Category Archives: Think

When I Get Spendy

Totally needed this read. When something aligns with your values but not your budget, it's so hard to stop yourself from spending money!

One of the first steps in a positive financial journey is identifying the things that are important to you; the things you’re willing to spend money on, and the things you’re willing to sacrifice other creature comforts for.

It’s really easy to get high and mighty about our priorities. We judge others when their financial “must haves” are different than our own–when their lifestyle choices differ from the ones that would bring us joy.

Let’s cut that out.

But let’s also recognize those moments of inner conflict. Those moments when temptation can beguile us into spending money against our own values or self-interest. These are the moments when we can become fiscally irresponsible, or compromise our own belief systems in order to save a buck.

As a frugal person who also has incredibly strong convictions, I’ve seen both sides of this coin. While I typically have no trouble sacrificing in the name of financial stability, I definitely have moments of conflict. In an effort to showcase my imperfections–and hopefully help you get introspective about your own–I thought I’d talk a little bit about those challenges today.

When Spending Money on What I Value is Bad

I’m a sucker for great art. The kind of art that speaks to the soul rather than realism. It doesn’t have to be by famous artists as we all have the capability to tap into the stream of human consciousness regardless of name recognition, and I don’t mind paying a little extra to support someone who has created something that moves my soul.

The problem?

Art isn’t a necessity. At least not for me.

I might really like the visual presentation of a piece, or the melodic or disharmonious chords that somehow wedge their way into my heart, but purchasing these items is a luxury.

I tend to forget that when I’m feeling depressed, though. When we get depressed, we tend to look inwards a lot. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; that journey inwards can help us identify what is wrong in our lives and how we can fix it.

But for me, that also means the connection I make to others’ works seems more powerful during these periods. The connection takes over my rational thinking–and my pocketbook.

Most of the time I’m able to stop myself from going on a spending spree, but there have been a couple times in my life where I paid more than I had budgeted for “extra stuff” because I needed that piece that spoke to me.

What I’m getting out of art in those moments is connection to an artist who was thinking deeply–or at least inspired me to think deeply. Rather than spend over $100 on something I can’t afford, a better way to get this need met is to seek out the people in my life who I know I can have those deep conversations with. That’s difficult to do when you’re feeling low, but it’s also a much healthier way of coping than making a purchase.

When I Have Zero Regrets Blowing Cash

I have itchy feet. I was a military brat, and at a young age became accustomed to relocating every few years. Every time I moved I learned a new vernacular, cultural norms (yes, even on moves within the US,) and discovered a new part of myself.

I love that feeling. It’s a type of fresh independence that reminds me how very little I know and how very much I can change.

I don’t move as often as I did when I was a kid, but that feeling of being on a road destined for discovery has never left me. Hence, travel has become an important part of my life. I need to change the scenery. Get outside the day-to-day. Learn something new from people I would have never met had I stayed in my own little bubble.

Travel is expensive, though. Or it least it can be. I’ve found a ton of ways to cut back on the costs via travel hacking, utilizing services like Airbnb and not being above hitting the road even when a flight would be so much cheaper. These habits definitely help me sate my wanderlust on a more frequent basis.

But sometimes, travel is just expensive. The hotel I reserved in Tulum was crazy pricey, but it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing where I traded luxury and a feeling of security for cold, hard cash. About ten years ago I flew across the continent, then across the Atlantic to Germany to visit one of my dearest friends. Those tickets were crazy expensive. But spending time with him at that juncture in our lives was something that was worth every penny. (Chilling in Bavaria was an added treat.)

Even when my travels aren’t super frugal, taking a trip is something I never regret. I learn things about myself and the world, and those memories and lessons stay with me for a lifetime.

When Ethics Are Worth the Spend

Last year, I switched to clean energy. Our state allows us to pick our energy provider, and I picked the most ethical one in my area that uses Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) to power my rental with solar and wind energy.

