Friday, May 24, 2013
As a child of a single mother, the continued employment of the main breadwinner is of tantamount import. This is far too much reality for a small child, but in the age of the quickie no-fault no-contest divorce when a checked-out or dead father is the norm and the vicissitudes of the workplace affect children as much as playground gossip as it swirls in the ambient noise of a childhood. Or so it was for me. The problem was that my mother was already old, that had been raised to be a housewife, that she was raised wealthy and she was not prepared for this to happen to her. She never had the ambitious corporate spirit and she never managed to cultivate it. As a result, the most she could manage was an endless series of temp jobs, were no one be-friended her. Like the hallways of any school, no one wants to sit near the loser. For a lonely and scared woman this was torturous hell. And yet we were lucky that she got those jobs, because it was scarier when those dried up.
My mother had dreamed that she would be the wife of an aeronautical engineer, moving from place to place as airplanes needed designing and testing – perhaps even getting hired at NASA which was not unheard of - and she would be a homemaker. My mother married this man and for a short time she had this life. My mother is a Le Cordon Bleu level chef. She can cook every recipe in the The Joy of Cooking. She can invent any household item out of another household item and keeps a spotless home. Within it, she is always cheerful and jolly, filling me in on hilarious stories of her day, the antics of our cat, and the ridiculous movements of our inbred neighbors. My mother wanted more that one child and she wanted to keep the home fires burning. My mother is Hestia.
Hestia is the goddess of the hearth. She is the original domestic goddess. Hestia is in charge of the fireplace at home, she literally keeps the home fires burning for those who will return; husbands out working, soldiering and hunting; children running playing learning and growing up, Hestia stays home and chooses not leave. Within the walls of her warm home, she insists on camaraderie and patience. Once is even required to soften ones’ voice around Hestia. When we are telling children to use their inside voice, we are literally telling them to observe the rituals of Hestian hearth.
In talking about my mother I want to be clear that she is not the only woman I watched being tortured in the corporate hells. I watched - in no particular order – the exact same story played out by every woman in my sphere: my grandmother, her sister, my godmother, her sister, three of my old (normal) neighbours and two of my current ones. They were bounced from jobs for getting married and having kids and then begged for less than those jobs when the men left them flat. As a child I watched all this with large eyes and decided quickly and efficiently and without any qualms that I would not concern myself with such ludicrous nonsense as what did I *want* to be when I grew up. I would simply become whatever the world paid for, end of discussion. A woman needs to have her own money, control her own money, and have a sense of enfranchisement towards money that does not include her looks. I would be Athena.
Athena is everything a goddess should be. She is single, powerful, the favorite daughter of Zeus, the virgin goddess of the moon. The most powerful city in
was named after her. She is
the goddess of wisdom, the chaste companion of heroes, has an owl as a pet and
runs riot in the forest. She was fearsome in her power, the air crackled with
electricity when she was in your presence. She was the almighty bitch that got shit done.
And this is what the corporate world asks of us women. Greece
Which is fine …and yet.
It is very rare and very hard to find a happily married woman with children who also is senior management at her firm, regardless of the industry. If she is married, she has no kids; if she has a child, she is divorced. If she has both, she is a temp. Quietly and without a sound, the Hestia is being beaten out of us. There is no world that pays for it. There is no western society that values it. And there are no females who have reached the mountaintop who are telling us to carve out a space for it. Instead, they write foolish books called “Lean In” telling us how to try harder (not succeed but just try fucking harder) at a corporate world that hates us and disembowels us of what makes us women (“don’t cry at work, don’t talk about your period, don’t talk about your problems, don’t dress too sexy, don’t laugh too loud”) and leaves us for dead. And the women claiming to be modern day Hestia’s are bleached-toothed, rail-thin skeletons on cooking/shopping shows with collar bones that bounce when they talk. It’s distracting. Or Martha Stewart, an Athena in Hestia’s clothing, who has done time in prison for corporate fraud. (This is where she actually did nothing wrong, panicked and then lied about it. It’s the lying she went to prison for, not insider trading.)
If you missed it this week, Eva Longoria received a Master’s Degree in Chicano studies from the
Northridge. I want to point out that she is both enormously wealthy from her
previous career that valued her beauty, and also twice divorced. Eva said it
herself as reported by The Times of India in August of 2008, that she was a “terrible
wife”. I want to point out that all the
money, education, beauty and success does not make you a good wife, or a good
Hestia, but it makes you a great Athena. Being Athena isn’t bad but I question the
necessity in the face of how much it costs women to achieve at the expense of
the Hestia in her soul. Do I think I can be both in my life as needed? Absolutely
not. But I imagine I will design something new: The Tiny CEO. I only need to be
the best for MY world, not THE world. I want the freedom to say NO to “having
it all” on such a grand scale. A woman can’t be all things to all people and to
try to do so exhausts her and masks her true identity. Every second you spend
trying to convince the world that you can be both a dynamo in the boardroom and
a vixen is the sack is one less moment you spend being authentic to yourself. I
want to move away from a world that requires regular women to be goddesses, and
yet honours the goddesses within. Maybe I want too much. Athena would be proud. University of California
Posted by Elle Persephone
Friday, April 5, 2013
|In the immortal words of the great feminist philosopher Snooki: |
"Where's The Beach?"
