The Slippery Slope of Quantifying Privilege

Normally, I don’t pay much attention to a pop-entertainment, pseudo-news site like Buzzfeed. This gem, however, has been popping up on my Facebook feed left and right over the last few days, with a title too irritating to resist:

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I’m already slightly annoyed by the fact that Buzzfeed quizzes exist almost solely for data mining purposes. However, at first glance this quiz seemed like it might actually be a good thing; showing people that they have privilege goes a long way to promote overall social justice. The quiz itself is essentially a checklist that sounds like the most depressing game of “I’ve Never” that’s ever been played:

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So what happened when I checked my privilege?

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“Points of privilege”? Sorry, Buzzfeed, but that is not how privilege works. Privilege isn’t a score card where you tally up all of the social injustices that have been done onto you so you can compare with others. Privilege is context-based, and having privilege in one domain does not nullify discrimination you’ve experienced elsewhere. For example, I have white privilege, cisgender privilege, first-world privilege, but I do not have male privilege, thin privilege, or Christian privilege. My privilege (or lack thereof) in one domain exists separately from any privilege I have in another domain. All of the benefits I’ve experienced from being a white person haven’t been neutralized by the shitty things that I’ve gone through for being a woman, or being fat.

What’s more troubling is how this quiz promotes the comparison of different people’s “advantages”. Quantifying privilege cheapens it, makes it seem like a much less serious issue than it is. It does not promote thoughtful discussion, and in fact it actually serves to put people at odds. Rather than looking at each kind of privilege on its own, at a level that can actually impact social change, it puts people into two categories: privileged or not privileged. The latter get to play “Ain’t it Awful” with their equally unprivileged comrades, while the former can either shrug the information off, or worse, become indignant and perhaps even resentful. How much harder, then, will it be to reach those people, and show them what privilege actually means?

3 thoughts on “The Slippery Slope of Quantifying Privilege

  1. Wait, you only got 4 points less than me and got not at all privileged when I got privileged? Talk about drawing a line in the sand. Also, I agree with your points. Possibly the only thing this quiz was good for was making me appreciate the privileges I do have.

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