Perks of Poverty?

appropriation.pngI came across this article today: The Troubling Trendiness of Poverty Appropriation and while I was reading it, I felt a familiar rant coming up. I actually agree with the level of disdain this author shows. I don’t know how familiar ya’ll are with a book written about 15 years ago called Nickel and Dimed. The cover looked like this (there was also a 10th anniversary edition which looked similar, but different):
Nickel_and_Dimed_cover

The premise of the book is a reporter/journalist attempts to live a life of poverty for her job. Sounds great right? I mean, a woman(!) digging into the roots of poverty, trying to find out why it’s so hard to live at the lower end of the money spectrum. Which sounds like an awesome case study.
Except she did it wrong and then wrote as though she understood.
Ms. Ehrenreich made three rules for her experiment. (1)
1. she can not fall back on any skills derived from her education or usual work
2. she has to take the highest-paying job she is offered and do her best to keep it;
3. she has to take the cheapest accommodations she can find, with a reasonable consideration for safety and privacy.
She also has some additional considerations. (1)
1. she will always have a car
2. she will never allow herself to be homeless
3. she will never go hungry.
Now, before I get into my thoughts, the author makes note that she understands she will never know what poverty is. The tone of her writing suggests otherwise.

It’s not okay to take something which is a source of great discomfort and shame, put a spin on it and use it as something to glorify (if it is a choice-not a lifestyle). That’s the problem with cultural appropriation. It’s great if there’s something which was founded by one group then shared and used for the benefit of all. It’s another thing entirely to glorify something like poverty. It’s not right.

Issues I have with the author’s take on the book are numerous. Of my issues, at the top of the list are the fact that this book was marketed as a woman exploring poverty by experiencing it. She didn’t. Not even close. Let me explain to you how she should have done her experiment: She shouldn’t have.
Poverty isn’t an experiment. It’s a tragedy.

The issues I have with her rules (by rule):
1. her experiences included being an adult with a job. She knew how to get an interview.
2. she should have taken the FIRST job she was offered-high pay or no.
3. poor people will often sacrifice safety, privacy and comfort for what can be afforded.
The issues I have with her additional considerations (in order):
1. being poor means taking the bus, or walking. Having a running car is a luxury.
2. this one, while reasonable is still a heavy assumption.
3. poverty means hunger. Trust me, I know.

Now, some additional things to consider. She kept her car from her old job. So it wasn’t a beater. She also had an emergency fund. There is no such thing as an emergency fund in poverty because literally every purchase is necessary and money is spent before it comes in. Also, she had health insurance. Now, I know that it’s 15 years later and insurance is required. But at the same time, you and I know that that means, if anything, money doesn’t go as far at all. And I remember a time when health insurance was a luxury-and if you didn’t have it, you went to work sick. Because I have insurance, and I can’t afford to go to the doctor. So I don’t.

Let me tell you a story, perhaps you’ll understand where I’m coming from. It would be sixth grade, history. It was the week of my birthday and I knew my parents were strapped for money, so I hadn’t asked for anything extravagant. I just wanted Chinese food from the store in town and some frog toys (I loved frogs). I walked into class that day and the principle was in class as well, which was odd. We were told that there was a shortage of money in the school district, that we would now have to pay 10 cents for each page of our tests, our work sheets and everything which needed printed, and that in order to have access to the homework that day, we were going to have to give up two dollars right then.

I was 11 years old. Two dollars was all the lunch money I had. I was a straight-A student, never missed an assignment, all my teachers liked me. It was the week of my birthday and I was being told that I was going to have to pay a LOT of money in order to go to school. My parents were a little broke and I hadn’t had lunch yet.

As an 11 year old with a wild imagination, the only thoughts I could entertain as I put my money on the table and the principle checked my name off, was about how I was going to cause my family to lose our home, we were going to be on the street eating from trash cans. And, because my birthday is in December, I naturally assumed that I and my family were going to freeze to death. All because I wanted to go to school.

That is the reality of poverty. Little children being afraid that their existence is going to cost too much. That they are going to die because they cannot afford to live.

And for those of you who are curious, I did get my lunch money back. And no, we didn’t have to pay money for paper. It was an exercise to demonstrate how the colonists felt about the unfair taxes imposed by Britain. The principle had been there to reinforce the lesson (make it seem realistic and believable), and as a precaution, I’m sure. About a third of the class was crying as they left for their next class that day. I remember that the kid I sat by went to the bathroom and called his mother who came in to school and cursed out the teacher. A woman teacher (math) later told me that she wished she could bring her subject to students in such a relevant way. I remain appalled.

