I wonder sometimes if I would be so outspoken if I didn’t feel like I was always that kid at the gambling table who said, “Fuck it,” and put all my money on a random number because…why the hell not? I feel like I have nothing left to lose most of the time because I don’t have the responsibility of representing some larger institutional body.
Being unemployed is a really harsh situation to be in, especially when the things you fight for are labor-based, gender-centered and social-justice related. At the same time, I feel constantly cornered, like an alley cat, a feral dog or like a walking time bomb. It’s a weird mix of opportunity AND oppression.
The hilarity, of course, is that due to being “in between gigs” (isn’t that phrase awful? You’re supposed to say that instead of telling people that you’re unemployed so that it sounds better- but like…I’m out of work and it’s depressing which is exactly how it sounds- ugly, frustrating and infuriating- let’s not fancy it up, eh?) I have been able to be more vocal about my opinions on topics than many of my colleagues cannot.
Example: I am on a listserv for AV archivists and there was a posting for a job in my general area. But the pay was insultingly low and…I couldn’t let the post go without commenting on it. There is low pay and then there is exploitation wages. Then, of course, there are the arguments that many employers will make about internships and how much you will “learn from the job” and that the institution itself has very little and so on and so forth.
I have little to no patience for these things. These excuses are almost always made by old rich white straight men who don’t know what current living costs are and what reality is like for most people who are not like themselves or the people that they know.
So I began “discussing with passion.” And I was very nice about it. I will say that I got enough private messages from people saying that they appreciated what I was saying to know that I was doing something right. These were messages from people who probably would’ve gotten in trouble from their institutions had they participated in the conversation or spoken up and said: this is not right. Pay people a reasonable amount of money.
These are people who are scared to lose their jobs. They can’t respond to the emails that move across the listserv saying “We need Unions!”
But I can. Because I have no job. I am very skilled, I have 2 Master’s Degrees from UCLA, a special certification of honor from the University of Kent in Canterbury.
My freedom to speak, to criticize and excoriate whiteness and toxic masculinity in the field of preservation/archiving (I do it all the time), to call out problematic hiring practices and labor issues…it seems to come with this horrid price and I didn’t really ask for that.
I’m wondering who I can talk to about that and if we can have a chat over tea. I’m not sure if I’m into this arrangement.
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