On Cheap Glasses and the Myth of Affordable

Glasses are expensive and if you have less than perfect vision, you need them. Whenever anyone talks about needing glasses in an online space, they are met by a chorus of “Oh go to this *insert online dealer*! I got mine there and they were just *insert seemingly nominal amount*!” The thing is though, that what seems nominal to one person may be a cost too high for another.

Story time. My glasses broke in half last summer. I went to put them on my face when I woke up and they fell into two pieces. I’ve been wearing glasses since I was three years old, my prescription is quite high. When I talked about my glasses breaking, immediately I was flooded with recommendations for various online sellers.

The thing is, because my prescription is so high, the glasses that were costing my friends $30 were more in the $75-100 range for me. Which is a big difference! In fact, what was a nominal cost for them became a choice between being sighted and paying a bill for that month for me.

And this is a reality for many people.

There is room in this discussion for the intersections between class and ableism to be examined. After all, it is only those with low prescriptions that can access the low-cost options with using these online dealers. It also ignores the fact that people need to be able to be seen for a prescription which, without insurance especially, can be a hefty cost. What I’m bringing this up for today is to discuss the ever-changing goal post of “affordability”.

Not everyone operates from the same financial level and we really need to stop speaking as though “cheap” is the same level for everyone. Not everyone can access the same opportunities due to their unique circumstances (like my high prescription vs my friend’s low one) and not everyone is working with the same amount of capital.

This isn’t to say that we should never suggest things to others looking for help and guidance, it is only to say that we need to be aware of the difference between people that will change their experience. Instead of “go here it’s so cheap!” try “I had a good experience with this company under these circumstances”. Be aware of the fact that a cost that may seem low to you may be a budget breaker to someone else. After all, even $30 may be a tough choice to a family that is stretched thin financially.

It’s good to try and help but don’t forget that you are not an authority on anyone’s life but your own and even though something may work really well for you it may not be so great for someone else. The idea of affordability across the board is a myth. The only thing that is affordable for everyone regardless of life needs is free. Anything above that and it cheap really depends on what you consider expensive and that’s different for everyone.

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The Truth About Tone Policing

black-and-white-africa-animals-wilderness

There’s this old saying, “You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar,” which is to say that you can win more people to your side by being nice than being salty. People try to use this line as a reason to tone police others especially those that are speaking out against matters that end in any sort of -ism. The thing is though, in those cases, tone policing has nothing to do with being polite and everything to do with continuing to silence a marginalized group.

Tone policing is done by and large by the privileged group. Whether that group be white, male, cis, abled body or any combination of privilege, they are generally the ones that are first to point out that some point wasn’t made nicely enough. Be it a discussion on racist housing practices or sexism in the workplace, if the marginalized person that is speaking out against it in any way, shape, or form can be read as being “hostile” or “emotional”, then that privileged person feels justified in pointing out that they’re not being nice. Which is generally shortly followed up with something akin to “That’s why no one is listening to you.”

There are two things deeply wrong with this.

One, no one is or should be required to be polite or be concerned with the feelings of the privileged masses when they are speaking from a place of marginalization. If you are causing someone harm, you should not be concerned with their tone when they are telling you to stop. If you are more concerned that someone approach you nicely when informing you of issues that negatively affect them of which you may be contributing unknowingly to, you are definitely part of the problem.

Policing someone’s tone is a not so subtle way of saying that the privileged person’s comfort is MORE IMPORTANT than the marginalized person’s life.

The second issue is that it asserts the privileged person has having authority over the marginalized group. It is as if the marginalized person is a child asking their caretaker if they can have a cookie and getting the response of “Only if you ask nicely.”

Members of the privileged group don’t really have the authority to say that. It is only through systematic forms of oppression that they are in the position of power, not because they have any right to be there.

The real thing about tone policing is that most of the time, especially in online venues, there is absolutely nothing wrong with anyone’s tone. Being online, it lacks all nonverbal communication and you can read a message for the most part any way you want. The problem is though that when you are talking with privileged people who are used to feeling like they are in power, anything less than total submission is aggression.

The mere act of speaking for yourself, of saying, “This is a problem and I will not stand for it any longer,” is read as aggressive and it likely does not matter how nicely the marginalized person says it, just by speaking out, by calling into question the society that created the issue and continues to support it, that marginalized person has spoken aggressively.

Tone policing is always a way to silence a marginalized voice. It is not about being polite or civil or anything else. Is about dismissing someone or “putting them in their place”. If people have to say things nicely for you to listen, then you’re the one with the problem.

