Are Manners Classist? Exploring the Connection Between Etiquette and Social Status

Are manners classist? It’s a question worth discussing in today’s society where the gap between the rich and the poor is ever-widening. Some may argue that good manners are simply a way of showing respect to others, regardless of their social status. However, others may argue that manners are simply another tool for the privileged few to maintain their power and status.

It’s easy to see why some might view manners as a classist construct. After all, the world has historically been divided into groups of haves and have-nots, with the former dictating cultural norms and expectations. For centuries, the ruling classes have imposed their own brand of manners on society, with etiquettes such as table manners and language accents becoming markers of social status.

However, it’s important to remember that manners are not inherently classist. Good manners are simply a way of showing consideration and respect to others, regardless of their background. The real issue lies in the way in which certain manners have been weaponized as a way of excluding those deemed “uncivilized” or “lower-class.” The key is to recognize and address these problematic attitudes, while continuing to promote kindness and respect in all interactions.

The Definition of Manners

When we think of manners, we might conjure up images of using the right fork at a fancy dinner or knowing when to say “please” and “thank you.” While those behaviors are certainly part of social etiquette, manners encompass much more than just formalities. At their core, manners are a set of norms that guide how we treat others and navigate social situations. They help us build and maintain relationships and establish respect and trust.

  • Manners involve both verbal and nonverbal communication. This includes everything from saying hello and smiling to making eye contact and using appropriate body language.
  • Manners vary across cultures and social groups. What may be considered polite in one setting could be seen as rude or offensive in another.
  • Manners can change over time as societal expectations evolve. For instance, it may have been once considered impolite for women to speak up in public, but now it is widely accepted and encouraged.

Despite the importance of manners, there is often a classist undertone associated with them. Many etiquette guides and classes are aimed at helping people from working-class or immigrant backgrounds assimilate to middle and upper-class norms. This reinforces the idea that certain behaviors are superior to others and values conformity over diversity. It’s crucial to recognize that every culture and community has its own set of manners and customs that are worthy of respect.

The Connection Between Manners and Social Class

Manners, or the rules of etiquette, have traditionally been associated with a certain level of sophistication and class. The way in which someone conducts themselves can often be an indicator of their upbringing, education, and social status. While some may argue that manners are universal and should be practiced by everyone, others believe that certain manners can be seen as classist and exclusive.

  • Table Manners
  • Table manners are one aspect of etiquette that can be seen as classist. The act of eating with utensils and at a table was historically reserved for the wealthy, as peasants and lower classes typically ate with their hands and on the ground. Table manners were developed to showcase one’s wealth and status, and it was considered a status symbol to be able to eat with utensils and at a table. Today, table manners are often associated with fine dining and high society, perpetuating the idea that only certain classes have access to these customs.

  • Language and Accent
  • Language and accent are other areas where manners can be seen as classist. People from certain regions or social classes may have a distinct accent or vernacular, which can be viewed as “proper” or “improper” depending on the context. For example, those who speak with a “posh” British accent may be seen as more sophisticated and educated than those who speak with a Cockney accent. Similarly, those who speak with a Southern accent in the United States may be perceived as less intelligent or refined compared to those who speak with a Midwestern accent.

  • Dress Code
  • Dress codes are yet another area where manners can be seen as classist. Certain types of clothing may be viewed as more formal and appropriate for certain events or settings, while other types of clothing may be seen as too casual or inappropriate. However, the types of clothing that are considered “appropriate” are often influenced by social class and cultural norms. For example, wearing a suit and tie to a job interview may be seen as professional and appropriate, but not everyone can afford the cost of a suit or the cultural knowledge that this attire is expected.

Overall, while manners can serve a functional purpose in making social interactions more comfortable and respectful, there is also a danger in using manners as a way to exclude and marginalize certain groups. The connection between manners and social class highlights the importance of being aware of the cultural and social biases that may shape our understanding of what constitutes “appropriate” behavior.

It is worth noting, however, that the ways in which we define “manners” and “etiquette” are not universal and have changed over time and across cultures. As such, it is important to critically examine the values and assumptions that underlie our notions of proper behavior.

Manners Considered “Classist” Manners Considered “Universal”
Table manners Saying “please” and “thank you”
Language and accent Respecting personal space
Dress code Not interrupting others when they speak

Manners can be a complex and multifaceted topic, and their relationship to social class is just one aspect to consider. By examining the ways in which manners can be used to exclude and marginalize certain groups, we can work towards creating a more inclusive and equitable society.

