Check your privilege here

11:19 am - February 8th 2008

by Jess McCabe    

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An interesting meme to identify class privilege has been doing the rounds of the US blogs. Originally designed to make university students think about how class impacts them, the meme requires you to tick off items such as “had more than 50 books in your childhood home” and “you were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family”.

In some ways, this list is probably insufficient to reflect our particular class system in the UK (perhaps someone will be inspired to write one specific to us). But at the same time, it is still a useful exercise. You can find the full list at Social Class & Quakers, the blog which seems to have kicked off this meme.

At the same time, these privilege lists are not a new idea – Barry Deutsch has compiled a list of these lists ranging from white privilege to non-trans privilege. Deutsch’s has also added his own take on this idea – the male privilege check list, which my fellow F Word blogger Louise has reminded me of this morning. (Number 14 – “my elected representatives are mostly people of my own sex. The more prestigious and powerful the elected position, the more this is true” – might be of particular interest to some of the commenters on Gracchi’s post earlier this week).

Feel free to experiment with these memes in the comments section.

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Jess is editor of the online magazine The F-Word.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Equality ,Feminism ,Sex equality

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Reader comments

In some ways, this list is probably insufficient to reflect our particular class system in the UK

That meme is very little to do with class and all to do with money.

@ Tony—it’s all about ‘priviledge’, which isn’t really class or money. Class in the context it’s talking about is purely socio-economic background during upbringing, but the more important element is ‘priviledge’, which isn’t necessarily about money during upbringing. A poor child growing up surrounded by books will find it easier to relate to ‘book learning’ than one brought up with no books from a wealthy background, for example.

It really doesn’t work in a blog context (and my saved link to a strong analysis of it is saved on the other PC unfortunately), the idea is it’s designed to start a class discussion, the key point of which is that everyone in the class is equally able on arrival, but that those at the back had to work much harder to get there. One of the key things I found when at university as a mature student was that those raised with a lot of priviledge and/or wealth regularly had no idea that they were relatively wealthy nor that they were much luckier than many of their class mates

Comments such as “the minumum wage is pointless as no one is paid that little” were fairly common—jaws did actually drop when I observed in response that it had given me a pay rise in my previous job before university. This was during the time of the means tested £1000 top-up fee that the majority of students didn’t pay. But most of my classmates did, and assumed everyone both did and could afford to, as they were able to with ease. One girl came to me for advice as she really wasn’t sure if taking out the student loan was a good idea—this time my jaw dropped, as the loan and part time earnings were what I was subsiting on.

This sort of exercise would be very good in a classroom context in the early stages of university. Less useful as a blog exercise as you really need to do it as a comparitor to your equals for it to make any sense at all.

@ Jess, I was meaning to write a UK version, but, well, it’s on my very long lists of potential posts to make if I get the time. Has been for a few months now.

To judge from Deutsche’s list, these lists tell you more about the people who write them than about their subject matter. For example:

8. On average, I am taught to fear walking alone after dark in average public spaces much less than my female counterparts are.

Most people would have written “have less reason to fear”, but that phraseology makes it harder to blame anyone. These lists are tools people use to push their agendas, and as such are likely to tell you more about their agenda than about the world.

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