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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Check Your Changing Privilege

<te Tuesday night while avoiding studying for a geology midterm, I found myself on a site called Driven by curiosity and the insatiable human drive to procrastinate, I clicked on a link to a quiz to see how my privilege added up. After answering questions about socioeconomic status, country, race, size, attractiveness, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, able-bodiedness, profession, religion, and even species, the application thought for a minute handed me a conclusion. Privileged as charged.

Each of the factors that the quiz considered came in a hierarchy that was binary, at least. Where there was a culturally privileged option, there was by default a non-privileged one—or many non-privileged ones. For affluent, there was non-affluent, for straight, there was non-straight: so on and so forth throughout all the flavors of privilege.
However, the hierarchies that the quiz recognized are clearly not innate. Which of the options constitutes the “valued” option depends on a wide variety of factors in this particular historical and cultural moment. Such assertions will come as little surprise to students of the practices of power: what may surprise us all will be the ways that binaries and hierarchies will flip and shift in the future.

As the culture of the United States and the world changes, and as we become more globalized and technologically connected, the qualities and skills that are most useful will also change. What remains to be seen is whether our system of valuation will change as well. Perhaps the old hierarchies will not work in the new world—if they ever “worked” to begin with. Perhaps it is time to abandon a hierarchical system altogether. Regardless, we need to be open to recoding both our systems of valuation and the internet quizzes that reflect them.

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