I’m going to try to be diplomatic. Might not happen…
Wikipedia defines a social climber as ‘someone who seeks social prominence…one who has suddenly risen to a higher economic status…”social climber” may be used as an insult, suggesting a poor work ethic or disloyalty to roots‘. Contrast this to the ‘American Dream’ and you have “a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility achieved through hard work“.
Despite being very patriotic about my own country, I have always admired the USA for being a place where anyone can accomplish anything if they work hard, regardless of the life they were born into. The UK isn’t so forgiving in that respect: there’s a lyric that goes something like this “…we will die in the class we were born” and it is not lying. Here, you can make as much money as you want but to most people, if you were born working class, you will always be working class because money isn’t the only thing that defines it within these shores – it’s who you socialise with, it’s how you spend your time, it’s where you shop, it’s the way you talk.
I look at America and see it as a place where every child grows up being told that they can be President. Take a flight across the pond and you are never told when growing up that you can be Prime Minister. Social mobility is probably the highest it has ever been though, and every government’s pushes to get more people to university is one of the main symptoms, but if you go to these universities, it’s almost a crime to consider yourself ‘middle class’ unless you go to Oxford or Cambridge, in which case, it’s allowed. However, even the push to get more people into university has backfired with so many people having degrees nowadays, they’ve lost significant value in the world of work, so graduates are then stuck with a mediocre job they could have got three years before with no degree.
So where does Kate fit into all of this?
The Middletons are described in so many different papers and across the internet as these ‘social climbers’ who dared to do well for themselves. Although, from what I can see around me, the overwhelming majority of people do like Kate, it doesn’t stop hatred pouring in on Tumblr or in the comment sections of certain news websites about how she “isn’t really royal” or “she’s a vile social climber”.
I, for one, don’t see Kate as one of these social climbers who actively went out and sought William for her own gain – I see her as a girl who found her Prince Charming who just so happened to be second in line to the British throne, and therefore began to associate with that circle, which is what happens in normal life – you begin to associate in same circle as your partner – but is seeking out the company of the successful really such a bad thing? And why do a lot of people in the UK look at social climbing with such disdain?
I’m lucky enough to be able to describe myself as middle class, much like Kate was herself when she was growing up. My parents have worked hard in their chosen careers for decades, I’m able to describe myself as pretty well-educated. My older brother and sister have both gained degrees from good universities, and we’re able to have the luxury of enjoying a comfortable lifestyle. I’m proud of my background but does that mean that I shouldn’t want for more? I’m not ashamed to say that I do read Tatler and aspire to be in that ‘circle’, I behave as if I’m from a higher class, and in the future, I certainly will not be afraid to walk over people to get what I want. Maybe putting it so bluntly isn’t the right way of phrasing it and of course I wouldn’t go out of my way to hurt anybody in the process but be truthful, put people in their place, and work hard? Yes I will because what’s the point of living if you’re not going to strive to better yourself? You should be the best that you can be and right now, I know I’m not.
Going back to when I spoke about the definition of a social climber, I don’t think people ‘hate’ them. What I do think though, is that people don’t like those who managed to climb the ladder yet don’t do anything to help those still at the bottom. They are often seen as throwing away the people they’ve left behind and being ‘disloyal to their roots‘, and the attitude of the one who was able to climb the ladder changes when they came from the exact same place as yourself. The Middletons aren’t aristocrats, they’re what is called ‘new money‘, and despite having the means and the money, the upper classes can still shun them as if the aristocratic money is worth more when it’s really not. The snobbery works both ways and us Brits are fiercely protective of our class, whatever it is. So similarly, middle classes may look to them with disdain because they haven’t managed to do the same as the Middletons.
But to most people, is it so bad? No. You just need to separate the good ones from the bad ones.
And there you have it:
a biased an unbiased article on the UK’s issue with social climbing. Now you know…