Expectations of a working class, second generation Irish female

‘Intersectionality’ is an interesting concept, and one that I explored many times during my ten years as a sociology teacher. Taking part in Same But Different has provided me the opportunity to reflect about my own intersectionality…

Throughout the different stages of my life so far, aspects of my identity have been more important than others. Growing up in an Irish working class family in the 1980s, there were clear intersections between my social class identity and my gender identity.

I was encouraged to engage in gender role specific play, preparing me for the evitable future role as mother and care-giver. I remember actively resisting gendered behavioural expectations by behaving more ‘tomboy’ like and chasing the boys during games of ‘kiss chase’ rather than wait for them to chase me. I had ‘spirit’ which was perceived by others as a masculine quality, not a feminine one.

As a teenager I was encouraged to pursue gender and class specific career options and so I became a hairdresser, but I always knew I wanted more, I just didn’t know what the ‘more’ would look like.

Fast forwarding to 2017, the ‘more’ turned out to be a rejection of all the earlier gender and class expectations. I became the first person in my family to go to university and secure an undergraduate degree, and the first to obtain a Masters degree.

My profession as a sociology teacher and my current pursuit of completing a PhD have now become the key factors in my identity. I am mindful of the journey I have had, yet I’m optimistic that I will continue to shape my own identity, and will not be restricted by expectations of what a working class, second generation Irish, female identity should look like.

Tags: Social Class,Irish,Gender Roles