Loving My Job Doesn’t Mean You Get to Exploit Me (Or “Why My Time & Work Ain’t Free”)

Illustration by http://melaniegillman.com/

Illustration by http://melaniegillman.com/

“DWYL” & The Intersection of Capitalism/Sexism

Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life!” –a glimmering promise of joyous labor that’s fun 24/7 and somehow secretly “not work.” Miya Tokomitsu thinks the “intoxicating warmth” of that line’s promise must be critiqued:

“Who, exactly, benefits from making work feel like nonwork?” “Why should workers feel as if they aren’t working when they are?” In masking the very exploitative mechanisms of labor that it fuels, DWYL is, in fact, the most perfect ideological tool of capitalism. If we acknowledged all of our work as work, we could set appropriate limits for it, demanding fair compensation and humane schedules that allow for family and leisure time.

This idea of “not-work work” creates a cycle that enables many employers to exploit their employees (especially in nonprofits doing social services/justice-related things) because they rely on the workers’ “love of their jobs” or “passion for social change” to offer low wages, never give raises, demand outcomes incongruous to the hours being paid, and more. As someone who works “doing what she loves,” but is frustrated by the ideas that “if you love it, it’s not work, and thus you shouldn’t charge for it,” I cannot stress enough how timely and important this article is.

Tokomitsu drives the point home even further, explaining how this disproportionately affects women and is embedded in sexist notions of labor and “whose job it is” to do certain activities:

Yet another damaging consequence of DWYL is how ruthlessly it works to extract female labor for little or no compensation. Women comprise the majority of the low-wage or unpaid workforce; as care workers, adjunct faculty, and unpaid interns, they outnumber men. What unites all of this work, whether performed by GEDs or Ph.D.s, is the belief that wages shouldn’t be the primary motivation for doing it. Women are supposed to do work because they are natural nurturers and are eager to please; after all, they’ve been doing uncompensated child care, elder care, and housework since time immemorial. And talking money is unladylike anyway.

“Come On, Anyone Can Do That!”

When people think “pffft, anyone can do that” about fields like art, caregiving, and education, they erase the level of preparation many people have to get to actually do those things well. Yes, there are things “anyone can do” to an extent, but the results/quality will vary widely. This often happens because people think they understand a field and assume they can do just as good of a job (which is often untrue). This happens to me with sexuality education all the time.

While I fully support popular education methods, community skill-shares, and decentralizing power (especially in fields that get increasingly professionalized at the expense of including the affected communities in their own healing/work), those strategies fulfill a very specific need. Sex education, particularly in school settings, is not just something you can wake up one morning and do with the same level of knowledge, grace, and skill as someone who has invested a lot of time and resources into their preparation.

Social media is another prime example of this issue. Many people are ON social media and think that automatically gives them “expertise” to do high-level social media management and content strategy. Yeah, no. Just being able to boil some pasta and mix it with cheese doesn’t make you a chef either.

Like the image at the top of this post points out, though, these kinds of attitudes are are RARELY directed at medicine, chemistry, and pretty much any STEM field (which BTW are male-dominated, surprise!) because society places those bodies of knowledge on a pedestal and presumes (or knows) they take a great deal of technical knowledge. Especially in regard to STEM fields (since some people don’t even want to touch those areas with a 10-foot pole out of fear), even relatively simple tasks are seen as impressive because of that fear and ignorance. Not to say chemistry is a piece of cake or that neurosurgery is just like teaching a room full of students, but that we must acknowledge the complexity and nuance of fields that are socially considered “soft” and are also often associated with women.

On The Other Side Of Sex Education Programming

By the time I graduated from Brown University in 2011, I had a slew of campus event organizing experience. As the chair of various groups, I coordinated a large number of events to promote wider dialogue and education around sexuality issues. My set of tasks included being the liaison with outside speakers and negotiating prices to bring them to campus. Looking back on it, I realize how underpaid some of the speakers were.

In fact, sometimes I actively haggled prices down so I could make the events more attractive to the funding boards and so we could put on more events. Part of that was just because of the way certain groups and events got funded and my desire to do as many educational activities as possible, but I also think that it’s related to not fully grasping the type of work and hours that can (and often do) go into delivering a stellar college workshop or lecture. Now that I’m on the presenting, rather than the college organizing, end and I also work for a small organization that does training/education on sexuality, I have a more informed perspective about these issues.

