Privilege

(0v0) references an interesting survey in her current post. Parsing privilege. I’m not sure how it stands up, scientifically, but it makes an interesting meme. The more you bold, the more privilege you had. A kind of social locator. What was most curious to me was that I immediately started comparing my responses to My Gift’s reponses. I guess I had an inherent awareness of (and inclination to promote) whatever would move us up the ladder, so to speak. Probably common among parents.

That begs the question, obviously, of whether moving “up the ladder” is necessarily an inevitable, or a good, choice. There is a bit of a sense of inevitability from my perspective: my parents are the children of immigrants, so assimilation and ladder-climbing were (and still are) highly valued. I questioned it as a teenager, but perpetuated it as a parent.

I am amused by the cruise questions, because regardless the cost/privilege-associated-with cruises, every last person in my family would rather eat glass than go on a cruise!

My Responses

1. Father went to college
2. Father finished college
3. Mother went to college
4. Mother finished college
5. Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor
6. Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers
7. Had more than 50 books in your childhood home
8. Had more than 500 books in your childhood home
9. Were read children’s books by a parent
10. Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18
11. Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18
12. The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively
13. Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18
14. Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs
15. Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs
16. Went to a private high school
17. Went to summer camp
18. Had a private tutor before you turned 18
19. Family vacations involved staying at hotels
20. Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18
21. Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them
22. There was original art in your house when you were a child
23. You and your family lived in a single-family house
24. Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home
25. You had your own room as a child
26. You had a phone in your room before you turned 18
27. Participated in a SAT/ACT prep course
28. Had your own TV in your room in high school
29. Owned a mutual fund or IRA in high school or college
30. Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16
31. Went on a cruise with your family
32. Went on more than one cruise with your family
33. Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up
34. You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family

My Gift’s Responses

1. Father went to college
2. Father finished college
3. Mother went to college
4. Mother finished college
5. Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor
6. Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers
7. Had more than 50 books in your childhood home
8. Had more than 500 books in your childhood home
9. Were read children’s books by a parent
10. Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18
11. Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18
12. The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively
13. Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18
14. Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs
15. Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs
16. Went to a private high school
17. Went to summer camp
18. Had a private tutor before you turned 18
19. Family vacations involved staying at hotels
20. Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18
21. Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them
22. There was original art in your house when you were a child
23. You and your family lived in a single-family house
24. Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home
25. You had your own room as a child
26. You had a phone in your room before you turned 18
27. Participated in a SAT/ACT prep course
28. Had your own TV in your room in high school
29. Owned a mutual fund or IRA in high school or college
30. Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16
31. Went on a cruise with your family
32. Went on more than one cruise with your family
33. Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up
34. You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family

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10 Responses

  1. Mmmmm . . . glass . . . definitely better than a cruise.

    On our scale: The Wife just noticed that we didn’t get an Xmas card from Roche Bobois this year. I guess we’ve moved down.

  2. The Wife has now just said she’s not going to say anything to me anymore.

  3. LOL! I think you should have a New Year’s resolution to arbitrarily select and document things she says and post them all over cyberspace.

  4. Wow. What a contrast between you and your Gift!

    Class mobility is like the core of the American Myth and the good reason your parents came here. But now (the demographers tell me) DOWNWARD class mobility is more common than upward. Crazy.

    I like the idea of making this a meme—will post my answers later.

    One interesting aspect of the survey is that it is written from such a middle class/middle brow perspective. TV in your room? Cruisline vacations? Lots of people would see these not as marks of distinction but trashiness! After two family cruises, I can confirm they are awful. Butter sculptures. Staff renditions of A Chorus Line. Group snorkeling expeditions. First circle of hell?

  5. totally agreed, owl-girl…hey karen, you and I both have 13 highlighted items! I didn’t realize one was to repost with bold print, so I just counted…

    cruiselines are totally the first circle of hell. Ice sculptures, too, and boozy topless once-business-execs with trophy wives, and everyone sunburned (well, at least that was cruising, about 20 years ago). Oh and don’t forget the so-called disco floors that make Saturday Night Fever look high-tech. Also, cruiselines are where old comics and other performers go to Baudrillardian simulacra heaven–well, that and Coney Island, apparently. There’s a reason Selby set _Requiem for a Dream_ there.

  6. The particular exercise confirms DZM’s frequent assertion that I am, in fact, Irish white trash.

  7. Just like my Daddy!

    Perhaps we should take this offline…

  8. “Abandon all hope, you who enter here.” I love the Inferno.

    Wikipedia has a nice write up of the levels of hell, BTW, under “Divine Comedy.” Including this, re: the first circle:

    “Here reside the unbaptized and the virtuous pagans, who, though not sinful, did not accept Christ. Here also reside those who, if they lived before the coming of Christ, did not pay fitting homage to their respective deity. They are not punished in an active sense, but rather grieve only their separation from God, without hope of reconciliation. Their fault was that they lacked faith — the hope for something greater than rational minds can conceive.”

    Baudrillard’s concept of simulacra used to awe and amuse me. Now, though, it feels frightening — like a bad trip. I think this has something to do with age — and possibly practice?

    And yes, the survey is not only middle class, but also distinctly American.

  9. Hi Karen
    I’ve never actually gone on a cruise in one of those big new cruising boats. I used to look at them with interest every week when I lived in Miami Beach. My roomate of those days went to work in one of the lines and invited me on two ocassions for lunch and visit on an afternoon at port before departure. I will say that from an architectural perspective, there is a great amount of detail that goes into making these boats be very festive. For some people, those who can’t walk too much, these trips are good (my parents and their friends, for example). For me, I would be frustrated being in a place that feeds you 7 or 8 times a day. The sad reality is that what used to be fun was visiting ports, but now visits to ports are increasingly being limited because of taxes imposed on the lines, so people are spending more time on board the ships, which are like floating hotels anyway.
    Cheers,
    Arturo

  10. yeah, i have to admit that some of the questions were not so much about priviledge but being overindulged. i did the survey and then forgot to post it. basically, i would say i was and am very priviledged but i think my parents were very careful that my sister and i were not spoiled and that we appreciated the things we had.

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