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Meme with a Mission
So, as we've been discussing over in quizzicalsphinx 's livejournal, this meme seems to be incredibly biased not only culturally but also in terms of the priorities that the people who wrote it assume for other people, and how they expect everyone has the same priorities they do, or that they assume that people of a certain class all act the same way.

Part of the reason I'm doing this is because I know that I am from a privileged background, but I feel that my parents' priorities and my own affect the outcome of this survey more than my background.  I think I'm ticking a lot less of these than they expect someone 'privileged' to bold.

From What Privileges Do You Have?, based on an exercise about class and privilege developed by Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, Stacy Ploskonka at Illinois State University. If you participate in this blog game, they ask that you PLEASE acknowledge their copyright.

Bold what applies etc.

Father went to college
Father finished college
Mother went to college
Mother finished college

Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor  This question in itself shows a tremendous bias in favor of academics as most people would not necessarily put  "College Professor" on the same line as  "Doctor" and "Lawyer." 
Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers I think that this is another very biased question and it's one that assumes all high school kids are observant enough to make this call, or that the teachers aren't careful enough to mask their class standing in a poorer school.  I was not a higher class than my teachers but definitely the same class as my teachers.  This would be a better question if it just asked 'higher class' because it says more about someone who assumes teachers are of a lower class than they are regardless of whether the teachers actually are.  I understand the intent of this question, but I think it fails. 
Had more than 50 books in your childhood home
Had more than 500 books in your childhood home 
I don't know for sure, but I know we had over two hundred.
Were read children's books by a parent
Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18
Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18

The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively -- I'm a  Long Islander.  We have never been portrayed positively by the media.
Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18
Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs
Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs
Went to a private high school
Went to summer camp
Had a private tutor before you turned 18
Family vacations involved staying at hotels - rarely, but they did once in a while. Usually they involved staying with relatives.
Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18 - All of my clothing was handmade or hand-me-down until I turned about ten.  Sometimes I got new clothing as a gift from relatives.
Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them- I have never driven.
There was original art in your house when you were a child
Had a phone in your room before you turned 18 - a phone but not a phone line, installed for my 16th birthday.  Which was actually my mother putting a ten-year-old rotary phone in my bedroom because she was sick of me locking people out of her bedroom to talk about boys.
You and your family lived in a single family house
Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home
You had your own room as a child -- I had my own room most of the time.  We had a lot of different people living with us at different times throughout my childhood, and because of that, I had my own bedroom when there weren't other little girls living with us.
Participated in an SAT/ACT prep course
Had your own TV in your room in High School
Owned a mutual fund or IRA in High School or College
Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16 -New Orleans once, Florida twice.  The New Orleans one was paid by my father's company. 
Went on a cruise with your family - My father worked for a cruise ship company.  I have still never been on a cruise.
Went on more than one cruise with your family
Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up
You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family - My father started showing me bills for regular household items when I was about seven and explained how much it cost to run the air conditioner, the heat, how much to buy gas for the car, and how much to leave lights on.  If I left lights on or needed a ride anywhere, it came out of my allowance. 

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Well, it was written from a biased perspective, although, I don't see that it's necessarily a problem? If it's meant to shine light on the class system in the United States, it would have to be targeted toward the United States. Likewise, it's meant to illuminate privilege--and many people, even people like me who grew up relatively poor have privileges of which they are not even aware. It's a bit like the "Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" list, in that it's not a universal measure of privilege, but it does point out that many things some people have taken for granted may not be accessible to others.

And, this will probably get me flamed beyond belief, but: I find that it's usually people who have privilege and are unwilling to admit it who are most critical of these things.

I think the person who has been the most critical about it so far is someone who is not from privilege, and who pointed out that most of the things she didn't bold were not because her family was too poor, but because they didn't think education is important.

I don't think this quiz is nearly as well-done as similar ones I've seen about race, because the thing with the one you mentioned and others is that it does a fairly good job of picking up on things that white people as a whole usually assume everyone has/does/get that non-whites do not. This one is much too biased in favor of academia as a cultural ideal for it to work well even for someone very wealthy whose family doesn't put a premium on education.