Stop Apologizing for Paying Social Tax

People who are not poor do not want poor people to have nice things. At least that’s what we can gather from all the hubbub focused around what you can and can’t buy while using food stamps and cash assistance. When people who do not have any sort of assistance question the purchases of people on assistance, the result is poor people explaining how thrifty they are or what gifts people have given them. That should stop.

If someone on government benefits purchases something of value in cash it does not mean that they are getting over on the system. What they are doing is paying a social tax and you can only pay that tax in cash.

Good cars, nice phones, having your hair done, and wearing clothing that are not rags are all forms of social tax and poor people must pay a higher amount. If you don’t pay your social tax, the fine is a complete inability to move forward in the social sphere.

Social tax is having the right items to give the appearance of being of a certain class. In this case the class is not someone who draws benefits because that is bottom of the barrel. If you cannot pay your social tax, if you can’t afford to have your hair done or keep a modern cell phone then you are operating at a loss and when you’re poor, you can’t afford anymore losses.

You cannot be hired for a job if you go to an interview wearing rags. People will not network with you if your hair is a mess all the time. You can’t send emails from a flip phone. You can’t get to work if your car is constantly breaking down.

These are just realities.

We all pay social tax. Poor people aren’t exempt, in fact they’re judged more harshly for not paying it in the form of loss jobs, homes, and opportunities. All the things that would help them make it out of poverty.

So don’t apologize person of lesser means for doing what you have to do to survive.

We Need A Higher Minimum Wage Because People Are Stupid

Coffee and donuts

A few days ago my family and I decided to go to Dunkin Donuts to grab breakfast before running errands. We went through the drive-thru expecting it to be a quick trip. It wasn’t. It began when I ordered a number four, hold the sausage. The person taking our order responded that it came with sausage and if I wanted to the sandwich without then I couldn’t get the meal. She just didn’t understand that you could have the sandwich, with the meal WITHOUT the meat. We tried to explain the concept. She didn’t get it.

I explained how I wanted my coffee made, using percentages. 75% coffee, 25% milk. She didn’t understand that either. When we drove around there was another employee trying to understand the concept of the meal without the meat on the sandwich but thankfully someone had figured out how to make the coffee at least.

They didn’t have hash browns ready so we ended up waiting in the parking lot for half an hour for the rest of our meal. My husband had to eventually go inside and get them. When he got back to the car, rightfully annoyed at what our short stop had become, I turned to him and said, “This is why these people need to be paid $15 an hour.” He looked at me like I was crazy until I explained.

“Do you want the girl who couldn’t figure out taking meat off of a sandwich to be in charge of your grandma’s medication?”

The common argument is that people who work in low skill jobs don’t deserve to make a living wage. That they should better themselves in order to earn more. Never mind that we still need people to flip our burgers and sweep our floors and also forget about the fact that those low skill jobs are often very, very hard work.

What that argument ignores completely is that not everyone is bright. That some people really are best suited for unskilled labor. Because we ignore that not everyone is suited for every job, we end up with a lot of people in careers that they just shouldn’t be in becuase that is what pays well and no one wants to be poor.

The fact of the matter is, being a fast food worker, a retail associate, or any sort of unskilled worker may be the best job for some people. They may be a great customer service rep or excellent with their hands. They may just really like the low responsibility these jobs offer so they can focus on their family. Or, they may just not be that bright. And all of those people deserve to make enough money to live off of.

Imagine the group of people who were in charge of my family’s breakfast in any other situation. The same group of people who collectively didn’t understand substitution, basic percentages, and were unable to get an order of hash browns out in a timely manner as your medical staff, your legal support team, the people in charge of your social services.

Do you want them in those roles? Probably not. Neither do I but I also don’t think they deserve to struggle just because they’re not as talented as other people.

I want people who care about those professions to be in them. I want people who have a passion for medical issues and legal work to work in those fields. I don’t want someone handling the paperwork for my case who is only doing it because it pays more than flipping burgers.

If you keep them happy where they are then they will stay there ensuring that people who really want to work in a field go into it. Which means you’ll have workers who are loving what they do more often than just people who are going into a field because they don’t want to starve.

So next time you hear about workers going on strike for higher wages and you think that they don’t deserve it, think about the dumbest person you know. Then ask yourself, do you want that person in charge of your medication or do want them happily working a drive thru window?

WIC Is Not SNAP, Also Lets Stop Infantilizing Poor People and Mothers

Photo from Morguefile

Photo from Morguefile

Today I read an article published on Slate about not being able to buy potatoes on foodstamps. At least that’s what the title said. After reading a paragraph it was clear that it was really about WIC benefits. After reading another, it was also clear that the author had not done proper research and in addition had a very patronizing view of both poverty and pregnant women. There are some serious misconceptions in the text that only serve to further demonize poverty.