How Etiquette Creates Social Barriers

Etiquette is a set of rules governing socially acceptable behavior. While it may seem like etiquette is just a way to ensure polite interaction between members of society, it can actually create social barriers and reinforce classism. Here are three ways that etiquette can create social barriers:

  • Differences in education: The study and practice of etiquette is often associated with higher education, specifically finishing schools. Learning proper etiquette can be expensive, and not everyone has access to these resources. This can create a divide between those who have had training in etiquette and those who have not.
  • Unattainable standards: Some aspects of etiquette are so precise and detailed that they can be unattainable for some people. For example, the proper way to set a table for a formal dinner involves multiple forks, spoons, and glasses. Not everyone can afford or has access to that many utensils, putting them at a disadvantage when it comes to social situations.
  • Social exclusion: By creating a set of strict rules for behavior, etiquette can exclude those who do not conform. For example, someone who speaks loudly or uses slang may be seen as rude, even if they are a kind and well-intentioned person. This can create barriers between social classes, and make it difficult for people to interact outside of their own social circle.

The Impact of Etiquette on Social Mobility

Etiquette has a significant impact on social mobility. Those who are well-versed in etiquette are often seen as more refined and sophisticated, and therefore may have more opportunities for advancement. This reinforces classism and can make it difficult for those without the means to learn proper etiquette to succeed in certain social situations.

However, there are some who argue that etiquette is not necessarily classist, but rather a way to ensure that everyone is on equal footing when it comes to social interaction. By giving everyone a set of rules to follow, etiquette can make social situations less daunting and more comfortable for everyone involved.

Pros Cons
Etiquette provides a framework for social interaction, making it easier for everyone to navigate social situations. Etiquette can be expensive to learn, putting those without access to resources at a disadvantage.
Etiquette can create an egalitarian environment by giving everyone a set of rules to follow. Etiquette can reinforce classism by reinforcing strict rules and standards for behavior.
Knowing proper etiquette can give individuals an advantage in social and professional situations. Some aspects of etiquette are unattainable for some people, creating a divide between those who have access to resources and those who do not.

Overall, while etiquette may not be intentionally classist, it can create social barriers and reinforce classism. It is important to recognize these issues and work towards finding ways to make social interactions more comfortable and less rigid for everyone involved.

Manners and Cultural Differences

When people from different cultures come together, they may find their manners and social norms differ. Many people may be unaware that their behavior is seen as rude or impolite by others because cultural norms are often implicit rather than explicit. In addition, manners can be classist because they can signify social status and education.

  • Eye contact: In many western cultures, making eye contact is seen as a sign of respect and honesty. However, in many Asian cultures, direct eye contact is considered rude because it can be seen as confrontational or disrespectful.
  • Personal space: The amount of personal space a person needs can also vary depending on their culture. Some cultures prefer more personal space than others, and some individuals may feel uncomfortable if they are too close to others.
  • Greetings: Different cultures have different ways of greeting each other. In some cultures, it is customary to bow upon meeting someone, while in others, it is customary to shake hands or hug.

It’s important to recognize and respect cultural differences when it comes to manners. However, this can be easier said than done. Sometimes people may inadvertently offend others due to their lack of awareness of cultural differences. In order to navigate these differences, it can be helpful to do some research and learn about the customs and practices of the cultures you will be interacting with.

Culture Mannerism Interpretation
Japan Bowing Respectful greeting
USA Firm handshake Confident and friendly greeting
Brazil Touching and hugging Warm and welcoming greeting

Remember, when it comes to manners, there is no one “right” way to behave. Understanding and embracing cultural differences can help us to build stronger relationships and communities.

The Evolution of Manners

Manners, or the rules of etiquette, have been a part of human interaction for centuries. But as society evolves, so do the expectations of what is considered polite or proper behavior.

Here are some key milestones in the evolution of manners:

  • Medieval Europe: A strict code of chivalry governed social interactions between knights and nobles. Manners were seen as a way to demonstrate one’s class and honor.
  • Victorian era: In the 19th century, society became more formalized and etiquette books became popular. Manners were used to signal one’s status and class. This period saw the rise of the “gentleman” and “lady.”
  • Modern era: In the 20th century, manners became more relaxed as social hierarchies began to break down. The emphasis shifted from class to individuality and inclusivity. However, certain situations, such as business settings or formal events, still require adherence to traditional etiquette.

Despite these changes, some argue that manners can still be classist. For example, certain etiquette rules, such as using the proper cutlery or knowing which wine glass to use, are seen as markers of class and cultural capital. Those who do not know or adhere to these rules may be seen as less educated or refined.

To combat this, some have advocated for a more inclusive approach to manners that emphasizes kindness, consideration, and respect for others over rigid rules. This approach values emotional intelligence over social skills and seeks to create a more equitable and compassionate society.

