Memes! I love memes. Discovered one today courtesy of What Tami Said, that presents a series of questions about the markers of class privilege in one's own life. Let's play, shall we? (I've marked my own positive answers in bold)
Take a step:
If your father went to college before you started
If your father finished college before you started
If your mother went to college before you started
If your mother finished college before you started
If you have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor.
If your family was the same or higher class than your high school teachers
If you had a computer at home when you were growing up (To be fair, in the 70s and 80s, home computers weren't as ubiquitous)
If you had your own computer at home when you were growing up
If you had more than 50 books at home when you were growing up
If you had more than 500 books at home when you were growing up (Maybe...never counted them, but we had a lot.)
If were read children's books by a parent when you were growing up
If you ever had lessons of any kind as a child or a teen
If you had more than two kinds of lessons as a child or a teen
If the people in the media who dress and talk like you were portrayed positively
If you had a credit card with your name on it before college
If you had or will have less than $5000 in student loans when you graduate
If you had or will have no student loans when you graduate (I technically finished with $13k in loans, but with an agreement with my father that he would pay them; they were only in my name so that making payments would help improve my credit rating, so it wasn't that *I* really owed anything personally.)
If you went to a private high school
If you went to summer camp (Does Girl Scout camp count?)
If you had a private tutor
(US students only) If you have been to Europe more than once as a child or teen
(International question) If you have been to the US more than once as a child or teen
If your family vacations involved staying at hotels rather than KOA or at relatives homes
If all of your clothing has been new
If your parents gave you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them
If there was original art in your house as a child or teen
If you had a phone in your room
If your parent owned their own house or apartment when you were a child or teen
If you had your own room as a child or teen
If you participated in an SAT/ACT prep course
If you had your own cell phone in High School (Again, not so much with the fancy technology in the mid 80s)
If you had your own TV as a child or teen
If you opened a mutual fund or IRA in High School or College
If you have ever flown anywhere on a commercial airline
If you ever went on a cruise with your family
If your parents took you to museums and art galleries as a child or teen
If you were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family
My privilege rating on this scale of class privilege is 21/37. That's a lot of class privilege, most of which I was unaware of until considering it now. I mean, I always knew I was extremely privileged to have been able to travel to Europe the way I did, and to have a car and computer and cell phone. Those are obvious markers of privilege. But the books (my own collection easily exceeded 50 by age 12), original art (a beautiful glass boat bought in Venice, talk about yer privilege), museums...and in particular, the heating bill question. I was probably 20 before I found out what that kind of thing costs. Any impulse to keep the heater low in winter, or not use the A/C as much in summer, or turn off lights when I left a room, was motivated by a vague sort of youthful half-conscious environmentalism, wherein I knew that leaving things to run was wasting energy, but only thought of it in terms of power plants and such. I never thought of it in terms of lowering one's bill, in the way that a less class-privileged child would have been taught.
That makes me think of the rollover minutes commercials, you know, the ones in which the mom is a nagging harpy about using one's rollover minutes because they're "just as good!" as the new minutes, while the children and husband sigh and indulge her just to make her shut up. In one of the most recent of that series, the mom uses her catchphrase - "Saving minutes saves money!" - only her son interrupts with a put-upon sigh, so that it goes more like this:
"Saving minutes - "
" - saves money. We know, Mom."
I always hated these commercials on a feminist basis, because they lean so heavily on the narrative of woman-as-nagging-bitch and the poor, poor menz that have to deal with her. But they hadn't really bothered me on a class basis until now. Now, I look at that, and I realize that we're meant to see that exchange as funny, because silly woman! to be so concerned about saving money, and her privileged offspring have better things to worry about. Isn't it funny, mocking people who actually do have to worry about money! Ha. ha. ha.
Because I look at that commercial now and realize...I was that kid. If my parents had bugged me about changing my habits as a cost-cutting measure, I would have scoffed and thought they were being oversensitive or worrying too much. I didn't have to grow up knowing what the heating bill cost, didn't have to grow up knowing every light I left on made it harder to pay that bill or the rent or buy food. I grew up able to assume the money would always be there, no problem.
I started this post intending just to play with a new meme - I really do love them - and maybe get some feedback, ask people what their privilege rating was by this measure. I didn't expect to suddenly realize the extent of my privilege as more than just a number on a test. I didn't expect to be confronted with the little ways in which my class has privileged me. I thought I was such a Good Progressivetm for acknowledging that I was spoiled by things like trips to Europe and Australia, and flying lessons at $250/weekend, and my own car when I turned 16; I let acknowledgment of the big privileges blind me to the need to acknowledge the little privileges, too. Things like not only having my own car, but never having to work for gas money. Like assuming every year that I'd get new school clothes for fall, and feeling slightly put-upon for having to buy them at Target instead of the mall like some of my friends did, not even thinking about those who bought theirs at thrift stores or inherited clothes from older siblings or didn't get anything new at all. Like never having to know the bus system of my hometown; without my car, I would have no idea how to get from one end of town to the other, and even after living in Santa Cruz and learning that bus system and navigating the metro systems of several cities in other countries, I don't know the public transit of the town where I grew up.
Well. Back to step one. Forth to the blogosphere I go, to read and learn and begin the work of confronting and mitigating my previously-invisible-to-me class privilege. Wish me luck.
Also, how did you fare on this list? Tell me in comments, with a link to your list if you do this on your own blog!