Privilege is a sensitive topic for many people to talk about, especially for those who have it. But I feel like privilege is something the hustle #girlboss lifestyle doesn’t always (or ever) make allowances for. Whether people believe privilege doesn’t exist or that admitting they have privilege belittles how hard they work, it can be a hard concept to engage with.
But once you see and acknowledge your own privilege, it becomes hard to ignore. Something as simple as being unable to afford your drivers’ license can have long reaching impact on your wider earning potential, especially in a sprawling city like Brisbane which has a wildly inefficient public transport system.
Whatever I’ve been through in my life, by virtue of birth, I’ve had significant advantages from the moment I opened my eyes. Some of that has to do with the colour of my skin, some of that has to do with the capitalist system we live in. Some of it has to do with my access to education, and my strong, healthy, illness free body. Some of it has to do with the country I was born in, and my access to a public healthcare system. And a lot of that has to do with my parents, their money and their financial support. Though I’ve worked since the age of 14, I’ve done so with the knowledge that if anything bad happened to me, my parents would back me up.
I was able to study what I wanted to study at university, with little thought about my earning potential at the end of it. It was no big deal when I graduated with no job prospects and after a call to a friend, I was gainfully employed within days, in a position that would shape the next 7 years of my life. That job ultimately led me to my current situation; being able to work for myself and by myself.
None of this is to say I don’t work hard. I do. I’m writing this at midnight on a Wednesday while my boyfriend sleeps, knowing I have a full day of client work to do tomorrow. When you work for yourself, working hard is the default setting. I’m not here to argue that.
And absolutely none of this, is to say you can’t start a business if you don’t have the same privilege and advantages as I have. I’m just here to acknowledge that I had a headstart, and a safety net.
I am here to argue that certain aspects of my privilege enabled me to get here in the first place. Having the resources, the finances and the comfortable living situation to be able to start a business, is a direct result of the privilege I enjoy every day. Being able to continue to invest in this business, invest in my own education and training, and knowing I will be OK, if and when I encounter slow months, is a privilege.
Some people don’t have that privilege, and the #girlboss hustle lifestyle refuses to acknowledge that. We’re sold a “success at any cost” business model; that you must sacrifice and sacrifice and sacrifice and if you fail? Well you simply didn’t sacrifice enough. Not too long ago, I heard a business ‘guru’ say to a room full of self-employment hopefuls, “if your child was sick, you’d find the money to help them; why can’t you find the money to start your business?” Can you not see the privilege just dripping off those words?
So what can I do about it? I can’t simply reject my own privilege; it’s something I get whether I ask for it or not. But there are things I can do, to pull others up with me, others who maybe don’t have the same advantages that I do. And you can do it too:
- Take a look at your own community; have you (perhaps inadvertently) surrounded yourself with people just like you?
- Question your opportunities; who else is being offered this speaking spot? Is this collaboration inclusive and diverse? Does this brand promote bodies of all types and colours? Does this panel have a range of voices, or is it full of people who look just like me?
- Support other creatives financially using platforms like Ko-fi, PayPalMe and Patreon. It doesn’t have to be a huge amount, but if they provide value to you, and you can afford to, a donation can mean a lot.
- Check what kinds of posts you’re sharing and the kinds of people you follow; are they diverse and inclusive? Get out of your own bubble.
- Who do you hire? Obviously hire the right person for the job, but who did you consider? What was your process; was it fair?
- Are you consuming media and content from a range of sources? And all the different Newscorp papers don’t count either.
And be open-minded, honest and fair, at all times.