The article, “Should Poor Pregnant Women Be Allowed To Buy Potatoes With Food Stamps? What A Dumb Question” is very much a clickbait title but with all the policing of food for recipients of SNAP (you bought a candy bar poor person? How dare you have luxuries on my tax dollars!) it was entirely possible that this was an issue for someone.

Only it wasn’t at all. The article is really speaking about the vegetable voucher that WIC participants are given as part of their monthly package. It allows participants to purchase certain vegetables however, potatoes are not one of them. Like every other WIC coupon, there are restrictions put on what you can and cannot get.

This is very different than foodstamps or SNAP. You can get whatever you want with SNAP barring things like alcoholic beverages and prepackaged lunchmeat.

There’s also the issue with the fact that WIC and SNAP are two different programs. The article uses these terms fairly interchangeably.

“But it’s hard to imagine a less efficient system than WIC, which gives pregnant women and mothers of young children vouchers or EBT cards that they can only use to buy a very restricted selection of foods.” L.V. Anderson wrote.

You do not get an EBT card with WIC. You get one with SNAP.

SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and is intended to help provide assistance in purchasing food for lower income persons and families. Anyone who meets the income guidelines for SNAP is eligible. Recipients generally are at or below the poverty line with this program.

WIC is short for Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. In order to receive benefits, you must be a woman who is pregnant or nursing or have an infant or child under the age of five years. It also has some income guidelines but a quick look at them shows that it accepts families well over the poverty line. This is not the case with SNAP.

The two programs are not even handled by the same governing body. At a Federal level, they both get funded by the Food and Nutrition Service in the US Department of Agriculture. However, once you get to the state level, where people actually access these benefits, SNAP is administered by the Department of Welfare where WIC is generally housed in the Department of Health.

This is because the aims of the program are drastically different. SNAP is to actually feed people. WIC is a supplement program designed to combat malnutrition in pregnant women, infants, and young children. Which is why their guidelines on what they supply are so much stricter.

The program isn’t meant to fill your cabinets, it’s meant to ensure that women, infants, and children have proper nutrition for growth and development.

Throughout this article, from the title to the very end there’s this focus on the “poor” mother but the truth is, with the WIC program you may see families from lower income to middle class. The income guidelines are inflated so that more families qualify. Unlike SNAP, WIC also has special exceptions in some states so women who do not meet the income guidelines may still be eligible.

The focus on poor women in this piece was actually just stereotyping recipients of these benefits and furthering the shame for people receiving them.

This article paints a picture of women who receive these benefits as uneducated, hormone clouded waifs who can’t handle reading labels. Which is further insulting as it’s not very hard to read a price tag and find the WIC symbol which is something that even the smallest corner store that takes WIC has readily available.

The smallest amount of research here would have shown this author that recipients don’t have to be dietitians to figure this out, they just have to read a price tag.

Even if that wasn’t the case, all WIC recipients are given a list of brands that are acceptable in the program. It’s a color pamphlet. As for sizes allowed, they’re listed very prominently on the front of the containers.

More importantly than that, the tone of this particular article is very condescending. These low income pregnant women can’t handle all of this stress! Reading a label is torture! Doing normal grocery shopping is something they are unaccustomed to!

And then article gives a brilliant idea. Why not just take the choice out of their hands and give them what we think they need in the style of a CSA box?

Only the thing about that is, that’s how the program started and unfortunately, most Americans don’t know what to do with a box full of strange vegetables. This program was discontinued and the voucher program was founded because it worked better. Although you do not have many choices on WIC, you do still have the option of picking from the eligible items what works best for you and your family. A CSA box does not afford you even that.

But then, the article provides this, “Give poor women the resources to educate themselves about prenatal nutrition, and then give them money to make their own decisions about what to buy.”

That is exactly what the WIC program does. They educate mothers on nutrition, both pre and post natal as well as provide information on things like portion sizes and breastfeeding support. WIC is first and foremost an educational program. Which the author of this article clearly is not aware of but should have been because it’s information displayed clearly on the website.

As for making their own decisions, during the growing seasons, WIC participants also receive vouchers to use at farmers markets and the like to purchase whatever fresh fruits and veggies they want.

Yes, even potatoes.

WIC is not SNAP. It is not foodstamps. It is not just for people living in poverty. It is a completely separate program with separate goals. Slate’s article perpetrates a continuing negative stereotype of poverty using inaccurate information which only serves to keep more families who may benefit from such a program from pursuing it instead causing them to think,it’s “for poor people” and to be poor is to be shamed.

Although this article seems to want to help, the tone and information given during it put it in a negative light. Such antiquated ideals surrounding government programs and the people who benefit from them must be stopped in order to make better programs.