Culture

Slate Editor Offended by FirstSevenJobs Hashtag Because It Doesn’t Address Privilege

Norms Diner in Los Angeles, Calif. (Patrick T. Tallon/Reuters)

According to an article on Slate, the #FirstSevenJobs hashtag is offensive because “it’s just a way to disguise your privilege.” 

“What really bothers me about #firstsevenjobs is the ideology it reflects,” a Slate associate editor, L.V. Anderson, writes. “#Firstsevenjobs promotes the ideal, as old as America, of the self-made man who creates his own destiny through hard work.”

(Yes, that’s right: The idea that this country is a place where you can make your own dreams come true through hard work offends her.)

According to Anderson, the hashtag “obscures the extent to which the socioeconomic status we are born into shapes our career potential” and “seems designed to make people feel smug about pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, even though their career success probably had more to do with luck than with hard work or determination.”

“A more illustrative hashtag, in my opinion, would be #myparentsjobs, which would reveal the extent to which social status and income potential remain fixed from one generation to the next,” she writes.

Anderson then uses herself as an example, explaining that although she did start out working as a babysitter and a prep cook, none of that work was what got her to where she is today — it was the fact that she had the advantage of graduating from an Ivy League school without debt because her parents paid for it all.

“It’s those advantages, for which I am enormously grateful, that let me get a foot in the door in the world of media, take low-paying entry-level jobs, and work my way up to a staff position,” she writes.

In saying this, what she’s basically suggesting is that her path to a successful media career — taking low-paying jobs and then working your way up — is one that’s only possible for people from rich families.

That isn’t true.

I graduated from college with debt — and without enough financial support from my parents to survive on unpaid and low-paying media jobs alone — but I broke into the business the exact same way that she did. How? It’s called working nights to pay the bills. Several times a week, I worked 18-hour days: I’d go to my low-paying, entry-level broadcasting job as a traffic reporter from 5-9 a.m., go from there to my unpaid internship at a radio station until 5pm, and then from there to my shift as a waitress at a diner until 11 p.m. before I could finally return home to my crappy apartment and crash on a yoga mat on the floor because I didn’t have enough money to afford a bed.

Of course, she’s correct in saying that there was some luck involved in my success. That’s always the case. But her assertion that my #firstsevenjobs had nothing to do with where my career is today? That it “probably had more to do with luck than with hard work or determination”? I’d like her to say that to my face. And I’d also like to ask her just who she thinks she’s helping by focusing on victimization over empowerment.

#related#Personally, I’m glad that I’ve never chosen to view the world the way that Anderson does. Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that some of us have advantages that others don’t and vice versa, but at the end of the day, I’m glad to be someone who knows that this country is a place where hard work does matter. Yes, it’s going to be more difficult for someone from a lower class to reach a higher class than it would be for someone from a higher class to stay there. That’s obvious. But do you know what? Even though it’s difficult, it is possible — and that’s amazing, inspiring, and should absolutely be celebrated.

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