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Heather's Lunchtime Poll: "What Is Popular Privilege?"
June 2, 2013 7:19 AM   Subscribe

"Popular privilege is the privileges entitled to those who are considered to be 'popular' or well liked," according to the mission statement of a Tumblr called "This Is Popular Privilege." The site's author says that she is 14, gay, a high school student, and an enthusiast of cats and anime.

Responses to the Tumblr range from gratitude and examples of privilege in action in high schools to, more often, scorn, which the author tackles quite aggressively. "While I do believe popular privilege is a thing, I need you to know that, for all your intentions, this blog isn't helping," wrote one commenter, quite neatly representing one side in the ages-old "Is it our job to object or to educate?" debate. (See previously: Privilege-checking and callout culture.)

"I’m all for the eradication of all oppression, including white privilege, male privilege, ableism, homophobia, etc. Popular privilege is the war I’ve decided to start with first, though," the author recently explained.

Does "popularity privilege," which the author points out often stems from innate or genetic characteristics ("like good looks, or jockishness")... exist? Well, popular high school kids make more money when they enter the workforce: "popularity pays because those who learn to play the game in high school are figuring out what they need to know to succeed when they enter the workplace," according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. And now, more than ever, high school is forever: "Before Facebook, there was a real discontinuity between our high-school selves and the rest of our lives," said Rutgers sociologist Keith Hampton, after a 2011 study showed that 22 percent of our Facebook friends are from high school.

And if so, what can we do? "We should DESTROY the caste system and all be considered fucking equals," our author suggests.

The author has returned to the site after what she says is a recent grounding for failing a class and continues to maintain that she is dead serious and not at all a troll.
posted by RJ Reynolds (102 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
If you live in a small town, you might meet a dozen or two.....
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:22 AM on June 2, 2013 [14 favorites]


The Perks of Being Not Privileged doesn't quite have the same ring to it.
posted by michaelh at 7:26 AM on June 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Popular privilege is shopping at Hot Topic ironically.

I dunno if there is a ton of insight here.

Bitch, back the fuck up. This is a legitimate serious issues that is not to be taken lightly. By making fun of my oppression, you’re triggering me.

It strikes me as either someone not quite mature enough to do the topic justice or someone trolling people who like to use words like "privilege" and "triggering." Tone argument is not illegitimate if you are actually trying to convince a skeptical audience on a new topic, it only gets problematic when questions of tone are used to ignore issues that would otherwise be ignored anyway. Bullying and social problems at school are an issue people do take seriously, even if we are miles away from figuring them out.

nintendofunclub asked: yo what happens if this blog becomes popular.

Internet popularity isn’t the same as real life popularity. Duh.


heh.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:29 AM on June 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


Wait, is this supposed to be a new idea or something? Yeah, the popular kids have it better in some ways. But, I mean so do the other kids. I guess I don't see the point of this- I feel like popular peoples' privilege is... um, popularity. Like how virtue is its own reward, but with being liked.
posted by windykites at 7:29 AM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


>Bitch, back the fuck up. This is a legitimate serious issues that is not to be taken lightly. By making fun of my oppression, you’re triggering me.

It strikes me as either someone not quite mature enough to do the topic justice or someone trolling people who like to use words like "privilege" and "triggering."


I'd be betting the former. But that's how I feel about anything to do with people talking about 'social justice' and Tumblr.
posted by hoyland at 7:31 AM on June 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


OTOH, angsty teenager, etc. I feel like she's gonna be pretty embarassed about this in a few years- it reminds me of some of my own cringey teenage poetry- so I'm gonna just let this go.
posted by windykites at 7:32 AM on June 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


most of the popular kids end up living utterly unremarkable lives when they get out of high school - at 14 years old, she isn't going to understand that yet, but she will - and it will be comforting
posted by pyramid termite at 7:34 AM on June 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


yo what happens if this blog becomes popular.

Way to go metafilter, you're making this kid internet popular privileged!
posted by cjorgensen at 7:34 AM on June 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I love the way the Tumblr author accuses her readers of triggering her.

This is good stuff.
posted by Unified Theory at 7:34 AM on June 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hm well, she's 14 and picked on and developing a method for dealing with that. So long as she's not harassing people, or using real names online, seems like just an outlet for her frustrations. Mostly, I am not going to expect a sophisticated grasp of oppression from someone her age.
posted by emjaybee at 7:36 AM on June 2, 2013 [12 favorites]


I’m just a high schooler trying to make the world a better place for my fellow social “outcasts.” Seriously, go choke on a dick.

Outcast, heal thyself
posted by The Gooch at 7:40 AM on June 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


I feel like she might be trolling.

On the other hand, "popular privilege" is totally a thing (at least when you're 14).
posted by wayland at 7:42 AM on June 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I hope everyone remembers that she's 14. I hope everyone remembers what they were like when they were 14. Not gonna hold my breath, but I can hope.
posted by rtha at 7:43 AM on June 2, 2013 [32 favorites]


What emjaybee said. When I think of how badly I warped ideas out of misunderstanding, willful or not, when I was fourteen, I cringe so hard I enter the fetal position.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:44 AM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Having been kind of a social outcast in the school I attended from ages 6-13, I probably would have loved this blog then and felt comforted by it.

