Check your biographic privilege

by @edent | # | 4 comments | Read ~760 times.

A friend and I were having a good old grouch-and-moan session over a couple of beers. We were being snide and petty about all the people who’d ticked us off that week.

“And another thing!” I proclaimed, “Have you seen their Twitter bio? It’s all ‘Forbes 30-under-30’ and ‘Global Speaker’ and ‘Best Selling Author’! Bah! Why can their bio just say ‘I like cheese!’?”

My friend took a glug of beer. And said he agreed with me – and that made him feel bad.

We’re a pair of straight-white-cis-posh-sounding men. We’re festooned with privilege. The person we were discussing, bluntly, is not.

When we walk into a room, we’re judged in one way. When our frenemy makes a first impression, it’s often under different circumstances.

I can get away with my Twitter bio saying I’m a “Digital Idiot”. When people see my scruffy beard and stained t-shirt, they think “Ah! A real geek. He must know what he’s talking about!”

That’s not a privilege granted to everyone.

Of course, there are competing tensions at play. British culture values self-depreciation. American culture places huge emphasis on self-confidence. The Kiwis call it “Tall Poppy Syndrome“. I think it’s best illustrated in this gif showing the difference between British and American athletes.

I remember, a couple of years ago, witnessing a small revolution on Twitter. A bunch of academic women realised that they were avoiding using their earned title of “Doctor” in their Twitter bios – and then made sure to correct that.

My friend was much more eloquent at explaining this than I have been in this blog post. But the point is that some people have to be relentlessly self-promoting.

The shield of privilege may not be available to them; it is absolutely right that they make sure everyone knows that they have the right to be taken seriously.

4 thoughts on “Check your biographic privilege

  1. I think about this from time to time

    I have for a long time got away with having a fairly scruffy, frivolous and slapdash online presence. If I’d come from a different background that would most likely have cost me dearly…


  2. I wish I could put more of my achievements/credentials in my bio- instead a disclaimer takes much of the available space. Reasons to do this are similar to those you accurately describe in your blog post.


  3. THIS 👇👇 “The shield of privilege may not be available to them; it is absolutely right that they make sure everyone knows that they have the right to be taken seriously.”

  4. Today I learned of “tall poppies”.

    Later today I shall endeavour to find the passage in Herodotus. Because that dude is seriously fun to read!!!

    I’d really like a 40 over 40 from @ForbesWomen. We celebrate youth a lot. Wisdom & experience feel devalued. Are they?

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