When your eyes widen at the prospect of a speaker asking for $2,000-$5,000 for a presentation, think about that for a second. When you hire consultants and freelancers, they often have to charge more per hour and per project than organizations because you are hiring them sporadically instead of putting them in a long-term, stable position with benefits they can rely on. When independent sex educators are pricing their work, they have to think about things like:

  • their past/present/future professional development and education
  • having to (often) pay for their own healthcare and insurance(s)
  • time spent preparing their outlines and materials (which can involve a great deal of research)
  • expenses related to travel (food in new places, places to stay, transportation itself, time spent away from home-base, etc.)
  • expenses to make the presentation worthwhile (e.g. purchasing new PowerPoint or Keynote themes, buying props, mailing items to the presentation location, paying for extra bags on airplanes, etc.)
  • fees taken by booking agencies if they don’t handle all their bookings/gig logistics

On top of that, educators doing the college circuit have to think strategically about where they speak and how much they charge so it can be sustainable. Student organizers often want to bring in other speakers too, and schools aren’t often willing to pay someone to come annually & speak to the “same” student body, so educators can’t always count on that money being stable from year to year. Think about all the other offers that might be competing for attention, too! Especially if someone is in really high demand, they’re not going to take 20 low-paying gigs instead of 20 high-paying ones, so they will prioritize the things that make sense and/or money.

Please note: this doesn’t apply to everyone 100%—there are people who consider themselves sex educators with little education and grounding in the field beyond personal experience (I’m not saying you need a degree in sexual health to be able to speak about these topics, but that some people think that taking one class in college or one workshop somehow makes them An Expert in All Things Sex). Not every sex educator reads through medical journals, uses fancy slideshows, spends hours preparing for their presentation, or combs their work for racial diversity and inclusive language. There are also people with stable income who just do sex ed on the side every so often and don’t have to deal with some of the things above.

What’s more, there are also people out there who “drive down the market” in other ways—who shamelessly spread misinformation, steal workshop titles and materials from other sexuality professionals, and actively try to lasso work away from people who already have it by saying “Hey, I can do what [insert name of presenter usually does XYZ] does but for way cheaper!”  TL;DR: Some people will charge “a lot” for a presentation and it will not have been worth it and it will not be backing up any of the things I said above.

That being said, you know what the reality is, spoken from the event-organizing end? If you are amazing at what you do, many places will find a way to pay you. If you command a decent price-tag and aren’t wishy-washy (note: being flexible isn’t the same as being wishy-washy), many places will respect that and just get you the money. When I had speakers who haggled with me, we haggled. If there were speakers I really wanted who had a firm price tag, I just bit the bullet and dealt with it (or didn’t bring them in because we just didn’t have the money at a given time).

But It’s Not That Simple!

I don’t want to place the blame on educators and speakers for “undervaluing themselves” as if there were no other relevant factors here. I also don’t mean to imply that there’s some magical level playing ground where all sex educators get equal opportunities. Outside from a passion for sexuality issues, a love of teaching, and an imperative to give back to their communities, some educators shift their prices down because they’re not in a financial position to decline, and/or because they’re just starting out and don’t have enough professional experience or clout to ask for more. The advice of “just decline events that don’t pay you what you’re worth, stop underselling yourself, you’re hurting the field” is busted (plus it’s classist, racist, and homophobic in its assumptions and implications).

For folks who are part of minority groups, this is can be especially tricky. For example, due to things like racism and homophobia, many LGBTQ/POC speakers are:

  • offered less money from the get-go
  • are passed over in favor of white/straight folks, all other qualifications being equal
  • get trapped into offering their work at a lower rate so it will even be CONSIDERED (this also affects people tackling “unpopular” or “niche” subjects such as, say, the intersection of sex and disability)

So often we even have to fight and make special deals/packages to get certain topics addressed because they aren’t seen as pressing by the dominant group (e.g. discussions of LGBTQ people in the domestic violence sphere). It’s seen as our duty, or perhaps as our “privilege,” to be able to educate and train organizations on things like being sensitive to gender and sexuality minorities, when it should be recognized as valuable work as well as a social justice imperative.

