For an entire category of workers (but certainly not the whole workforce) the expectation of a 40-hour, 9-5 Monday through Friday workweek seems like an inevitability; an expectation so deeply ingrained that it’s hard to remember it wasn’t always this way. And it’s even harder to remember that it might not have to be this way in the future.
Since I came to Fractured Atlas almost two years ago, I’ve been sharing information about how artists and creatives can run successful fundraisers. I’ve written articles about picking perks and shooting videos for crowdfunding campaigns, the importance of donation tiers, and running raffles.
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One of the best parts of working with so many artists and arts organizations is that we get to meet a lot of fascinating people.
Fractured Atlas believes in being honest about what a job is, but not fatalistic. Your job is not your family, it’s a way you exchange your labor for money. But it doesn’t have to be soul-crushing or toxic. We are interested in creating humane workplaces, whether that means ensuring fair pay as part of antiracism at work or exploring exactly what we mean when we talk about toxic workplaces.
The past few years have given us collectively a great deal to think about in terms of problems with our workplace cultures. Big unionization drives across sectors have gotten us to think about exploitative workplace conditions, the mass shift to remote work and the haphazard move to hybrid work have encouraged us to think about communication norms and boundaries, the George Floyd uprisings showed in new relief how racism and white supremacy show up in our workplaces.
One of the biggest challenges for sex workers and adult content creators today, in addition to the threat of violence on the job (including from law enforcement) is that the online platforms where they work could kick them off at any time. Online adult content is a massive industry worth $800 million. The workers who generate that content are at the whim of companies and platforms who both extract profit from their work and then make decisions about their operating terms that often harm the sex workers who have created the value for them in the first place.
The word “toxic” has been having a big few years. It was chosen as the Oxford Word of the Year in 2018 and, honestly, it’s still going strong. It is applicable to personal relationships, environmental collapse, and, of course, workplaces. With the fallout from COVID, the rapid shift to remote working, and an unsteady implementation of hybrid working, everyone is thinking about their workplaces more and more. Are they especially brutal? Are they supportive? Do they let us live dignified lives? One framework for thinking through particularly bad workplaces is the concept of a toxic workplace. But what does that phrase really mean? And why does it matter to define it carefully?
We believe that artists need to be able to connect with one another to share information and resources, to collaborate with one another, and to inspire each other. It’s great to be able to connect with your local community, but physical proximity isn’t a possibility for some artists depending on geographical location, physical ability, or discipline. You might be the only harpist in your town, or unable to physically attend meetings or classes in your area.
During the height of the pandemic, we saw exhortations to support frontline workers, to tip extravagantly, to be kind to the person providing phone support, and to remember that the person working behind the counter or on the delivery truck is potentially risking their life to get you what you are looking for. There was at least some understanding that the customer-facing workers are the people who actually keep the wheels running of our society.