Sex and the Ivy

On Privilege & The Ivy League

Filed under: Harvard — Elle September 23, 2009 @ 12:14 am

[Original post and full discussion on The Chicktionary]

what a spoiled little life you lead. how DO you pay for all your globe trotting and partying? you must have rich parents or a sugar daddy. or maybe you moonlight in addition to your ‘writing career’? anyway, enjoy your life of privilege while it lasts. someday you may find yourself scrubbing floors or pots and pans or caring for the sick or elderly. life is not a beach, as the saying goes. -comment by joe

The bottom line you Ivy league snob, is that you throw all of your globetrotting in the face of the 99% of readers who are less fortunate than your spoiled ass. Most college students are eating ramen noodles 5 nights a week, and living in a piece of shit apartment with second hand furninture you ungrateful twit. Maybe you should get some common sense. I can’t wait until you graduate and are unemployed. Maybe then you will learn some humility.comment by Satsuya

I never cease to be amazed by the amount of vitriol spewed my way. Most of it is along the lines of “whore whore slut”, but occasionally, my blog also attracts bitter members of the underclass*. For example, I was heavily criticized last year when I chronicled the time I spent in Europe. Most of that summer was spent squatting in a dorm room where I shared a bed with my best friend (I was literally squatting, as in, I was not allowed to be there and did not pay rent, nor was my presence accounted for in any official way), and most of those nights, she slept on the floor in a sleeping bag. Glamorous it was not.

But some of my more ignorant critics nonetheless view any traveling as jetsetting and Europe/anywhere outside of North America as some shiny place inaccessible to all but the wealthy. That’s just patently untrue. I don’t deny that Harvard offers certain advantages, such as well-connected friends who can offer free lodging or entertainment (see: my entire Ibiza trip). I know plenty of college students who eat ramen, live in small apartments, and are on full financial aid (like me) who also find affordable ways to travel and have fun, often on their school’s dime. Going abroad doesn’t automatically make a person overprivileged or mean that they come from money (or even if they do, it doesn’t mean they don’t pay for it on their own) just as going to an Ivy League school doesn’t automatically make me a snob. (And besides, what would be wrong with parents paying for vacations? I’d want to do that for my kids!)

Do I think I have it better than most college students? Yes and no. I probably have it better than most college students whose mothers are hotel maids. But that’s only because the children of hotel maids don’t usually attend Harvard, an institution as valuable for its social network as it is for its education. If I’d gone to UC Berkeley, I probably wouldn’t receive invitations to the South of France, but maybe I would’ve been invited to Napa instead. That being said, it’s not as if every Harvard student has a recognizable last name and comes from a family who owns second or third homes (most don’t). Those who do are usually humble about it, or at least, they’ve been taught to not talk about it.

Maybe instead of calling me spoiled, ungrateful, and lacking common sense, these commenters should be asking themselves why they’re so resentful. When I first got to Harvard, I very much felt like an odd girl out because of my background and I’ve always been acutely aware of the school’s air of privilege. I’m sure I know better than these guys what it’s like to be poor in the face of extreme wealth. But while I don’t doubt that there are plenty of douchebag Harvard alums stealing your jobs and girlfriends, I’m not one of them and it’s incredibly ignorant to assume that’s what every Ivy Leaguer is like.

The fact that these commenters think it’s impossible for a Harvard student to come from a lower middle class background (i.e. less than $30,000/year for a family of three) just demonstrates how little they know about socioeconomic diversity here. Besides its diversity recruitment efforts, the school also attempts to make money a non-issue one students are on campus by randomizing the housing lottery (so that everyone has a shot at the most desirable dorms) and offering a single all-you-can-eat dining plan (so that everyone can eat as much as they want without having to worry about paying more for it). So sure, you could say that most students who came from a similar background to mine are probably “less fortunate” but that’s because most schools don’t make it a priority to create the illusion of class equality.

I’m perfectly aware that Harvard offers certain privileges, but I’m not going to apologize for taking advantage of them.

* I jest.