthier than most fried food. It has become almost a cliché that healthy food cost more — although only for socially constructed reasons. Given Panera’s campaign, the rhetoric tends to suggest not only that their food before now was potentially “dirty” but that less expensive and less healthy food at other restaurants or at home, sometimes the only options for people struggling to pay the bills, is also “dirty.” Such “dirtying” of people is becoming all too common and first came to my attention after reading this article last year.

Andrew Joseph Pegoda