Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Realities to contend with

-Tavi Gevinson continues to create, impress. As well she should - WWPD is pro-Tavi. It does strike me as strange, though, that we are only just now meant to recognize that the brilliant tween-now-teen is also conventionally good-looking. She has been all along, which is why amazing photographs like this have happened. We-the-public only want to see "ugly" fashions on the young and pretty. The difference with Tavi 2.0 is that this is more overt, if in a subtle, almost rockabilly way. Says a Slate commenter, "As a male in his thirties, I naturally clicked on this because of the babe in the photo. It would have saved me a morning of psychological trauma if it had clearly been stated on the home page that she's sixteen." Yes, that would be the difference between then and now.

-I just (finally!) read Katha Pollitt's Learning to Drive, and in one of the essays, "Webstalker," she offers quite the telling-it-like-it-is take on heterosexual open relationships. This, in reference to learning that an ex-boyfriend had been telling women that she "accepted his need for other women."

Still, it astonished me that she'd believed that business about my permitting his philandering. The only people who seem to know such women firsthand are the men who are cheating on them. You never hear a woman say, 'Whatever George wants is fine with me - I just want him to be happy!' No woman has ever passed on to another the riveting news that Miriam understands that Joe needs variety. It is only men who seem to possess this bit of intimate knowledge, which apparently is so instantly credible, so obviously true, that no one ever asks the woman herself about it.
What struck me about this passage was how far removed it felt from the world presumed by Dan Savage's philosophy of negotiated open relationships, "monogamish." One can present "monogamish" in gender-neutral terms, but then there's reality to contend with.

-And I just listened to the WBUR show on Mary Kay, the cosmetics tupperware party that may or may not be a pyramid scheme. The issue is basically that the company doesn't keep track of whether the women who buy thousands of dollars' worth of wholesale inventory actually sell the stuff. In the company's defense, a guest on the program - who of course couldn't get around the fact that women are either going into debt or making under minimum wage under the banner of prepackaged girl-power entrepreneurship - explained that it doesn't matter if these women are making peanuts. Why? Because (in order of least to most patronizing) for some, it's just a way to supplement their husband's income, for others, to learn business skills (while never standing to make more than peanuts), for yet others, it's about the social component (of demanding your 'new friends' buy makeup from you???) and for others still (including, evidently, dude's own sister), it's just about getting a whole bunch of makeup for yourself at a discount. 'Cause you know, women, shopping...

While the last item really gets at the gender specificity of the product itself, the first three reminded me of the connection I'd made earlier between the housewife and the unpaid intern. There are, in society, those who need to work and are generally recognized as needing to do so; those who straight-up don't and can volunteer or ride horses competitively; and finally, those who do, but maybe not desperately, maybe more for independence than subsistence, if only for the time being, but who will at any rate strike potential employers as not in need of an income.

When a for-profit, not-plausibly-charity-type employer offers "work" that doesn't pay - or maybe pays one peanut and no more - what's happening is, the would-be employee is assumed to have some other source of income, that the alternative to paying this person is not the employee showing up for work straight from the homeless shelter. The employer can then pay less than what the work is worth, comfortable in the knowledge that the employee will neither starve nor (well, there is OWS) protest. It's one thing to realize, hey, at this point in my life, my basic needs are accounted for (or could be with part-time work plus loans), so maybe now's a good time for school, for some part-time pursuits, for bettering myself or the world, and for those who run universities or organize do-gooder internships to meet that demand. It's another entirely to go out looking for paid work, only to find that all that's available to you are learning experiences and opportunities for social interaction, with maybe a lipstick thrown in.


Moebius Stripper said...

Re Mary Kay: I used to work at the franchiser end of a business that shall remain nameless. Said company had a lofty mission statement, attracting people who fancied themselves middle-class philanthropists of sorts. It also ate up a HUGE proportion of the franchisees' revenues, so that very few of the entrepreneurs were earning much of an income at all from it, though a large enough number were doing well enough that we had some people we could hold up as examples of success stories when necessary for morale-boosting purposes or what have you. Of course, most of our franchisees were married women.

As a middle manager-type in this wretched job, I was often at the receiving end of complaints from the poor new franchisees who had been labouring under the misconception that they could eventually make a living out of this venture. I asked my boss for advice, and he said, in so many words, as though it should have been obvious to me and them all along, "Well, we're not JUST a business. We're also providing an important service, so we're looking for people who are in it to make a difference, as opposed to just for the money."

While I was still employed by the company, cognitive dissonance was in full effect, but after I quit I saw that this was a pretty creepy, and highly effective, way to silence the franchisees who filled our coffers: paint anyone interested in making a living as a greedy capitalist. Of course, my boss himself didn't see himself, a breadwinner married to a SAHM, as having to choose between doing good and putting food on the table, but that's beside the point.

Phoebe said...

I'm now of course desperate to know what organization this could be. Nothing at all is coming to mind.

I do think there could be some exception for pursuits that one would have to be a fool to imagine would pay - things that have always been volunteer work, or spending spring break fetching coffee for a fashion editor. But as you so correctly point out, even in an organization that isn't, say, Goldman Sachs, that does have some ostensible purpose other than money, the higher-ups will be earning a living. Which takes something away from lines like 'the budget is tight so unfortunately, while we're hiring, we're not paying,' or all the rest that's thrown at the young or female-and-married about how it would be entitled and like you say, "greedy" to want your enough-to-live-on money to come from your job, rather than your parents/husband.

Also, I forgot to mention this in the post, but another guest on the WBUR show had worked for Mary Kay while a married woman, but had since divorced. Just as parent-help isn't eternal and guaranteed, nor is spousal-help.