Sunday, March 3, 2013

Saying what I need to say.

Basically, here's where I'm at these days:
  1. I have MS, and that fact colours every thought, decision, choice, and option I have in my life.
  2. I am feminist. Full stop, without apology, and with as little explanation as possible.
  3. I am an organized administrator; which is the least respected, appreciated, and rewarded of all the skilled labour sectors to be in.
Because I have MS, I have limits on what I am physically and mentally able to do. I have figured out work-arounds for almost all of the life situations I find myself in, and 99% of the time I am able to fully function in an abled world. The prospect of almost certain permanent, life altering disability hangs over my head like the blade of guillotine ready to end my life as I know it. I have to be real about my future and, barring some kind of medical breakthrough in the next 10 years, I will almost certainly be unable to work, support myself, or be a contributing partner in my marriage. In ten or 15 years I will be a burden to society, yet I will likely live another 35 or 40 years.

Because I'm feminist, this bothers the fuck out of me. I distinguish between my marriage and my relationship with my husband. I entered into my relationship as an equal partner who loved (and loves) him incredibly. I don't think MS has changed that emotional and loving connection all that much. However, I entered into my marriage as an equal in a legal partnership to allow the two of us to do greater things by sharing resources and expertise. Having MS means that I am pouring all of my current resources and expertise into educating and training for my husband, because he's going to have to make the big bucks over the long term. I am never going to be in the position to make my own life, set my own terms, realize financial independence, or get the degree that will allow me to be taken seriously professionally.

Because I am a career administrator, I have gone 48 weeks unable to find a somewhat secure, non-exploitive, respectful, and progressive employer where my skills are needed and appreciated. Women, especially white women, who get into "clerical" work are expected to use that role as a springboard to something else, and be the doting and professional mother of two children while they're springing. I should have a degree in *something* and do admin for a (almost always) white, straight, cis-male, CEO while I work on an MBA that will allow me to access the halls of corporate power.

That's what a woman in my position as a white, cis-gendered, middle-class born, het-married, woman should be doing. To not want that is to somehow sell-out my gender. To not exercise my privilege is a waste of good estrogen, apparently. Yet, I have no designs on capitalist, corporatist power.

I just want to help people do their best work. That's all I have ever wanted to do for a living.
I work in administration because I am good at it and I think I offer good value to my employer, but women like me are the most expendable in the capitalist world. We're the first ones to go during economic downturns, we're the last people to be hired back when things start looking up, and we're expected to take less and less money with each successive round of lay-offs and rehires.

As an example, my first admin job in the early 90s paid $8 per hour. Today, 20 years later, I can find jobs doing exactly what I did in my entry level position that pay $11 per hour. That's $3 an hour in 20 years. I made $1.65 an hour more than minimum wage back then. That job now pays just $0.75 over minimum wage. If I want to make something close to a living, middle class wage in administration, I need to get a degree, and an MBA, and spearhead some sort of "corporate mission" that will add zeroes to the bottom-line and exploit a desperate workforce. I don't have the time, ability, money, ambition, or interest in doing that.

So, as a person with MS, who wants to be an equal partner, and has job skills and experience that are now subject to the law of diminishing returns, I really don't see what the point of my life is any more. I wish I could change the world, but I don't know how. I don't know how the world would take me seriously, given I have no credibility as a scholar, researcher, business person, or educated activist. Forgive me if I am not out there trying to save the world from sexist, racist, homophobic, fat-shaming, transphobic, ableist, slut-shaming, victim-blaming, theist, capitalist, fascist agendas. It's really hard to take to the streets when you're trying to figure out where the rent is coming from this month, or where food is going to come from if you make the rent, or making a choice between bus fare to a job interview or bus fare to the doctor because you can't afford to do both this week.

Forgive me when I say that I just can't keep up. I want to, but I don't know how.

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