It’s about two cents per kilowatt hour more expensive that getting the generic energy. But I want my kids to have a habitable planet when they grow up, so I put my money where my mouth is. This is absolutely impacted by the fact that I can swing an extra $20/month; these alternative energy options aren’t available to those on programs which help low-income individuals like CAP, and in my humble opinion, that’s beyond whack.

I recently moved and made sure they were my provider of choice immediately.

When Temptation Attacks Your Values

Then, there are times when my values are at odds. When I moved into this new place, I received an offer to switch who generates my gas bill. My green provider is only for electricity at this point.

They were offering me a decent airline mile bonus to make the switch, plus I would be getting extra miles for each dollar I spent on my bill every month. Besides that, the rate was two cents lower than what I’m paying now. The frugal travelista in me was all, “Hell, yes.”

Then I saw that the energy they provided was from natural gas–a product of fracking in my area. Fracking has messed up water cleanliness in parts of Western Pennsylvania, and has causing unnatural earthquakes in places like Kansas in recent years. It’s a really terrible way to desperately go after diminishing resources, and something I’ve signed petitions and advocated to my lawmakers to make stop.

Those airline miles, though…

They were tempting, and I almost got to a place where I was rationalizing that I as one customer didn’t make a huge difference.

But I stopped myself. If I wanted to travel so badly that I was willing to do further damage to the planet beyond gasoline or jet fuel, what kind of example would I be setting for my children? That we should try to do better only when it’s fiscally advantageous?

I’m missing those airline miles, but I know not giving into temptation is the right thing to do.

Last year I met up with my mom’s cousin on one of my sojourns. We were talking about my grandfather–specifically what his travels looked like. If you brought up a kink in the plan related to money, he’d always say, “We’ll find a way to make it work.”

And he did. He was very financially responsible, and he found ways to afford the things that were important to him, like travel and time with family. I know I can do it, too. I’ll absolutely still find a way to make travel work, and I’ll do it in a way that doesn’t involve fracking miles.

Full disclosure: I’m sitting on a fair amount of miles right now, anyways. I always like having more than I need, but I don’t want to get all holier than thou without giving you the full story. 😉

 

 

What are your values, priorities and temptations—and how do you manage them within the constraints of your budget?

 

Defying Life’s Challenges Through Hard Work #MotivationMonday

Love this. So often I feel like I'm being fed "easy" ways to pull in thousands every month or ways to hustle my way to financial independence. It's possible, but not without hard work and a good work ethic.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about where I am in my life.

Some areas I’m happy with. Others I’m not.

I’ve been through some good times. And some bad times. Of course, there were the terrible times, too.

But through it all, one thing has kept me going: a strong work ethic.

I say this not to brag. I’ve made as many mistakes in my life as the next person, and I’m certainly not sitting upon a mountain of cash that would make me financially independent.

But for all the times when things could have gone much worse, I’ve remained determined to make things work. Some of this has been born out of living in survival mode, and some of it has been a refusal to fail. Well, maybe not to fail, but rather a refusal to give up.

Knock on the Door of Opportunity

When I was newly married and very young, I had a hard time finding a job. Even ones I was overly qualified for.

I was looking at going back to school, but there were very few degree programs for my field. I didn’t know which ones to enter, so I looked up a chapter of a national networking/certification group. I wanted to go to ask them what educational opportunities were available.

Lo and behold, there was one meeting that very week right across the street. I went, and while I learned that unfortunately there weren’t very many good educational opportunities in the region, there was an agency that was hiring. And we immediately clicked.

That led to one of the most fulfilling jobs of my life. I loved getting up to go to work everyday, and I gave my all to be the best I could be in that position. I went to all the trainings that came through town. I practiced a ridiculous degree of professionalism. When I had to move, there were so many tears all around.

I never would have had that experience, though, if I had just given up on making things better. If I hadn’t looked up that networking group to find educational opportunities, I would have never met my bosses. If I hadn’t continued to pursue education through professional trainings, they may not have been as apt to give me challenging and exciting assignments.

Part of work ethic isn’t just doing the job that’s in front of you. It’s about actively pursuing all the paths to potential opportunity.

