Writing by Isi Williams. Image via Unsplash.
The recent comments of Love Island star, Molly Mae Hague, went viral last week for their patronising undertones. She was filmed for the YouTube series The Diary of a CEO and the viral clip begins with her saying, “Beyonce has the same 24 hours in a day that we do,” suggesting that most people don’t utilise their time as wisely as the global superstar. She goes on to explain that she believes, “we all have different backgrounds and we’re all raised in different ways and we all have different financial situations but I think that if you want something enough, you can achieve it.”
Fundamentally this statement isn’t true. She’s right that everyone has completely different situations but it is objectively harder for some people to achieve fame and fortune the way that Molly Mae has. For one thing, the show that brought her success, Love Island, has been condemned for its “ageism, racism, aggressive heteronormativity and fatphobia” which are all things Molly Mae has nothing to worry about. When she left the reality tv show, she signed a contract with the ethically dubious, fast-fashion brand Pretty Little Thing and became the creative director in August 2021. Inequality runs rampant at PLT, with women being paid 37.3% less than men on average and its big sister company, Boohoo, has been accused of modern slavery after “an investigation by The Sunday Times discovered that the company were paying their garment workers an hourly wage of £3.50 at a factory in Leicester.” That means that even if they worked a 24 hour shift, they’d earn only £82.
Molly Mae’s tone deaf comments weren’t produced in a vacuum. They are the product of deeply ingrained attitudes about class in the UK. Over a third of adults agree with Molly Mae and think that “everyone has a fair chance to go as far as their hard work will take them.” However, surveys on social mobility have shown this definitely isn’t the case. The UK actually has the lowest social mobility in the developed world, meaning "the salary you earn is more linked to what your father got paid than in any other major country.”
One reason that social mobility has been gradually declining since the 70s is that the upper and upper middle class has created more safety nets to prevent downward social mobility. Private schools, for instance, create great opportunities for those who have the wealth to pay for them and lead to higher paying jobs. And policy on social mobility is often unchallenged which is unsurprising as in 2019, ‘on average 44% of politicians attended independent schools’. Of course the working class and lower middle class are going to be discriminated against when they aren’t represented in politics. And of course the fairness of private schools is never going to be openly discussed. But if these safety nets continue unchallenged then upwards social mobility will be impossible and “failing to improve low levels of social mobility will cost the UK economy up to £140 billion a year by 2050.”
This ‘era of the individual’ has allowed people to believe that success is won simply by talent and hard work but there is “strong evidence that those who progress quickest and furthest in elite occupations very often do so with significant help from others.” For there to be any real social mobility, there needs to be a radical overhaul of the way we see class in this country. Parents' finances should hold no bearing on career progression and the issue of private schools preventing social mobility should be more openly discussed in politics. Unfortunately, the underlying issue of late-stage capitalism is an almost impossible one to fix without an upheaval of the entire framework of our society but hopefully slow progress will be made to dismantle structures which promote inequality.
One thing for certain is that progress will be slowed down while figure heads like Molly Mae continue to support the era of the individual and ignore the very real reality of millions of people in the UK, who are working hard just to survive. Her comments come at a time when 2.5 million people a year use food banks and around ⅕ of jobs ‘pay less than the real Living Wage.’ Unfortunately there seems to be no saving Molly Mae as she released a statement yesterday doubling down on her comments. One can only hope that one day she starts spending the 24 hours in her day wisely instead of continuing to work for a corporation that pays women poorly and supports modern slavery. For the rest of us, it’s time we start pushing harder for a fairer society; email your MP, have conversations about social mobility, vote for someone who will enact change and spend those 24 hours, above all else, being kind to yourself for the work that you do.
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