As an adult, I'm now quite certain that "popular privilege" is actually a cocktail of class privilege (the "popular kids" were able to get away with things because their parents were the school's big donors; they could afford nice clothes; they had fancy big houses) + racial/ethnic privilege + ability privilege (is this a word? In any case, it was the kids who didn't struggle with autism spectrum disorders or depression or anxiety). Popularity is actually a benefit conferred on those who possess other privileges.
posted by capricorn at 7:44 AM on June 2, 2013 [27 favorites]


As with all vegan/vegetarian/PETA posts, most negative comments are about the side that has no power.
posted by DU at 7:44 AM on June 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't know if this is the case for everyone but my experience was that popularity was exceptionally important in middle school (i.e, when you're 14) but became far less important in high school. Maybe this was because my high school had 2,000 students. It's pretty much impossible for anyone to be popular in a pond that big.

Of course when you're in the thick of it you're going to have a hard time seeing the horizon. I wish her all the best.
posted by Doleful Creature at 7:46 AM on June 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Exposing a 14-year-old with Strong Opinions On Complex Matters to a wide Internet audience should constitute cruel and unusual punishment.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 7:49 AM on June 2, 2013 [16 favorites]


Popularity is actually a benefit conferred on those who possess other privileges.

Fascinating post – and yes, whether it's trollery or sincerity, this is the problem: "popularity privilege" essentially just collapses to "privilege privilege" and so doesn't have any content as an idea.
posted by oliverburkeman at 7:50 AM on June 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Also, yes, I want to say I think this is a troll, but when I was 14 I really desperately wanted to have Serious Political Thoughts and I posted extremely earnest, angry screeds about how I hated the way conservatives accused mainstream media outlets of having "liberal bias" because... news outlets should be all about expressing subjective political opinions just like they fought for in the Revolution!!
posted by capricorn at 7:52 AM on June 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't know, I hope she does some reading, learns to deal better with the reactions, and does something meaningful with this.

I saw some TV show a few years ago that indicated that gang problems in Atlanta grew out of the fact that the Deep South (or at least Georgia) is nearly 50-50 black and white, which meant that there was just a tiny handful of hispanics. The hispanic kids in school were treated terribly. They ultimately coped by forming gangs. This grew into serious criminal activity, all because the majority were such dicks to a handful of "outsiders."

So while she isn't stating her case very effectively, I think she has a point. I hope she grows enough to make this more than just "an angsty teen, complaining on the Internet" (or however people are dismissing it).
posted by Michele in California at 7:54 AM on June 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Exposing a 14-year-old with Strong Opinions On Complex Matters to a wide Internet audience should constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

No shit. I actually went and read the site. Dear diary, people are so mean!

Perhaps this will become her life's passion and in another 14 years she'll actually produce something compelling on the topic, but until then this is a circus.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:58 AM on June 2, 2013


I hope everyone remembers that she's 14.

Indeed, and I'd pretty much leave it at that. If there were some evidence this was all a put-on by somebody pretending to be fourteen, then okay, knock yourselves out analyzing it as literature or social commentary or whatever. But taking the author at her word that she's a kid, and remembering that this is just a blog and not some novel that's been vetted and published by professionals, I think restraint and a light touch are appropriate from responsible unrelated-to-her adults.

Personally, I think it's not easy to attract a significant readership, and that's an impressive feat for a fourteen-year-old. That could be constructive experience, or not. I hope it goes well for her.
posted by cribcage at 8:04 AM on June 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Part of me wonders if it's such a hot idea for others, especially adults, to reinforce this girl's identity as an outcast even on the fringes of the privilege-checking Tumblrverse.

On the one hand, she is not only venting her frustrations, but the blog itself also receives attention. It's important to vent (to an extent). It's definitely important to make and do things that matter to other people. That much is fine. On the other hand, I can't help but remember the old saw about how we are always training one another. When running this blog is what this girl finds rewarding, what is the world training her to be and do?

This blog seems like it would be an exercise of frustration. Instead of crafting a new story for herself, she is, ironically enough, simply restating the social order she suffers from: the popular kids are active actors at the center of attention, whereas she is an unpopular person who observes them from afar. Even other Tumblr people are sniping at her. She is reenacting her problems. When she checks others' popular privilege, she's sending up a signal flare that this upsets her, but it doesn't quite seem like she's taking control over how she feels about the popular kids - it seems like she's saying, "they are in power and I am not, for reasons as practically inescapable as other forms of privilege".

At least judging from this blog, it seems like she's privileging her not-popularity over her actual identity - that of the person behind the keyboard who likes anime and cats, is gay, who presumably has all kinds of other aspects and interests. She should build that up!

Wouldn't it be more fun (and more "productive") to connect with others, as opposed to casting herself as just having this negative identity of being not-popular? Couldn't she connect with other people, as opposed to obsessing over others? I'm not exactly a role model for any human being who has ever existed, but I do remember feeling Alone and Misunderstood and Special at her age. So, I signed up for things like the Skinny Puppy and Chris Morris listservs. I was able to virtually "meet" lots of people from around the world, of various ages, who shared my interests but who also opened my eyes to all kinds of amazing things. It helped! So much! I also had an older pen pal in England - we had hilarious-to-us email conversations, and we swapped huge cassette tape exchanges.

Then again, that was 1995 or thereabouts, and the internet was a different place back then. Besides, I was and remain to be a different person than this girl.

Another part of me wonders if I shouldn't bother worrying about her at all. She's 14, and all 14-year-olds are in crisis mode. I'm sure she does lots of stuff in the real world and on the internet, other than just running this Tumblr. Besides, I'm sure my parents would have thought I was a massive weirdo for talking to older dweebs on the internet, as opposed to doing more normal things.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:07 AM on June 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


"'popularity privilege' essentially just collapses to 'privilege privilege' and so doesn't have any content as an idea."