Some say opportunity knocks. In my life, I’ve found it to be the exact opposite. I knock. Sometimes no one answers. Sometimes the door gets slammed in my face. But sometimes, the door opens and you’re welcomed into a new realm of possibilities.

Finding Solutions Over Frustration

Life can suck. For all of us.

But how we react to that reality impacts the trajectories of our lives. All too often, it’s easy to see a problem and view it as an insurmountable road block. These do exist, but that doesn’t mean we should acquiesce to them.

Always try to find a way over. Around. Through. It can be rough, but if we allow ourselves to sit there in frustration, we’re essentially stalling out our potential. I’ve done this a few times in my life, and I always regret it later.

When I have my head on right, I try to look the problem in the face and find solutions. There was another period in my life when I had a hard time finding employment. It took me four months, actually, and I was very grateful to my past self for saving up a nice emergency fund to get me through that time. Even with that, I got a part-time gig at the local grocery store to pad things about three months in.

But during those months, I didn’t give up. I applied to jobs up to two hours away from my new rural home. I told everyone I knew I was looking for something. I once again went to the places where people were networking, and did volunteer work to showcase my skill set.

This eventually ended up leading to two job offers in one week. One was full-time. One was extremely part-time and sporadic.

I took them both.

Had I bemoaned my situation and resigned myself to continuing my part-time gig at the grocery store, I would have ended up working for a low wage at the grocery store until it was time to move again.

Instead, I looked everywhere to find a solution, and it eventually paid off. Again, I had a rewarding job I looked forward to going to everyday.

Doing the Work

Doing what I’m doing right now full-time was never a goal of mine. I loved my career, but a regional work shift/shortage revealed to me that it was going to be unstable–at least for a few years.

I needed an income today, though. Not in a few years. I had been side hustling a bit with the online writing thing, but when I found out I wouldn’t have regular work anymore, I started putting in the hours. I actively hunted for writing jobs and worked to build up this site a little more.

It worked and has been supporting me and my family for years now. I had to do the work, though. I couldn’t do it half-heartedly. I had to put everything into it.

The same has been true for me in pursuing many of my other goals, too. Most of them are tied to language. I learned the Cyrillic alphabet through hours of practice. I got really good at French by reading French books and watching French movies on top of my academic studies. And now, I’m working on doing the same for Japanese.

Opportunity may present itself. Or it may not. But if you aren’t ready to do the work, opportunity will move on to the next candidate–no matter how smart or well-qualified you are.

Semi-Charmed Kind of Life

I am privileged in so many ways as a white woman. Assuredly, many of my successes have been made easier because of this fact.

But if I had relied of that fact alone, I would have floundered. Without hard work, life would have drowned me a long time ago.

If you’re feeling like life is getting you down, become defiant. Do not let hardship win out. Be proactive and knock on the door of opportunity. If that door gets slammed in your face, focus on solutions rather than bitterness or despair. Then, once you find a solution and an open door, do the work. Put your head down and make things happen.

Life and money still won’t work out the way you planned. But it’s going to be a heck of a lot easier.

Besides that, every once in a while life will surprise us and give us something better than what we were planning for, anyways.

 

 

Support Autistic Artists

Wow, there's some great artists on this list--a lot of them working for Autism Acceptance! Headed to Etsy...

I’m getting ready to move in the very near future here. It’s the first time in my life that I’ll have complete control over how my place is decorated, and I’m pretty psyched about that part.

In my mind’s eye, I can already see a couple blank spaces on the wall that I want to fill. While I’m not sure I will, because budget–that didn’t stop me from engaging in my guilty pleasure: browsing Etsy.

Because it’s Autism Acceptance Month, I decided to check out autistic artists on the platform. Last year I got a pair of earrings that really spoke to me (words I never thought I’d say) from an autistic artist who communicates primarily through visuals. As April snuck up again this year, I realized I should be doing this more than one month out of the year.

Here are some of the artists I’ve found, and pieces of their work that I love.

