There’s a trend of what I’m terming prole porn journalism where young female journalists perform manual labor and report back to the rest of us how crappy their jobs were. We’re probably then supposed to call a Congressman or #occupysomething.
Mac McClelland – the (female) writer who wrote last year about needing violent sex to get over the PTSD she developed in Haiti – appeared at Bloggingheads to discuss her recent Mother Jones piece recounting her 4 day stint as a warehouse “wage slave” – a job at which she was paid $11.50 an hour. This is similar to the recently-released book The American Way of Eating in which author Tracie McMillan (two McC’s) spent a year working bad food industry jobs – a fruit picker, a Wal Mart produce worker, and as an expediter in an Applebee’s kitchen. In a bit of synchronocity with McClelland’s Haiti piece, McMillan tells of her own sexual assault at a going away party after her brief stint at Applebee’s (McClelland reports that her editors wouldn’t allow her to mention the company she worked for).
My brief point is this: yes, there are some arguments to be made for the relatively not-great working conditions and expectations placed on people who work crappy jobs. A certain amount of awareness can place pressure on employers to improve overall working conditions. But I see the play here with McClelland and McMillan. Let’s get two white female journalists to tell the story of the poor proles who are stuck in these heinous jobs. That’ll raise awareness. As a guy who has worked jobs that leave me sore at the end of each shift – as a waiter, as a loader at a giant home improvement retail chain, as a sign painter – I pretty much scoff at McClelland and McMillan because I see them as either being too weak for these jobs (McMillan spends an entire piece recounting her near nausea while picking fruit) and holding everyone to their lower standards of ability or, worse, exploiting the very same people for whom they’re supposedly seeking social justice. At some point these tales of rape and PTSD and horrible working conditions are more about selling magazines and books rather than improving the various conditions of the subjects of these tales.
Briefer point: tell the story from a working class (white?) man’s perspective and see who gives a fuck.
Related material: Journalist Mike Daisey caught fabricating details of sweatshop conditions at a Chinese factory producing Apple components. But of course, his defense is that the ends justify the means. Hmm.