Thursday, September 29, 2011

In vain

-Life imitated art. Thick, lustrous hair is just very important to some people.

-Rachel Hills has a cool series about how to be a feminist, get married, do things you are in fact comfortable with as a feminist, but not get too bogged down by what it all means. Seems she and I agree re: fauxbivalence. The way to approach the issue, the more I think about it, is not to care what others think, in life, perhaps, but in this arena especially. Wedding-itself-wise, you will be judged for the things you do that are "traditional," as well as those that are not. You will also be judged for marrying at all, but you'd also have been judged for not making a relationship official, or for not being in a relationship at all. The real issue, as it looks like Rachel's about to get to in another post, is that women are always the ones being judged here. Kind of like that whole thing about employers frowning on massive diamond engagement rings, when of course the men who purchased said rings are in no way penalized professionally, because who would know?

-It still fails to make sense to me how unpaid internships ever make sense. Jobs, like the kind where you get paid, are educational. You always learn a mix of stuff specific to the line of work, Life Lessons about how to deal with people whose role in life is not to help you make it or enjoy yourself or whatever, and - and this is so key - about the importance of putting up with X in exchange for having the financial freedom/responsibility that comes with a paycheck. If you take away that last bit, the whole set-up doesn't add up. I mean, if you're fed, clothed, and housed, presumably money is coming from somewhere. It's not some oh-so-special reward you get at 45 and no younger to get compensated for your work.

-Isn't "'I’m twenty-five almost, but people think I’m eighteen'" the kind of thing one can't say about one's self? I mean, maybe she does look 18, it's unclear from the photo, but I'm not sure what the tragedy is of admitting that one both is and appears 25. I look and am 28, and I can buy wine (if I can make it into town, so this is largely theoretical) without ID. It's not so terrible. But yay putting expensive French chemical-water on your face?

-My favorite thing about my new life in Euphemistic New Jersey, other than the library access, oh and the free tennis lessons, is the dining hall, which is hauter than I'd even expected. Oh, and the coffee-cookie hour. My least favorite, other than the inaccessibility of grocery-shopping, of things beyond where I can walk-or-bike, or if I want to go somewhere with Jo, things beyond where we can walk, since he's still looking for a bike, and a car will eventually solve this, is the ubiquity (not in the dining hall! just outside, on the campus!) of dead frogs. They bring back bad memories of the year I both looked and was 14, when I "dissected" one, which is to say my (female - this was not a gender thing) lab partner did.


PG said...

Unpaid internships are a way to get relevant experience and network with people in a field of interest, get a track record and references of doing good work in a specialized area, without an employer's having to take any monetary risk on you. If I just want to get coffee and do filing, I can get paid for that and it's not really important whether I do it for a film company or a hospital. If I want to do things that are specific to the industry, that's actually educational and not substitutable in any other job.

Unpaid internships are obviously an opportunity that wealthy people have more access to than lower-income people, but I don't think they're wronging the people who participate in them so long as they comply with the law. (And I have friends who argue that the DOL's regulations are too strict and shouldn't be enforced anyway.)

Phoebe said...

"Unpaid internships are a way to get relevant experience and network with people in a field of interest, get a track record and references of doing good work in a specialized area, without an employer's having to take any monetary risk on you."

OK, think of it like this: let's say the market shifts, and it now becomes financially swingable for firms to make the first decade of employment. After all, during that decade, "interns" are still relatively inexperienced, and - the market shows! - have more to gain from the experience than does the employer. Let's say it becomes the first two decades. Let's say this upsets those who can't afford to work for no pay for 20 years, but that enough people want to do so that this just is how it is. See where I'm going with this?

There used to be such a thing as "entry-level," or "assistant," that would allow contacts to be made, lower-level tasks to be assigned, but that would still maintain the basic idea of work getting compensated, however minimally. The point isn't that companies need to give every part-time college-student worker $50k. It's that they need to provide something in the form of a check.

One problem with the unpaid internship is that it perpetuates the idea - that you appear convinced by - that there's on the one hand this generic, unpleasant, money-providing thing called low-level work, on the other a more appealing kind of work that involves making coffee for the people in the field you wish to enter. When in fact, both are work. It should, no doubt, be harder to get the more desirable entry-level jobs, but the fact that they provide experience and allow for networking doesn't somehow magically remove the fact that they constitute jobs.

And - and this bit you didn't respond to, but it addresses the way in which unpaid interns, even from UMC families, are screwed over - a crucial educational aspect of any job is how money changes things. Your boss is not your parent, not your teacher, not someone you've paid to do you a service, not someone who loves you unconditionally. But your life - or, depending your age, your beer money - now depends on this person. The entire dynamic shifts if no money changes hands.

The unpaid intern never gets to experience this, but also never gets the satisfaction of knowing that his work (or, for someone new to the field that week, his potential for work) was considered worth compensation. The kind of work that is deemed worth compensation becomes this elusive thing that can only be reached after some unstated period, when the powers that be deem you worthy. As opposed to, you know, the first payday after you've begun.

PG said...

OK, think of it like this: let's say the market shifts, and it now becomes financially swingable for firms to make the first decade of employment.

But that wouldn't make any sense because grown-ass people who need to make a living (the 99%, as they say at Occupy Wall Street) wouldn't do it. Unpaid internships are something you do for a summer or a semester. Poorly paid fellowships are something you do for a year or two.

Think about it relative to medical training. People in their last year of medical school are working hours like a full-time job: they have the responsibility to go to the hospital/clinic at absurd times of day and night; they have to take care of patients and stress out over how their patients are doing. And while they're in medical school, they're paying for the privilege of working, because of course someone has to be supervising them constantly even in their low-level work like drawing blood or getting a urine sample. Then they get to spend a year getting paid minimum wage to be called interns. Then a few more years in residency at just-above minimum wage. If they want to make the really big bucks later on, they have a few more underpaid years in fellowships (e.g. to become cardiologists, pediatric surgeons, etc.).

People put up with this and take out loans and live on lentils because the reward is so great. If you could pay your way into getting accepted for fellowships in the specialties, people would do that and it would be worth the money (at least until socialized medicine makes being a specialty doctor a merely upper-middle-class profession).

Some of the same dynamics are at work, albeit in a less quasi-monopolistic fashion, in the non-physician labor economy. If someone has to supervise me in all of the work I'm doing because this is part of my training process, it's not necessarily true that they should be paying me as well. This is how guild apprenticeships used to work -- indeed, the untrained young person's parents would pay the master to take him on. But you couldn't spin an apprenticeship out forever. Eventually the apprentice would have learned enough that his labor was worth the pay and no longer required the master's supervision. Also, eventually the apprentice would want to get married and have a family, which required his making some money.