Sorry, but when did uni become a competition to see who’s worse off?

It’s okay to actually… be okay

There is a lot of oppression in the world; a lot of genuine oppression. People of colour; women; the LGBTQ community; the working class; countless other minority groups – your plight is real. Your struggles are a direct result of the inherently racist, elitist and sexist foundations of society, and to deny them would be a disgrace. I'm not here to say that "racism ended with slavery" or "the pay gap is a myth" or any other bullshit assertion.

I'm here to talk to the genuinely privileged. I could bandy about the words "white" and "man" and "rich", but firstly – that's a given – and secondly, it can go a lot further than that. I'm a woman of mixed race, and I'd go as far as saying that yes – I'm still privileged. In some ways, at least.

There are people at uni who are broke when they say they're broke. Who can genuinely only afford one bag of Morrisons' 75p chips for the week, pennies away from maxing out their overdraft because the rent, paid with their own money, has just come out their account. And they can't run to mummy or daddy to lend them £20, or £10, or even a fucking quid. They say they are broke, and they mean it.

Compare and contrast: someone else who says they are "broke", when they – in fairness – are also pennies away from £0. They – in fairness – probably have a job too. This person isn't necessarily the demonic, smugly unemployed, "rah rah rah" ex-private school kid who gets £100 funnelled into their account every week by mummy and daddy only to blow it on Veuve Cliquot.

But this person didn't pay their rent – not 100% of it anyway. This person has the bank of mum and dad, and even if it's embarrassing to ask, even if mama and papa really have to scrape the barrel to fork out some cash, even if there is a measly week of Weetabix for breakfast, lunch, and dinner – this person will never know the meaning of the word "broke".

That isn't to say that it is a bit shit for said person when something like that happens, but to compare it to the situation of the first person would be insulting. You can't compare the two situations. They're both shit – but in different ways.

This also isn't to say that you can judge who is privileged and who isn't based on who gets what loan. Minimum loan does not necessarily indicate privilege – the student finance system is, to put it simply, fucked up. But for some on the minimum loan, it is because of privilege.

And privilege doesn't just mean "my mum and dad worked really hard for their money" – most parents do – it means because you were born into the family you were born into, you get a sort of safety net in life; a luxury few have. Hard work does not equate to an easy life – if only the world was that fair. Perhaps a synonym for privileged might be "lucky".

I don't mean to demonise "the privileged few" – besides, as I said, I'm lucky enough to have parents who (albeit, not easily) can help me out if I need. Nobody asks to be privileged. I've found myself feeling guilty about it at times. But I've found that the least you can do is admit to it, rather than romanticise this one ancient, hole-ridden jumper you have as some trophy of "a gritty life on the never never" when the realities of working class life are a bit more like the lyrics to "Common People" (and even that is a gross understatement).

So don't complain about "being broke" if you aren't actually broke and shut up when your working class pals are talking about their issues. You likely won't know hardship like they do. There have been times when I've struggled hugely with money at uni – that reference to Weetabix actually happened to me and it was for a month, not a week – but I would never, ever dream of comparing myself to someone genuinely of the working class. It was still shit. I still complained. I still can't eat Weetabix. But I always tried to put my issues into perspective.

This isn't just an issue financially – white men on Twitter still like to throw their weight around from behind a screen, claiming that "things like this [i.e., any genuine issue relating to race or sex] aren't an issue anymore" and that we're all just "whiny millennials", etc. etc., largely because they feel threatened by the fact that something isn't about them anymore. Why is it so hard to accept that someone else might just be struggling more than you? Is it impossible to empathise now? White men of the world – I wouldn't worry about anyone stealing your precious privilege for a while. The patriarchy has your back.

No one is pretending that just because you went to private school, or because you're white, or a man, you have a perfect life. Your problems are still valid; life can still be shit in all sorts of ways. But don't ignore, downplay, or at worst, try to one-up the struggles of your oppressed mates. Check your privilege, shut up, and listen.

More
University of Leeds