Ever since I was young, I’ve been ever so aware of my own and others privilege in the world. Theoretically, there’s evidence of structures of classes within society. If we’re confining to the given “lower, middle, higher” classes of society, I’d be something between the lower and middle classes. My parents both work hard, but they don’t earn loads of money. Everything we’ve got is from years and years of hard work and savings. Both of the families they’re from were lower class and often lived on the breadline, benefits and in council houses. I, in-fact, grew up on a council estate, like my parents, until we moved to a local housing estate when I was 8.
I went to a primary school in a pretty deprived area. There I had privilege. My mom could afford to buy me new uniform when I needed, make me fresh food for my lunch and pay for school trips and holidays. Many students weren’t able to do that. However, whilst I had slightly more privilege than some of my peers, there was little prejudice against each other. We judged each other and made friends based on warming personalities and lunch time activities. We didn’t make friends based on the content of our parents bank accounts.
When I was 11, I received a place at the local girls’ grammar school, where evidence of this privilege became ever more evident. I don’t want to stereotype or say all people like this do so, but it was very evident of classes amongst the year group. Rich, higher class girls would stick together, vs the lower, poorer classes would stick together. Still to this day, I don’t think this defines friendship. My school friends are all of a higher class of me, but we don’t judge each other from financial income. We became friends due to mutual interests, determination and love. However, without a doubt, higher class girls with privilege would often coup together and look down on those who weren’t like them.
However, they’d often be very ignorant of it. Not just students, but teachers too. I once got told to ‘speak properly’ by an English teacher when I was 12, because of my slight accent and they way I say certain words, which are totally acceptable in my dialect. You’d often be told to have a certain calculator or to only purchase uniform from the school shop. Just little things like that. I lost the majority of the PE uniform within my first year and it was pretty expensive to replace (all from the school shop of course), so I’d constantly be told off for not having the correct uniform. Who HONESTLY needs 10 different PE uniforms all for different sports? Again, here we have an example of blinded privilege.
Even as an older adult, I’m very aware of persons and their privilege, especially on social media. Holidays, gifts, even JOBS. It can be very much ‘who you know’ and ‘how much money you have’, which can be very hard for those of us who work and work with little reward. Again, I’m not saying people don’t work hard to be where they are today, but obviously, privilege and prejudice plays a massive part. Someone who is wearing a designer suit and speaks the Queen’s English AUTOMATICALLY has a boost over someone wearing a hand-me-down worn suit and a strong accent, despite the skills behind the pair. It automatically gives people ten steps up to start than others. I see people my age being awarded free travel trips and holidays on a monthly basis, and why? Yes, some hard work, but again a lot of privilege, which they’re often not aware they have.
Social media influencers who I once loved become blinded by their fame. Doing £400 hauls weekly at “cheaper” high street shops isn’t helping defeat this. The fact you have that money to do those to display to often, lower class, poorer audience shows your ignorance. Now I’m not saying they are not showing gratitude, or they haven’t worked hard for what they’ve got today, but more often than not, these influences have NEVER been in a position of poverty. They’ve had financial security blankets of their parents, they’ve never had to go to food banks or sleep on the floor of their friends because they can’t afford rent. I really feel people are not using their fame to full potential. However, it has to be said I do appreciate the work of many influencers: The Michalaks (on YouTube) constantly take time out of their videos to talk for their thanks, but they also give back. They’ve donated much to charity and have helped a homeless man rebuild his life and start up his music career. Another instagram celeb is ‘Healthy Chef Steph’ – whilst I don’t agree with many of her endorsements, behind the scenes she volunteers with the homeless, providing nutritious meals and shelter, which I really look up to. She doesn’t publicise this for her own fame either which is wonderful.
Ruby Tandoh once called out Lucy Watson for her privilege and veganism, stating that not everyone can be vegan. Whilst the intentions are there, not everyone can make the change, especially financially. It’s without a doubt, fresh food CAN be more expensive, especially with persons who have little knowledge about food and cooking. A lot of vegan alternatives and special ingredients are also very expensive and can only be purchased from large supermarkets or specialist shops… not everyone has access to those? That’s another example of privilege. It doesn’t make someone a bad person because they can’t afford fancy vegan food or can only afford to shop at a local corner shop.
I’m not doing to deny and say I’m not blinded by my own privilege, I know I have a lot more than others. I have my own car, an iPhone, my own flat. I can afford to pay bills (just about) and I can afford food and drink. I have been able to travel and to socialise too. I have more privilege than a lot of people, but I recognise it.
Another bit of an unsolicited rant from me, but I just think we should all recognise privilege and do something helpful with it. Help others in need, use your power and influence to make change, not just money and fame.
Hope it gets you thinking.
Emma is a Registered Dietitian and Registered Associate Nutritionist based in Cheshire, England. Emma works in community healthcare and writes freelance alongside her work: topics including Dietetic life, nutrition, mental health and lifestyle. Emma also writes and photographs recipes for the platform, as well as being the author of the ‘Mummy and Me’ series for SR Nutrition. Emma’s Food Stories is PR friendly brand.