July 17, 2007

Response to Nickel & Dimed

Though Barbara Ehrenreich claims that her under-cover research as a minimum wage worker for Nickel and Dimed (I can't get the underline/italics option to work) was purely scientific and objective, I personally found her project to be as scientific and research-based as Tyra Banks dressing up in a fat suit on her daytime talk show. In the introduction, or what should be called the massive disclaimer, she lists the many ways her research procedure was not strictly held to, in that she cheated and broke her own rules in living her "low income life," and also the many reasons why her project was not a heroic, undercover adventure and that it didn't uncover any unknown truths about lower class American life. While this humbles her paper and make her seem down to earth, I can't help thinking to myself, "so...why should we read this??" She even asks in her introduction, "Why should I bother to confirm these unpleasant facts?" and she fails to answer that question in her writing. While she claims that her main objective was strictly to find out if she could "survive" on minimum wage, and not to find out how it "really feels to be a long-term low wage worker," she actually does just that. Almost all of the content in her writing is dedicated to describing how pitiful the working conditions are in these common low-paying jobs and how much they simply make life suck. Working as a waitress, she does befriend her coworkers and writes fondly of many of them, yet at the same time, she tears down their lifestyle to a pile of shreds, even equating working for a restaurant to "Drift[ing] along like this, in some dreamy proletarian idyll." As if working as a server means you are not fully living your life, but just skimming by at the lowest, skummiest depths of society. She makes her experience working at the restaurant seem like it is the worst thing in the world, yet I'm sure any person in any field could easily list grievences about thier job. Like higher-paid workers who sit at a desk all day long working tirelessly for some major company from 9-5 only so they can drive home in their Ford Explorers to suburbia. Just look at the movie "Office Space," another prime example of how easy it is to highlight all the annoying, frustrating, demeaning things about working for any company. Ehrenreich wrote about every aspect of her low income job as if it were a grave injustice and a disgusting tragedy. Well, I found her reflection or "research"of the job very offending. My mother raised and supported me as a single parent and working as a waitress all my life, and I would never want her to feel ashamed of what she does or feel that others look down on her job as something that really sucks. In fact, I hope that the 30% of American that work for $8 and hour or less don't ever read this book because they would most likely need to go on anti-deppressants. As She said, nobody applauded her or gave her a cookie when she revaled her true identity and her project. Yea, maybe because they thought, "So what? Anyone can do this, I do it every day and I know anything that you are going to 'expose' about it. Get a life, and leave mine alone." But maybe that's just me. :) I guess the onlygood thing about this paper is that it flowed well, was easy to read -except for the moments when I needed to roll my eyes- and that it can give the middle class, well educated people with jobs "woth doing" something to feel good about when they go to sleep at night.