The thing about
is that up until a little
while ago, things were built to with pride and they were built to last. This is
completely true of the Etobicoke Olympium. It was built at the top of late
1960s technology. It has a 10 metre diving tower, a depth of 15 feet and window
in the basement that used to look right into the deepest part of the pool as
people were swimming or diving; but because that was really cool and kids loved it,
they closed it down as fast as possible. It was an excellent pool for swim-meets and synchro-meets until the coaches began to complain that it was too
dark. That’s right; the room that housed the pool could not generate enough
electricity to adequately light the depth of the pool. The Olympic Synchro Team
practices there. But the other pool – referred to as the “patio pool” - is
mostly used for film shoots, commercials and Saturday morning swimming lessons.
Etobicoke has always been a rich borough. Before the amalgamation, Etobicoke had it all and after it had more. Nepotism is that norm in that environment. Children of union stewards could expect good jobs with union starting salaries and full pensions. They did not need experience or proof of ability. When the pool became cloudy they would dump chemicals in there like they were baking a cake hoping for the correct formula. When all else failed, they simply closed the pool. No matter, with a union job everybody still got paid. And of course, with young good looking kids from excellent families and even better art schools come together it can be expected that everybody slept with each other. It was like working as a scuba instructor at Club Med; hot- and cold-running pussy all the time.
It is theoretically impossible to get fired from Local 79. You do not have to work or even show up to warrant a warning. I have personally known young men who were caught smoking marijuana on a pool deck before their shift who were not fired, simply re-assigned to a different pool. I once took over for a man who was so drunk on deck that he could no longer be described as conscious. He was not actually fired, either; one day his parents arrived and bundled him off to rehab. Management moves in much the same way. They are promoted or moved on as needed in the environment but not actually fired for doing a terrible job. Managers so viciously cruel and strange have been “packaged off” in a series of lay-offs without actually being held accountable for their actions. Managers have had picnics with their boyfriends in the pool office interfering with pool activities and nothing is done when employees complain. Managers have had underage girls in their apartments for parties after hours. Managers have sent lifeguards to get an order at McDonald’s while the pool with people in it remains understaffed. At Local 79 it is okay to hide from customers (known as patrons) when they have a complaint. No complaint is ever actioned. When irritated by complaining parents, employees engage in a game known as “magic clock” where they advance the hands of the clock ahead in order to clear the pool early and then loaft the rest of the time. I worked there for 3 years before a manager had the MBA-level idea of keeping a daily log of activity at the pool. But then the employees just filled it with a list of jokes and stories about insect infestations that nothing was ever done about.
And so it came as no surprise to me this Family Day, when at Centennial Hill they were completely unprepared for the number of people that showed up to ski with their kids. The line ups were over an hour long. There were three employees in T shirts wandering around aimlessly but not actually doing anything. There was a young man who tipped the scales at 250 lbs sitting on his duff eating a sandwich wearing a T-shirt that read SKI PATROL while sweating parents and kids lined up to buy tickets for the hill.
There are three things wrong with this picture.
1. Don’t eat where people can see you, you have a lunch room.
2. You don’t look capable of patrolling anything, my friend.
3. Would you book ski lessons for your child from a fat kid?
They didn’t even open more than one cash register despite being asked twice to do so, not even a cash box. They were completely unprepared for the level of activity that day. But Why? Family Day in
the one day of the year when they can make a serious killing. The snow was on
the ground, the sun was shining, and everyone had a day off. They should have
made money hand over fist. When I asked the manager for the address of the
Director of the facility so that I could write a letter of complaint, she came
back with a telephone number. This is the kind of stupidity I am talking about.
They all carry around walky-talkies but no actual communication is happening. This
is problem with Union-Automatons: None of these people could hack it in the
private sector because they are not trained to care about the client experience.
The weirdest thing about Local 79, known as “
’s Inside Workers”,
is that the sense of entitlement is somehow linked to their moral high ground.
You can see it in the underlying messages of the commercials they can afford to
broadcast on TV. This is not a cheap endeavor which just proves how rich they
are. The commercials ask for Toronto ’s
help in fighting the government who wants to legislate them back to work. They
claim this is a “right” to negotiate a fair union deal for all union workers. It
is if we are talking about a fair transparent system that measures success and
has strategies for those who are not succeeding, then yes, any fool would agree
with you. The only problem is that the future is now. Like the vast empty pools
that sit perfectly unused throughout Toronto Toronto, a
lot of human capital is sitting unused and costing in forward progress, more than money.
Local 79 is acting like the Auto Workers and a lot of how unions “negotiate”
today results in gridlock and disunity and ultimately disparity between those
at the bottom (like I was) and management at the top. Remember we are talking
about a rich suburb of a rich city in a rich country in a rich part of the
world. We are talking about people who are already at the top of the food
chain. This is hardly a scene out of “The Grapes of Wrath”, and Local 79 looks
stupid begging us for help when it can help itself. Toronto
Everything changes, even Popes. Like the new Pope, we need a union model for a Digital Age. We need to set the tone for how these jobs should be awarded and maintained for the future. Obviously we should support the Local 79 but I would argue “not in its current format”. In short, these good union jobs are being abused by bad union workers. This is a known quantity when it comes to unions, so I ask what is their process to combat that? Outline your strategy for fixing what is wrong rather than outlining how much of a victim you are and I will be very eager to endorse it. Continue to eat a sandwich while people watch and I will continue to be embarrassed that Local 79 is a part of Toronto's identity.
Posted by Elle Persephone