Part of what I see as a problem with it is that it relies too heavily on 'education' and 'consumer goods' as a measure of privilege which is fine if it's being written for spoiled rich kids in college, but when you get out to the rest of the world, in my case, I was the child of fairly well-off hippies. So we were absolutely privileged, but a lot of the things that this list is measuring as 'privilege' do not apply to me in the least.

The fact it's referred to as the privilege meme ought to be enough of a tip-off as to what the creators value. I'm not taking this one because it seems like an avenue for bragging and/or whining more than anything useful. Maybe the folks at le_riche_elite could use it for their entrance app :)

It's cool your parents showed you the utility bills. Mine still don't disclose numbers for their expenses. Given what their house cost, I probably don't want to know.

Edited at 2008-01-01 11:03 pm (UTC)

The only reason I took it was mainly because some of my other friends were criticizing it already and I felt like it was an interesting experiment to see where I fell on the list because of the criticism everyone else was citing. I feel like this would be a useful tool if you know your population is rich educated consumers, but not all rich people are consumers,not all consumers are rich, and education can imply a certain level of wealth but it isn't necessarily valued the same way by everyone even when it does.

Owned a mutual fund or IRA in High School or College

I laughed. A lot.

(Deleted comment)
...wait, what? O____O Sorry, I sense I have just offended in some way? I don't know wtf an IRA is in that sense. I'm Irish and um, I just saw the sentence as asking if you owned an IRA...as in the Irish Republican Army. Sorry about that!

Good for your friend though! :)

Aha. I'm going to continue being happily oblivious to how stupid I just sounded, if that's cool with people? I'll maintain happiness with my intellect this way <.

Oh, no! I don't think you offended; an IRA is also an Individual Retirement Account, so still one of those things that is sort of outrageous for a young person to have. But that is kind of hilarious that it doesn't have that connotation at all there because of the other IRA.

Ahhh, okay...caught the wrong end of the comment above, methinks.

It's quite strange to see that acronym used outside of the whole republicanism aspect, I have to say XD Thanks for explaining, hon! <3

That's interesting--however it certainly is aimed at a very specific set of people. It makes answering the questions difficult for anyone who has split parents--especially if they have different amounts of money. Other things to consider "I had enough money to play in a sport at school." or "I had enough money to own my own instrument in band." Of course, that makes it difficult for students who played like.. the bassoon, or the cello--but you get the picture.

Yeah, and of course these people don't value sports enough to think of playing them as a privilege :-P

I would think, though, if you're trying to "expose the privileges of the middle class" that sports would be a HUGE deal, because that's what everyone considers to be the most privileged bunch, you know?

Haha, not in my school. But I do know it was elsewhere and I agree with you to an extent (there are also dirt-poor kids going to school on sports scholarships). It's also a far more ubiquitous privilege than things like 'going to museums' which are not only the kind of thing that a lot of privileged people just plain don't find appealing, it depends a lot on geography as well as money/time.

My family is pretty firmly lower-middle class, and I can bold at least half of these--most of which are the result of my family highly valuing education. I spent most of my life going to private schools, for example, because the Columbus public school system sucks. But we were still living from paycheck to paycheck and there were times where I really needed stuff like new shoes and had to wait a few weeks until Mom got paid to get them. And the private school I went to from K-3rd grade was so small most of the younger classes were combined (1st and 2nd, 3rd and 4th in the same room) and ended up closing (which is why I went someone where else in 4th grade) because there weren't enough families living in our area who could afford to send their kids there and support it financially.

I switched to a public school when we moved to Minnesota because we were living in an area that had a really good public school--which isn't something this list takes into account. There were plenty of privileged kids at my high school whose parents probably could have sent them to a private school, but why bother when area you're in has a public school with a really good reputation for academics (and sports)?

You've kind of already pointed this out, but this list really isn't taking into account differences in where people live even on the small scale of suburb versus city--or even the scale of different places in the city. Someone's family might own their own single family home, but if they're owning it in the inner city, there's going to be some considerable differences between their lifestyle and the lifestyle of someone who owns a single family home--or even someone who rents an apartment

Someone else suggested questions like "Did your family have health/dental insurance," which I think would be a way better question. Or there could be "Did you have regular physical and dental check ups?" There could also be one asking something like "Were all of your school's textbooks up-to-date and in good condition?" Questions that will focus more on things that it's generally agreed it's a good thing for everyone to have, instead of stuff like "Did you have a TV"--which, yeah, there's a lot of reasons someone might not a TV that have nothing to do with being able to afford one or not.

