A call for feminists to not forget their labor roots:
"While we debate the travails of some of the world’s most privileged women, most women are up against the wall. According to the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, women make up just under half of the national workforce, but about 60 percent of the minimum-wage workforce and 73 percent of tipped workers. In the New York area, a full 95 percent of domestic workers are female. Female-dominated sectors such as retail sales, food service, and home health care are some of the fastest-growing fields in the new economy, and even in those fields, women earn less; women in the restaurant industry earn 83 cents to a man’s dollar.
"This is where most women spend their time, not atop the Googleplex. This is where feminists should be spending their time, too."
PUBLISHED: Jan. 4, 2013
LENGTH: 14 minutes (3595 words)
This week's Longreads Member pick is "The American Nonconformist in the Age of the Commercialization of Dissent,"
a 1992 essay by Thomas Frank
from The Baffler
, the magazine he cofounded with Keith White in 1988.
"In republishing this bit of juvenilia from 1992—my very first exploration of an idea that I reworked and reconsidered a number of times over the years that followed—it is worth remembering some of the context. This was before the web, for the most part; it was right about when 'alternative' was beginning to hit the culture, and a lot of the stuff I describe here was new and surprising at the time. Today, of course, most of it seems utterly unremarkable, so far has what I used to call the commercialization of dissent advanced. It's not something I really even think about anymore, except for the most outrageous iterations—like the ski helmet I bought last week, a model called 'Mutiny' by 'R.E.D.' And even then I'm too exhausted to bother belaboring the ironic contrast of this bragging rebelliousness with the millionairiest sport there is. I'm off to even more ironic fields. See you there."
p.s. You can support Longreads—and get more exclusives like this—by becoming a member for just $3 per month.
PUBLISHED: Jan. 4, 2013
LENGTH: 11 minutes (2897 words)
A former certified nursing assistant recalls what it was like working in an understaffed nursing home, and what happened when she and her fellow CNAs asked for better working conditions:
"A few days later I was called to Sabrina’s office, where she, another administrator, and my charge nurse played good cop, bad cop.
"'We are trying to help you. People have thrown you under the bus by naming you. Why do you want to protect them? They don’t deserve it. You don’t have to sacrifice yourself like this. If you tell us their names, you won’t be the only one taking the blame.'
"'If you don’t tell me who the others are, we will fire you.'
'Are you going to let the others off for ratting you out?'
"'You know, you and all the other people involved are breaking federal law by doing this. You are exposing the conditions of the private lives of the residents. You are violating HIPA. This is illegal. You can be fired and jailed. You can lose your license.'
"My refusals and denials invoked only fiery glares."
PUBLISHED: Jan. 1, 2013
LENGTH: 26 minutes (6663 words)
How California's public university system went from "Master Plan" to "no plan," and how it is now incentivized to favor out-of-state students over in-state students:
"When we talk about the decline of public higher education systems such as California’s, however, rising tuition is only part of the story, and maybe not the most important part. Along with pushing instructional costs onto students, for example, the state of California has made it easier for state universities to balance their budgets by accepting more out-of-state students (and thus, fewer and fewer Californian students). Out-of-state students pay much higher tuition rates, but under the Master Plan, state funding was contingent on enrolling a minimum number of in-state students. As the state has withdrawn its commitment to fully fund its universities, it has progressively detached what funding remains from these kinds of commitments. Governor Jerry Brown may have put the final nail in the coffin when, in June, he vetoed specific enrollment targets for the UC from the annual budget. Moreover, since 2007, the extra $20,000 in tuition money that out-of-state students pay has gone directly to the schools enrolling these students—rather than reverting to the UC as a whole—perversely incentivizing each campus to take on fewer California students.
"This gradual retreat from enrollment quotas only adds to a problem that has plagued the California system since its inception: too many applicants and too little space. Over the last three decades, the state has given up on increasing the total institutional capacity—the classrooms, dorms, and new campuses—that a continuously growing university-age population requires. This shortfall is not as immediately visible as red lines in planning documents, as politically explosive as enrollment targets, or as sharply felt by stretched family budgets. But the fact that the state has stopped keeping up with the demand for more higher education points to a slow but fundamental structural change underway in higher education as a whole."
PUBLISHED: Oct. 22, 2012
LENGTH: 17 minutes (4436 words)
A Yale law professor argues that we're not doing enough to empower the minority voices in America—and change should start at the local level:
"The ideas Gerken is known for first took shape, appropriately enough, as a disagreement. Several years ago, not long after she’d been hired as a young professor at Harvard, she sat in on a pair of lectures by Cass Sunstein, the influential law scholar who was then a professor at the University of Chicago. What she heard Sunstein say, in brief, was that societies in which dissenting voices are encouraged tend to be more prosperous than ones where they are not. Gerken sat in the back of the hall with a notepad and listened, writing furiously. “If you had looked back,” Gerken says, “you would have wondered, why is that junior professor sitting there scribbling like a crazy person? Is she transcribing this speech? But it was just the opposite.”
"In fact, Gerken was writing down all the ways in which she thought Sunstein was wrong. What Sunstein didn’t seem to realize, she wrote, was that in order for minority groups to have real influence in politics—in order for them to make meaningful contributions to the way society works—they had to have more than the right to make their voices heard. They had to have the power to actually do things their way."
PUBLISHED: Oct. 7, 2012
LENGTH: 6 minutes (1636 words)
The origins and the politics of the New York-based Freelancers Union—now 150,000 members strong:
"The shift toward short-term contracts was underway long before the 2008 financial crash. Charles Heckscher, director of the Center for Workplace Transformation at Rutgers University, sits on the board of the Freelancers Union, and likes to describe this shift in terms of 'flexibility.' As the economy shifted away from manufacturing jobs and toward knowledge- and tech-based ones, he argues, 'companies have clearly and widely moved away from taking responsibility for long-term careers. These certainly include crude cost-cutting considerations, but they also reflect the deeper economic changes...with skills and demand metamorphosing so rapidly in so many domains, it is often more effective to look for those with needed skills on the open market rather than developing them internally. Once companies begin to do that, they tend to break the whole pattern of expectations and commitments which grounded the classic system.'"
PUBLISHED: Jan. 4, 2012
LENGTH: 14 minutes (3701 words)
It is a phrase I will hear again and again, in varying forms across Tunisia. Some will call Mohamed Bouazizi "the drop that tipped over the vase"; others will insist that his death "lit the touchpaper" for the Arab spring revolts. But listen closely and there is also a growing murmur of dissent among those who believe that Mohamed was not a political hero but a media creation, manufactured by a myth-making machine that swung into action in the immediate aftermath of his death.
PUBLISHED: May 15, 2011
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3257 words)
Hundreds of private philanthropies together spend almost $4 billion annually to support or transform K–12 education, most of it directed to schools that serve low-income children. But three funders—the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation—working in sync, command the field. Whatever nuances differentiate the motivations of the Big Three, their market-based goals for overhauling public education coincide: choice, competition, deregulation, accountability, and data-based decision-making.
PUBLISHED: Jan. 18, 2011
LENGTH: 21 minutes (5496 words)
How anonymity technology could save free speech on the Internet.
PUBLISHED: June 1, 2009
LENGTH: 12 minutes (3217 words)