For the record, I never forgave that teacher. I know I should, but I consider him a monster. He ruined my birthday and taught me that the people who are often trusted to lead children aren’t necessarily the ones you want doing just that. “Derision for disappointed hopes” is a good quote to use here.

Nickel and Dimed was touted to me as an examination of the inner workings of poverty by the professor who required it for one of my classes. I ripped it to shreds in my review because the author knew nothing about the realities. As far as I know, she never required the book again. And that’s why the things the article’s author pointed out are also valid.

There is nothing chic about surviving on dollar menus, discount carts and living in trailer parks. People look down on you, it’s constantly worrying about money, about safety and you feel like the scum of the earth. People who “choose” to experience that don’t even understand the realities of the situation they flagrantly mock. All it does is damage the value of human beings who are fighting to get by. And that simply won’t do.

And if you’d like to hear some excellent words on millennials in 2016, here’s a video. But I will say, there’s some “adult” words. It doesn’t matter to me, but there are people who have concerns like that, so be aware. Snooze by Snow Tha Product (It’ll be featured in other stuff-because I REALLY like it.)

Citations

  1. Staff, TheBestNotes. “TheBestNotes on Nickel and Dimed“. TheBestNotes.com. 19 August 2016. 19 February 2015
    <http://thebestnotes.com/booknotes/Nickel_And_Dimed/Nickel_And_Dimed05.html&gt;.

What NO ONE Talks About

So I know that I’ve been pretty rant filled and political and those sorts of things, but I firmly believe it is for good reason. My goal each time I post something along the lines of Kesha or Bernie or even Suicide Awareness is that more people will become aware of some of the issues of today and take action. I will not apologize for my “editorials”, nor for the motives behind them. But today, i am both taking a personal and an activist stance for something that I believe needs to be addressed: menstruation.

Thaaaaat’s right, your favorite gift from the great mother, the one that turns your girlfriend, wife, mother or sister into a cranky, bloated, bleeding stressball once a month. But as always, that’s only one way to look at it.I’m here to bring some facts, some interesting thoughts and some ideas to the crimson issue.

moon

Menstruation, or moon time has been revered throughout the ages as a source of power for women. It is with this flushing of the uterus that many women have been accused of sorcery, devil worship and all sorts of magicks. It’s my favorite time to be a woman.

WHAT?

no-entry-during-menstrual-period-3-638

That’s right. It’s my favorite thing about being a woman. No man on earth can do it, that makes it unique to my biological sex. And having a period is a sign of health. If you are malnourished, or have an eating disorder, chances are menstruation is one of the first things that stops.And you know what else? I find it empowering that I can survive bleeding each month and not dying. It makes me feel like a fierce viking warrior woman who’s just come from battle. Seriously. I see absolutely ZERO shame in my “monthly”. But here are some things you may not be aware of.

hygiene

Around the world, being a menstruating female is a bad thing. ” In rural Nepal, a similar practice occurs, where women are not allowed in their homes for fear that the gods will become angry and put a curse on the home and family leading to illness and problems.” (1) Small Mali villages have NO access to feminine hygiene products, and neither do villages in Senegal, Tanzania (it’s increasing here!), Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Cuba, Guatemala, and a number of other countries with limited access. (2) And here in the United States? The impoverished aren’t afforded the luxury of feminine hygiene products, as “the food stamp programs in most US states do not even consider menstrual hygiene products as “essential items” (1). “Many girls are terrified by their first period. Because they lack  information, many girls believe they are ill or dying when they first menstruate.” (1) A year’s supply of tampons and pads costs upwards of $70 (3)!

I personally think it’s a little higher, depending on where you live and how much stuff you have to go through each month. $6.99 for a 36 count of Tampax Pearls, $4.39 for a 50 count of Kotex liners and $3.19 for a 22 count Always Maxi Pad (4). You’re supposed to change a pad every 3-4 hours, and a tampon every 4-8 hours. Suppose you have a 7 day period. (It’s math time!) And most of the time, if your flow is heavy, you use both a tampon and a pad, if not two tampons. (just keep that in mind, I’m getting there).

1 day of light bleeding

5 days of moderate to heavy bleeding

1 day of light bleeding

(and let’s be honest, add 2 more days of liners JUST IN CASE something happens)

So in total: 4 days of “light” and 5 days of “moderate to heavy”.

4 days * 24 hours = 96 hours / 4 hours = 24 times to change a pad (light days don’t need both pads and tampons)

5 days* 24 hours =120 hours / 4 hours =30 times to change BOTH.

So for ONE month you use: 24 liners, 30 pads and 30 tampons.

With the size boxes that I looked at, you’ll need to buy a grand total of about 11 months’ worth of “stuff” So the last bit of math is:

(11*6.99)+(11*4.39)+(11*3.19)=$160.27 USD (a little more than TWICE the quoted cost.)