I don't think that's true.

While what capricorn writes is almost certainly true — that popularity is a combination of some other privileges, and I'd include beauty and social intelligence — I still think that popularity can indeed be a privilege in its own right in social contexts where it's self-sustaining. And a lot of social contexts are like that. Certainly secondary school is often like this.

Doleful Creature says that in his high school popularity wasn't as important and speculates that it was because it was a large school. I think that's almost certainly a factor. My small town high school had a student body of about 700 people in four grades. It was very much like the Breakfast Club model.

More to the point, my town had four elementary schools, a single junior high, and a single high school. Popularity status was largely determined for most kids by sixth grade, and solidly for pretty much everyone by ninth. Even though many of us changed as we grew, developing different interests and changing friends and becoming more or less social, nevertheless popularity for most never changed.

People are being too hard on her, here. As Michele in California said, this girl does have a point. She's not some prodigy writing about privilege as if she were a junior in university, she thinks that "privilege" somehow means that everyone who is popular are assholes. But, so? American high schools are very oppressive social environments, popularity can be self-sustaining and therefore very much can be a privilege structure, and in that it's a privilege those benefiting from it typically believe that it's the natural state of things and/or that they've "earned" it.

She's fundamentally right and good for her for speaking out about it in finds a wide audience and causes people (such as us) to think about this.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:08 AM on June 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


It just occurred to me that we often (around here, anyway) with a weird definition of 'popular.'-making it mean 'evil, bullying, exclusionary.' Which is odd, because people like that usually arent well liked (although they're often feared). In my high school of over 2000 students, there were maybe 20-30 people who just about everyone of all status thought were cool people and respected. Those people were popular and for a reason. The bullying status-mongers were not among them.

Just a thought.
posted by jonmc at 8:10 AM on June 2, 2013 [16 favorites]


[Come on folks, don't make things personal.]
posted by jessamyn at 8:13 AM on June 2, 2013


This is a troll blog set up specifically to mock the POC-team blog "This Is White Privilege".
posted by ShawnStruck at 8:15 AM on June 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Cite.
posted by rtha at 8:22 AM on June 2, 2013


How can we tell? It's evident that Poe's Law applies to Tumblr privilege-check culture too.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 8:24 AM on June 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


There's an academic word for what the author is dancing around and it's kyriarchy.

That being said, there's only so much productive discussion that can be had around discussing other people's privilege before things get ugly. The productive piece is examining one's own privilege and figuring out where the tools in your backpack can help others or help deconstruct existing injustices. For instance, a straight man can intervene in a misogynist locker room discussion. A person who identifies as GBLT can help a questioning friend.

Certainly there are people in the authors' school who have less "popular privilege" than the author. For instance, start in the special ed department or look for the meek kid who never speaks up or for the kid whose family couldn't even afford an Internet connection in the first place.

Privilege isn't about call-outs and creating new, inverted hierarchies. It's about reflection. Reflection of the culture and reflection into oneself. Reflection needs to be turned into productive action and Tumblr does not count as action.
posted by Skwirl at 8:25 AM on June 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


Popular privilege is yahoo coming in and fucking with tumblr.
Tags: popular privilege privilege oppression yahoo tumblr


Guys, this is fake. Cite: all the other fake things online and believing that 14 year olds are in fact smart enough to know not to self-parody this hard.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:27 AM on June 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I hope everyone remembers what they were like when they were 14.

In the name of all that is good, why would I ever willfully remember any of my teenage years? Keep that shit boxed and locked, I say. It just never happened. Lalalala. I can't hear you.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:28 AM on June 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm convinced this is not a troll. Compare this to a high school zine from popular kids to put this in a clearer context, both of the tone kids use, and what they're up against.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:29 AM on June 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Popularity in high school is a fluid and diverse thing, even just in white(ish) middle class(ish) America. There is a myth that every high school must be like a John Hughes movie or Mean Girls or what have you, but reality is both more and less interesting.

For example: I went to high school in the 90s. My Upstate New York rural-suburban high school had about 300 people per grade - neither tiny nor huge. Big socioeconomic differences, but very little racial diversity. Majority Catholic, Jews were about .5%, with an even smaller smattering of non-white kids.

Within my grade, at least, there wasn't really a single "popular" clique. There was basically a wealthier popular-ish clique and a significantly less wealthy popular-ish clique. Even those cliques' borders were heavily debatable. There were of course other interlocking social circles floating around. Mean people were not popular at all - the bullies that I do recall were sad people from broken homes, whom nobody envied.

I mean, it wasn't a utopia at all, but it wasn't like a teen movie where the "popular" kids were these douches who went around giving people wedgies. It's debatable that the "popular" kids even had any more friends than anyone else. They were no more or less fundamentally good or bad than the so-called outcasts, who often had ironically large social networks of their own.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:29 AM on June 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm convinced this is not a troll. Compare this to a high school zine from popular kids to put this in a clearer context, both of the tone kids use, and what they're up against.

If this is a hoax, then the synchronicity you see in writing styles might be because this is the tone that bullies use.
posted by Skwirl at 8:33 AM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am so incredibly glad that when I was 14, we just had anonymous live journals that no one could ever or will ever find.
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:35 AM on June 2, 2013


Popular privilege is getting to sit at the front of the school bus, instead of being pushed to the back with the rest of the “outcasts.”

