Someone call the waaaaaaambulance, we’ve got a whiner on our hands. Over at Thought Catalog, in a piece titled “Being Privileged In Not A Choice, So Stop Hating Me For It,” writer Kate Menendez says she is fed up with other people judging her for her privileged background. She’s sick of being self conscious that, thanks to her parents paying for college and grad school, she had no debt. She’s over pretending that the fancy suits she wears to her internship are hand-me-downs, when she bought them full price herself. She’s tired of getting dirty looks from her doorman when he hands her a delivery from J. Crew, dammit! Yes, doorman. She lives in an expensive high-rise building, get over it, poors, because Kate can’t help it! She writes:
So stop making me feel like I’ve done something wrong. Stop making me feel like I am less deserving. I didn’t ask to be born into this kind of circumstance and I’m tired of being judged for it.
In some ways, Menendez is right of course. It isn’t her “fault” that she was born to parents who “work hard and did much better than they ever expected in their careers.” There is certainly no reason to “hate” her for being lucky enough to have college and grad school paid for, to have the money to buy nice suits and get her hair highlighted. When it comes to accepting these opportunities and privileges, Menendez has done nothing wrong. But I am having a hard time believing that Menendez actually has experienced “backlash” for simply being privileged. Aside from her interpretation of the looks her doorman gives her, Menendez offers no actual examples of the hate she’s received, just blanket statements about people needing to “lay off.” Without any concrete examples, I’m inclined to believe that the “judgment” Menendez feels is actually youthful self absorption making larger conversations about privilege all about her.
There are exceptions of course, but generally, when people talk about the existence of privilege or make critical statements about privilege, they aren’t targeting or blaming the specific individuals who have it. Menendez has chosen to focus her essay on the economic privilege she has, but there are many different types of privilege. Menendez, as a person who’s never had to worry about money, has privilege. But as a woman, she also lacks privilege because most societal structures benefit men over women. There’s white privilege, cis privilege, able-bodied privilege … the list goes on. Recognizing one’s privilege isn’t about being a bad person — it’s acknowledging the various power structures that benefit some and not others and that it is goddamn unfair.
To be angry that our economic structure allows for so few to have so much and so many to have so little is not the same as “hating” Kate Menendez for having professional highlights. If Menendez genuinely feels judged and disliked, if those looks her doorman gives her are really “dirty,” I suggest she confront the people in her life who she believes hate her for living in a high-rise and not having debt and wearing J. Crew button downs. Because the rest of the world, the people she chose to direct her self-pitying screed at, we’re not oppressing her.
And if it turns out that Kate Menendez is as hated and resented and judged as she claims, I suggest she reread her own essay for clues as to why. This problem you’re whining about, Kate? It’s not a real one. That you think it is and thought it worthy of complaining about for 1000 words, that is privilege in action. Perhaps it’s not that people hate you for having privilege, but for how you’ve chosen to use it.