The struggle is ALWAYS real

I had deja vu while reading this article. The writer Brook Bolen is annoyed with the facetious phrase “The struggle is real” and especially with copycats who mimic aspects of working-poor life. She even goes so far as to make things like the tiny house movement, beard-wearing (!?!), and shopping at thrift stores into markers of pretend poverty.

Her leading anecdote unfolds thus: A co-worker referred to Bolen’s lunch as a “struggle meal” – a meal made when the cupboard is almost bare and the paycheck is a week off. I empathize with Bolen because I, too, have faced mockery for  eating  Suicide Rice.*

However, she uses this molehill to build a mountain. To wit:

“Utilizing a word [struggle] that denotes hardship in a way that essentially parodies it is hurtful and offensive to those people whose lives are defined by real struggle; it also functions to neuter the word and divorce it from its power. Herein lies the most dangerous aspect of this linguistic cultural appropriation: it can render words ineffectual and wrest power from the speaker.”

What irony! Guess what else can “render words ineffectual and wrest power from the speaker”?  Using a term like “cultural appropriation” that means “takes something that belongs to a particular cultural group” and applying it to something that merely has personal meaning.

Bolen complains of fetishization of hardship, but it’s not just an upperclass trait. In college, I knew several other girls whose families struggled economically. One wore her family’s socio-economic status as a badge of self-righteousness.

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