The sorority girl stereotype is out there, as much as we all hate to admit it. To the outsider looking in, we are privileged, attractive, dumb, clique-y, and lazy. I’m not here to argue the stereotype, because honestly, some girls do embody it. But then again, there are girls who don’t. What I do want to do is discuss the idea of privilege for a second.
I can’t even count the number of times some of my extraordinarily wealthy friends have tried to tell me that they aren’t “spoiled,” as if being spoiled is inherently a bad thing. I’ll be the first to admit it: I am spoiled. My parents have worked hard to provide for me. From college tuition, to a car, to designer bags and expensive jewelry; my parents like to give me nice things.
However, even though I am spoiled, I maintain the distinction that I am not a “spoiled brat.” I’ve had a job since I was thirteen, and I work hard to earn money to pay some of my bills. Not because I have to, but because I want to start learning responsibility before I graduate. But here’s thing, aside from recognizing the designer labels I tote around, one would not assume that I’m privileged. This gets to the heart of my issue; people don’t hate privilege — they hate ignorance.
When I was middle school, a teacher tried to explain the idea of privilege and wealth to us in a simple activity. My teacher set a garbage can in the middle of the classroom, right in front of the chalkboard. She then instructed us to take out a piece of paper, crinkle it into a ball, and shoot it in the garbage. In this social experiment, successfully shooting your paper ball into the garbage would equate to being wealthy and successful later on life.
Upon hearing this, everyone in the middle and back rows of the room collectively lost their shit. “That’s not fair” they said, “They’re closer” they shouted. She ignored everyone’s outrage and had us shoot anyway. As you would imagine, a higher percentage, but not all, of the people in the front row made it into the garbage while only a sparse few from the further back rows were able to successfully complete the task. My teacher then went on to explain that this is a good example of privilege. Often times if you are privileged, such as the front row kids, you are unaware of your inherent advantage. Furthermore, coming from privilege sets you up to be more likely to be successful later on life.
Now this is not a guarantee, as the entire front row did not succeed in throwing their paper ball into the trash. Just as being privileged doesn’t mean you will automatically be successful, being a part of a lower socio-economic sphere does not mean you will be a failure, just look at the couple students that were able to successfully shoot their paper ball. It will be harder, however. That’s just a fact.
My point is, if you are privileged, you shouldn’t have to apologize for it. Every time someone sees me carrying a new purse, I shouldn’t have to add the caveat that “I’m not spoiled.” I won’t apologize for being born into a privileged family and every connection and advantage that I have. I will use that to be successful. But at the same time, I’m aware of just how privileged I am and that so many people don’t have what I have.
I don’t pretend that I’m “doing it on my own” because even if I didn’t use my family’s connections, privilege extends beyond that. I’m privileged in that I never had to know what it was like to be hungry. I’m privileged in that I never had to fear for my safety at school. I’m privileged in that I never had to work to pay bills, all the money I made was just spending money for play. I’m not asking anyone to apologize for their privilege, because that’s asinine, but I am asking that you not be ignorant of it. Realize just how lucky you are and then thank the people who provided you with all of that.
More importantly, don’t look down upon those who don’t have what you have. You have no idea what their story is, or how far they had to throw their paper ball to land in your circle..