Stereotypes and Stigmas, “Working At Wendy’s”

Norton reader 13th edition page 25-30

Instead of writing another response to me, I thought we could use a discussion post to share our responses with our classmates regarding our last reading in this module by Joey Franklin: “Working at Wendy’s.” Please answer the following questions in 2-3 complete sentences:

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Franklin shares a variety of emotions he experiences starting his job at Wendy’s. Why does Franklin experience shame? What kind of stigma is placed on fast food workers?

Franklin also shares a memory about his friend whose mom works at Taco Bell. In this description, he writes about how his friend’s mom used to sell drugs and people didn’t look down on his family because they had money, but when his mom went legit and got a job at Taco Bell, people judged his mom as a bad mom. What does this show us about how Americans view money and certain lifestyles?

Text-to-self: Can you relate to this reading on a personal level? How so? Or if you haven’t experienced a work situation like this, have you parents or friends ever being stereotyped or stigmatized due to their work? Or have you ever witnessed customers looking down on people working in restaurants or in the service industry?

 

For our last focus within this unit, we will take a look at the stigmas and stereotypes that are often placed on the workforce that only earns minimum wage or are working class people.

Definitions

Stigma: “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person”

Stereotype: “In social psychology, a stereotype is an over-generalized belief about a particular category of people. It is an expectation that people might have about every person of a particular group. The type of expectation can vary; it can be, for example, an expectation about the group’s personality, preferences, or ability”

How do these terms apply to the workforce? People are often stereotyped as being successful or not successful based on what we do for work, as well as the way we present ourselves in society – the type of clothes we wear, the cars we drive, etc.

Unfortunately, our economic statuses mean a lot in American society. If we work minimum wage jobs, others might stigmatize us and see us as below them. People often stereotype lower wage workers as if we aren’t rising to our potential, that we aren’t educated or smart, that we have a wasted life or didn’t try hard enough. But these stereotypes are often not true, as securing a high paying job isn’t that easy in our country- education, race, gender, socio-economic status, location often a play factors in our abilities to move up the socio-economic ladder to success.

Jobs & Identities

A question Americans love to ask each other is “What do you do?” We often define ourselves by our jobs in this country. When we answer this question, we can take pride in our accomplishments or we can feel inferior to others based on the stereotypes/stigmas associated with a particular job. We often use this question to categorize people and assess their socio-economic statuses, which unfortunately can lead to stereotypes.

Not all cultures are like America

It is hard to recognize that not all cultures and countries are obsessed with working, or identify the way Americans do with the jobs we have unless you have travelled to other places or have parents/family from or living in other countries.

My experience living abroad: When I moved to Ireland for the first time at 20, it was one of the first questions I would ask people when I met them. I did so because that is what my culture had taught me to do and to value. However, Irish people would often look at me funny, like why are you asking me that? To me it was a natural way to find out about who a person was. But for them it was not a question to immediately ask. I would watch their faces get uncomfortable and tell me that they worked in a factory or in a store, and then stop talking about it. I realized after a few awkward encounters that their identities were not based in the type of work they did, and I stopped asking that question.

It was an important learning experience for me as a young adult as I began to question my American values and practices of always finding out what people did for a living. We can create identities beyond jobs and professions. We don’t have to categorize people based on what they do for a living or see them as only successful because they have high paying jobs. Being successful can mean many different things than just making money.

Your Own Experiences

As we move into the next reading, I would like you to think about how you have been treated in the work force. Have customers looked down on you or treated you unkindly? Many of us who have worked in restaurants or in the service industry can relate to having customers treat us as inferior to them.

Race and Gender: Have you ever been stereotyped based on your ethnicity or gender in the job force or have others thought you did a certain job or were destined to do a certain job because of how you look? How have your parents or loved ones been treated in the job force?

Our Focus

This next reading is written by a college student, named Joey Franklin, who is married with a young child. Franklin is trying to finish his degree and losses his job, so he decides to work night shifts at the local Wendy’s. He shares with us the rollercoaster of emotions regarding working at a fast food restaurant – the shame, the disappointment of his family, the way customers look down at him.

Franklin tells us not only his story, but the stories of the other workers to help people see that these are actual people with dreams, hopes, struggles, and loved ones. He humanizes those behind a fast food counter, while showing us how people are often stereotyped and stigmatized because they work minimum wage jobs.

Find the Reading

Please find Joey Franklin’s “Working at Wendy’s” on pages 25-30 in our reader. After reading, please complete the questions like usual.

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