Capitalism’s Devaluing of Art & Motherhood
Capitalism’s financial instability is well-known and voiced by many critics for a long time. While leaders adjust monetary policies to achieve economic sustainability, capitalism’s social pollution proves far more difficult to correct. This pollution indoctrinates society with an economic view that reduces people and their activities to a commodity or dollar value: a social devaluation clearly elucidated in artistry and motherhood.
Your writing skill has less value than a Big Mac: a harsh truth easily seen when entering a McDonald’s and asking for a dozen Big Macs as a free test sample. Yet every day, authors write articles to prove their value through social media clicks and likes. One would assume the internet’s endless page growth would increase writer demand, but capitalism devalues writing by commodifying the practice into reduced quality, word counts, pay-per-click traffic, and most of all, marketing that turns writers into competitors for traffic. Capitalism’s grotesque ability to render a burger more valuable than years of learning writing’s craft sickens, but more so degrades artists, stripping them of their ability to provide valued literature in time wasted marketing their culturally valuable but dollar-worthless skill. Writers are not alone since any skill of intrinsic and cultural value becomes susceptible to capitalism’s devaluation.
Growing media markets should increase jobs, but this does not occur because capitalism limits employment growth. Currently, hundreds of media companies and networks produce vast quantities of movies, series, documentaries, web series, and many other film endeavors. Yet, most of the approximately seventy thousand US actors and actresses work one day to a few months with long periods of unemployment. The same actresses and actors are recycled in movies, shows, and commercials, not because of a labor shortage but because these individuals have brand value to help sell the project. This marketing denies entry to newcomers and often bars established industry players who lost the salability they once had. Even stars with large brands like Sylvester Stallone endure talent marketization as reported by Variety
He was dropped by his agency, CAA, and manager, who told him they couldn’t find work for him and suggested that he seek new representation. (In May, after years of agency jumping, Stallone rejoined CAA.)
For the unsigned actor or actress, obtaining gigs becomes a hopeless job of marketing themselves, which not only steals time from honing their craft (something necessary for the trade’s value) but makes them unwilling and often unqualified marketers. New entertainers without money spend enormous amounts of time plugging social media, working on websites, learning about SEO, and trying to network with the right people who can help their careers. What many of these artists market themselves to earn is a pittance. Comedians might earn fifty to a hundred dollars per show as a featured act. Headliners might earn two hundred and up for clubs depending on popularity. Considering comedians must travel from club to club, a two-hundred-dollar night decreases significantly after deductions for travel and living expenses. While some comedians command high rates, the vast majority operate at a loss because capitalism sees the comedian as a commodity subject to supply and demand.
Capitalism skews even the artists’ self-perception in the cases of the successful few. The honest celebrities will tell you they made it on luck, whether from birth into a Hollywood family or from the happenchance encounter with someone willing to take a risk on them. The deluded artist will claim he worked hard, which he may have, and hard work made him successful. This common delusion drives many artists to live in poverty for long periods, trying to self-market with no financial backing only to quit regardless of talent.
After nine years of going nowhere, he completely dropped out of showbiz and, to support his family, sold household aluminum siding. Twenty-five years later, at the age of 45, Rodney [Dangerfield] decided to give comedy another try, appearing in clubs at night while still selling siding during the day. He ultimately found success, due to luck, persistence and his enormous comedic talent. ~Edsullivan.com
Had Ed Sullivan not given Dangerfield the opportunity to perform he likely would never have found success in comedy.
One might believe capitalism’s degradation of worth limits to artists and other undervalued endeavors, but capitalism pollutes everything — even motherhood. Capitalism dictates good mothers provide; bad mothers don’t, and though this truth often camouflages in flowery descriptions of good mothers (patience, forgiveness, love, etc.), make no mistake, the capitalist measures a mother’s worth by her ability to provide for her child. The unemployed, single or divorced mother who can’t afford extracurricular activities such as gymnastics for her kid is not as good a mother as the financially successful, single, or married mother who can afford to pay for these activities. A classist and privileged outlook fueled by capitalism’s devaluing of the most vulnerable population of mothers exemplified by motivational speaker and self-help guru Rachel Hollis. Hollis marketed herself as a successful entrepreneur, working wife, and mother only to disappoint and anger millions of mothers when her marketing facade dissipated in a divorce and comments telling followers to hire someone to scrub the toilets. (As though this were an option for the average mom trying to achieve success.)
Perhaps capitalism’s devaluing effect best elucidates from famous actress Lori Loughlin whose marriage of artistry and motherhood may have led to her involvement in the 2019 college admissions scandal. Operation Varsity Blues documentary writer and producer Jon Karmen opens the door to the underlying issues in the Loughlin case,
“There’s an especially revealing interview we found where [Olivia] talks about wanting to drop out of high school and not go to college, but her parents wouldn’t allow that because neither of them went to college and they wanted that for her.” Marie Claire
The college admissions scandal focuses heavily on white privilege, but privilege is the means, not the cause of Lori Loughlin’s behavior. There can be no doubt Lori Loughlin loves her children, having spent enormous amounts of money on fraud to ensure their future. Lori’s daughter, Olivia Jade, admitted on video her lack of desire to attend college, begging the question: what did Loughlin believe would happen to her already successful YouTubing daughter if she didn’t go to college? The only reasonable answer founds on Lori Loughlin believing motherhood meant protecting her children to the point of committing fraud. Ultimately, capitalism underpins everyone’s perception of success, evidenced by Lori Loughlin and her husband Massimo Giannulli, which despite respective entertainment and fashion designer success, devalued Olivia Jade’s YouTube career to the point of believing fraud necessary to ensure her success.
Capitalism’s ethics pollution explains perfectly the behavior of affluent people like Rachel Hollis and Lori Loughlin. If you ever asked why someone so successful would risk everything on a lie to obtain a status symbol like a college degree from a top university, capitalism provides the answer. Loughlin and her husband took the risk because they know entertainment careers are a dice roll and hold no guarantees. Despite their success, they understood Olivia’s YouTube business could disappear in a flash, and another opportunity may not occur. Loughlin and other affluent parents involved themselves in fraud for the same reason a less affluent mother tells her son not to be an actor and pushes him towards technology studies because there’s no money in theater. Where there’s no money, there’s no value, which instigates unethical behavior that tries to mitigate risk, with those of privilege capable of inflicting the highest social cost, as in the college fraud scandal.
You’re Worth What You’re Worth.
Devaluing talent, motherhood, most everything and everyone in our society, voices ubiquitously, “Don’t quit your day job.” A doctor or lawyer earns a great deal of money because their professions are difficult to achieve, but the same learning effort expends on literature, philosophy, and theater: efforts considered valueless. Capitalism’s devaluing effect should disturb everyone, evidenced by Loughlin and others whose money and success failed to shield from motherhood’s corruption. More disturbing is the occupation pigeonholing of people based on moneymaking that denies the value of entire fields and talents except those privileged enough to enjoy them. Fixing this problem would be no small feat since the world suffers capitalism as a curative of all social woes. Radical and creative thinkers are needed, but sadly they remain inaccessible for having been discarded as worthless.