All posts filed under: Tangents USA

Cover Photo: The now-iconic photo accompanying so many “First World Problem” memes. Sources:,

What’s the Real Problem with “First World Problems”?

This post was originally published on Tangents USA. You can find it here.  According to, “first world problems” are defined as “[p]roblems from living in a wealthy, industrialized nation that third worlders would probably roll their eyes at.” There is even an entire website dedicated to highlighting the petty complaints and struggles faced by people in the first world. The people I hear using this phrase are usually relatively socially conscious. I think the intentions behind this term are probably genuine and rooted in the desire to check their privilege. Still, this term is half-baked in its intentions, and I think we can do better in this realm of social consciousness. We need to examine the rhetoric involved in conversations surrounding privilege, the distribution of wealth, industrialized societies, and the global South. Specifically, I want to take this opportunity to consider the sorts of things that the phrase “first world problems” implies. As feminist and writer Laurie Penny recently wrote in her article, “Gender Neutral Language is Coming Here’s Why It Matters,” the terminology we use has …