A short rant

I hate when people, especially other feminists, devalue the work that is raising children. Just because it’s not financially compensated in our current system doesn’t mean it’s not just as important as any other kind of work.

I also hate when people say things like “the world doesn’t owe me a living, or my children support.” I believe we have a collective responsibility to each other. I believe that the world owes everyone a living, whether or not they want to or can work in ways that are considered economically productive (under what are some very narrow definitions of productivity, I might add). I believe that by virtue of being alive, we are all owed food, shelter, clothes, health care, and education.

I don’t believe in the hyper-individualistic bullshit of “personal responsibility.” We’re all in this together–and we’d better start acting like it if we want to survive.

For our souls and communities: why we need a work culture of regular sabbaticals

Hanging out with a goat and chickens while visiting a farm last year.

For the last few years, I’ve been doing a lot of research into alternatives to the traditional job market that no longer offers much opportunity. Especially alternatives that involve either travel, farm work, or both–because I have both a terrible case of wanderlust and a strong urge to work with my hands close to the earth.

Last spring, I was seriously considering WWOOFing–volunteering on an organic farm in exchange for room and board–for the summer. I even visited a few potential farms, but in the end, I decided not to do it for two reasons: I didn’t want to be separated from Steve, and I didn’t want to come back to Boston in the fall with no job or way to pay rent.

Now that spring is around the corner, my dormant desire to sink my hands into mud and dirt is back. And are my fantasies about WWOOFing. But for the same reasons as last year, I don’t think I can make it work.

Through all of my research and yearning and fantasizing and facing hard realities, I’ve become more and more convinced that we need a national job culture of regular sabbaticals. Of stable, living-wage, permanent jobs that give employees the option to take a year off (ideally at a reduced pay rate, or unpaid) every x number of years, with the guarantee that their jobs would be waiting for them upon return.

The farm’s fruit trees and main buildings, not far from its solar panels.

This could solve so many disparate problems. Like reducing the workweek to 21 hours, it would spread out work among more people, thereby reducing unemployment. It would force employers to cross-train their workers more effectively, which would result in a more skilled and innovative workforce. It would have the potential to reduce carbon emissions.

Continue reading

Jobs in a shareable society: how do we get paid if no one is buying?

Despite my love of shiny shiny things, I am generally in favor of a society focused less on consumption and more on community. Our current levels of consumption as a society are unsustainable and harmful to both workers and the environment; if you want a good in-depth analysis of these problems and some potential solutions, I highly recommend Annie Leonard’s book The Story of Stuff.

But there’s one thing I keep wondering when I think about transitioning to a less stuff-focused society, and reading this post about planning a shareable wedding helped me put my finger on it.

The author’s wedding, which included contributions from creative friends and lots of DIY, sounds wonderful. I especially like the idea of a make-your-own-mojito station, which I’m totally stealing for future use:

Think about all the things you can make instead of buy. Instead of programs, we painted the day’s agenda on a big smooth piece of wood, propped up on an easel. Instead of a full cocktail bar, Michael made a giant pitcherful of sugar-mint-lime mash the day before, and guests enjoyed the make-your-own-mojito station with instructions and ingredients. And instead of store-bought invitations, we designed and formatted our own, and printed them at a local copy business for under a hundred dollars.

I have no problem with the author, or anyone else, planning their weddings or other events this way (although I would caution anyone considering using “friendors” to think about it carefully and be aware of the risks).  But when I see such stories held up as a model for “how we should do things,” it leaves me wondering: if everyone did it that way, what would happen to all the professional photographers, florists, wedding coordinators, artists, designers, craftspeople, and bakers?

More broadly, if we move toward a model of sharing–that is, replacing paid labor with volunteer work done by friends and family–where does that leave people who make things and provide services for a living?

One potential way around this conundrum is the basic national income, which would free people from having to work to survive. Under such a system, people who want to make art could do so without having to find a way to make money from it, and people who want to volunteer for their friends could do so without losing out on much-needed wages. But even then, there are probably many people who would want to do these types of work. After all, being an accessory maker, photographer, event planner, graphic designer, florist, or maker of tiny wedding cake replicas sound like fulfilling and rewarding jobs–exactly the kind we’d want more of in a new economy.

