Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Minimum Rage

"Kiss ass while you bitch so you can get rich while your boss gets richer off you. You'll work harder with a gun in your back, for a bowl of rice a day. Slave for soldiers till you starve and your head is skewered on a stake." Dead Kennedys lyrics

My spouse's new job is as a wage slave for a retail inventory service. Thanks to their tendency to work him to death, it pays better than working in a daycare. Just a word on daycares: their employees attend three years of college to work for subsistence wages and do housekeeping work in addition to the difficult job they actually trained for. Sexism isn't dead.

Back to spouse's job: since they still only pay minimum wage, they can easily work him to death- it's the only way to make enough money to make working for minimum wage worthwhile.

And ontario's minimum wage isn't really that low at $9.75/hr (of course, you should factor in the exchange rate, the higher price of everything and our 13% sales tax). It's just low enough to keep the slaves busy while giving the companies they work for an excuse to raise the cost of living. minimum wage is bullshit without price caps, because it creates an endless cycle of raising wages ever so slightly and raising prices to make sure that minimum wage workers are willing to work whatever hours and whatever conditions they're told to. Yesterday, spouse arrived home 7 hours before he had to be back at work. Who needs sleep?
The other day, at his job, one of the wage slaves got tired of being told he can't sit down while working his 10-15 hour shifts, told the boss-man to go fuck himself, and got fired. He waited outside the store, and cracked the first coworker to come out in the face with a baseball bat. The guy obviously has a problem besides the crappy job, but he made a decent point: poverty is violence. Workers deprived of food, sleep, breaks and even the slightest comfort at work are already abused. And it's not like this is the only corporation that does it, because this is not the only corporation with workers desperate enough for $ that they'll do whatever it takes to ensure their own survival and the company's soaring profits. Of course they're willing. Boss-man has the tacit ability to take away food, shelter and basic needs from his employees, just by hiring someone poorer and more desperate to work your hours.

Again, i say, minimum wage is bullshit. It's not about the wage, it's about making damn sure that everything you earn is paid right back to boss-man and his cronies for your basic needs.

Sometimes people will encourage me to quit my job (these people don't consider my labour "work" or my income mine, though) and go work for a boss-man for minimum wage (cause who else wants to hire a ho?). They call what I do "violent" and "degrading." But i've never been hit with a bat, or anything else, or forced to work on no sleep, without breaks or in physically damaging positions. Well, not since i stopped working for a boss-man, anyway.

Since women are more likely than men to work in low-paying positions, we bear the brunt of the abuse that poverty allows. Add our vulnerability to sexual harrassment and rape at work, and the increased likelihood of being assaulted at home or in our communities if we live in poverty, and we have ourselves a problem. Then consider the low-wage slaves in latin america, asia and africa, immigrant and poc domestic workers and literal slaves- people trafficked for farm and factory labour (sorry folks, but the "sex trade" does not have a monopoly on this, and is quite the minority if you stop calling consenting migrant sex workers "trafficked" to excuse their kidnap and deportation)- and we have ourselves a genocide. Women and people of colour are being forced, in order to eat and shelter themselves, to participate in a market that has every advantage over them. Yeah, there's exceptions- female CEOs and a black president etc.- but the rule stands, and firmly.

But talk about price caps, regulations, profit caps, livng wages and- heaven forbid- wealth redistribution and the boss-man and his cronies scream "socialism! fascism! OUR RIGHTS ARE BEING VIOLATED!" We watch the news and we're supposed to believe this, too. But the news lies, and our rights have already been to the firing squad.

The time will come when people get fed up with their own rights being contingent on their willingness to break their backs and devalue their lives, and find a way to guarantee their own food and shelter, absent of market participation. When no one is willing to be boss-man's meat. I hope it's soon.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Shop Till You DropOut

what men need:
food, shelter, clothes/suits, shoes, soap, razors, deodorant/aftershave/cologne, bowflex+muscles, fancy car, presents to bribe women for sex

what women need:
food, shelter, clothes, shoes, soap, pink razors, pink deodorant/perfume/bodyspray, accessories, jewelery, more shoes, more clothes, makeup, hair products, decorations, lingerie, "help" fixing stuff/building stuff, low-fat food/diet food , diet pills/books/drinks, new clothes to fit after the diet, maternity clothes, children's clothes, children's toys, children's food, magazines to tell us what we need, fancy car, fancy wedding, "feminine" "hygiene" products

everyone, and especially women, faces a barrage of advertising telling her what she "needs." for women, looking "ugly" or "masculine" equates to looking "unprofessional" and "unlikable." so our list of "needs" just gets longer. my face isn't going to fall off if i don't put makeup on it, but i won't have a job for long- few men spend this kind of time or money on face paint. if you need "specialty products," say for the average female body size, or the vast majority of human faces that aren't white, the expense grows.
thing is, women already make less money than men. in canada, we earn 76 cents, working full time, for every dollar earned by men. in hamilton, where i live, it's 62 cents. since women are more likely to work in low-paying service positions, they're less likely to have benefits. i can't imagine trying to live with a disability or a child without public health care. so why are we giving the little wealth we do have right back to the men we slave away to earn it from? hmm.. or maybe that was the plan all along. *if we can't have women working for free at home, why not have them work for free by taking all their money back at the mall?*

even for necessities, like food and clothes, north americans of this generation are an oddity. people in developing countries don't have the option of depending on grocery stores for food, and (assuming their land isn't grabbed up by north american corporations) they use generations of wisdom to produce their own food. similarly, women, even in developed countries, used to teach each other to knit, crochet and sew.

