Class Dysphoria describes the mental state of unease that one experiences when they are unable to easily categorize themselves into a binary or trinary class identity.
- Holly Marie Armishaw (January 2019)
It is my agenda in this article to coin a new term, to create and define a protologism. If you were to google “Class Dysphoria” (at the point that this article was written) you would not find any exact matches to this term. What your search would yield, however, are definitions on “dysphoria” and particularly “gender dysphoria”. So, let us begin there. Dysphoria is the opposite sensation of euphoria. Wikipedia defines dysphoria as: “(from Greek: dysphoros - difficult to bear) a profound state of unease or dissatisfaction. In a psychiatric context, dysphoria may accompany depression, anxiety, or agitation… Common reactions to dysphoria include emotional distress; in some cases, even physical distress.”
A Google search also produces several results related to gender dysphoria. Wikipedia defines Gender Dysphoria (GD) as “the distress a person experiences as a result of the sex and gender they were assigned at birth”.. Transracialism may evoke a similarly strong state of distress. However, it is not my contention to go into detail on either the topic of gender dysphoria or racial dysphoria, but rather to allude to them in order to draw parallels that aid in defining class dysphoria, since gender, race and class generally constitute the three main pillars of identity.
In a world that recognizes that gender and sexuality are fluid, and that race and ethnicity can be any number of combinations, it should also be clearly understood that class identity does not fall into neat and tidy packages either. Class, or to be clearer, socioeconomic class, is fluid. A trinary system of categorization - lower, middle and upper classes - are not always viable parameters for many people.
Class Dysphoria speaks to anyone who finds themselves lost in clearly identifying within a singular binary or trinary class identity. Examples include:
There is a famous statement quite frequently misattributed to Queen Victoria: “Beware of artists. They mix with all classes of society and are therefore most dangerous." In fact, it was in a garbled letter from her Uncle, King Leopold of Belgium, who in 1845 wrote to his dear niece "To hope to escape censure and calamity is next to impossible, but whatever is considered by the enemy as a fit subject for attack is better modified or avoided. The dealings with artists, for instance, require great prudence; they are acquainted with all classes of society, and for that very reason dangerous; they are hardly ever satisfied, and when you have too much to do with them, you are sure to have des ennuis."
Amidst this epic age of culture clash rigid categorizations of identity, including class, are insufficient and distressing to say the least. We have not had the right combination of words to express this feeling of unease regarding class definitions, until now.
- Holly Marie Armishaw (February 2019)
Holly Marie Armishaw
Based in Vancouver, Canada, Holly Marie Armishaw is a contemporary artist, art writer, francophile, and world traveler. Through rigorous exploration of inspiration from international sources of art and culture, she infuses her insights with a critical eye as she discusses global trends. Both her art and writing are informed by attending a continuous array of art exhibitions, lectures, fairs and biennales, both at home and abroad.