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Buzzfeed’s Quiz On Privilege And What It Actually Means

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You might have taken this quiz recently through the Buzzfeed website which asks the question “How privileged are you?”. It is essentially a checklist of 127 points. You get to know how privileged you are in society based on the number of points you check.

Question_list

The implications of having such a quiz need to be understood. In the process of questioning the status quo and in turn questioning the privileges of each individual, it allows for the varied forms of oppression to continue. Even if we do assume that the intentions of the ones who created the quiz are good, their intentions seem to have been severely limited by their privilege. Privilege limits the way you think, love, and build relationships as much as it gives you the power to change or bring to notice the forms of violence in the society. It limits you in a way that it enables oppressions to continue in ways that are known and unknown.

If you have taken the quiz and are one of the extremely privileged individuals, you may have gotten the following sentence as part of your results of the quiz –

“We don’t live in an ideal world, but you happened to be born into an ideal lot. This is not a bad thing, nor is it something to be ashamed of. But the world isn’t fair, and you should be aware of your advantages. As someone born into extreme privilege, it is your role in society to use your access, money, and influence to uplift others who don’t have as much. Thank you for checking your privilege.”

It Says That The World Isn’t Fair. But Why Isn’t It?

The way that the world is being looked at here is through privileged eyes. Privilege limits you from looking at the reality underneath the normalised behaviours and patterns in the society. Here, what is missed out is the relation between the privileged (oppressor), underprivileged (oppressed), and the unfairness of the world. The quiz makes you think that you have no responsibility in creating and perpetuating this “unfairness” in the world. But in fact, with privilege comes oppression.

Marriage

Source –  (Caste No Bar, Though Iyer Preferred)

A privileged individual is not born into a vacuum. The privilege is because of certain historical reasons. For instance, caste-privilege is because our ancestors have oppressed backward castes in order to hold on to power. Caste-privilege is maintained even now is because we still live in times wherein same-caste marriages do take place which enables you to transfer your ‘privilege’ to your kids. It is also because affirmative-action is seen as a bane, it is because we live and make huge profits out of unpaid/low-waged/horrific labour of backward castes (domestic workers, manual scavengers, hawkers, street vendors) and so on. I have dealt with gender and male-privilege a bit in my previous write-up.

Essentially, this quiz absolves the privileged from being self-reflective about how the privileged have been and continue to be responsible for this “unfairness” in the world. One may wonder how the quiz would have fared if one lists down the ways in which the privileged oppress the ones around them on a daily basis.

Instead, in order to assign some sort of responsibility to the privileged individuals, it talks about “upliftment” by the privileged.

What Does Upliftment Mean Here?

I did a Facebook search on this quiz to see the statuses that those who took the quiz put up. It is startling. While some have revelled because of the fact that they scored higher points and thus are more privileged, some called it a ‘reality-check’. Some even talked about how they are going to be the ‘voice’ of those who do not have the privilege to voice out their opinions.

TwoThreeOneFour

 

I will reiterate here that one’s intentions might be right when it comes to acknowledging their privileged and wanting to use it for the benefit of society. But it is not as simple as that. We live in a society that has social hierarchies based on gender, class, caste, religion, language, and many other aspects. One’s intentions and thus one’s actions might actually be counter-productive in a world like ours because these actions may again maintain and perpetuate these social hierarchies.

While the quiz brings out certain privileges that we might not be aware of in the check points, it isn’t enough. The way in which you use your privilege needs to be questioned on a daily basis.

Privileged – Underprivileged Loop

In order for the privileged to be able to lend their help and support the underprivileged, they need the underprivileged to continue to be underprivileged. This results in the actions of the privileged to be very tokenistic.

For instance, visiting old-age/orphanage homes over the weekends or birthdays, charities, farcical-philanthropy, cooking over the weekends (by men), buying gifts to your didis and bhaiyas et cetera. Instead of working on to bring material change so as to not have the necessity of having a system wherein privileged section of the society always have to ‘uplift’ the underprivileged, one seems to endeavour in actions and tasks that assuage the guilt of being privileged.

Domestic Worker

Source – (Caste No Bar, Though Iyer Preferred)

If you actually want to bring material change, you will have to let go of your privileges and that is hard. You will have to think of affirmative action and that is something you will oppose. You will have to, many a time, just shut-up which is hard for the privileged to do because they always have opinions and are ‘knowledgeable’. You will have to create spaces for the voiceless to voice their own opinions instead of you voicing it out for them which is sometimes a long and arduous task in a very oppressive society like ours. You will have to pay minimum wages to your domestic worker and also grant the same privileges one might have for someone who is employed in a company (leaves, insurance, and various other rights). You will have to be reflexive enough and really see the daily oppression that takes place.

Sexism - Male Panelists

Source –  (Sanitary Panels)

The Politics Of Language

The idea of using the words privileged and thus underprivileged is very limited. It hides the fact that the privileged are the oppressors and underprivileged are the oppressed. It fails to talk about the societal structures (patriarchy, caste) that continue to create the oppressed and oppressors, affecting the realities of both the former and the latter. It assumes that we are born into a world that is unfair without implicating the oppressors (and the societal structures) for creating such a world and maintaining the status quo even now.

Casteism Scale

Casteism_Scale__-_1Savvarna

Note: This is a very limited scale and many aforementioned behaviours can coexist and can move to and fro. Also, this is not to implicate individuals but to bring to notice how we are all implicated because of the notion of caste. This scale is limited to caste.

A part of the result I got from the quiz when I decided to not check any points was the following:

“You know firsthand that the world isn’t fair. You’ve overcome several challenges to level your own playing field to a point where, now, you’re doing this quiz in English, on a smartphone.”

Again, here, while absolving the privileged for creating and maintaining this unfair world, it talks about how the ‘underprivileged’ have supposedly overcome several challenges. Here, we can clearly see how we are creating this unfair world even though our intentions may supposedly be in the right direction.

I am suspicious of the words ‘upliftment’, ‘help’, ‘save’, ‘give voice’, and similar sounding words when we, the privileged, use it. It reflects the reality we are living in. And, if we are living in a false-reality, then all we are doing is sounding stereotypically-philanthropic and as a saviour on online spaces without really allowing for a true reality-check and material-change, which is a daily continual process.

You might ask if this quiz isn’t the first step to change the ‘unfair’ world. This isn’t enough because it strays our hearts and minds away from actually being able to understand how to use our privilege.

We live very political lives. It is very easy to look at a slum near your house and use it as a mirror to see how privileged you might be. But to understand that you are responsible in some way or the other for the creation and maintaining of slums and even benefiting from these slums (because most of the ones who do low-paid, or unpaid jobs in the city live in the slums, while others live in gated communities) is hard.

To change the world and systems of social hierarchies that benefit you on a daily basis, and to acknowledge that you are an oppressor because of certain histories and realities is tough. But that is what is necessary.

Here are some resources to start with to educate yourself on privilege and oppression, and thus understand the world better-

  1. Caste Privilege 101: A Primer for the Privileged
  2. Privilege 101: A Quick and Dirty Guide
  3. Round Table India
  4. Dalit Camera
  5. Kakkoos Documentary 
  6. Feminism In India
  7. The Pencilsword: On A Plate

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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