LGBTQ/POC speakers often get shoved between a rock and a hard place—we either do the work for less than we’re worth or it just doesn’t get done. We either compromise ourselves and our livelihood for our communities and visibility of certain issues or they remain invisible and silenced. Add all this to the fact that many LGBTQ/POC folks are already battling with impostor syndrome due to lack of positive media representation and messed up social messages about the value of our work, and is at all surprising why this problem exists? This needs to change.

Not The First (Or Only) One To Say It

I’m not the first one to say some of these things. In fact, Jill McDevitt just posted about how she gets asked to do her work for free or “for exposure.” Hanne Blank has written about how “Jesus doesn’t pay her rent” (in reference to a deacon’s ignorant comments about her work as a professional singer) and there’s even a depressing/amusing Twitter account devoted to highlighting this kind of cycle, particularly in the art world.

My friend Chihiro also wrote about this and shed some light on the costs behind artwork:

Don’t ask your art friends to draw something for you for free. If we give you a gift it’s because we are generous and like you; it’s not an invitation for free art requests.
Don’t try to haggle too much, because when we price our work we have to factor in materials fee and hours we spent. If you’re skeptical, just ask us to break down the prices because we will happily do so. You may be surprised to learn a single sheet of archival drawing paper can be $13. Or that it takes well over an hour to build a frame, stretch canvas onto it, and prime the surface (gesso, sand, gesso, sand, gesso, sand… Yes this is all before a painting can even begin!) Some quality oil paints are $35 a tube (that’s not even the most outrageous price either.) If an artist requires a studio, that should be factored in too. You’re not just paying for a pretty image. Pretty images don’t come from thin air. Time, space, materials, skills, inspiration… remember what you’re paying for and maybe think of the money you spend on other things. (…)
If you can’t pay them at least offer an exchange or services. A lot of us are trained with over a decade of expensive schooling too, just like doctors!

In Conclusion, Don’t Expect My Time & Work for Free

It’s not that I’ve paid all my dues or that I’m done doing work for pro-bono. I will always strive for sliding scales, for accessibility, and for working with/for my communities. I will always understand fledgling organizations, niche topics, and the #strugglebus. However, I’m pretty damn good at what I do, and I’ve put (and continue to put) lots of money and tons of effort towards my [continuing] education and expertise. Just like you wouldn’t expect a doctor to do surgery on you for free, don’t just expect my work for free. Sometimes I WILL give it for free and volunteer my time, but it’s not something anyone can or should demand. As Hanne so eloquently put it:

[When] artists, myself included, make our work available for free, as I do in this blog, we do it consciously knowing that we are giving it away.  That’s our right as artists.

Just like your neighbor has the right to give you some of hir homegrown tomatoes — the ones sie nurtured and watered and weeded in the hot sun — if sie so chooses, just like a lawyer has the right to work pro bono for a cause sie wishes to support, just like a bricklayer can spend hir day off building a wall for Habitat for Humanity if sie desires, an artist has the right to give others access to some (or even all) of hir work for free.

No artist, however, has an obligation to give others access to hir work for free.

I strive to balance paid and unpaid projects in a way that makes sense for me and leaves me feeling good about paying it forward and leveraging my areas of privilege for the greater good. This means, though, that I do have to say no to certain projects and even have to turn away friends because there’s just not enough time in the day to Do All The Things for Everyone Who Asks. I love helping people and teaching, but please consider the requests you make and how (in)appropriate they are. If you’re asking that I take an hour or two to teach you about a topic, or counsel you about your relationship that’s in shambles, or read your manuscript for something—don’t be surprised/hurt if I say no or tell you I’d have to do it for a fee/barter. (Seriously, don’t underestimate the magic of bartering. I’m all about that.)

Resources Mentioned at PlaygroundConf 2013 Closing Plenary

PGConf 2013

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Unpacking the Invisible Toybag (or, Scene Specific White Privilege)

So M (who goes by _Spiral_ on Fetlife)–a black genderqueer person from Baltimore–wrote a great list of white privilege in the BDSM/kink/leather scene inspired by the famous Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, by Peggy McIntosh:


By and large, white people in our society have been and continue to be taught about racism as something that puts others at a disadvantage, but taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, White Privilege, which puts white people at an advantage… taught to view themselves as individuals whose moral state depended on their individual moral will… to think of their lives as morally neutral, normative, and average, and also ideal, so that when they work to benefit others, this is seen as work that will allow POCs to be more like them.

