I first started seeing the small red, white, and blue patch on the sleeves of people’s jackets when it started getting cold. Initially, I didn’t think much about it. It wasn’t until I was sitting at lunch with a few friends and one of them asked what Canada Goose was that it came to my attention. Most of us had seen the term before on Yik Yak. The comments posted were rather baseless, loosely saying things along the lines of “avoid people wearing Canada Goose.” It was the nature of these comments that caught my eye and prompted me to finally look it up online.
A quick search of “Canada Goose” gives a listing of jackets of various prices from online retailers. To my shock, the lowest price was close to $700 and the highest almost $1,500. Suddenly, my friends and I started pointing out all the jackets we saw in Usdan and, to be honest, it was overwhelming to think someone would drop $700 on a piece of clothing.
My mother is the only provider in my household, and I rely on financial aid to attend Wesleyan. When I finally put a number to the tricolored patch I saw frequently, I was in awe.
I’ve always known that I attend a very elite and privileged university. Just looking at the class of 2018 profile on the school’s website, you find out that only “53 percent of admits applied for need-based aid.” This leaves the other 47 percent paying for the complete cost of attendance here, all $64,163 of it. You don’t have to know these numbers to know a significant portion of the students at this school come from a place of privilege. You notice it in class when someone cites an obscure essay that they read at their expensive private school; you notice it when someone casually brings up their humanitarian trip to Mexico when you mention you speak Spanish. You notice it during school breaks, when everyone has left, even the ones living on the opposite side of the country, and you’re one of the only people left in your dorm because you unable to afford the ticket back. You especially notice it when you see what looks like a third of the campus sporting Canada Goose jackets, and your own winter coat cost you less than $50.
No one can deny that class privilege has a constant presence here on campus. As a low-income, first generation student, these day-to-day occurrences have come to define my college experience and remind me that even though I was able to work my way here, there are experiences and social capital that I lack compared to my peers. After learning about the worth of the small red, white, and blue patch, it suddenly became a visual signifier of privilege to me. I see it walking down College Row on my way to class; I see it at Usdan when I’m eating my lunch; I see it at Pi Café when I’m getting my morning coffee. I am constantly being reminded of the class privilege at this school, as well as my own lack of it.
No one really talks about money that often because it is uncomfortable but now I know so much about my peers just because of a single symbol. Still, it helped me come to terms with my own disadvantages. I never once felt like I was missing out by not have a Canada Goose jacket. I know I don’t really need that to get by because at the end of the day, I’m getting by with what I already have. Canada Goose jackets, a private school education, humanitarian trips to Mexico, and a ticket home for school breaks would all have been good things to have, but I have come to realize that it’s unproductive to dwell on the fact that I don’t have these things. I don’t blame those of you who can afford these privileges and wear Canada Goose jackets because it can’t be made something personal like the many of the initial Yik Yak posts tried to make it.
This isn’t about who can and cannot afford something or about “us” versus “them.” The dialogue must shift from one of exclusion to one in which it is recognized that while privilege exists here on campus, where brands like Canada Goose only help to further visualize this privilege, there is no identifier for the other 53 percent.