If you want a lesson in how not to talk about being a rich woman, look no further than the astoundingly tone deaf post published on Thought Catalog today titled "Being Privileged Is Not A Choice, So Stop Hating Me For It."
To summarize (and save you the time rage-reading), blogger Kate Menendez is fed up with the "backlash" she perceives that she gets from people because she is privileged. She has had enough of the the dirty looks her doorman supposedly gives her for getting J. Crew packages, and is tired of feeling obligated to lie about her lack of student loans and the non-hand-me-down origins of her work suits.
"So stop making me feel like I’ve done something wrong," she writes. "I’m not asking for sympathy, I’m asking for people to lay off. There is always enough money in my bank account and I’m not sorry that is my situation."
Basically the post reads like a whiny "poor little rich girl" anthem and immediately issued in a well-deserved wave of sarcasm:
Once we got past our initial frustration, we realized that the misguided musings of Kate Menendez gave us a great opportunity to discuss the correct way to deal with your relative privilege. (Hint: It doesn't involve calling out your doorman or telling your coworkers that your nice suits are hand-me-downs.)
So we decided to put together a list of some things you should keep in mind if you have any kind of life advantage based on your identity -- whether it stems from your gender, socioeconomic status, sexual identity, religion or anything else:
1. Understand what privilege is.
We like this definition from Jamie Utt's December 2012 piece for Everyday Feminism. Utt defines "identity privilege" as:
Any unearned benefit or advantage one receives in society by nature of their identity. Examples of aspects of identity that can afford privilege: Race, Religion, Gender Identity, Sexual Orientation, Class/Wealth, Ability, or Citizenship Status
Most people have some parts of their identities that afford them status and others that do not. It's best to recognize the ways in which you do have privilege and the ways in which you don't.
2. Don't lie about it.
We all have that friend -- the one who is very obviously financially well-off but still complains about being "poor." It's annoying, insulting and ridiculous. If someone compliments your nice suit or your beautiful apartment, we recommend just saying "thank you." And if someone wonders why you don't have to pay student loans, own the fact that your parents are giving you the gift of taking that financial burden away from you -- and acknowledge that that makes you incredibly lucky.
3. Understand that you will sometimes feel uncomfortable about your privilege -- and that's OK.
If the worst thing you have to deal with is people making ill-timed or obnoxious comments about your wealth, you're doing just fine. Try to remember that while you are feeling uneasy about confessing where your designer suits are from, many of your peers can't begin to think about purchasing new work clothes, or aren't taken as seriously at job interviews because of the color of their skin or the way they present their gender. In a September 2008 blog post for Womanist Musings, Renee Martins recommends thinking about it this way: "Owning privilege is not about feeling ashamed, it is about acknowledging the benefits that one receives without having to work for them. "
4. Be part of a larger conversation.
Before you post a long lament about how it's so hard being privileged on the Internet, actually do some reading and critical thinking on the issue. (We recommend starting with Peggy McIntosh's "Unpacking The Invisible Knapsack.") After educating yourself, contribute to the discussion. Your thoughts might be better-received.
5. Consider doing something about it.
Part of recognizing the ways in which you are lucky is understanding how you can "pay it forward," whatever that means to you. Donate money, time, services -- whatever your privilege affords you. No one is asking you to apologize for being born into a certain class or race or gender or religion. But before you start telling other people to "lay off" of you, take a minute to think about what you can do to create a world where there's less inequality to begin with.