There are numerous unearned advantages to being white in the BDSM community. The thing is, as stated above, these are not seen as advantages, they are seen as normative, ie. that’s just the way things are. These advantages include but are not limited to the following:
  • A white person can go to an event or party and very likely not be the only white person (or one of a few) at said event.
  • A white person can be fairly sure to see their race represented in event literature (ads, program books, videos, etc), and BDSM artwork and literature at large (BDSM based fiction, books, magazines)
  • A white person will very likely be able to find Dungeon Monitors, and others in charge in scene space who will be of their own race.
  • A white person will very likely be able to find event presenters and educators who will be of their own race.
  • A white person can be fairly certain that event organizers and venue owners are people of their own race.
  • Barring known nationality in some cases (cuz i bet BoundBlackDragon could tell us a story or two) a white person can be fairly certain that the type of play they like, and/or the role they’d like to play in a scene will not be assumed based on their race or stereotypes about their race.
  • Barring known nationality in some cases, when undressed, a white person can safely expect not to have their body or an area of their body or bodypart be considered a “credit to their race.”
  • Barring known nationality in some cases, when showing particular skill, force, technique, intensity, or even gentleness, a white person can safely expect that these aspects will not be attributed to stereotypes about their race.
  • Barring known nationality in some cases, when a mistake is made in a scene, a white person can safely expect that it will not be attributed to a stereotype about incompetence or clumsiness via their race.
  • If the people in attendance at an event are paying NO attention to a white person, that person can be fairly certain that it’s not because of their race.
  • If the people in attendance at an event are paying a LOT of attention to a white person, that person can be fairly sure that it’s not because of their race.

And then someone derailed the hell out of it, so obviously I commented. Can I also mention this derailer is a white, 35 y.o. male dominant who is part of a “Black Women/White Men” group, a “White Doms/Tops and Black subs/bottoms” group, a “young black women who love older white men” group, AND a “Gorean” group? I’ll just leave that there for y’all to digest.

By and large I think what you are missing is that white people generally don’t look for their own race in those situations and have no issue with other races filling those parts. As for sexual expectations you are too narrow in your scope because skinny girls are expected to be a certain way as well as large girls, blonds, upper class, lower class etc etc etc. I’m not going to go into detail because I am very tired but I think you are showing a large amount of ignorance and short sightedness yourself. By and large people are much less hated then they believe they are. Social interactions being the most complicated thing in human nature you cannot simply chalk things up so simply.

Of course, because so many spaces ARE white, and it’s not just a byproduct of “oh well there are just lots of white people in the U.S.”—it’s directly tied to how the scene operates, what’s valued in it, how cost-prohibitive some parties/accessories/etc. are, the locations where BDSM/kink activities are able to happen, and a lot more, and THOSE systems and situations are inextricably tied to racism.

White people rarely, if ever, “look for their own race” because they’re constantly surrounded by them, and people of color are the minorities that are either used to having to find community or because of circumstance, are mistrustful/uncomfortable/whatever when in a white-dominated space.

Plus, I’d sincerely hope white people “didn’t have an issue” with “other races filling those parts.” (But the thing is, some of them do. Which is fucked.)

Also, I have been told I am a credit to my race and sex as well. If there are other races in the audiences then that is very possible.

How have you been told “you’re a credit to your race and sex”? I’m curious about the context and intent there…

Oh and for the last few if you get a lot or no attention why do you assume off the top it is because of your race? Could be body type, newness, attitude or a multitude of other things. As I said above social interactions is the most complicated part of human nature and to assume you understand completely all of the intricacies only shows how little you really know and would rather remain in what feels comfortable rather then challenge yourself and your own ASSUMPTIONS(PREJUDICE).

Of course–there are a lot of means of oppressing people, a lot of different types of privileges, and the OP is not saying that racism trumps all other oppressions and that if you are a person of color you are ALWAYS OPPRESSED IN EVERY WAY. They’re trying to highlight the way RACE specifically operates in terms of privileges. Just because there are other fucked up assumptions we make based on other identities (such as body shape/size) doesn’t mean the ones based on race are “not as bad or important.”

