Life Online; What Is Privilege and When Should We Acknowledge It?

img_9735Everyone’s favourite social media app for ensuring we’re all 100% politically correct has been at it again this week with the arguing. And, once again, the subject of the ever-growing debate? Privilege. Or, more specifically, Alfie Deyes’ privilege. Some say that others are jealous, others say that Alfie is wrong, and some people just want him to actually wake up and realise that he HAS privilege that other people don’t, and it’s all a bit of a mess.
Now, I’m well aware that this post could add fire to the fire (is that the saying?), but there are also many different situations in which this whole subject of privilege has arose, and I’ve started writing a post about every single one of them, but stopped for lack of words.
I feel like my brain has *possibly* found the correct phrasing today though, so here we go.
Like all good cheesy university essays, let’s start with a definition.
Privilege: “a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group.”
Being from a very working class background, where all of the people around me were pretty much in the exact same circumstances, I didn’t ever think too much about privilege. I mean, sure, I knew that I was luckier than some of the other kids in my year group in that we had our own house and a decent car, but I just considered that to be luck. And then, when my parents split, we didn’t have that anymore and things were really tough, but I just considered that tough luck. It’s not something that can be helped, you can’t help what you’re born into. But, I didn’t ever consider these things to be a privilege because I knew that others had so much more. I mean, I’m from an area in the country with one of the lowest progression rates to higher education, I get full student loan, and I’ve worked incredibly hard for absolutely everything that I’ve ever got; how could I be privileged?
It wasn’t until the last two years that I considered the different ways to be privileged. Money isn’t the only form of privilege. Privilege can also come from the colour of your skin, or the life you are able to lead, and I had certainly never considered those things as privileges before.
I’ll admit; I was ignorant.
But, I genuinely do think that attitude towards money in this country is partly to blame for that. We seem to see money and privilege synonymously, but that is not the case.
Privilege can arise from things that you don’t even consider to be a privilege; and that’s because you’ve never had to consider them that way.
And this mindset is what helped me a lot when I first started university. I met many different people from many different backgrounds, and many of them very very different from my own. I met people from private schools (which I genuinely thought only existed in London for the queen’s relatives and future MPs), and it all was just a bit weird.
It quickly became clear that these people did not acknowledge their privilege either. Could I hate them for that? Certainly not. Before I had a wake up call to think about my own, I didn’t think I was privileged either.
See, when you are privileged, it can be difficult to see how you are, because that becomes your normality. Especially if you are surrounded by groups of people who get the same privileges to you, it can just feel normal.
Am I excusing Alfie’s behaviour? Certainly not. Hear me out, I promise.
However, I feel like as far as privilege is concerned, it’s okay to not realise that you have it to a certain extent. Not recognising your privilege is an immature life stage but it’s completely normal, (didn’t we all long to be discovered as the secret princess of Genovia in our early teens?!). However, it is a life stage that we should all grow out of.
Especially with platforms such as twitter, our generation is talking about issues such as these so much more, and that is AMAZING!!¬†Twitter helped me grow out of this self-absorbed view, and that’s great!
But as an adult I’ve come to realise that, in terms of privilege, there’s two types of people. 1; the type of person who is willing to recognise their privilege (even if they’ve never thought about it before) and keep that in mind throughout their life. 2; the type of person who is SO privileged that they simply cannot see the issue in their behaviour. I’ll leave you to guess which one our main man Alf is.
The second type of person is problematic. Not just for themselves, but for those around them. And, when this comes to Youtubers, it becomes an even bigger issue.
See, the issue is, that the whole reason that YouTube has been SO successful, and that Youtubers have earned their followings in the first place, is because it is relatable. Maybe not so much now, but back in the days when these guys got to the top, that was the whole reason that people watched them.
And, as these people have grown, some of them have become the second type of person.
Now, this is problematic because they have an audience. And that audience relies on them to be relatable. But these people aren’t relatable anymore. So this ideological tug-of-war just keeps going and going, and who knows when the rope will eventually snap?
The issue here is not Alfie’s privilege, and it never was. It is not the fact that he can afford his house or his cars or whatever, that’s not the point. I feel like a lot of the twitter threads I have read have emphasised those things too much to the point where it’s become the sole focus of the counter-argument, hence the jealousy comments.
The problem is that Alfie is still trying to be relatable, and it just isn’t working. Does this mean his content has to die? Certainly not! But, it does mean that he needs to stop trying to be relatable. Stop trying to be the internet’s big brother or whatever other cheesy name for it you’re gonna come up with, and grow up. YouTube is no longer a place where you have to be relatable! Some of the Youtubers currently finding fame are not at all, and that’s okay.
YouTube has grown up. It’s become more woke, just like the rest of social media. These kids that were your original audience aren’t kids any more. Believe it or not, some of them are full-blown adults struggling on ¬£1 a day!
My problem is not even with the challenge. It could’ve raised awareness, but the way that it was executed simply failed in this respect. But, Alfie’s intention was not to raise awareness, and hiding behind the premise of such because of backlash is just cowardly.
Privilege is different for every body. And, that’s okay. If I write a blog post about how to buy your first house and other people cannot relate because they don’t have that privilege, then that’s okay. They can move on and find something better suited to them, and there’s no issue with that. But there is an issue with pretending that this is relatable. Pretending that having ’empty water’ is an inconvenience to everybody, when some of us are just grateful for water.
The problem with privilege is that it takes maturity to understand it, and I’m afraid to say that that’s what seems to be lacking here.
But, don’t pretend to be relatable just because you choose not to understand the privilege that you have; because that’s a big problem.
Since writing this post, Alfie has released an apology that I honestly do believe is completely genuine. I appreciate and respect what he has said, and I honestly hope that he becomes the first type of person. Like I said, privilege is one of those things that takes maturity and sometimes a bit of a reality check to acknowledge. I thought that this post was still important though, hence me still choosing to publish it.
As ever, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Love,
H x

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2 Comments

  1. Stephanie Dring 20th June 2018 / 9:04 PM

    Personally, I feel like for YouTubers to be relatable, it’s more about their morals and beliefs than anything else. I am a million miles away from InTheFrow’s life because I can barely afford a Primark bag never mind a Gucci one but because of the way she portrays herself and her outlook on life, I can totally relate to her. You can either be humble about your privilege or selfish about it which I think is what came across in Alfie’s video. I think the main issue with it is that he didn’t even think to consider that this is how people actually live, all sense of the real world and real people has been lost. Privilege can so easily be used for good but the more privilege people have, it seems the more blind they are to the good in it.
    Steph x
    http://www.wanderlustpulse.com

  2. ellesecrit 20th June 2018 / 11:06 PM

    This was such an interesting read and raised some very good points!

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