That is NOT okay. For being a woman, who by the way has no choice over the matter to have or not have a period, that is a LOT of money to spend. And not to mention, do you know how much waste tampons and pads make? No? Well let me tell you.

“According to the new book Flow: The Cultural History of Menstruation, the average woman throws away 250 to 300 pounds of “pads, plugs, and applicators” in her lifetime.” (5)

infographic.jpg

And now we reach the “story part”. So I had heard all of the information, and I knew that I really care for the environment, but I had never really thought about how something as basic as puberty might be destroying the earth. I mean, you literally don’t think about it. You just think, “Oh, well, I must bleed for a week, better not wear anything that might get damaged.” and go about your day. So on a coffee date one day, I walked past a CVS and decided I was going to do my part. Cue the DivaCup (6). I’d heard about these as a pretty recent fad, I figured they were just something that someone had thought up. And then it hit my news feed about the girl who got TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome) for leaving a tampon in too long and I decided I needed to know what the craze was all about.

I have to admit, the first time using it was a little…frustrating. I didn’t know what I was doing, I felt kinda silly and I couldn’t get it right. But. A little research goes a long way. I found a fold, I managed to figure it all out, and now I’m saving myself so much money. AND I’m saving the environment.

blood

But that’s not enough. I have to be part of the message. We have to make menstruation something that’s talked about, something that women don’t have to be ashamed of. Did you know that’s the number one reason girls in impoverished countries drop out of school? Here’s a quote from a girl in Uganda:

“I used to use cloths that I would cut from my old T-shirts to keep the blood from staining my dresses, but they were not enough and blood would still stain my clothes,” she told a local NGO that visited her school to teach her how to make reusable pads.

“Boys used to laugh at me and I eventually simply stayed home whenever my periods started.” (7)

voice.png

Seriously. If we are going to end poverty, end gender inequality, we have to start talking about stuff like periods. Women should not feel ashamed that they are healthy. And they shouldn’t miss class because they have no access to hygiene products. Pads and tampons are not a luxury. Water is not a luxury. Education is not a luxury. We have to speak out.

Sources:

(1): Dignity Period

(2): Lipgloss and A Backpack

(3): New York Times

(4): Google Shopping For Hygiene

(5): Slate

(6): DivaCup

(7): Girl Effect

Accomplishment, Action, Attack

Today. Goodness gracious today. You have some days when you really feel like you’re doing your best and then life craps out on you. That was my day today. And because I am in a sharing mood, would you like to hear a story?

Today started by me waking up, asking my husband if he was going in today. He said no. That means: I drive myself to and from school. If you’ve followed me since the “Here be Dragons” post, you’ll know that driving is a big stressor for me. But I knew I could do it. So I took the dog out and went to work. I made it!

Half way through my shift, I get a text from my husband telling me that he actually had to go in today, and that he had to be on campus before 5 to turn in a form. So I email my professor and tell him that I will not be in class today. He calls down to the office where I work and we have the following conversation:

Professor: Hi Michelle, is there any possible way you could walk with me to class today? I’m having some problems with my kidney stones and I want to make sure someone is there to keep me from falling.

Me: Yea, of course! I’ll be down a few minutes before class starts.

And so I arrive with ten minutes to spare and hear him. The man is obviously in pain. He has his cane, and I’m on the other side of him. We make it about half way down the hall and he goes down. Now, I’m not proud to admit this, but I was really no help. I made sure he didn’t hit his head, but that was about the extent of my capabilities. I called for one of my bosses, who came out and with him came another professor. I was instructed to cancel class and keep things to a minimum. I did my best there. (I knew he would be in capable hands-I would not have been able to pick him up anyway, and my boss knew how to contact his wife.) So I ensure that that happens and I prepare myself to drive home.

timeforaction

I drive, and guess what? I make it! Without incident. And it was my first time ever driving home too:) I switch my husband seats when I get there though (because I hadn’t eaten and he brought me a snack) and we head back to campus. I recount my tale and we arrive. He bolts off to his building, having switched places again and I commence driving around in circles to wait for him. It takes about 6 go rounds, but he returns and we switch one final time, preparing to head home.

