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March 2017



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So have you seen the privilege meme that's going around?

I looked at it, and I was amused by how much privilege it assumes.

Such as that one knows both of one's parents. And that they're together. And that they finished high school. And that one was not responsible for helping pay the bills as a teenager. And that one had a home. And got enough to eat. And attended college, whether or not one paid for it one's self.


If I were writing it, it would have things like, "Did you receive regular dental care and vaccinations as a child?" on it.


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I am/was all those things. Except college. That I'm paying for myself.

I've never thought I was anything but privileged. Nice to know I was right.

Curiously though, I never received regular (or any) dental care as a child -- perhaps because I grew up in Nigeria and candy was very very optional, a privilege if you like ;)
I've not seen that meme, but it seems to be based on the world as it is today, not necessarily the one we each have grown up with. Mind you, I'm 51 so that skews things a bit from my perspective.
Also notably absent: "Did you have shoes?", "Did you have a floor?", and "Did you have plumbing?". My mother grew up without plumbing (or a mother) although she did have shoes and a floor.

I used to joke that I joined the Army for the free shoes, but there were senior NCOs in when I joined who remembered guys for whom it wasn't a joke - they hadn't had shoes prior to signing up. Is "a TV in every room" the new "shoes on every kid"?

And if you did put in "did you have a father?", you could also add in "if so: do you ever remember seeing him sober?", "did he ever have a fuckin' job?" and "did you receive regular beatings?"
We had plumbing! We had a well, and in the summertime you could run bath water, and let it sit for about 5 minutes, and there would be a fine layer of red dirt on the bottom of the tub without you ever getting in it.

We got city water in 1984.

I did this meme and added some lines about being taken to the doctor when you were sick, working and getting to keep the money, and watching your siblings intermittently or for fun, not because it was your job.
You're right about that. It's ridiculously problematic if taken at face value. If you get to go back to the original, you'll see that it's taken from an exercise specifically directed at raising some basic awareness regarding class in people in a university setting -- completeness is probably assumed to be covered in the ensuing discussion, but I still wasn't contented with it once I'd had a chance to think on it.

I answered it because I was interested to look at how privileged I came out looking compared to how my life really was and the same for the friends who answered it. I know the truth of their lives and yet many of them come out appearing very privileged.

The exercise as a whole is here: http://wbarratt.indstate.edu/socialclass/social_class_on_campus.htm (The 'Take A Step Forward' link.)

Edited at 2008-01-01 05:29 pm (UTC)
That childhood privilege makes adult success much easier to obtain, however, which is something that I think a lot of us don't appreciate.

Starting adulthood with a good education, good social skills, and without a crippling debt load makes everything you have to do afterwards nine hundred percent easier, I think. Whereas if you have to scrabble just to get to that point...
I view myself as having been privileged, and have known it ever since I grew up. As someone noted above, however, a lot of the assumptions are modern. Ie: when/where I was a child, it wasn't unheard of to have outdoor privies (we did) or to make ones own clothes (did that too). Have a credit card? Didn't exist. TV in my room? Not even in the house till I was 12. So it was as much amusing as anything else, and I took it, and inserted instructive notes for my young friends, in that spirit.
Ummmm... but the clothes I'm wearing in the icon are because I *play* a medieval game, not because I lived then!
If I were writing it, it would have things like, "Did you recieve regular dental care and vaccinations as a child?" on it.

Yes. And things like, Did you share a small bedroom with your three siblings until you moved out of the house? Did you start working to buy all your own school clothes at 13? Did your mother ever collect soda bottles and turn them in at the store to get enough money to buy milk?

You know. Real stuff.
Did you start working in the family business at age 9? Did you study for exams between customers during your regular restaurant shift in high school? Did you live in an apartment over a motel with a rotating number of aunts, uncles and cousins numbering up to 16 people at one point?
I thought it was interesting too...mostly because although my family was considered poor (financially), we still had books and art and trips in the car to visit family. No, I never had regular doctor's visits (or dentist's, though if there was an emergency, we'd go), nor clothes that weren't homemade (until high school when I remember getting three or four pairs of pants at the beginning of the year -- no Levis, of course) -- but I had clothes. I had a home, I had food to eat (healthy food, at that). I feel like i had a very privileged childhood.
I've been muttering about that, off and on, ever since I first came across it. And, as I noted in another LJ, anyone even _reading_ that meme is on the high end of the Privileged Person scale, having access to a computer and the internet...
It's talking about childhood privilege, so I am not sure that's a fair critique.
I agree so, so very much. This list is quite silly, because it's a privilege list that can only be read seriously *by the privileged*. Which is stupid.

To the list of things that it assumes, it assumes that you can read and read above, perhaps, a third grade level. It also assumes that you're either in a classroom or that you have access to the internet.

Not to mention this little item: If you were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family.

Uh, well, that assumes you HAD heating. Which could mean that either a) you couldn't afford it or b) you lived somewhere that never needed heating because of the climate.