(I kind of wonder how these professors would react if we complied all these criticisms of their list and e-mailed it to them. This sort of thing is usually given to students as an introduction to thinking about privilege for the first time, so they're not really in the best place to critique.)

(Also, I have a ton of "Based on McIntyre's Unpacking the Knapsack" lists from when I TAed a class that had an intro to privilege component. I'm know there's one for Christianity and I'm pretty sure there's one for ablism. I'll have to dig through and see if there's one for class and if it's better than this one.)

Yeah, this is what we've been finding across the boards, is that a lot of people who would not be considered privileged are bolding a lot more of the statements than people who know they're privileged. I think that this essentially fails because it's only directed at one form of privilege and one set of values. I don't disagree with the mentality behind examining this sort of thing and I think it's valuable for people to discuss and examine, but I do disagree with what I see as a very narrow view of the world from the writers of this one in particular.

Iiinteresting. I wonder if the people who developed this get the same sorts of results we have when they give this to their students? Possibly it works perfectly for them (by which I mean it gives them the results they expect) if they created it based off of what they've seen in their student's lives. Even if they're showing their students that they're privileged, they're giving them a skewed idea of what privilege is...which kind of makes me wonder what these professors' backgrounds area are and how good their understanding of privilege and class is. I am resisting the urge to go check the U of Illinois' website for information on them (because I really should be working).

Yeah, my cousin who isn't on LJ just sent me her list, which actually has one more thing bolded on it than mine-- and she grew up in a trailer park and regularly on food stamps. And that's what I'm thinking, is that it probably works as an eye-opening exercise in a college classroom, but it doesn't stand up as a real world example. A couple people have pointed out that it's almost impossible for people with divorced or separated parents of different classes to figure out how to answer honestly. But I think that it's based on an idea of what privilege is and what makes someone privileged that comes from within the ivory tower and not from outside it.

I'm not even sure that it works too well as an eye-opener in college. Yeah, it'll probably make the students go Oh, hey, I've got it pretty good (or at least the students who do have it good), but I don't think this is going to lead easily to a discussion of privilege as something that gives some people a foot up in life that others don't have or make students look at things they take for granted--things that aren't usually thought of as a privilege, but as part of the way life should be, such as being able to go to a doctor when you're sick--as things that not everyone has access to.

Too much of the list is made up of things that are recognized as a privilege/luxury (cruises, TV/phone in your room, car, credit card) for it to be really helpful tool for pointing out that some people don't have access to things that are considered pretty basic requirements for living a decent life, such as, again, access to health care.

And I feel like that's really what the Invisible Knapsack exercises are for: Pointing out that class/race/sexism/whatever-ism DO still exist in American society today, effect people's lives in positive and negative ways (depending on who you are), and are a lot more subtle than Scrooge going around kicking orphans.

And now that I think about it, it does read kind of like a bunch of middle-class kids going "Man, I was always so jealous of my friend who had her own TV and phone line. She was so lucky. Let's put those on the list!"

Yeah, I think my response was, well, how many of these things that I did have are things I wasn't aware were a privilege already? None. But I also think it depends on the population of your school where you're doing it.

And I think you raise a good point, although it is making us discuss it now, but mainly being critical. I think that if this is the list that is being used to start a discussion of privilege, it's propagating the attitude that these are the measures of privilege. Someone like me who is less aware of my own background in relation to other people's could take this list and say, "look, I'm not so privileged," and wouldn't get anything out of the exercise.

I definitely agree, though. A list of things like "I went to the doctor for regular checkups" and "I ate lunch that my family paid for" would be more useful.

I think that for most people, no matter how much money they have, things like getting your own TV/phone/car are seen as privileges in terms of parents trusting their kids to use those responsibly. Unless maybe you're one of those kids on My Sweet Sixteen.

And yeah, the people I'm worried about are the ones whose first introduction to privilege is this list--especially the students of the people who designed this, since I'm not convinced they themselves have the best grasp on the idea of class privilege.

Yeah, a privilege bestowed by a parent and a class privilege are not the same thing.

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