When I was in college I always felt like I was on the lower rungs of the privileged ladder. I was able to be there when others couldn’t, I could afford to finish my degree, I had food in my belly – plenty of money for the occasional night out and enough money to get home t weekends to raid my mother’s fridge but compared to others, I was not privileged – or at least I didn’t think I was. I couldn’t afford to go travelling during the summer, go out every night, buy from the expensive supermarkets or have meals in the canteen every day. I didn’t get pocket money, I didn’t have to work during my time in college but I lived off of a grant, which looking back not a huge amount of money. I lived in affordable houses and flats that had mould and you could see your breath in the mornings, even in the summer. I never went without food, clothes or rent but I never felt as though I was on the same level as people who could take an unpaid internship during the summer or could live in a nice part of the city. It wasn’t until I left college and had to live in the real world that I’ve really started to realise that all of the things that made me feel like I was at a disadvantage were actually examples of my privilege.
There were people who dropped out of college because they couldn’t afford to stay, people who couldn’t afford to go in the first place because they weren’t entitled to a grant or any help and people whose college work had to suffer because they worked 20 plus hours a week just to pay for it. Looking back I realised I was incredibly lucky to be able to go to college, finish my degree go on and do a fucking Masters -get a job straight away after finishing it. I WAS PRIVILEGED. And I still am and honestly I think I always have been. I never went without anything in my life. When I quit my job to study in my final year of secondary school, I could, because I had very nice understanding parents and also enough of everything that I could have possibly needed at 18, extra pocket money wasn’t leaving me stuck for any necessity. I had nice things, was giving presents at Christmas and Birthdays. I never went without anything I needed and I even got things I wanted. Now, lately, like a lot of people, my life has not gone according to plan – but I have WIFI and a laptop and am able to moan about it via my blog so I’m doing pretty ok don’t you think?
I’m a white educated woman, with food, a smart phone and a Netflix account, I AM PRIVILEGED. Last week I was on my period and I literally realised that I had the choice between using a period cup, reusable pads, a tampon or a sanitary pad. There are women all over the world you might not even have an cloth to put down there – there are women who get locked in sheds and left without food and drink for days while menstruating. So, I AM PRVILEGED. I went to a restaurant recently and thought how lucky it was that they accommodated my plant based diet – until I went home and thought what the fuck is wrong with me, I am lucky to be able to go to a restaurant in the first place.
Now I’m not going to suddenly become an obnoxious pain in the hole and start pretending I know what it is like for people who don’t have the luxuries or even the basic amenities that I have, but at least now I am becoming aware of how privileged I am to have the basics and the extras. I’m not trying to claim the realisation of the extent of my privilege is going to automatically make me a better person, I’m not going to start renouncing all possessions – that wouldn’t fix shite all problems in the world but I acknowledge that I have the privilege of so much. I have access to a safe, clean place to live. I have had a good education. I have access to health care, for both my physical and mental health, when I’ve needed it. I have travelled a little bit, voted on occasion – been allowed to use this platform to speak my truth. All of these things from the basic to the trivial are aspects of my privilege and I am very much aware of the fact that others do not have the same advantages that I have. But one of the privileges I have as an educated women is the right to be heard and the right to be listened to, and this advantage has taught me that I should use my voice to point out how wrong it is that I have advantages while others don’t – instead of assuming that I am somehow less fortunate just because I’m not out drinking prosecco cocktails on a Friday night. Now there are some things that my privilege can’t buy, the choices I have – they aren’t perfect, there is more I could have from a political and social point of view – but these are things that we all need, not just me and wanting those things does not make me privileged, for example, I can acknowledge the fact that I have health care and still argue about what the system lacks, it doesn’t mean I am not aware how lucky I am.
Privilege can be used to highlight the inconsistencies within your society. You are privileged with a voice and you should use it in order to show what is really wrong with the world and not waste it complaining about what you don’t have yourself. You can become an ally to groups that don’t have as much power as you do, you can highlight where people are using their privilege in a negative way and teach others about what you have learned. You just have to acknowledge how fortunate you are and take it from there.