Dangerous Writing: Understanding the Political Economy of Composition

Dangerous Writing: Understanding the Political Economy of Composition

Dangerous Writing: Understanding the Political Economy of Composition

Dangerous Writing: Understanding the Political Economy of Composition

Excerpt

Over the past four years I have gone through numerous jobs and have
experienced the good, the bad, and ugly aspects. Learning from what
I have come to see has taught me that the workplace is not always as
pleasant as what you wish it to be. I have worked at places where I
have not been treated as an equal, been sexually harassed, discrimi
nated against, and have had issues with management. Through times
of triumph I have learned to pick and choose my battles where, as an
employee, I could still have my pride, dignity, and self-esteem. …

“Mariah,” university student and waitress

By the time she had reached her junior year as an undergraduate, Mariah already had an extensive work history at the wide, low-paying, low-security bottom of the fast-capitalist economy. She had worked in a daycare center and at a number of jobs in restaurants and retail. Much of that work had been for national chains. At twenty-two, she had been sexually harassed by a manager on one job, asked to wear more revealing clothes on another, left another job because of a hostile work environment created by racial tensions, and not paid by an employer who suddenly closed his doors and disappeared. Mariah sees higher education, in part, as a chance to eventually move out of these types of jobs—in the meantime, she has tried to live life as a university student and a worker in low-status jobs with as much dignity as possible.

A classmate of Mariah's, Teresa, worked as an assistant manager at a discount shoe outlet. Teresa is in her mid-twenties and has also worked in a variety of jobs, including as a telemarketer and as a clerk for a newspaper. By the time she took the job at the shoe outlet she was married and both she and her husband were in school. She says that she became an “hours whore,” taking all the shifts she could get at eight dollars an hour to make ends meet. At least in terms of responsibility, this raised her status on the job considerably. In a store that relied almost entirely on parttime labor—a very common way of avoiding paying benefits—Teresa was

1. Student quotes used with authors' permissions as part of a reviewed and approved
research project.

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