This has definitely changed since I was at school. We sat near the driver or teacher for protection. I hope she gets to grow up without the hot lights of the Internet increasing the pressure.
posted by arcticseal at 8:41 AM on June 2, 2013


I am so incredibly glad that when I was 14, we just had anonymous live journals that no one could ever or will ever find.

Don't worry, I've long ago locked my friends page.
posted by MartinWisse at 8:42 AM on June 2, 2013


Actually, MeFi, like any other community, has users who are more 'popular,' than others. Are they all assholes and/or overly priviliged? I'm seriously asking.
posted by jonmc at 8:43 AM on June 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


The idea that popular people are universally jerks is silly. That it's silly doesn't disprove the claim that popularity functions as a privilege.

Also, people being defensive about the the idea that popularity is a privilege is pretty suggestive that it is.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:49 AM on June 2, 2013


This is a troll blog set up specifically to mock the POC-team blog "This Is White Privilege".

I have seen plenty of troll Tumblrs, most of them quite obvious. I am very far from convinced that this is a troll Tumblr. If it is a troll Tumblr, then it is a weirdly realistic troll Tumblr, one that doesn't even seem to be attempting for laughs. I will need evidence before I change my mind on this.

If this is a hoax, then the synchronicity you see in writing styles might be because this is the tone that bullies use.

It's the tone that many people, including 14-year-olds, use when emitting GRAR.

Sidenote: last night, the SO and I watched Paranorman. Not only was it a really good movie across the board, but central to the plot was the idea of the outcast becoming the bully. I don't think this blogger is a bully at all. But the broader idea is worth bringing up, especially because I'd never quite seen a kid's story with that angle. Just as it is wrong to conduct witch hunts against people merely for being weird, not everyone who is put-upon turns out to be a brilliant moral exemplar, and not everyone on the other side of the aisle is your enemy.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:51 AM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


If it is a troll Tumblr, then it is a weirdly realistic troll Tumblr, one that doesn't even seem to be attempting for laughs.

If it's a troll tumblr, then it's punching down. The laugh lines may not register as such.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:56 AM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


most of the popular kids end up living utterly unremarkable lives when they get out of high school - at 14 years old, she isn't going to understand that yet, but she will - and it will be comforting

Hopefully she matures enough to not be comforted by the misfortunes of others, and laughs at high school drama.

My high school was pretty large and all this "popularity" stuff didn't amount to a hill of beans after 8th grade. The school was just too big.
posted by discopolo at 8:58 AM on June 2, 2013


If it's a troll tumblr, then it's punching down. The laugh lines may not register as such.

I have seen plenty of troll Tumblrs punch down in the same exact way that you are accusing this Tumblr of punching down. When these fake Tumblrs pop up, even the relatively subtle ones are structured very differently than any real Tumblr. Even the most subtle ones will be patterned after a much more vocal and interactive sort of Tumblr.

...

Also, people being defensive about the the idea that popularity is a privilege is pretty suggestive that it is.

Popularity is often, in significant part, the secondary effect of various privileges, e.g. the confident, physically able, conventionally handsome white athlete who drives a nice car and comes from a financially stable family. Popularity is not a privilege in and of itself, unless we redefine the word "privilege".
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:03 AM on June 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I too think that this 14-year-old girl's worldview is flawed.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:07 AM on June 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


FFS, do we seriously now live in a world where a fourteen year old talks about "triggering?"
posted by trackofalljades at 9:07 AM on June 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


People don't just fake things on the internet for laughs. Sometimes they just do it. If it is real it is just kind of an embarrassing journal, but I would bet my internet detective badge that this is not made by a 14 year old girl.

Being "popular" is a confluence of things, some of the privilege-based, some of them not. It's such a temporary, contextual state that it doesn't really matter. For instance, in my middle school I was a chubby D&D-loving white middle-class outcast, while many of the popular kids were black drug dealers. Even at the time I would never be so self-centered to not realize I was still the privileged one in that dynamic.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:11 AM on June 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have seen plenty of troll Tumblrs punch down in the same exact way that you are accusing this Tumblr of punching down. When these fake Tumblrs pop up, even the relatively subtle ones are structured very differently than any real Tumblr. Even the most subtle ones will be patterned after a much more vocal and interactive sort of Tumblr.

I'm not accusing the tumblr of punching down. It was stated as a hypothetical. Punch-down humor sometimes doesn't register as humor to me, but as plain nastiness. Others may feel the same way. If this is satire, then it may not be registering as such.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:16 AM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Inspired by the recent MeFi thread about Pretty in Pink and other John Hughes films, I re-watched Some Kind of Wonderful last night. There's a scene in that movie that nicely illustrates "popular privilege" for me.

The Eric Stoltz character sees Amanda Jones (the Lea Thompson character in whom he is romantically interested) get sent to detention, so he pulls a fire alarm and intentionally gets caught so he can get sent to detention with her.

Then cut to the detention room which is full of cartoonish hoodlums and gang members who look like extras from Rumblefish. Amanda Jones is not there. We see her walking down the hall with the principal who is telling her "you can serve out your detention in my office." She responds with something like "oh thank you but I was kinda hoping not to do it at all." Principal responds, "Umm, well, okay!"

That kind of stuff happens, and it's fairly described as "popular[ity] privilege."
posted by Unified Theory at 9:18 AM on June 2, 2013


Those people were popular and for a reason. The bullying status-mongers were not among them.

my high school had about 80 - 90 people per class, but that was my experience, too - the truly popular people couldn't be bothered to bully those with less status - it would have tarnished their goody goody reputations

it was those who were either 2nd class popular or one of the more prominent outcast groups that did the bullying
posted by pyramid termite at 9:24 AM on June 2, 2013


"Popularity is not a privilege in and of itself, unless we redefine the word 'privilege'."

