We deserve better.

I keep coming across disheartening reminders that having a successful career rarely translates into financial stability.

s.e. smith, a writer whose work I’ve followed for years on XOJane and elsewhere on the social justice internets, recently posted a list of tips for freelancers. In the introduction, ou* admitted:

Alas, the fact of the matter is that while I have been freelancing for seven years now, I still don’t have what I would call a wildly stable or successful career, and it’s highly likely that will never realistically happen. The same is true of many freelancers, especially in an economy where intellectual labour is valued less and less, which translates into lower fees for your work or dreaded offers of ‘exposure’ in offer for your free work.

The same day, I came across Susie Cagle’s post Eight years of solitude: on freelance labor, journalism, and survival. And it’s just depressing:

More newspapers and magazines want to profile me and the strange work I do than hire me to actually do it. Other writers and illustrators chastise, how can you complain about getting that kind of promotion? The year I got the most TV and radio spots and magazine write-ups, I made about $17,000.

Even though freelance writing doesn’t appeal to me for a number of reasons–I do best with external structure and routine, I need to be around people, and I just enjoy writing more when my rent doesn’t depend on it–it hurts to see how little our economy values people with skills and interests similar to mine. It’s incredibly frustrating to see so many people doing such good work but barely making enough to live on.

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Want to know how I feel about the threat of climate change?

Then read this essay by Megan Mayhew Bergman.

A taste:

I want to be hopeful. On good days, I go to 350.org and am heartened by their belief that we can make large-scale changes in the human activity that results in global warming. Not that we can, but we will. But most days, I don’t think we’re going to save this planet. I don’t think, as humans, we’re going to do the right thing. Is that constructive to say? No. Is it subscribing to the very unhelpful school of shaming the enemy, even if that enemy is yourself?  Yes. But if I knock the moral sieve out of the way and give it to you straight, that’s what keeps me up at night. Our inevitable failure.

I don’t know how she got inside my head. This is how I feel, down to the letter, with the one major difference that she has small children whereas I don’t even have kids yet.  How do I even begin to think about bringing new lives into this world?

When it comes to fat activism, I feel like I can make a difference. Even just putting pictures of myself on the internet, pictures of myself being fat and happy and fabulous, can be radical in its own small way.

But climate change? It’s huge, and all-encompassing, and terrifying. It makes everything else feel meaningless.

I don’t have the guts (or the financial stability, but mostly the guts) to devote my life to it. To chain myself to other activists like the Westboro 8, or lock myself to a piece of heavy machinery like a grandmother from Oklahoma. I admire the hell out of them from a distance. I go to 350 meetings, I do my little bits of activism, and I distract myself.

I don’t know how I’d get through the day if I didn’t distract myself. I don’t know how I’d stay sane.

Deep down, I’m terrified.

And, unlike my various irrational anxieties, I know that this terror is real. This terror is justified. I don’t think there’s any way to quell it without going completely into denial.

How can we build good lives atop this undercurrent of panic? How can we keep hoping in the face of overwhelming odds, while our government twiddles its fingers?

How do we live well and justly in this world when there’s a very real chance that it’s just too late?

I wish I had answers.

I wish there were answers.

Truly sustainable fashion: what would it look like, and how do we get there?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the need for durable, small-scale, community-based economies–because that’s the only way we’re going to survive in this age of climate change. And I’ve been wondering, what does that mean for fashion? What would a sustainable system of clothing production look like?

Clothing swaps and bargain shopping events are a major step in the right direction. But new clothing still has to come from somewhere.

I really like The Social Skin’s vision of a sustainable textile industry. In it, fibers are grown locally whenever possible, including from animals like sheep and rabbits; local fabric shops create various types of cloth while paying their workers a living wage; people sew simple items at home, and take fabric to tailors for more complicated garments; and people care for their clothing carefully, using it until it wears out or selling it at consignment stores. Also, hats come back in style, providing work for local milliners–an idea which I can get behind 100%!

A sustainable system involving hats? Sign me up!

The way clothing would get made sounds wonderful:

You collaborate with the dressmaker on your garment design and in choosing your trimming and notions. She contributes expertise in fabric drapery and cut, suggestions on styles she has seen work before, and information on current fashion trends or historic styles as appropriate. You contribute your preferences on the style, cut, colors and fabrics that work for you. You might bring in pictures of clothes you’ve seen to be copied, with whatever adjustments you want, or your favorite old dress to be recreated in fresh fabric. All of your clothes fit you perfectly, are exactly the right length, height, and width in every place. The colors are always flattering to your complexion, the cuts always flattering to your figure, the style always exactly what you feel most comfortable and lovely wearing. What a dream!

There would be so much more room for creativity, and people of all sizes could get clothing they love, rather than being left out by corporations that don’t want their clothing seen on fat people.

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