Furthermore, it assumes that you were born in this country and that you speak English as a first language.

This list is just silly. I taunt it a second time.
Which could mean that either a) you couldn't afford it or b) you lived somewhere that never needed heating because of the climate.

Or that you lived in a place where you had any control over the heating. My landlords have always controlled the heating, and included the cost in my rent.

It is also interesting that privilege is assumed to be monetary and class based. Self esteem and emotional security can also be a privilege, but are pretty much assumed in this quiz.

Such as "Did anyone tell you that you were special/beautiful/clever?"

"Did your carers/parents tell you that you were loved?"

"Was anybody proud of your achievements, however minor?"

"Did someone know where you were or what you were up to when you weren't at home?"
Oooh, yes, thank you very much for making that point. By that meme I technically grew up fairly privileged (with the exception that I paid my own way through college, original art in the home was *by* me, and family vacations always seemed to involve tents, rain, and lots of mosquitoes). However, I think anyone who knew me (or my family) would strongly agree that in terms of emotional or psychological advantage from monetary/class privilege, I had *none* of that, and that offset a very lot of the good that having a more privileged background could have imparted. Frex, the answers to all four of the questions you pose would be a resounding "Hell No".

I don't know if it's a geek thing or a fandom thing or some random delusion I hold, but at least it seems to me that in my social circles none of us either find or judge each other based on class/wealth lines; the thing that makes or breaks someone is their character and integrity, and whether or not they are really who they are or are only pretending to be someone they're not. Which might not have to do with the point of the original survey, which is about where folks came from to end up in college, but it did make the general "how privileged are you?" assumptions of the test bad science in my mind.

Sorry for this being rambly, I was up stupidly late last night.
I came out immensely privileged on a lot of it, especially the education side. But I noticed that it assumed that your family would not only have a car, but be able to afford to hand one on to you when they upgraded. My family never had a car. They spent the money on their kids education instead. I was also one of the last kids in my school to have a TV at home, books being more important.

Of course if my mother had been doing it she would have asked things like, "Did you have a toilet inside the house?" and "Did you have a hot water heater or did you have to prepare a bath by boiling water on the kitchen stove?" Not to mention, "Did you spend several years of your childhood having to sleep in an air raid shelter?"

One I was tempted to add was, "Did you grow up straight at a time when admitting to being gay would have got you caned and suspended from school?"
On the other hand: When my mother was growing up in New York City, her parents never had any problem affording an apartment. There was an apartment surplus, thanks to the Depression.

My maternal grandfather spent part of his childhood in the Ukraine. (Not in Ukraine, though; his birthplace is now in Belarus.) He remembered Russian pumpernickel being called "soldier bread" because the soldiers got it in their rations and would trade it for almost anything else. It was poverty food. It's now a luxury food.
I wondered the same thing about the recent version, especially given that I seem to recall an earlier version that was much more balanced. I kinda assumed that the current version was the result of someone only posting the things they'd answered yes to.
Gotcha. It seems to me to be a survey on privilege written by the privileged.

I'd have included questions like "Did your childhood home regularly go without heat or electricity because of unpaid bills?" and "Did your parent ever skip dinner so there'd be enough food for the kids?"

It's interesting to me to see the number of people who fill out the meme, bold a lot of stuff and then write long footnotes explaining why that didn't count as privilege. I did it myself. Just as most of us want to call ourselves "middle-class," none of us want to be seen as privileged.
Well, sometimes it really isn't about privilege. The flying question, for instance; I flew on a lot of planes because my parents' jobs made us move across an ocean every four or five years, and most of that flying wasn't for pleasure, but paid for by their government jobs. I knew another kid who was the product of a divorce, and his mom went back to work after the divorce as an airline employee; he got to fly to visit family because his mom worked for the airlines, but they lived in a tiny rental apartment without air conditioning (in Arizona - much more important than no heat) and would've flunked a lot of the other privilege questions.
I looked at that meme and the questions, but I didn't really see much point in posting the results. I know that I'm quite privileged, and posting the results would only serve to show off how I'm privileged.

Regarding the scale of the questions, I think that the problem is the context for which the questions were designed vs the spread of the meme. For kids in university, they all have points for going to college and might not know yet whether they will complete and/or end up with debt. If the professor can get a range of responses with the high-end of privilege questions, he might not choose to explore the full range of privilege. The students were answering these questions publicly, and perhaps the prof didn't want to embarrass some with their extreme lack of privilege.