No, that's not right. On both counts. Popularity could be a self-reinforcing structure that confers advantage on its members. In some social contexts, I think it very much is such a structure.

You and others seem to think that popularity is exclusively a function of other attributes — but there are lots of examples where inclusion or exclusion is entirely arbitrary, matters of pure chance or because of the idiosyncratic decision of someone with a lot of social capital, and yet the in-group or out-group designation is self-perpetuating. Popularity is a kind of consensus of social perception and this sort of thing is famously prone to reinforcing mechanisms.

"Those people were popular and for a reason. The bullying status-mongers were not among them."

I'm going to have to disagree with both sides of this argument. My own high school experience, and the entirety of my subsequent life experience, is that the popular group includes both bullies and non-bullies, as well as nice people and mean people and interesting people and boring people. "Popularity", especially in high school, doesn't just mean "well-liked". What it really means is "high social status", or, better, "desirability of association". There are routes to being socially desirable that don't involve being well-liked. Likewise, there are disqualifiers from being socially desirable that being well-liked can't overcome.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:35 AM on June 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Popular privilege is getting to sit at the front of the school bus, instead of being pushed to the back with the rest of the “outcasts.”

This has definitely changed since I was at school. We sat near the driver or teacher for protection. I hope she gets to grow up without the hot lights of the Internet increasing the pressure.


When I went to school the cool kids all sat in the back of the bus. That is the cool kids who would never be caught dead on a bus. There was no violence or bullying on the bus to warrant sitting near the driver for protection. If anything the bus driver we had in junior high was sort of creepy. People sat in the front because it was the only place left to sit.
posted by birdherder at 9:35 AM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


FFS, do we seriously now live in a world where a fourteen year old talks about "triggering?"

Now? No, we've done so for ages. That a fourteen year old takes social justice language and concepts and applies it to her own situation is not a new thing. It's as old as Grange Hill.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:38 AM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a straight white male who is also a geek, I've been struggling to find a way in which I can act marginalised, so this is really useful for me. Stand with me and fight the socio-normative power structure brothers. Our slightly nasal voices will be silenced no longer.
posted by zoo at 9:45 AM on June 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is a mean troll - it co-opts the language used by, say, LGBTQ activists when they try to explain what being transgender is like and apply that frame to a different kind of marginalized population - unpopular kids. By framing the tumblr so the struggles of the LGBTQ community are below those of the 'popular vs unpopular' privilege, it's mocking their rhetoric (stuff like 'trigger warnings', 'check your privilege' etc.)
posted by Veritron at 9:46 AM on June 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


jonmc: "Actually, MeFi, like any other community, has users who are more 'popular,' than others. Are they all assholes and/or overly priviliged? I'm seriously asking."

While there are assuredly popular members I'm not sure what privilege can accrue besides maybe additional favourites which secondarily generate more comments views on the popular page and for those using threshold scripts.
posted by Mitheral at 9:49 AM on June 2, 2013


While there are assuredly popular members I'm not sure what privilege can accrue besides maybe additional favourites which secondarily generate more comments views on the popular page and for those using threshold scripts.

The chorus of support that materializes when someone disagrees with them, which is often jokey support that doesn't address the topic of the dispute, it just addresses how awesome or smart the popular member is; see for example recent incidents where people take issue with Whelk or elizardbits.
posted by Unified Theory at 9:57 AM on June 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


"If people would stop triggering me on purpose, there wouldn’t be any problems. "

And that was the point I realised that yes, she's definitely taking the piss. And more power to her for doing so.
posted by Decani at 10:05 AM on June 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


"If people would stop triggering me on purpose, there wouldn’t be any problems."

To each their own reaction, but for me, that was the point where I completely tuned out and felt like it was either fake or something I would never want to read.
posted by trackofalljades at 10:08 AM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


FFS, do we seriously now live in a world where a fourteen year old talks about "triggering?"

Shitty things have happened to kids, preteens, and teenagers since the dawn of fucking time, and reminders of those shitty things can be very distressing. Why is it so upsetting to you that they now have the language to express this?
posted by elizardbits at 10:11 AM on June 2, 2013 [11 favorites]


I guess I think the thing the author doesn't get (or the thing that the character that the author is playing doesn't get, if you like) is that the popular/unpopular dynamic isn't the central dynamic for all or even most high school students. Many, many students are completely outside of that dichotomy, some of them for reasons like race, sexuality, disability, etc. Spending some time thinking about her own privilege would help her develop a more sophisticated understanding of other people's privilege too.
posted by roll truck roll at 10:14 AM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I wish I had known what a trigger was when I was 14. Would have taken a lot of the mystery out of the panic attacks and anxiety-based trips to the ER. Took me a little over a decade after that to get introduced to the concept properly by a therapist. I'm sure this 14 year old child is not CORRECT about everything, but good on her for starting to build a toolkit early.
posted by lazaruslong at 10:15 AM on June 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


If this is a troll, it's especially funny because it's certainly no more extreme than other privilege-checking stuff on tumblr that seems to be perfectly sincere and real.

Especially funny, I mean, because the troll had the restraint to be subtle and not go overboard which makes the trolling funnier.
posted by Unified Theory at 10:19 AM on June 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


When you're 14, the shittiest thing to have happened to you is the shittiest thing to have ever happened to anyone ever. 14 year olds are not especially known for rationality, reasonableness or empathy.

