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There’s been a lot of talk about minimum wage lately and I was encouraged to share my own story, so here it is (feel free to share it) 🙂

I lived on the federal minimum wage (and below) from Aug 2012 to July 2013 and being a single, childless, college-educated, white female I could not pay my own bills. I was on food stamps and still had to pay for my own health insurance since I didn’t qualify for Medicare at that time since I didn’t have children. My rent was $600/mo, my phone $90/mo, my health insurance $80/mo, utilities $30/mo, and I still had to pay for transportation, clothing, household items, etc. I didn’t make enough to cover it all and had to rely on my parents for help, which I hated.

“It is a common misconception that the minimum wage workforce is comprised mostly of teenagers working part-time to make a little extra spending money. This is decidedly not the case; rather, the vast majority – 84.1 percent – of those benefitting from the proposed increase to $9.00 are at least 20 years old. This means that less than 16 percent of the workers impacted by the President’s proposal are teenagers. Additionally, about half (47.3 percent) of the 18 million affected workers are full-time employees, working at least 35 hours per week. Another 35.8 percent work between 20 and 34 hours per week, and only 16.9 percent work less than 20 hours a week. It is clear that the bulk of minimum wage workers are mid- or full-time adult employees, not teenagers or part-timers. (However, the fact that some of these workers are teens and part-timers who are working only to make some additional disposable income is not justification for paying them subpoverty wages.)”

I agree that minimum wage jobs were not meant to be careers, but rather stepping stones. However, the reality of the fact is that the majority of those making minimum wage are over 20 years old and want to work full time. The people working these jobs are stuck in these jobs, with virtually no opportunities for upward mobility. They often do not have the time or money for further training or skill building. I’ve said elsewhere that:

[Further] schooling is often expensive and does not necessarily lead to a “better job.”

For example, there was a recent article on how vocational programs leading to certificates, like CRNs, do not necessarily improve your job options. There is little data on how these credentials enhance income with the median earnings of all certificate holders just under $25,000 (which is barely over the poverty threshold for a family of four). Although RN programs do a decent job of preparing students, “medical assistants don’t make enough money to pay off their loans.”

The proliferation of paralegal certificate programs is also a concern. There is not a lot of growth in the profession right now, so we don’t know who’s going to employ all those people who are getting these certificates. According to the Department of Education, the number of people awarded certificates in the paralegal field grew to 4,061 in 2007-8 from 2,890 in 2003-4. This is unfortunately also the case for JD law degrees at the moment. I personally almost went to law school after undergrad until I realized that getting a JD (and even being at the top of your class or at a “prestigious” school) did not guarantee a job.

And in terms of having children and not being able to support them, there are many reasons why this might happen. Maybe they were more financially stable when they decided to reproduce (think of families who are affected by natural disasters every year and lose everything). Maybe they don’t have access to sex education or birth control (researchers have found that teens who received comprehensive sex education were 60 percent less likely to get pregnant or to get someone pregnant than those who received no sex education). Maybe one parent died and had failed to set up a life insurance account. Maybe the children are a result of sexual assault. There are many reasons why people have kids to later realize they can’t support them.

Please think about the minimum wage debate as not centered around you and your life, that is a very selfish way to look at things. You can use personal anecdotes or personal observations to back up your opinions, but you also must consider the issue as a whole and how it affects the millions of Americans that currently make minimum wage.

I currently make $12/hr at a full time temp office job in Seattle, where the living wage is around $15 (give or take). And I can tell you that I currently have $78 to my name and no savings. And it’s not because I buy and shop and eat out a lot. It’s because I’m paying for things like insurance, tires and repairs for my car, and fixing my computer (which has been broken since 2012 but I haven’t been able to afford repairs until now).

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May 16, 2014 · 6:22 pm

Thoughts on Life and Art

I’ve had a lot of time to think in the past couple months, mostly due to my general unemployed-ness (I’ve been picking up a few odd part times jobs here and there to pay the bills, of course, but I mostly consider myself unemployed).

And one thing, among many, that I can’t help but notice is the apparent continuation of the contemporary trend I wrote my thesis* on: western society’s overwhelming transfiguration of “the other.” Or, in more simple terms, our glorification of, adoption of outward form and appearance of, and transformation and attempt to constructively collaborate with “the other” (aka other ethnicities, other genders, other sexual orientations, and so on and so forth).

This trend first developed in the world of “high art” as a response to the deconstructive-ness of postmodernism. Postmodern artists deconstructed the hierarchical western canon, claiming, for example, “Hey! Black and women artists are just as important as those old white guys!”

