This column is an opinion by Ado Nkemka, a musician and freelance journalist based in Calgary. For more information about CBC’s Opinion section, please see the FAQ.
Kim Kardashian just slapped an underclass of women in the face — during Women’s History Month — with her controversial business advice in an interview with Variety. She also says no one wants to work anymore — I wonder why?
While her perspective is informed by her experience, as a neurodivergent, Black woman who groveled for years in pursuit of my dreams, I found her tone quite condescending considering her socio-economic head start. She’s not necessarily wrong — she’s just the wrong messenger.
Here’s the thing: to even begin to “get your ass up and work” you need the confidence to know that the world is interested in consuming your image.
I internalized the lack of celebration of dark-skinned Black women in popular culture — overlooking the sparse representation we’ve had from Nina Simone to Tracy Chapman. As a musician, I bought and sold so many guitars from my late teens through my early 20s, before finally committing to my path as a guitarist. With every new purchase, I asserted myself as an artist. With each Kijiji post, placing my instrument back on the market, I sold myself short, giving into the idea that no one would care anyway. Every time I fell into a well of impossibility, I mentally dug myself out because music wouldn’t stop tugging at my heart.
Easier for the rich and well-connected
You also need the physical ability and the mental health to get from point A to point B. For the neurodiverse, for those with mental health diagnoses that impact their daily lives, sometimes there is no getting your ass up that day. Sometimes, disability imposes a glass ceiling on your career advancement, leaving you no choice but to mourn dreams that may never come true.
But if you do see it for yourself, and you are able, you need the emotional and financial support of friends and family, and most importantly industry connections as well as fans who also “see it for you” — which is easier when you’re already rich, conventionally attractive and well-connected.
I also want to address her gripe about people not wanting to work. Personally, I want to be productive and challenge myself, however I can’t work under the current traditional constraints of capitalism. I’ve had similar insights as many others, now carving out a life free of demoralization and dehumanizing exploitation.
I finished my degree during the pandemic; the shift to virtual work and schooling helped me fall into a lifestyle that works best for me. I despise the idea of the traditional work week (nine to five, five days a week). I would rather work 40 hours (and even more) spread out over seven days.
Also, I find it healthier for me to work from noon to midnight, for example, with breaks in between, as opposed to a condensed shift starting earlier in the day. And honestly, I don’t need to go into an office to socialize or “feel connected” to people I’m in business with. In fact, working (primarily) from home means I can be selective about those in my space.
Optimizing for the best life
As far as workforce management goes, the pandemic showed employers that employees don’t have to be under their noses for them to be productive. In fact, some workers found that they worked even more from home — which is another conversation about the dissolving work-life separation brought on by the pandemic.
In an office/work setting there is pressure for every second on the clock to be productive. While I understand that some things are time-sensitive, I prefer a certain level of independence. I also enjoy the ability to arrange and prioritize tasks according to my mood and capacity on any given day. If that makes me an entitled millennial, so be it. I am absolutely entitled to optimize for the best life satisfaction I can achieve during my time here.
With the dawn of the social media/influencer age, I’m sure some are lured by the Kardashians’ model of “being paid to be pretty online.” I’ve said “I don’t want to work” to someone before and I got the sense that it was received as “I just want to sit around and be lazy.” I think it stems from the cultural disdain for those we perceive as lazy — not to mention the ways in which occupations are hierarchized.
What I meant by that statement was, I don’t want to work a demoralizing, unfulfilling job that commands my presence at a specific time, and then have to spend eight hours, or so, at a time solely dedicated to that job. I want to add value to my community but I want freedom in doing so.
So, if “get your [expletive] ass up and work” is your best advice, Kim, I suggest you sit down and try again.
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