I love the fact that she's writing, and trying to make sense of her world. I don't really agree with what she's saying, but she's a kid. She gets a pass.

Strangely, 14 year olds can be pretty immature. As adults, we sometimes forget that.
posted by zoo at 10:25 AM on June 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I got so sick the use of 'offensive' almost as a mantra during the PC episode of the '90's that I simply don't use the word anymore. 'Privilege' is now in the same terminological dustbin for me.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 10:30 AM on June 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Relevant
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:40 AM on June 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Popular privilege is yahoo coming in and fucking with tumblr."

Yahoo? Popular? Man, high school IS a different world.
posted by egypturnash at 11:15 AM on June 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


trackofalljades: "FFS, do we seriously now live in a world where a fourteen year old talks about "triggering?""

Yes, because PTSD and traumas happening to people of all ages.
posted by ShawnStruck at 11:20 AM on June 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Popularity is often, in significant part, the secondary effect of various privileges, e.g. the confident, physically able, conventionally handsome white athlete who drives a nice car and comes from a financially stable family. Popularity is not a privilege in and of itself, unless we redefine the word "privilege".

Class privilege could be described as largely the secondary effect of various privileges (frequently, composed of racial/ethnic privilege, wealth, family history of formal eduation.) Is class privilege not a thing?

I don't see why only the ultimate cause counts-- besides which, there is no ultimate cause. (Should white privilege be seen as the confluence of several types of allele privilege?)

This is a mean troll - it co-opts the language used by, say, LGBTQ activists when they try to explain what being transgender is like and apply that frame to a different kind of marginalized population - unpopular kids. By framing the tumblr so the struggles of the LGBTQ community are below those of the 'popular vs unpopular' privilege, it's mocking their rhetoric (stuff like 'trigger warnings', 'check your privilege' etc.)

It is trying to co-opt that language, because that language has achieved a social power beyond it's denotative meaning. Before you get too judgy about that, you might want to consider that this isn't the first time the language has been co-opted. LGBTQ activists, for instance, co-opted it at a time when it was used to talk about racism.
posted by nathan v at 11:25 AM on June 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


This blog seems like it would be an exercise of frustration. Instead of crafting a new story for herself, she is, ironically enough, simply restating the social order she suffers from: the popular kids are active actors at the center of attention, whereas she is an unpopular person who observes them from afar. Even other Tumblr people are sniping at her. She is reenacting her problems. When she checks others' popular privilege, she's sending up a signal flare that this upsets her, but it doesn't quite seem like she's taking control over how she feels about the popular kids - it seems like she's saying, "they are in power and I am not, for reasons as practically inescapable as other forms of privilege".

This is so important. It's particularly important with something that is as malleable as popularity. I'd say that probably half the things that I am working on in therapy, the things that have contoured my adult life, the things that have limited me in all kinds of ways, have come from thinking that I am constitutionally incapable of being anything except a vulnerable, disliked, socially-incompetent outsider. No amount of insiderness, friends, doing-neat-things or actual popularity has shifted this for me (although therapy is starting to!) because it was the way I lived since I was old enough to think about social patterns, ie, from when I was about seven.

The best thing you can do for yourself if you are not "popular" is develop a counter-identity that isn't based in your own suffering. Even if you're dragged back down by your daily life, even if you can't always stay in that counter-identity headspace, that's still the one thing that will really help you escape from this type of power-system - otherwise, you'll always be recreating it in your own head. Spending your adulthood doing bullying LARP is not a fun thing.

I add that it is important for people, particularly people on tumblr, to remember that oppressions are different from each other. Gender does not work identically to race; race does not work identically to class; being bullied because you're not popular does not work the same as homophobia. (Even though - intersectionality!) "Popularity" is enforced differently from racial hierarchy; "unpopular" kids may not have some underlying commonality outside their unpopularity. Unpopularity is more provisional and situational than gender or race, though those categories are themselves malleable over long stretches of time and over space.

On the other hand - here is one thing I remember from my own young days: that being "unpopular" was not something you were supposed to talk about. Nothing made my various bullies more uncomfortable than when I actually said to them 'hey, you know and I know that you're bullying me because I'm an unpopular weirdo". Especially with the rich kids, that would usually shut them right up, because while everyone was supposed to know that I was unpopular and a friendless, chronic victim, this was something that was supposed to stay as subtext. The cruelty and hierarchy of school was supposed to be deeply rooted and firmly enforced, but talking about it killed everyone's buzz. Acknowledging my actual humanity or the actual social violence of our interactions forced people to reflect on themselves and on social systems in ways that made them uncomfortable and disrupted the idea that what was happening was "natural" and that I was as the beasts of the field.

So in that sense, I guess, cheers for this kid. At least she's not interested in making the social climate comfortable for people who walk on her.
posted by Frowner at 11:34 AM on June 2, 2013 [29 favorites]


Previously on MeFi

This kid should read that link.
posted by OnceUponATime at 12:18 PM on June 2, 2013


House Tumblr: Check Your Privilege
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:43 PM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Someone needs a hug and an "It Gets Better" youtube
posted by Renoroc at 12:45 PM on June 2, 2013


Ridiculous. "Popular" kids deserve their privileges no less (or perhaps no more) than nerds deserve their privileges ... parenting and luck have at least as much to do with being good at math or violin as they have to do with being a good athlete or a good looking, well-dressed girl or a socially adept person of either gender. Heck, I knew all about my nerd privilege when I was 14, and there were no tech zillionaires or the internet to hold my hand and educate me about it, either.
posted by MattD at 12:53 PM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Popular privilege is yahoo coming in and fucking with tumblr.