How do we move away from ubiquitous commercialization, from the constant beating drum of buy-buy-buy, without devaluing creative work?

I know this is a rather theoretical question, as we’re nowhere near a large-scale shift away from consumption. But I care about figuring out social and economic models that would work for as many people as possible.

Just when you thought there was nothing new to say about hope and climate change…

…along came David Roberts, and made a mind-blowingly good observation:

Will unexpected, rapid changes in coming decades be good or bad, positive or negative? That depends on millions of individual choices made in the interim. Some of those choices, if they happen at just the right moment, could be just the perturbations that spark cascading changes in social, economic, or technological systems. Some of those choices, in other words, will be incredibly significant.

Which ones? That we cannot know. It could be any of them, any time. Precisely because we cannot know — because any one of our choices might be the proverbial butterfly’s wings — we must act. We must take advantage of every affordance, grasp every opportunity. We don’t know when history might unlock the door, so we have no choice but to keep pushing on it.

Also an important point:

Remember, there is no “too late” here, no “game over” — it will be a tragedy to shoot past 2 degrees to 3, but 4 is worse than 3, and 5 is worse than 4. Being unprepared for any of those will be much worse than being prepared. The future always forks; there are always better and worse paths ahead. There’s always a difference to be made.

Go read the whole thing, in which he draws inspiration from chaos theory and history. His perspective is new and original–and seriously, stunningly hope-inducing.

The frustrations of a fragmented fat online community

A little while ago, I talked about how it’s problematic that the bulk of online FA thinking is happening in XOJane, a non-fat-friendly space. I know there has been movement toward creating and improving FA spaces: Redefining Body Image has added Facebook comments (I’d prefer Disqus, but any comments are better than none!), and Issa is working on an awesome project that I can’t tell you about yet.

But the bulk of FA work is still going on at XOJane. And today I got a reminder of how that isn’t always good.

I wrote what I thought was an innocuous response to a question in an FA-related thread. Not a minute later, I got an angry response accusing me of defending a fat-hating troll.

I’m not going to lie, that hurts. It hurts to be misread. It hurts to be accused of saying something I would never, ever say.

I’ve gone over what I wrote, and I still can’t figure out how it could be interpreted that way. I just don’t see it.

But I do understand that sometimes miscommunications happen. They happen in real life, and they can happen even more easily on the internet.

Especially in non-FA spaces. Not that any online (or real-life space) is 100% miscommunication-free, but I think such misreadings are more likely to happen in a space that isn’t explicitly fat-friendly. There are plenty of fat-hating comments on XOJane, and people are understandably on guard, which can sometimes lead to seeing fat hatred where it really, really isn’t there.

Whereas in a fat-friendly space, fat-hating comments wouldn’t make it through moderation in the first place. People would be much more likely to assume good faith on the part of other commenters. There wouldn’t be this kneejerk defensiveness that’s warranted nine times out of ten, but misplaced and hurtful the tenth time.

I just want a place to talk with other fierce fatties, free from both people who think fat is bad and people who somehow assume I think fat is bad.

*sigh*

Are fatshionistas pioneering a deep economy of fashion?

I’ve been doing more thinking about the ethics of fa(t)shion, while also re-reading one of my favorite books: Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future by Bill McKibben.

In it, McKibben argues that our growth-focused global economic system 1.) creates extreme inequality, 2.) is environmentally unsustainable, and 3.) fails to make people happier, because so many people are isolated, stressed out, and lacking community support.

He proposes switching to smaller-scale, community-based systems, and gives examples from all around the world: from the organic farming system that developed in Cuba after the fall of the USSR, to a cooperatively-owned clothing store in Wyoming, to a city bus system in Brazil.

It’s a brilliant, fascinating, hopeful read.

And it got me thinking: are we fatshionistas on the forefront of a new deep economy of clothing?

Lacking more traditional options, we’ve developed community-based means of shopping: from pop-up shops to clothing swaps to rummage events like Boston’s Big Thrifty and New York’s Big Fat Flea.

Continue reading