Pros Cons
Creates a sense of order and structure in social interactions Can be exclusionary and reinforce class hierarchies
Can convey respect and consideration for others May lead to judgment and criticism of those who do not know or adhere to etiquette rules
Can signal cultural capital and education May feel oppressive or rigid to those who prefer more relaxed social norms

Regardless of one’s stance on etiquette, it is clear that the evolution of manners is an ongoing process that reflects changes in society and culture. As we continue to redefine what is considered polite and proper behavior, it is important to consider how these rules may affect different groups and work towards creating a more inclusive and empathetic society.

Manners in Different Environments

Manners are the social behaviors that help us interact with society. The way we behave reflects our social status, educational background, and cultural norms. While manners are perceived as universally accepted social behaviors, they vary depending on the environment or setting they are applied to. In some cases, manners can even be classist, meaning that they are exclusive and tend to favor specific social classes. This article explores the different environments and how manners are perceived from a classist perspective.

6. Manners in Different Environments

  • Business Environment: In a business environment, manners are highly valued. People are expected to dress appropriately, use formal language, and show respect towards their colleagues and superiors. However, this kind of environment tends to favor people who have a higher education level and those who are well-connected. People who lack access to education or are socially deprived may find it difficult to navigate through such an environment.
  • Informal Settings: In informal settings such as parties or social gatherings, manners are often relaxed. However, certain social norms still apply, depending on the context. For example, people are expected to use appropriate language, dress properly, and avoid offending others. Nevertheless, manners in informal settings tend to exclude people who come from lower social classes who may not be familiar with the expected social norms.
  • Online Environment: The online environment is quite different from other environments. Some people behave in ways they would not in real life, while others use the anonymity to express their honest selves. Therefore, manners in this environment are more about the basic rules of online etiquette, such as being respectful in online conversations, avoiding offensive language, and not sharing overly personal information. However, as with informal settings, manners in online environments are still classist because they are informed by the culture and social norms of the people who introduce them.

It’s vital to understand that the manner we show in various environments can be classist and that this can exclude people who come from low-income backgrounds. But, this doesn’t imply that we should abandon manners altogether. Instead, we ought to be mindful of how we behave towards others in any environment, and make an effort to create inclusive settings and avoid exclusivity.

Social Implications of Manners

Manners, in society, serve as a set of socio-economic and cultural markers. They help people establish their identities and differentiate themselves from others. However, the way people perceive their manners and how others react to them have social implications that shape the dynamics within the society.

  • Class Divide: Manners, to a great extent, are often classist. They distinguish the upper class from the rest and accentuate the socio-economic divide. The way people talk, eat, dress, or behave often reflects their social class, and manners are no different. For instance, knowing which cutlery to use, how to address people, when and how to apologize, having good table manners, etc., are often perceived as traits of the affluent class. The less privileged who cannot afford such skills are often judged and marginalized in society.
  • Cultural Divide: Different cultures view manners differently. Some cultures place a high value on formal manners, whereas others prioritize informal manners. For instance, many Asian cultures emphasize respect, humility, and deference in behavior and language. In contrast, western cultures look for confidence, assertiveness, and directness. These variations in cultural manners can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts between diverse populations.
  • Professional Divide: Manners play a vital role in the professional world. The way people introduce themselves, communicate, dress, and behave reflects their professionalism. Professional manners create a positive impression on colleagues and clients and help to build trust. However, the lack of professional manners can lead to misunderstandings, conflicts, and loss of opportunities.

In summary, manners have far-reaching implications in society. They define social and cultural norms, create identities, and differentiate people from each other. They also contribute to the socio-economic, cultural, and professional divide within society.

FAQs: Are Manners Classist?

Q: What do you mean by “manners classist”?
A: Manners classist refers to the belief that certain behaviors and etiquettes are expected only from a particular social class, leading to the exclusion of others.

Q: Is it wrong to teach good manners?
A: No, it is not. However, it becomes classist when certain manners are enforced only on certain individuals based on their social class and background.

Q: How do manners relate to social class?
A: In some cultures, certain manners are associated with higher social classes, and not following them is considered impolite or disrespectful.

Q: Can manners be a form of discrimination?
A: Yes, it can. When certain manners are upheld only for a particular social class, it becomes a form of discrimination, excluding others who don’t belong to that class.

Q: How do we know if we’re being manners classist?
A: If you find yourself enforcing certain manners only on people from certain social classes or background, it could be a sign of manners classism.

Q: What can we do to avoid being manners classist?
A: We can avoid being manners classist by treating everyone equally and holding everyone to the same standards of basic manners and respect.

Q: Is it possible to preserve good manners without being classist?
A: Absolutely. Good manners are not exclusive to a particular social class or background. Treating everyone with respect and kindness should be enough to uphold good manners and etiquette.

Closing Thoughts: Thanks for joining us!

We hope this article has helped you understand the concept of manners classism. Remember, being polite and respectful should not be limited to a certain group of people. Let’s strive to create a society where everyone is treated with equality and respect. Thank you for reading, and we hope to see you again soon!