But once the canon was turned upside down, artists were left feeling a bit lost. It’s like emerging from a bomb shelter after a nuclear war and realizing that all is chaos. Thus, artists started returning to the basics, the building blocks of how living things interpret and experience their environments.

This caused artists in the 60s and 70s, for example, to start exploring the five senses and performance art; how the audience directly experiences a piece of art.

Some artists have started to glorify and exalt “the other,” effectively starting the transfiguration movement. One more contemporary, popular culture example of this is the 2004 film version of Phantom of the Opera with Gerard Butler as the Phantom.

In the 1909 book, the Phantom is an ugly, terrifying creature. In the 1925 film and the 1976 musical, he is human, but remarkably deformed. In the 2004 film, he is a downright sex object. He is viewed as a valid romantic interest for Christine and we, as the audience, are encouraged to empathize with him.

Other artists glorified the imperfect human body since the western canon had previously only accepted the idealized human body The imperfect human body, here, is considered “the other” simply because it had been previously ignored or sugar-coated in art. This includes artists like Jenny Saville and Kiki Smith (see below images).


High-res →

Jenny Saville – Hem
oil on canvas – 1998-1999


“Semen” — part of “Untitled”, Kiki Smith, 1987-90.

In the second phase of the transfiguration movement, artists wish to change their own outward form and appearance to adopt the appearance of “the other.” This includes artists like Coco Fusco and Guillermo Gomez-Pena (see below image.)

But this phase also includes more contemporary artists like Iggy Azalea and Lady Gaga when they dress in Middle Eastern and Indian garb (see below images).

Some would argue that the above artists are involved in cultural festishization, but that is a discussion for another time.

In the third phase, artists wish to transform global perspectives and encourage constructive collaboration across cultures. They do this in a variety of ways, some involve the audience in the artwork giving the spectators the chance to become the art-makers (performance art) and some attempt to understand the world from “the other’s” perspective.

Take the picture above, for example, that is a perfect example of the internet’s response to the infamous Shark Week. We are encouraged to place ourselves in the shark’s position, an animal typically feared or “other-ed.” But instead of fearing the shark, we empathize with it.

This phase is also evident in recent Disney movies like Finding Nemo and Shrek. No longer are sharks and orges scary monsters, but relatable protagonists.




This transfiguration movement is not just cultural, either, it has extended into politics and society at large. It is seen in the LGBT movement, the movement to accept those with mental, emotional, and physical disabilities, and, in the popular culture world, the hipster movement; it is now hip to be geek.

I see instances of contemporary transfiguration every day, and every time I see one, I want to scream out “There! Look, people!” Because art is no longer separate from culture. And culture is no longer separate from politics and societal movements.

I now use Tumblr and Facebook as my primary news sources, with a little New York Times and NPR thrown in for fact-checking. I no longer need to subscribe to fashion magazines because it’s all here.

That is what makes the regulation of the internet so troubling for some. How can we control the flow of knowledge and information if everything is available to all? Who can hold power?

That is exactly why I’m excited and scared by the future at the same time.

At this moment, actually, I’m staring at the Tumblr-suggested post to the right of my screen (if I can, I will reblog it once I finish this post, but I can also describe it for you guys just in case).

It’s a drawing of a computer (laptop?) and emerging from the screen, breaking the fourth wall as we call it in theater, are three raised fists. One is white, one is yellow, and one is green. And there are two sets of three “action” lines on either side of the hands. I see these as the hands of people around the world, sharing, learning, collaborating, and exalting through the computer, the internet.

I think I read somewhere that recently some organization gave a bunch of laptops to a poverty-stricken town in a third world country in Africa. They rigged the laptops so that they had limited capabilities for the people in the town, so that the people “would use them for the right reasons.” The people received these laptops, the first computers they’ve seen in their life, and within hours they had hacked into them and deleted all the restrictions the organization had programmed into them.

That is exactly what people in power are afraid of: giving the oppressed, the poor, the uneducated unlimited access to the information of the world.

I realize this post has veered off course, if this were an academic paper I would be agonizing over how the fuck I was going to conclude this in any logical way. But, hey, I just wanted to get my thoughts out of my mind and this is what happened.

Call it art. Call it bullshit. Call it what you will.

Welcome to Claire’s (unemployed) mind.

*thesis can be found at:

1 Comment

August 8, 2013 · 9:35 pm

Giving Tuesday

Happy #GivingTuesday! The perfect antidote to excessive holiday spending. Show your generosity and support your local arts organizations today.

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November 27, 2012 · 8:06 pm