we are the only idiots around willing to sell our security for the "luxury" of being useless and dependant.

and it's not like it's hard to get what you do need for free. buildings being torn down provide an array of free building materials for the willing woman. thanks to a few hours work and a helpful friend, my back yard boasts a reworked trellis, a brick and flagstone patio, garden walls, a rosebush and firewood: all free.
and have you actually looked in a grocery store's dumpster? There's a metro near my helpful friend's house with half a dozen bins of nothing but fresh vegetables. grocery stores have discovered that it's cheaper to raise the price of their food, knowing that no one's going to stop eating and few of us have the time to provide for ourselves (you know, cause we spend our time working, so we can depend on grocery stores instead), than to mark down older products when new ones arrive. cause then nobody would pay for the marked up new stuff. so they throw it out. fresh, crisp, green red and orange veggies. loaves upon loaves of bread. cheese galore. while people starve on the streets, they toss food out the back door.
i take men's money for a living- and i keep it. i don't buy wads of bleached cotton to cram up my vag. i eat free food from dumpsters. i can and do make clothes.
more importantly: i have the income i need to guarantee that i will never have to choose between being a victim of violence and being homeless. i can take care of myself and my family. i do not depend on the market for survival. and i have a lot of free time.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Wo/Man Enough

As the trial of Angie Zapata's murderer begins, about a year after she was killed by a date who "discovered," in the course of sexually assaulting her, that she had a penis, a google search of "transgender" produces this companion story: opposition to a bill banning discrimination based on gender orientation (to be frank, I find US law-making processes confusing.. 11 states have a similar law in place, and there's a federal and other state laws in the works, I think).
It's a precedent-setting case: the first murder of a transgendered woman to be tried as a hate crime. News reports stated that Zapata's killer began to suspect her gender identity, and, when she refused to "prove" that she was female, he put his hand on her crotch without her consent and felt her penis. This is mentioned in passing, as they describe how and why he "snapped" and "killed it," as he referred the the woman he beat to death and robbed. Though they did mention tha the two had "spent the night" and Zapata's mysterious not-putting-out behaviour, no commentary was provided about why, after suspecting that Zapata had formerly identified as a boy, he decided to sexually assault her rather than stop seeing her. Apparently, having a suspect gender is asking for it. But we already know that some sexual assaults just don't "count," right?
Opposition to the anti-discrimination bill, which is the basis of a hate crime prosecution, calls it a "bathroom bill," giving legal protection to perverts who want to use the "wrong" bathroom. I used a unisex bathoom in residence at school, and I can't say any harm came of it, aside from a few awkward conversations with a particularly chatty guy who sometimes occupied the stall next to mine. The rapes that took place in a university dorm the following year happened in bedrooms, not bathrooms (and were perpetrated, as is typical, by a male-identified, heterosexual man). But here's the rub: our cultural taboos about the toilet, and who should or shouldn't be allowed to see us using it, are being used as legitimate criticism of a bill that is aimed at preventing violence, employment, medical, legal, and educational discrimination. It's a measure that will protect transgendered people from poverty and illness, making them less vulnerable to violence in the first place, and which will provide necessary education to violent criminals who expect our courts to excuse their "gay panic" style attacks.
Why the opposition? There have never been any attacks on bathroom users by trans persons, ever, so that's clearly not the issue. Let's let gender/orientation lines get blurry for a moment, and think about why either/or/neither/both/other identifications (people who don't fit in to white-idealized versions of strong male man/submissive female woman gender dichotomies) are the target of so much violence. Zapata's killer stated that she performed oral sex on him. If he liked it, does that make him gay? In his mind, probably. Would it make him gay if he enjoyed oral sex with someone who identified as male? In my mind, no... but I tend not to fuss over gender.
What about a bunch of guys who attend a strip club together? Sure, they're looking at a naked woman, but the sexual relationship they're exploring is with each other. And if the stripper performs with a female partner, are they, or their audience, now lesbians? If the next show is a drag performace, and both gay- and straight-identified audience members think she's hot, what's their orientation? What gender do we call men who are raped in self-contained all-male societies, like prison? What gender do the hetero-identified rapists call the victims, or themselves? Who is more man: a white transgendered man/woman or a black transgendered man/woman (by Western standards, the black "look" is far more "masculine")? And what to make of all that muscley man-on-man action in professional wrestling, football, ufc? Where and how do any of these men fit into a system of sex-based heirarchies, once we recognize that manhood and heterosexuality are pretty fluid concepts? Much of men's objectification of women (I use this term against my better judgement, for lack of a better phrase, and without the implied disrespect to femme folk who work in sex industries) has nothing to do with women at all, and everything to do with male fraternity. Actually, even the word "fraternity" calls to mind homoerotic imagery of Bush and his "Skulls" pals dancing around in robes and spanking each other. Hawt. And male violence, whether against women or other men, tends to be about establishing male power: over women, over the earth, among competing men, over nations/races/cultures, and by collecting the most money or land. Anti-trans discrimination and violence are necessary components of a system that lets men engage in sex-based explorations and exchanges/seizures of power without having to sacrifice the ideal of the straight, masculine man.
My point is this: the non-existant victims of non-existant trans bathroom predators are a decoy, and Zapata, and every murdered woman like her, are what we're not supposed to see. Continuing anti-trans discrimination won't nail any sex predators because sex predators, by and large, are male-identified, heterosexual men. But it will protect the ideal of masculinity and the excuses it provides for "straight" men to create and maintain power through violence.