CultureCrime

college money autism

CultureCrime is an Etsy shop run by Tiegan Hockman. After taking a break from her artistic talents for over ten years, inspiration finally struck again and she now has her art–which features various female subjects–in galleries and available via her Etsy shop. You can also check out her full website.

The one pictured above is called Our Lady of Student Debt. Which I figured was very apropos for this audience. 🙂

WhiteRabbitFlowers

black and white abstract art

WhiteRabbitFlowers’ Etsy shop aims to promote autism acceptance–not the desire to change people with autism, but the desire to accept autistic people for who they are, and recognize the great benefits our society gains from neurodiversity.

She has a lot of colorful paintings, but I’m drawn to this black and white. Her shop also has beautiful dream catchers, floral crowns and lip balms.

CadenceInspirations

autistic art

Cadence is a 9-year-old Australian girl who has produced a fair amount of art and writing for her age. Some of her work has focused on autism and spreading acceptance. I love this painting from her Etsy shop, but you can view even more of her work on her website.

HeAndSheSullivanSarah Neat Sullivan

Gah, I had such a hard time picking just one from this shop! Sarah Neat-Sullivan has a lot of work up on Etsy. Some of it’s related to autism. Some of it isn’t. She has jewelry, paintings, and art made from felt or stitching. It’s all pretty amazing, but the one I chose to show you is called On the Tip of My Tongue.

Those Blank Spaces

My budget may restrict me from filling those blank spaces right now, but when that’s no longer the case, I’m excited to turn to one of these artists to fill the void. In recent years I’ve moved from the mindset of simply spending the least amount of money possible to holding off on the purchase if possible (it’s not, always) until I am able to make a purchase that supports people or companies doing good things.

How about you? Would you rush out for that $10 poster at the mall?

Oh, god, how old am I?

Would you open up the Amazon app and get the $10 poster delivered to your door tomorrow because you pay extra for the speedy service so you won’t have to leave your house?

Or would you save up for meaningful art, letting the void just sit till your budget’s ready–forget aesthetics?

 

 

How Disableism Has Affected My Finances

In honor of Autism Acceptance Month, Femme Frugality is running a series of Monday articles focusing on the triumphs and challenges autistic people conquer as related to their finances and careers. Today I’m so happy to introcude to you Kristine–a Norwegian money blogger at Frugasaurus–who is here to give us first-hand perspective on what it’s like to face disableism in the workplace as an autistic woman.

Didn't realize autistic people faced so many barriers to entry in the workplace! Passing on to my HR rep so my employer can be more aware of these issues.

Hi, there! My name is Kristine, and I mostly write about frugality, sustainability and personal finance over at frugasaurus.com. I am also autistic–diagnosed in my early twenties with what was then known as Asperger’s. A classic middle child in many ways, my two siblings demanded attention, so my parents were overjoyed to have a child who mostly sat in a corner reading books or solving jigsaw puzzles.

When Femme approached me about writing a post for Autism appreciation month, I was honoured. I had recently written a post about autism and personal finance, but to be honest, I also felt a bit apprehensive. As I do whenever I poke my head out about my diagnosis. I was only diagnosed as an adult, after all. My condition was not such that it warranted special education or speech training.

Still, my experience is also a valid one, so here follows some of my experiences regarding disableism.

Getting A Foot Inside

It starts with the most obvious yet insidious of adult milestones: Getting a job.

I had done “everything right.” At least as far as I understood it. Society and my family told me school was important, so I attended school. They told me science was a safe profession (they were non-specific as to what kind of science), so I studied science. Environmental chemistry, to be specific.

I was told my degree was highly relevant and sought after–it had been requested by the industry after all–and I had several relevant internships. I had followed the rules. Surely, a meaningful job would follow?

That is not what happened.

Privilege & Disableism

While the job market is challenging for everyone at the moment, it is even more so for people with disabilities. I am privileged in that I am white and educated, but lack privilege in that I am autistic.

