Check your privilege: you might be surprised

Being white or male is itself a privilege - and if you didn't realise that, it's probably about time you did


In the kind of online mash-up that has become inevitable with the rise of social media, an internet tool now exists to allow users to check their privilege – literally. Thanks to Buzzfeed for bringing a simple and mathematically sound resolution to all those messy Twitter debates.

Recently, there have been quizzes asking "which 1990s-era Friends character are you?"; "which pizza topping do you most resemble?"; "what's your mental age?" (not much if you find yourself continually doing these quizzes); and even "which time-wasting Buzzfeed quiz are you?" Now, anyone claiming to have the best feminist or working-class credentials, or the most overlap in her "intersectionality diagram", only has to answer a quick questionnaire by ticking, or not ticking, 100 boxes to get a privilege score out of 100. The search is now on for the person with 0 per cent privilege, who will win the right to have the last word on everything. (The people with 100 per cent privilege have been found already: they're all in the Cabinet.)

Clearly the Privilege Questionnaire is meant as a bit of fun. But, compared with other time-wasting quizzes, it is quite thought-provoking. Beginning with statements such as "I have never been discriminated against because of my skin colour", it asks users to check boxes about their race, gender, wealth, background and sexual orientation, among others. Simply being white or male is a tick in a privilege box. Don't complain: in real life in 2014 Britain, simply being white or male really is a tick in a privilege box, and if you didn't realise that, it's probably about time you did.

In this survey, privilege is measured relative to other developed, Western nations. (It is clearly American in emphasis, with questions about "high school" and "spring break".) It has more emphasis on religion than is probably relevant in godless Britain, but it also has some unexpected statements that will make people think. It acknowledges that good health and good looks are advantages. Having parents who are still alive and married is a privilege, too. Free from mental and physical disabilities? That's two ticks. I'd never considered "not being raped" as a particular privilege. Now, seeing that others might view it as a privilege makes me feel pretty lucky. I turn out to be 55 per cent privileged, though I'm surprised it's not more.

The concept of "intersectionality" gets people's backs up, but really you're just being asked to acknowledge that there are others less fortunate than you. It's a bit like the idea that drivers should give way to cars less expensive than their own: a simple, kind way of moderating traffic that acknowledges others' difficulties.

There's nothing wrong with being made to appreciate how lucky we are. Unless there's a 54-per-center out there who disagrees with me, in which case I defer to your greater awareness.

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