I WTF/LOL'd


This tumblr is just adorable and wacky
posted by Bwithh at 1:28 PM on June 2, 2013


Popular privilege is getting to sit at the front of the school bus, instead of being pushed to the back with the rest of the “outcasts.”


Weird school...? Don't the cool kids normally get the honor of riding at the back where they can have cool conversations and mess around in cool ways? The nerds sit up front near the driver or teacher
posted by Bwithh at 1:30 PM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]




Yeah, well, the popular kids might be popular, but the rest of us are fucking real, man.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:43 PM on June 2, 2013


Popular doesn't seem to intersect with cool in this tumblr's world; I guess her school community is either isolated/ conservative small towny or her generation cohort just hasn't got to sex, drugs, and music yet.
posted by Bwithh at 1:55 PM on June 2, 2013


Desi and Ingy say It Gets Better
posted by Bwithh at 1:58 PM on June 2, 2013




Relevant Penny Arcade.
posted by Aizkolari at 2:24 PM on June 2, 2013


"Popular Privilege" sounds like it should be the title of a magazine in an Arrested Development cutaway gag. With Lindsay on the cover. In her younger years. Like Popular Mechanics. For the societally advantaged.
posted by Grangousier at 2:47 PM on June 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


You know what? At least the tumblr author isn't a goddamn "Nerdfighter".
Respect for keeping it real like that.
posted by Bwithh at 2:51 PM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Popular doesn't seem to intersect with cool in this tumblr's world; I guess her school community is either isolated/ conservative small towny or her generation cohort just hasn't got to sex, drugs, and music yet.

I was wondering about that - cats and anime as weirdo outcast interests? That doesn't compute. I'm sure the popular kids are spamming each other with links to Cute Kitty Videos like everyone else. And if drawing anime is uncool then who is uploading all those illustrations to DeviantArt? These days, your grandma is writing slashfic and drawing fan art.

Not that this tumblr doesn't have a point to make and isn't thought-provoking on some level, whether or not it's really a 14-year-old behind this, but cats, anime and drawing are considered pretty cool among the teenagers that I know or know about.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 3:00 PM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


And if drawing anime is uncool then who is uploading all those illustrations to DeviantArt?

A never-happier Alan Greenspan.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:39 PM on June 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


That's a big FPP for a blog that's an obvious parody of the Tumblr social justice crowd.

And if drawing anime is uncool then who is uploading all those illustrations to DeviantArt?

As somebody who has two family members with DA accounts, I can say: the uncool people. Seriously, even the uncool people consider anime porn drawings to be uncool

I gotta say... I used to be proud of being uncool and socially awkward and wearing a fedora and all of that. And I wish somebody had gently took me aside, told me to dress better, stop being so creepy, and make an attempt to at least act normal. 'Course in my school the weird kids were about 200 strong and had our own clique and website, so it didn't matter. Everyone was so economically and racially privileged (Fairfield County school) that they couldn't be bothered being bullying.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:35 PM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is a troll blog set up specifically to mock the POC-team blog "This Is White Privilege".
posted by ShawnStruck at 3:15 AM on June 3 [3 favorites −] Favorite added![!]



Cite.
posted by rtha at 3:22 AM on June 3 [+][!]



How can we tell? It's evident that Poe's Law applies to Tumblr privilege-check culture too.


Pretty much everything about the way she writes has that mocking tone. To pick a random example:

Popular privilege is shopping at Hot Topic ironically.


This is an obvious joke.

Since I was gone for so long, I have like 500 messages. I’ll try to look through them all. I’m trying to revamp my Naruto fan fiction and make it into a manga, so bear with me.

Everything from the way it's written really well to the use of an anime that was popular about 10 years ago points to it being aimed at an audience who uses 'anime' as a punchline.

Besides, MeFi has a bad habit of missing parody (Stuff White People Like, A Good Cartoon) when its aimed at things they agree with. I agree that the social structure of high schools is fucked up, but this is a parody.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:39 PM on June 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: half the things that I am working on in therapy, the things that have contoured my adult life, the things that have limited me in all kinds of ways, have come from thinking that I am constitutionally incapable of being anything except a vulnerable, disliked, socially-incompetent outsider
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:44 PM on June 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm really uncomfortable with the concept of this as an FPP, to the point that i almost made a MeTa about it.

If this is fake, then it's just crap and we look like buffoons for taking it at face value and essentially being the punchline of the joke.

If it's real, it's basically "hey look at what this 14 year old thinks" with a strong undertone of "and isn't it ridiculous/stupid/weird/etc?"

Neither of these is a good look.

Personally i'm on the side of it definitely being fake and a parody, but i also think that the entire "privilege checking and callout culture" of tumblr thing should be left on tumblr.
posted by emptythought at 7:48 PM on June 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm hoping this tumblr is actually run by a 30 year old secretly deeply jaded and self-hatingly sardonic PhD student in cultural studies!
posted by Bwithh at 8:02 PM on June 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Everything from the way it's written really well to the use of an anime that was popular about 10 years ago points to it being aimed at an audience who uses 'anime' as a punchline.

I know young people in the age group who are into Naruto. My troll alarm is definitely blasting too but the audience who uses anime as a punchline is making fun of, you know, real people.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:13 PM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


"And I wish somebody had gently took me aside, told me to dress better, stop being so creepy, and make an attempt to at least act normal. 'Course in my school the weird kids were about 200 strong and had our own clique and website, so it didn't matter."

