are you privileged? a test of class, privilege and other social dividers

this is the link the exercice so many bloggers are participating in lately (see belgianwaffle, noble savage, the good raised up, charlotte) . i suspect that very soon, we’ll know too much about too many.

What follows are the questions Dr Barratt and students devised as a means to delve into the issue of class by way of privilege. While the responses can be interesting, I am not convinced it works. Privilege is a relative, highly personal concept, while class, at least in the definitions I’ve studied in sociology and economics is much less so. They are both constructs, but not of the same order.

Judging by my responses to the questions, I’d say I grew up in a life of privilege. But if you asked a completely different set of questions, all that would change. If you asked if I had ever used brand name sunscreen instead of coppertone, participated in competitive sports or elocution lessons, you’d get a different picture. Or ask what kind/brand of new clothes I got, where we vacationed, and if I ever partook in a debutante sort of event – and the story changes. The questionnaire is a very good reflection of what the PhD students who designed the questionnaire consider markers of privilege, and THAT is interesting. Your opinions please.

And here, for your consideration, are my responses.

True responses are bolded.

1. Father went to college.

2.Father finished college.

3.Mother went to college.

4.Mother finished college – but by her own admission, only under duress. judging by the number of times she’s used, let alone made reference to her degree, i’d say this was not a priority for her.

5. Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor.

6. Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers. never thought of it that way, but probably yes.

7. Had more than 50 books in your childhood home. definitely.

8. Had more than 500 books in your childhood home. fershure. keep counting.

9. Were read children’s books by a parent : les fables de lafontaine – particular favorite was the one about the fox and the crow (la fable du corbeau et du renard). my father made them even better (and hilarious) when retelling in the brussels accent.

10. Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18. since we lived abroad and went ot a german international school, we took remedial french grammar lesson, to prepare us for an eventual return to brussels (apparently german was going to prepare us effortlessly for flemish – which it strangely did). also gymnastics, ballet, flamenco, swimming, tennis. gawd.

11.Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18: see above.

12. The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively: depends what show we are talking about.

13. Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18: don’t think so, my father knew me better than that.

14. Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs: between them and the generous european educational system, yes.

15. Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college cost: see above. grad school was made possible by generosity of parents and admitting university and department.

16. Went to a private high school

17. Went to summer camp: since I was 10 I spent 4 weeks of my summer hols away. wildlife camp in texas (slept in tents, rounded up cattle, learnt to shoot a rifle – what were my parents thinking???), then all girls camp in north carolina (we wore uniforms, had tennis round robins with the boys camp, prayed out loud in a circle before bed – again – what WERE they thinking????), and finally computer camp in vermont, where i spent on summer as a counselor and almost got thrown out bc I dared read ‘princess daisy’ in public. lawd, they were such prudes.

18. Had a private tutor before you turned 18: see french tutor above.

19. Family vacations involved staying at hotels: yes. a lifelong love of hotel breakfast was born this way.

20. Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18. yes.

21. Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down: yes. the most beautiful red mini ever. i still love that car. it had chrome bumpers, and I could park it anywhere. and drive it along narrow park lanes after the parks closed…

22. There was original art in your house when you were a child: yes. but “original art” could mean anything, no?

23. You and your family lived in a single-family house. no – we are apartment people. at least my parents were. my sister and i live in houses with gardens, something i am close to regretting bc i do not have the time or the green thumb to care about a garden, and miss the comfort of being able to leave my home and not worry about anything.

24. Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home.

25. You had your own room as a child: yes, then no, then yes.

26. You had a phone in your room before you turned 18: no i most certainly did not. my sister on the other hand was much better at getting stuff, so she did have a phone. i’m not bitter about it. not.

27. Participated in a SAT/ACT prep course: not necessary where i am from.

28. Had your own TV in your room in high school: no, but sister did (same way she got the phone) not bitter about that one either. not.

29. Owned a mutual fund or IRA in high school or college: nope.

30. Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16. yes, lots of times, but being an expat sort of makes that inevitable.

31. Went on a cruise with your family: yes, but not before i was 18.

32. Went on more than one cruise with your family: do sailing trips count?

33. Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up. yes.

34. You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family. absolutely had no idea. but not bc my father was an inconsiderate overheater who spoiled his children rotten, but bc we never lived anywhere that was terribly cold.

*The original authors of this exercise are Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, and Stacy Ploskonka at Illinois State University. If you participate, they ask that you PLEASE acknowledge their copyright


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