It can manifest in multiple ways. For instance, my thinking can be rigid. I have internalised that lying is bad, so I do not embellish my CV. In a world where “everyone” embellishes their CV to get ahead, this puts me at a disadvantage before it even gets to the interview.

Once at the interview, if I am lucky enough to get one, there is the risk that I might come off as a little off. No matter how much I practice social skills, I still struggle in high-stress situations with unexpected questions.

In many ways, disableism means I have had to accept that I am never the preferred candidate, unless the job involves a windowless archive with near-zero social interactions (in which case you’re probably one of the only qualified candidates).

No Data, No Answer

As an example of this, I once dropped a grade at an oral maths examination, because the teacher wanted me to calculate the weight of the air in the classroom.

I told him I did not know the weight of a cubic meter of air, and asked if he could provide an estimate. He told me to guess.

I had absolutely no frame of reference for how much a cubic meter of air weighs. I had no way to guess. He insisted I guessed, and I told him I could not. I could have calculated the volume of the air in the classroom if that was what he wanted, but the way he framed the question meant I was missing a variable, and that made me shut down.

That is how my mind works. Trying to “help” me in quiz or Trivia Pursuit just annoys me. I either know, or I don’t.

Keeping Your Financial House in Order

Nearly four years after graduating top of my class, I still do not have a permanent position. People seem to like me just fine, and they compliment my work, but I lack that knack for “chit-chat” and water-cooler talk that makes for great networking. People bring their newborn in to work and I try to compliment them as protocol dictates, but really, I just want to know if they’ve had time to look at x and y work-related subjects yet.

This means I do not feel financially secure in my employment. I hoard savings for the next time a contract will expire and I’ll be back hunting for jobs. In the end, I realised that I would never feel safe with someone else in charge of my paycheck. If I wanted financial peace, I would have to build it for myself.

If you are disabled in some way, but do not receive social benefits, you’ll know exactly what I mean. If you don’t look out for your own financial well-being, no one else will.

Note from Femme: In the US, if you are disabled and receive social benefits, the government hardly watches out for your financial well-being. Only recently have ABLE accounts allowed disabled populations to save without losing benefits. Other countries have more logical and less discriminatory social policies.

Oh, Brother of Mine

Mine is the story of autism from a highly educated and reasonably observant point of view.

My brother, on the other hand, might fit better into a different autistic stereotype. He lives a lot in his own world, doesn’t get the greatest grades, and really just wants to get on with his own life as a factory worker somewhere with rigid routines, playing video games at night and minimum amounts of fuss.

He is generous to a fault. More than once has he spent all his pocket money on gifts and tokens of affection, giving no regard to the fact that he has to eat tomorrow as well.

And I see the same struggles as he is trying his best to get a job. When and if he manages to get an interview, he is honest to a fault, and does not understand that an interview is a place to show off your best qualities.

I do hope he gets a job eventually. He may not be the most independent, but once you teach him something, he will work until you or the clock tell him to stop. In the right environment, he will be a great asset.

Just Pull Yourself Together

Probably one of the most hurtful comments to anyone with a disability–mental or physical–is the idea that it is all just in our heads, and that we can simply imagine away our obstacles with enough willpower.

If you feed off social interaction and feel invigorated at parties, that’s both incredible and alien to me. But please don’t try to assume I can do the same if I just “loosen up” or “let myself go.”

Social interactions with more than the select few people I feel comfortable with, can and will exhaust me. The office Christmas or summer party is my idea of a special hell, and no amount of practice can remedy that.

Act Natural

On a lighter note, I would suggest not trying to tell autistic people to “act natural” or to “be themselves.”

That might work for you, but myself and the other autistic people I’ve met laugh at this notion.

Acting natural for an autistic person might be sitting naked on the floor (because clothes itch or feel weird,) eating jello (smooth texture) while rocking back and forth or groaning repeatedly (“stimming”–repetitive behaviour that calms your down or shows joy/excitement.)

Trust me, I do not act “natural” in public, and you’re probably glad I don’t.