For LJ, perhaps, a better version of the meme might be one similar to those expanding book/movie memes, where each participant expands the list of questions.
I've seen a lot of people protesting that they would have no idea what their teachers' social class was. I commented elsewhere suggesting that this was an indication of how averse to discussions of class Americans were, but as I think some more I also suspect it may be an indication of privilege in itself -- because nobody I know who has been really poor doesn't know how to tell the difference. It's starting to look to me suspiciously like the white people not knowing how many black people are in the room and the black people immediately saying, "Five," without having to stop and think.
I haven't done the meme, and probably won't. Yes, I can bold many of them. *My* parents could not. My father and mother were both the first person in their family to go to college. (I have an uncle who was a engineer, but no doctors or lawyers.) Both grandfathers arrived on this continent without a penny. My family's financial situation improved markedly over my childhood. This meme is aimed at people much younger than me; it doesn't track change over one's lifetime or from generation to generation. I suspect there is a difference between "old money" and "immigrants who clawed their way into the middle class".

I agree - it could use a serious rewrite!
Lets whack the creators of this upside the head with John's Being Poor essay.
*g* John's essay is really good. I always want to edit it to add things, though.
In my experience the whole concept of how "privileged" we were was frequently used as a weapon. We were pretty much the dead middle of middle class when I grew up, but we had friends and relatives who were much worse off. One bunch of cousins in particular springs to mind - for various reasons I won't go into this family of five kids kept slipping in and out of the "shoes optional" bracket. My parents were together, employed and non-drinkers. As a result, the abuses I endured were blown off on all sides with a comparison to the shoeless cousins, or the cousins with the divorced alcoholic parents, or...you get the idea. From the parents: "What are you complaining about, you ingrate? Would you rather live like (shoeless cousin?)" From the shoeless cousins: "What are you complaining about? They bought you a stereo for Christmas!"

I suppose my point, if I have one, is that it seems to me that the definition of "privilege" in this context cannot be pinned down so easily. There are just too many variables for a random sampling like this to have any meaning.

(It also seems to me that much more of a distinction should be made between normal middle-class enough-food privilege and the rarified gold-plated-yacht, gow-up-to-run-daddy's-bank* version.)

*or country
(It also seems to me that much more of a distinction should be made between normal middle-class enough-food privilege and the rarified gold-plated-yacht, gow-up-to-run-daddy's-bank* version.)

It crosses my mind that this squashing everyone in the middle-class together as if we were all the same class is a trick, and not a nice one, that allows us to disregard the real class distinctions and ignore the genuninely poor altogether.
Excellent points all. The *baseline* is comfortable middle-class; growing up poor isn't even considered.
Yeah. That was EXACTLY what struck me. Except you said it better.

Class, America, andelku is having THINKY

Is anybody "working class" anymore? I mean, not poor as in going without, but not middle-class either. Working class because they are - you know - working. But emphatically not middle-class in terms of cultural expectations or financial resources.

You know, the more I think about it, the more this language really bugs me. Calling a working-class person "lower middle class" or just "middle class" is not an act without implications.

If you're working class, you're more likely to notice that there are other people like you, and you might all have some greviences in common (what has happened to the student aid that allowed me to go to an excellent public university?).

While how do you even get there if you and the Harvard trust fund kids are all middle class together?

Re: Class, America, andelku is having THINKY

I grew up working class. Blue-collar. Electricians, secretaries, and plumbers.

We never pretended we were middle class. I have no idea when that started.

I suspect tradesmen still consider themselves working class. (My grandfather would have been offended to be called middle class. He wasn't any goddamned paper pusher. He was a union plumber, by god.)
I ignored it because it didn't seem to pertain to me, since I came from an undereducated, single-parent home that moved around a lot (I went to 17 schools over my secondary educational time), where I worked and provided for my siblings from the time I was 14 onward, put myself into college four times, dropping out each time for various personal reasons.

Though I will freely admit that being a white male is the biggest leg up on the privilege ladder all by itself.

Edited at 2008-01-01 07:50 pm (UTC)
Surprised at the heat this is developing with your readers.

As i happen to know, half of your grandparents were immigrants, and the other half poor ethnic whites. They all made it into the lower middle class, being union members.

Neither of your parents has been as comfortable, neither were union. You are doing as well or better than they did, but still, your e**l stepmother is the only one that actually finished college.

I dont see much of a moral there, just people trying to cope with ever changing rules.

My neighbors are (probably) illegal immigrants, they are living in a four room house, four or five men, one wife, four kids, they all seem more or less healthy, hardworking, content. They are heating, i notice, with wood in a fireplace.

It's not real cold, but not pleasant. They are improving the house a little every time they dont have carpentry work.

Had to loan them a 100.00 today, as an advance against future work on my place, their boss stiffed them over the holidays.

Happens a lot, as you know.

So i guess i'm the privileged one here.

And God bless us all, every one.
According to that meme I was actually under privileged as a child. But, I had a great childhood, never wanted for anything and in a lot cases it was much better than my friends' lives. I wasn't under privileged at all where I grew up.

cvirtue has a different version.
Pfft. I found it on Google and of the, I think, 30 questions I could say yes to ten, so I suppose that makes me terribly underprivileged. Except for how I am TOTALLY NOT. It's very US centric of course and also assumes that the child of people without education must automatically be underprivileged.
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