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Pay secrecy as an institutional weapon may be weakening but we still have a lot further to go. 

By Aditi Natasha Kini I recently asked my social media followers: Has any white male coworker divulged his salary to you? On Twitter—where the poll was open to men—64% of people said no white man had ever shared salary information, and only 15% voted “more than one.” On Facebook, where I polled only women and nonbinary people, this number dropped to 1%, with 81% voting “never.” This highly unscientific poll is nevertheless representative of an issue intertwined in conversations of allyship and organizing: Under present capitalistic structures, white men earn the most. If those white men presume to be in alignment with the baseline concept of equality and feminism, they need to share pay details with women and non-binary people in the office, and in their industry. To the white men reading this—hopefully, there are some—did that last sentence make you cringe a little? Did it make you feel awkward and apprehensive? The mechanism of that cringe is two-fold: One, pay secrecy is to your advantage as a demographic and as an individual, so giving away that information would hasten the rate with which you’re losing your edge in society, and two, pay secrecy is fostered and upheld by institutions to protect employer overlords. No capitalist wants his workers to know these details. Pay secrecy as an institutional weapon may be weakening. Now we can share spreadsheets and encourage others to talk salaries. The shame associated with talking about money may very well be morphing; before, salaries were something to discuss in hushed tones in whisper networks, if at all. Google famously retaliated against Erica Baker, an employee who started an internal spreadsheet in interest of radical salary transparency three years ago. In 2014, President Obama announced two executive actions to close the pay gap by increasing workplace transparency: he directed the Department of Labor to collect more salary information from their contractors, and prohibited federal contractors from retaliating against employees who share compensation details. These executive actions were seemingly unnecessary: after all, the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 allows “concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” While around half of workers have been discouraged or prohibited from sharing information, the roots of this crackdown are obvious: vicious anti-union tactics are becoming increasingly common in the American workforce. Management’s anti-union tactics have pushed down the unionization rate from 22% in the ’80s to 12.4% now, according to a 2009 study that found that employers fired union workers in 34% of organizing campaigns, threatened to close plants in 57%, and threatened to cut wages and benefits in 47% of cases.
Related: THE REALITIES OF MONEY, POWER AND EGO IN THE FIGHT FOR BLACK LIBERATION

In choosing to even suggest censoring certain terms, the federal government only continues its long tradition of wielding the narrative to its pleasure, with dangerous consequences for the rest of us.

Recent media reports cited an alleged directive by the US administration to prohibit the use of seven words in documents related to the 2019 budget at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a prominent US health agency. However, follow-up reporting and statements from HHS officials refuted the claim, referring to initial media reports as a “mischaracterization”. Unnamed officials have also allegedly asserted that the words were an internal guidance meant to aid in securing 2019 budget approval from Congress. Confusing and complex as the news may be however, many remain alarmed regarding the “banned word” list, which includes the words: “entitlement,” “science-based,” “fetus,” “transgender” “vulnerable,” “diversity,” and “evidence-based”. Indeed the case does remain that officials from the Federal Executive at the very least suggested that certain words be avoided in the critical budget process, a move that could have policy implications down the road. Following news reports, analysis actually shows that the 2018 budget documents already show a significant drop in the seven words “banned words”. In truth this perhaps subtle control of the narrative has always been an integral tradition in the country. The United States and its sub-national governments and local agents have a long history in employing censorship or censorship-like policies as staunch defenders and active perpetrators of the oppression of marginalized peoples. For example, direct action was taken to suppress abolitionist pamphlets and literature by local postmasters, an action the federal Postmaster General ruled in 1835 he would not prevent nor condemn. Later on the legal the system would then be weaponized to persecute those who voiced views unsupported by the government, such as radical leftists and communists through the Smith Act and Smith Act Trials of 1949. And the Trump administration has shown itself to be actively committed to continuing this legacy. Even within its own government, the administration has attempted other types of censorship-like policies as well. Earlier this year scientists receiving grants from the Department of Energy reported being asked to remove mentions of “climate change” from their work. Later, analyses found that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had removed dozens of climate-related resources, although the EPA claims they have simply been archived.
Related: DONALD TRUMP SAYS WITHDRAWING FROM PARIS ACCORD IS GOOD FOR AMERICA BECAUSE HE’S IN LOVE WITH LYING

In spite of this being a terrifying monster story and a cautionary tale about messing with the very fabric of our time and space, Stranger Things 2 was far more life-affirming and by the end worlds less bleak than its predecessor.

When Stranger Things was the breakout Netflix hit of 2016 it was with a great deal of criticism over its treatment of women as well as lack of diversity. A pointed Saturday Night Live sketch poked fun at the fact that somehow the showrunners “forgot” to include scenes from the one young black character’s family. And many viewers pointed out the troubling male gaze that drove the show as well as its sexist treatment of its few female characters. This was not a production that even remotely passed the Bechdel test. #JusticeForBarb Color me surprised when Stranger Things 2 came straight out the gate, immediately addressing all the critiques that had been leveled against it and doing the work to improve on their past flubs. From superpowered Kali/Eight (Linnea Berthelsen), skateboarding gamer and new girl Max (Sadie Sink), to Lucas’s little sister Erika (Priah Ferguson) and his awesome mom (Karen Seesay), the new women of Stranger Things are each exercises in badassery and self-efficacy. All of a sudden, whole episodes begin passing the Bechdel test, and the town of Hawkins feels more real than ever with so many new faces of color who play significant roles in the story throughout its telling. The effect is marvelous and a perfect example of how more diversity and inclusion only makes a narrative better. This is only the second time I’ve seen an 80s-inspired narrative with a South Asian woman, and my heart was so full watching Kali be amazing on-screen. I can’t wait to see all the Halloween costumes and cosplays inspired by this new queen, and I’ve never looked forward to news of a third season so much. [caption id="attachment_48390" align="alignnone" width="920"] Linnea Berthelsen as Kali.[/caption] But the Duffer Brothers didn’t stop there. Where Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) was the only black character in season 1 and was often marginalized by his nastiness towards Eleven (Milllie Bobby Brown) and grating personality which had no context since we never met his family, Stranger Things 2 not only fleshes Lucas out better through his parents and amazing little sister, but the story shifts in an organic way to him being the romantic interest. In a narrative that is still dominated by white people and their stories, Lucas’s role this time around felt like a creative coup. I think the Duffers might have also taken cues from Issa Rae’s Insecure cinematographer on lighting darker skin tones because Lucas wasn’t blending into the nightscapes like he was in season one. Thank you. Proper representation and inclusion matters. So much.
Related: THE STRANGE GASLIGHTING IN STRANGER THINGS — AND IN THE SCI-FI AND HORROR TRADITION

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