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“Chav Mum Chav Scum”

Imogen Tyler
Published 2008 · Sociology

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In the last three years a new vocabulary of social class has emerged in Britain. The word “chav,” alongside its various synonyms and regional variations, has become a ubiquitous term of abuse for the white poor. This article explores the emergence of the grotesque and comic figure of the chav within a range of contemporary British media focusing on the role played by disgust reactions in the generation and circulation of the chav figure through popular media. Concentrating on the figure of the female chav, and the vilification of young white working-class mothers, this article argues that the “chav mum” is produced through disgust reactions as an intensely affective figure that embodies historically familiar and contemporary anxieties about female sexuality, reproduction, fertility, and “racial mixing.” The reason Vicky Pollard caught the public imagination is that she embodies with such fearful accuracy of several of the great scourges of contemporary Britain: aggressive all-female gangs of embittered, hormonal, drunken teenagers; gym slip mums who choose to get pregnant as a career option; pasty-faced, lard-gutted slappers who'll drop their knickers in the blink of an eye … these people do exist and are every bit as ripe and just a target for social satire as were, say, the raddled working-class drunks sent up by Hogarth in Gin Lane. (James Delingpole 2006, p. 25) Disgust and contempt motivate and sustain the low ranking of things, people, and actions deemed disgusting and contemptible. (William Miller 1997, p. xiv)
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