How Can You Create A Safe Space?

If you are hosting or employing autistic staff, hooray! Here are some easy tips to make them feel welcome and safe:

  • Make sure there is a retreat option. A place where we can be alone if we need a break. For most, this can simply be a bathroom that locks.
  • Many autistic people struggle with physical touch and eye-contact. Please do not force this.
  • Do not assume anything is “common knowledge.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made an ass of myself because no one thought to teach me the most rudimentary of behaviour.
  • Many autistic people appreciate honest, clear feedback on social mishaps. If you are in a position of trust, this could be relevant, but make sure it is in private and unambiguous: “Please welcome clients with a firm handshake,” (and then show them) not; “You’re greeting people a bit weird.”
  • If they want their work space organised a specific way, does it hurt anyone if you let them?
  • Educating yourself is great, but take the time to get to know the person in front of you as well. Meeting one autistic person means exactly that. You’ve met just one.
  • And please, do not make a public point out of behaviour you might find weird or if we excuse ourselves early. It’s not you–it’s us.

 

Leveraging Privilege

Been thinking about this a lot lately. How to leverage privilege to fight systemic oppression--specifically in the workplace in this piece.

Hi, Ms ZiYou here. I’m so excited to be writing a guest post here when Femme Frugality is away on holiday.

And what better a topic to cover than intersectional feminism,–in particular the concept of privilege. It really disillusions me that certain sections of the population are so marginalised, especially those who feel the brunt of many different types of oppression.

Lately, I’ve been thinking I really should do more, and learn what I can do to use my privilege to help others. Therefore a few months ago I went to a talk on leveraging privilege. Here I attempt to unpack the talk and the lessons I personally learned. And share my minor frustrations that it was not really what I expected.

What privilege do you have?

As you may expect from the title of the talk, the first part was about acknowledging our own privileges, so we can work on leveraging privilege. So now seems like an appropriate time to state that I know I am privileged. My personal luck is due to being born in the UK, to middle class white parents. I only recently realised how lucky I was.

What am I missing?

But this was a tech talk. I am a geeky woman working in tech, which leaves me feeling othered and generally bristling at the male privilege in the field. Bosses are usually male, and 80% of staff are male. There is a very bro culture in the industry, although this varies company to company.

Nowadays I don’t experience any outwardly visible oppression, but boy there are a lot of microaggressions and assumptions. People assume that most females are in non-technical roles, more junior and just more willing to undertake clerical duties.

So I turned up at this talk and expected to learn about how the privilege I do have can be used to overcome the ones that I am lacking, and maybe pick up some good hints and tips. But all was not as it seemed.

Gender, Race, Class, Sexuality, Able-bodied

Sadly when it comes to influential spheres, privilege is really evident in 2018. The rich, white, able-bodied, straight male sits at the top of the pecking order, in virtually all large organisations of all types in the western world. You just need to look at government or boardrooms, to see this the case in reality. Sometimes they are aware of and acknowledge their privilege, other times they genuinely believe it was just their amazing brains/hard work/tenacity/genius that propelled them to the top.

Anyway, at this talk the speaker outlined and discussed these birth privileges with no real surprises. He gracefully acknowledged his privilege being born a male in the US, but also the challenges he faced being a black man.

Education, Experience, Position

He then went on to classify items you can earn for yourself such as education, and experience as selective privilege. This is where I started to disagree. Whilst I agree education and experience are fabulous things to strive for and achieve, I don’t believe they are a privilege in the way we talk about privilege. I

f we use the definition of privilege as “unearned access to resources”–for most of us anyway–education and experience are very much earned the hard way. So why was he classifying them similar to unearned privileges? This confused me a little, and all the little cogs in my brain started to buzz, trying to get it to make sense.