On our way to the line of cars, we chat about dinner, and how I don’t want to eat out because we have leftovers. Once we are in the line, it’s very much just stopped traffic. Then out of nowhere BAM! We’ve been rear ended. I really wish I was making this up, but I’m not. My husband gets out of the car and looks at the damage. As it would turn out, the guy who hit us (who is LAUGHING at us, btw) has more damage than we do, so we leave to come home. No, we’re not going to report it, because that would just raise our rates and that’s just no good. (i made sure he was okay, and I made sure I was okay, and that’s the important part!) I’m thinking we’re both gonna take it easy for the next few days regardless. So we get to the gas station that we frequent by our apartment and try to fill the tire with air only to find out (after the fact) that the pump is only letting air out of the tires, not putting air in. So we give up, grab some food and head home.

fender-bender

(This is NOT our accident, it’s just the best representation of what happened. They suffered a pretty obnoxious front end issue and we managed to not really have any damage, except a slight crack to the bumper.)

I literally don’t know how today could have been anymore adrenaline packed, but all I can say is that I am glad that today marks the first evening of spring break, because I really have had quite about enough. I will email my professor and see how he’s doing soon. Maybe we all need more chocolate today.

dadf3a2a-1edf-4ed0-8f78-a4e72c0944c7

I guess the deal with today is that sometimes you are the lucky one and sometimes you’re not. Sometimes the money comes, and sometimes the money goes. When you do everything right, something still might go wrong. And it’s okay. Life will throw curve balls at you when you least expect it-because you least expect it. But at the end of the day, you can either tame your dragons or be eaten by them. Because life isn’t going to just take it easy on you because you’re “disadvantaged”, it’s going to force you to rise above. And that’s exactly what I plan on doing.

The Part that Slapped Me In The Face

I made my post earlier, about the things that bother me and I’m going to add a little to it,but also record my experience today. I’m going to approach it all as openly as I can. I’m not trying to prove anything, I just want to write today. I admit, the irony is a little astounding, and I will just say that I am human and sometimes I make mistakes.
The Background:I celebrate Christmas because it’s engrained in my head as something I shall always do. I also celebrate Yule, because I enjoy the solstice. I looked at the clock, after trying in earnest to get some homework done. I  switched gears a little to explore housing for next academic year. And I found some potential places which look wonderful. I shared my finds with my husband, we settled on a couple and  began to dig into them a little deeper.

The Emotion:I seldom feel so defeated as when I look at the cost of things. Like, basic necessity, right to life things. It amazes me how much it costs to live, even when you skrimp and save to afford the basics. Not luxury items, just the bare necessities to get by. So I closed my screen and curled up beside my husband and just cried. I cried for myself, for us both, for people out there who also have to make hard decisions each and every day. I felt overwhelmed, broken down and exhausted. He said “at least we have each other.” I couldn’t even make myself smile about that. How sad on my part. I was so overcome by all the things that were hard.

The Reality:I made up my mind that I hated being poor. I hated that we had to choose our level of comfort based on the electric bill. I hated that we had to show up to our parents’ houses without presents for everyone so that we had enough money to buy groceries. I hated that we were given a  1-foot tall tree (by my wonderful parents) that we couldn’t afford to decorate nor could we afford to turn the attached Christmas lights on, because we need every dollar we have. I hated that we are so close to the holiday season and we can’t give our friends anything more than a smile and a text message. I felt so disheartened. So I got on my phone and looked at the Christmas radio station. Have a Holly Jolly Christmas came on and I was offended. How dare music try to force me into a good mood when I had so many complaints? 

 I still have all of those feelings. It makes me sad, and very much so that I cannot afford many of the luxuries that accompany the holiday season. And in the back of my head, there was a little voice that urged me to please, just believe in all the good things, that there are so many who have even less than you. I’m not sure why people use that line. It’s meant to get you to stop whining, but it honestly just makes me feel like a 1. bigger piece of shit and 2. even more upset for them. I just sat, curled into my blankets crying, wondering why it was so painful, why it was so hard to just live.

The Slap:Why couldn’t I have been born without the need to help people live better lives? Then I could work at a meaningless job and make money and have whatever I wanted. Or if I had to help people, why couldn’t I have been born to a wealthy family who could use their resources to further my ability to help, making it possible to first help myself? But you can’t always get what you want. And I know that. It just hurts my feelings that so many people have loads of things that they aren’t thankful for, and I have so little. And it was that thought, that singular thought that halted me.

Why did I feel entitled to anything more than the body I live in? What really are the basic necessities of life? The universal rights of human beings?

The Resolution:And I decided, over a cup of coffee, that it didn’t matter. I cannot let the world bring me down forever with its injustices and unfairness. If I want the world to be a better place, I am exactly where I need to be. Because if I were rich, how could Ipossibly understand the way that “socioeconomically underprivileged” people felt? How could I possibly relate? So in all honesty, yea, I still hate that life isn’t fair. But maybe that’s why I have to experience it. I can’t know how to help if I don’t even understand why the help matters so damn much.

And for the record, I’m making our ornaments out of a cardboard box, with tin foil and markers. Because:

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!” 

― Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!