So, these are supposed to be anonymous contributions but I’m not going to comply with that because one of the reasons that we as cultural producers fail to organize — or even communicate — effectively around economic issues is because we’re taught to believe that funding is a private concern, a lack of money is shameful, and payment is linked so conclusively to merit that further knowledge can’t possibly benefit, or harm, any potential laborer.
My name is Anne Elizabeth Moore, and as a cultural critic on issues concerning freedom of speech, integrity, and economic justice. I have frequently, and openly, written about my own financial constraints (and the occasional boosts). Although I’ve always been descriptive about personal matters usually considered private, such as abortion, as a way of normalizing experiences associated with supposedly radical politics, I began to explicitly talk about the economics of my own labor six years ago. The personal is political, the feminists used to say. (At the time, most of them were still fighting to get checking accounts or credit cards in their own names, so “personal” really just meant “bodily”; I think we should take it to mean “private”.) In 2003, as I was finalizing contract negotiations for my first book, I had a conversation with Michelle Tea over my discomfort with the money being offered. Our at-first hesitant, then increasingly frank, discussion made it clear why neither of us were terribly good negotiators, and thus willing to accept far less money than our labor was worth: we were simply wholly unpracticed in discussing economics at all. Money is not a polite subject. What was strange was that as queers and punks — and low-income ones at that — we still complied with the strict formalities of an upper-class social agenda that intended to conceal power, and thus protect it, instead of offering the knowledge necessary to shift it. I’m not claiming here that money itself is power: but information about access to resources, whatever they may be, is.
And now, the career path Michelle and I were on — that of the knowledge worker — has largely divorced itself from our persistently troubled economy. Mostly, this is not a labor-friendly solution: yet some seem to be accepting the fact that they aren’t getting paid. If we asked around however, we’d figure out quickly who is getting paid still, and maybe how much. And if we — especially as women, as people of color, as young people — aren’t making that, it should anger us. Our work is labor. But shared knowledge is power.
[I wrote this piece for free.]