An American Perspective

Hi, guys. Femme here. When I initially read that last part, I had a feeling there was a little bit of cultural disconnect. So Ms. ZiYou and I discussed the differences between our education systems here in the US and where she is based in the UK. Here’s my American take:

Because this man was American, I’ll wager a guess as to what he was talking about. Education here isn’t something everyone has equal access to. Our school system is decentralized, and as a result, less affluent primary and secondary school districts don’t have equal access to resources. So you could work really hard, but not see the same results as someone in a rich, (usually) white area.

That doesn’t mean no one ever achieves, but it does mean it’s more likely that you can put in the same amount of effort and not realize the same opportunities–whether that be college (university) attendance, or gaining access to an affluent network that will help you build your career.

Another problem with experience is proximity to opportunity. Lower-income neighborhoods–which in many areas are largely minority neighborhoods thanks to some racist, antiquated and oppressive housing laws–access to opportunities to gain that experience are not as readily available.

Cultural norms also vary in a classist way and must be learned and navigated if you want to obtain that success and get those experiences–even if you have the raw skills. The most obvious example of this is code switching depending on who you are talking to or which setting you find yourself in.

So while most everyone who reaches success may work hard, not all those that work hard have the same access to success–whether that be through educational opportunities or the experience that comes from being presented with an opportunity at the intersection of their hard work.

A British Perspective

Okay, it’s Ms. ZiYou from here on out. 🙂

That is a very good and humbling point that education doesn’t work the same across the pond. Here we funnel funds and resources into poorer areas and don’t tend to have as much racial segregation. And universities have targets to encourage more applicants from lower income backgrounds. There is obviously still an aspirational divide, and the role model conundrum.

 

Acknowledge the unexpected reverse privileges

As well as understanding our inherent, birth privileges and our gained selective privileges, reverse privileges were covered. These are rare and unexpected serendipitous things, that are good to be aware of in everyday life. Sadly these benefits don’t really translate well to the workplace, but they are an interesting concept to explore. Some examples are:

  • A well-built black man is much less likely to be mugged.
  • While a women working in a nursery arouses no suspicion.
  • Gay men experience less judgement if they mention they are in an open relationship.
  • A wheelchair user gets empathy and understanding when claiming benefits.

Suggestions for leveraging privilege

The main section of the talk was about leveraging privilege. Here I was expecting to get some good actionable tips. The speaker covered a few examples, which all involved leveraging your current position, and lending visibility to people who lack credibility. Which is always a good thing in my book. But the specifics just didn’t make sense. Some of the examples were:

  • Share your place in the spotlight with others.
  • Let others give your presentations.
  • Send people to conferences instead of you.
  • Giving people access to your networks.

Mmmmm what?

What rubbed me up the wrong way?

Privilege is a word that has strong meanings today and I think he brushed off the serious oppression and multiple barriers out there. And by including things that are earned with serious hard work under his definition of privilege, it somehow lessened the meaning for me.

Secondly, he gave some great suggestions for leveraging privilege; but they would only work if you had a position of power and had people of less privilege working very close to you.

I get no conference invites. My presentations are highly technical, and not easily handed over. My network is not full of powerful people.

He was catering to people like himself. A black man that has made it to a senior tech position. And giving examples that worked for him personally, but with little thought of how they would translate to different environments.

Thoughts overall

I feel this talk would have been much better if it was a marketed differently. The actual audience and intended audience seemed a little far apart. Especially for the examples given to be used as practical examples. Although no doubt very well-meaning, he was promoting a bootstrapper mentality with what I viewed to be a misunderstanding of privilege.

And what also grated was the belief in the top down mentality. That power and status (held mainly by white men) is needed to make changes. I’d have preferred something a bit more grass roots. And some more actionable tips that were realistic for people like me.

Cause I do actually believe I can make a difference, and more importantly that I should take action.

Over to you, what do you think?

  • Was I too harsh on the speaker?
  • What are your thoughts on privilege?
  • Have you thought about leveraging privilege you have?

feminist finincial independence blog

If this sort of talk interests you and you want to connect I’m on Twitter at @ms_ziyou. Alternatively you can catch me on my blog. I take a feminist view of the financial independence movement and finances, and share with you my journey along the way.