It is certainly possible to be an outcast of the "outcasts". See: autistic girls.

I was not autistic enough to be in special ed. because I did not have as many intellectual disabilities that manifested themselves; just social misunderstanding enough that I was the butt of any/all social group's jokes. I guess I had a real privilege: being white and daughter of an engineer working a a large defense contractor in Silicon Valley [before the names of streets changed to "Silicon Valley Boulevard" etc. -- that street used to be Bernal Road]. Not even my parents knew that I was autistic [just failed attempts at finding what was "wrong" with me and a one-time, "she's almost autistic" from a psychologist or psychiatrist(?) when I was in grade school-- female autism was not understood well at that time anyway].

Someone else up-thread mentioned developmental disabilities/autism. It is really hard still for me to see who could be bullied more and less privileged that a person who cannot make social connections *at all* at their proximate age level--they all got scared off by my unDXd autism characteristics or were truly pitying me [while they made joke that they thought I did not understand or hear]. Even now people still bully us online because of the phenomenon of being offended that they [such humane people as them] could be hurting people or that an autistic person could tell them about what autism is like [only professionals and the parents of autistic kids know that]. Yeah, the latest is that we will shoot-up a school someday. [The myth of us having no empathy could not be further from the truth (at least in the female autistic community AFAIK) ].

I wish her luck because just like the GLBTQ saw anti-racism as an example to learn from, I see the GLBTQ community as an example to follow and coat-tails to ride in this whole anti-bullying movement.

The 14 year old is not trapped even if she IDs as an outcast right now. High school and lower grade bullying and teasing from popular people CAN be over come in a jr. college setting, for example. That is where I blossomed-- being developmentally delayed = late bloomer to me. I still often side with the outcasts, underdogs, and the like, but I want to hear all sides of whatever groups/arguments there are in a conflict, even the "popular people's" side. [BTW the Internets have been a boon to autistic people--the heavy overload of an in-person conversation is not there to blind and silence us as much.]
posted by RuvaBlue at 9:30 PM on June 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Not being popular in high school led to me being a really good student who went to college and grad. school and did very well, not to mention getting hella laid.

The popular kids from my high school? I'm sure they're doing fine but their lives aren't all that interesting either.
posted by bardic at 11:02 PM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


According to the tumblr's ideas, bardic, you are now probably a member of the popular privilege caste:

Popular privilege is not limited to high school kids. It can occur in the workplace, among a circle of friends, in organizations, etc.

Congrats!
posted by Bwithh at 11:44 PM on June 2, 2013


No way in HELL this is anything but a mean-spirited way to make fun of anti-racists and feminists. No 14 year old uses words like "heteronormative" and "triggering".
posted by DecemberBoy at 1:10 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


It is certainly possible to be an outcast of the "outcasts". See: autistic girls.

Holy shit, this entire post speaks to me on such a deep ass level. I too, was the slightly-autistic outcast of the outcasts kid. Diagnosed with aspergers, but the majority of the people i've met who were as well were effected differently or more severely. Normal enough to not be in special ed(although they tried in elementary school, when one particularly vindictive teacher tired of dealing with the interactions between me and other kids) but weird enough that i ended up being the butt of all jokes, the pity friend, the friend until there was a party or social event, etc.

One of my stand out memories of middle school is being set up on a fake date intended to make me look like shit on valentines day.

It is really hard still for me to see who could be bullied more and less privileged that a person who cannot make social connections *at all* at their proximate age level

For fucks sake, exactly.

Really though, i look back on my entire path through school(with a sting of being homeschooled) and groan, sometimes with a side of facepalm. A lot of it is at how people treated me, but a good amount is also how i acted, and how i failed at acting like a normal person who could actually do social interaction and social things in general.

As with, you it took me until i was well in to college for the rubber to hit the road of me even beginning to have a Normal Life and start realizing that there was a lot more to the problems i had when i was younger than just me.

I don't even know where i was going with this, other than that your post really hit home for me and made me completely reconsider how i was thinking about all this crap on tumblr. This blog may be a bit awful, and tumblr communities in general may handle some things poorly, but there are real major issues here that i let my distaste for the discussions about it over there cloud my judgement on.

I still have mixed feelings about this as an FPP, and definitely on some of the directions people have gone talking about both this post and the greater meta-discussion about this kind of shit in general... but i'm really happy it exists as a post just so i could read your post.
posted by emptythought at 1:28 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not being popular in high school led to me being a really good student who went to college and grad. school and did very well, not to mention getting hella laid.

The popular kids from my high school? I'm sure they're doing fine but their lives aren't all that interesting either.


unpopularity =/= academic success
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:10 AM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


No 14 year old uses words like "heteronormative" and "triggering".

I know one who uses those words (well, she might be 15 now - kids grow up so fast!). She was born to two lesbian feminist moms who are both activists in various movements. So, you know, it's a thing that's actually possible.
posted by rtha at 5:48 AM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm usually wrong about these things, but it doesn't fail the smell test for me. I don't think it's a fake.
posted by zoo at 8:09 AM on June 3, 2013


I'll be giggling about the following exchange for days, whether it's trollery (which it is, obviously!) or just a well-meaning kid making a bit of an arse of themselves:

Q: What do you think about unpopular people who are popular identifying?

A: They’re just as bad as popular people

posted by jack_mo at 5:16 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


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