Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Meme time! Plus societal speculation.

Part I -

I've already seen those algorithms that identify whether you 'write like a woman' or 'write like a man' based on a pasted sample of your writing. It always comes up that I write like a man, which I suppose explains why when I post under gender-neutral monikers and people decide to start shit with me, I get called "dude" or "asshole" as opposed to "bitch."

Anyway, I was never satisfied with those, even though my anecdotal experience seems to confirm it, because the ones I've seen seem to primarily function by counting certain words in the sample that men allegedly tend to use more than women and vice versa. I guess the claim that overall men and women write significantly differently is so tenuous that the only testable factor the algorithm designer could come up with was word counts.

I did find something in the "paste a sample of your writing" camp that I liked, even though I haven't been able to find where on the page it cites their methods for generating the result. This one scans your writing and tells you what famous author you write like. I like the idea of this a lot more because it has the potential to be a more interesting analysis: I'd like to believe that syntax and sentence structure could be analyzed, in addition to use of colloquialisms and the general sophistication of diction used.

I submitted a couple of different samples and received this result most often:

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Now, this is a person who, admittedly, I had not heard of! But Wikipedia fixed that problem for me and now I have someone new whose work I'd like to check out. So yay for silly memes and quizzes that can teach me new things!

Part II -

A large part of feminism is understanding privilege - that is, "a special advantage or right possessed by an individual or group. A privilege is a right or advantage gained by birth, social position, effort, or concession" (thanks Dictionary.com!.) Socially, privilege amounts to a series of factors that are completely out of our control; yet, those factors automatically form the framework for a hierarchy of status. The accepted primer on understanding privilege is a paper by Peggy McIntosh called White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. Feminists have used this basic idea to create similarly worded and themed Male Privilege Checklists that, using McIntosh's framework, associate 'white' with 'male' (as the privileged class.)

Privileges do not stop there. How can you tell if you have privilege? Well, you probably have it any time you're part of a hegemonic group that you (perhaps unconsciously) consider 'normal' compared to others. Think gay people are weird or gross? That's your straight privilege. Etc. Etc.

I read an interesting article about a month ago about geeks and hacking - If You Were Hacking Since Age 8, You Were Privileged. Summarily, it's about how geeks (usually male) often cite how young they were when they started hacking as validation of their geek credentials and bragging rights, but they don't exactly realize what a privilege it was for many of them to have access to a computer at the time; thus, treating hacking-while-young as a merit badge disadvantages current hackers who had enter the computer science/hacking field several years later out of necessity.

Reading that article led me down the internet rabbit-hole to find a shorter list of items, several of which few people probably think twice about, but that can collectively serve to indicate a measure of class privilege. As in, the more of these items apply to you, the more likely it is that you're in an economic/social class that confers advantages. The blog that posted it invited others to post the list on their blogs and indicate what items applied to us, as a way of examining our privilege. So - that is what I am going to do now! Bolded items apply to me.

Father went to college
Father finished college
Mother went to college
Mother finished college

Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor.
Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers
Had more than 50 books in your childhood home
Had more than 500 books in your childhood home
Were read children's books by a parent
Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18
Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18

The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively
Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18
Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs*
Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs*
Went to a private high school
Went to summer camp

Had a private tutor before you turned 18
Family vacations involved staying at hotels
Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18
Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them
There was original art in your house when you were a child
Had a phone in your room before you turned 18
You and your family lived in a single family house

Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home
You had your own room as a child

Participated in an SAT/ACT prep course
Had your own TV in your room in High School
Owned a mutual fund or IRA in High School or College
Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16
Went on a cruise with your family
Went on more than one cruise with your family
Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up
You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family

It's crazy. I've never thought as my family as 'rich,' and I've practically never felt like my family had more money than most of the people around me. But lists like this really force me to think about things that I took for granted, that so many people in this country and around the world don't have access to. It's good to have a kick in the face like that every so often to keep us grounded.

1 comment:

  1. Have you ever read the book "Why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria"? We read the beginning of it for med school, and I enjoyed what I read of it so far. The author talks about "white privilege" in education, etc. Your post just reminded me of it, so check it out if you like!