Re: the attention issue—Jesus H. Christ. AGAIN, the OP is not saying it IS ALWAYS ABOUT RACE. They are saying that one of the privileges of being a white person in the scene is that race is USUALLY NOT AN ISSUE FOR WHITE PEOPLE. While a person of color moves around the world dealing with their race and probably having to think about it every damn day, white people don’t have that, and at the very least if they do for some outside reason, they don’t have it in the same, systemic way that POC do.

Once again, if you reread the post, it says a white person can be fairly certain their level of attention, regardless of if it’s high or low, is NOT RELATED to their race, while–again, based on experience–a POC CANNOT be fairly certain that that’s the case.

Social interactions are indeed complicated, but to try to veil them with “oh, it’s complicated, you can’t break them down like this” is ridiculous.

In Mississippi: Vote NO! Save the Pill on 26! Save the Vote on 27!

This is reposted from an email bulletin by Sister Song, a women of color reproductive health collective:

In Mississippi: Vote NO! Save the Pill on 26!
Save the Vote on 27!
What is Initiative 26?    
 
     On November 8, 2011, Mississippians will be given the opportunity to vote on a dangerous amendment to the state Constitution, which will read, “Should the term ‘person’ be defined to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof?” This amendment would redefine personhood at conception and it seeks to undo laws that protect abortion rights, stem cell research, in vitro fertilization, and even birth control.
     Many of the amendment’s supporters view it as a means to overturn Roe v. Wade in the state of Mississippi, in order to persecute women who decide to have abortions and the doctors that perform them. However, there are implications for people who decide to parent. By defining “personhood” at conception, this could end up criminalizing women who experience miscarriages, stillbirths, or women whose lives are at risk who decide to save their own lives, rather than the fetus.  Initiative 26 could lead to more government intrusion into women’s personal lives, such as accessing our medical records to investigate miscarriages, dictating what kind of birth control we use and interfering with medical decisions in treating women whose lives are at risk. By giving constitutional rights to a fertilized egg, the amendment could ban emergency contraception, birth control pills and IUDs as well as all abortions, even in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the woman or girl. In short, our rights will be violated in order to uphold the rights of the fetus.
     This amendment will disproportionately criminalize (low-income) women of color as we have seen in other states. Mississippi has the highest concentration of African-Americans, high poverty rate and low education ranking, allowing for this issue to be at the heart of intersectionality for women of color, especially Black women. Because the majority of anti-choice proponents are Republican and white, this issue is highly racialized. Pro-life often means something different in the African-American community. Because of issues around gender, race, class and cultural history, Blacks may describe themselves as being both pro-life and pro-choice.   We cannot allow Initiative 26 to become a moral issue, especially when it directly impacts and criminalizes so many women, especially poor women of color. We must not be influenced by rhetoric that considers women who choose to have an abortion as “murderers” when 61% of women who undergo the procedure are mothers, and 84% will become mothers.
What is Initiative 27?
     On the same ballot there is also a controversial Voter ID exclusion measure, Initiative 27, which will allow voting restrictions that will directly impact women of color. This initiative, if passed, will implement measures that are reminiscent of the 1960’s lack of access to the ballot. These two initiatives may be one of the most important opportunities on the ground for the Pro-Choice and Reproductive Justice Movements to work together. To read more about these two Initiatives and what the related intersections mean to women of color, specifically Black women, click here to read an article by our National Coordinator Loretta Ross.
How to join the fight:
What You Can Do..
  • First educate yourself on what these Initiatives really mean and the consequences of their implementation.
  • You can help in this get-out-the-vote effort by voting and urging everyone you know in Mississippi- your friends, family, co-workers, or members of groups you are affiliated with-to Vote No on Initiative 26 and 27 on November 8, 2011.
  • To take direct action, you can donate to various organizations to help the statewide Mississippi coalition campaign buy desperately needed television and radio ads.
  • You can share informative posts on Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets to dispel any myths and clarify the impact of these Initiatives.

 

No-Cost Birth Control – SIGN THE PETITION

The Department of Health and Human Services is currently debating whether to make birth control available at no cost under the new health care law. Removing the economic barrier to birth control would have a major impact on young people’s lives. Distributing condoms already makes a huge difference — and increasing access to no-cost birth control would have an even broader impact.

Are you interested in helping me get signatures? Email brownsheec@gmail.com!

Are you interested in SIGNING the petition? Email or comment with the following (FULL) information:

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