Diana Wang doesn’t want her college internship at Harper’s Bazaar.
That’s fine. I’ll take it.
Fashion is a difficult industry. Everyone in New York knows it. Ask the guy selling reheated halal chicken out of a dirty cart with a flashing LCD screen. He’ll tell you he prefers dragging a hot cart down 9th Avenue in 100-degree weather to working as a fashion merchandiser. At least he gets a lunch break.
According to my friend who used to work at a company that shall remain nameless except to say it liked rhinos:
“I’ve worked in the fashion industry for 4+ years. My first job was at a small fashion brand and the workload was brutal. On most days I ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner at my desk. A few times a week I’d end up working from home after a long train ride, making updates to their Ecommerce site remotely, usually wrapping up at around 2 or 3 AM. There was hardly a moment when the office was empty. If you left on time, you got dirty looks from people.”
Wang either couldn’t cut it or didn’t want to cut it, or she just didn’t like fashion or fashion just didn’t like her, or—who cares? Whatever the reasons, it didn’t work out for her. That happens.
But instead of cutting her losses and moving on to another career (or starting a blog to blow the whistle), she decided to sue. Because a lawsuit is the best way to forward your career…as the manager of a Baskin-Robbins/Dunkin’ Donuts in the back of a gas station.
By the way, she’s also suing Fenton Fallon because the whole world just doesn’t appreciate her shoe-counting, phone-answering genius.
In the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, one of the apprentices explains how he spent 10 years working with Jiro (who is recognized as the world’s greatest sushi chef) before he was allowed to make the egg sushi. He made an egg 200 times before Jiro finally told him it was good enough. When the apprentice describes the feeling of finally having his egg accepted, he is practically crying. It’s an emotionally charged scene, and you feel both empathy and jealousy for the apprentice. You wish that someone cared about you enough to be that hard on you.
In America, would the apprentice sue?
How is it that we appreciate movies about people being worked hard, but it doesn’t actually translate into working hard?
Anyway, here’s a list of a few of Wang’s grievances about her traumatizing wartime experience during her third tour of Harper’s from which she has no doubt had to seek pulsating light therapy to deal with her PTSD flashbacks.
“It was very belittling.”
Well. Hello and welcome to having a job on Earth.
“I was so uncomfortable and stressed out.”
Tell me about it, girlfriend! Stress! Time for some CHOCOLATE THERAPY!
She managed as many as eight other interns, sending them on 30 to 40 errands a day, and helping them file expense reports.
Actually, that sounds like great experience to put on your a resume. Try not to fuck it up.
She answered the accessories director’s phone, writing the caller’s name and holding it up, so her boss could decide whether or not to take the call.
Well, I have never heard of such a difficult job in my life! What if there’s no piece of paper? What if the pen stops working? This gal was like a 9/11 first responder!
On hand-delivering new outfits to editors between Fashion Week shows: “It kind of felt like you were working in shipping and receiving….”
Did you not hear me the last time, girl? CHOCOLATE THERAPY!!
Also, she worked from 9 am to 8 PM. In fashion. Which means she probably left four or five hours before everyone else in the office did.
Also, she’s a fucking pussy. I’ve gotten phone calls from UNICEF at 2 AM on a Sunday to edit a photo because someone in an international breastfeeding society called from Geneva to say they were offended by a picture of a baby bottle on our home page. Yes, that happened. And no, I wasn’t late for work the next day.
Anyway. That is the difference between having a job and a career. You do stuff.
Should companies stop taking advantage of interns? Probably. Should companies be nicer to everybody? Sure, that would be nice. It’s nice to be nice. I think all bosses should be nice! How about you? Yeah! Let’s sue!
Companies should also hire full-time employees instead of the “contractors” they hire to get out of paying their health insurance. They should hire based on experience rather than the boss’s friend’s niece. And they should not judge you based on where you went to college. Companies should do lots of shit.
Basically, Wang took an unpaid internship and then, four months later, decided it was so hard that she deserved to be paid for it. But it doesn’t seem she is suing for money. She’s suing because her boss wouldn’t give her a recommendation.
Well, I cannot for the life of me imagine why.
She tried to get a job, but her supervisor at Bazaar said he wouldn’t give her a recommendation. “He said, ‘“I don’t think you’re ready and you should do another internship,’” she says. Still, she interviewed for some magazine and public-relations positions but wasn’t offered any of them.
I don’t know the particulars of this case, but unless there was some Machiavellian plot to fuck over the best goddamn fashion intern in all of New York, it certainly seems like she is suing because she refuses to accept that she’s bad at her job.
Sure, companies do hire too many interns, and yes, this is a real problem. But it’s the employees who are getting fucked over because of this, not the interns. Interns are getting paid in experience. If they had experience, they wouldn’t have to take an unpaid internship, would they?
My friend who works in fashion had this to say about the practice of hiring too many unpaid interns:
“One of the more annoying moves my previous employers made was replacing half of my department with interns so they could cut the budget in half. You know what you have to offer when you’re an intern? NOTHING. You have zero experience. The gaggle of interns at my last job actually made my job harder because they were constantly fucking things up and I had to fix their mistakes to keep them from getting fired.”
For a large part of my childhood, my father worked the night shift polishing supermarket floors. He did not get to sue “supermarkets” because the job was hard or belittling. There were no internships. There was no college. I dropped out of high school in the 10th grade to clean houses.
You may be wondering how a high-school dropout ended up publishing a memoir with Simon & Schuster or working as an editor for the main UNICEF.org international website, which, at the time, had something like 19 million views per month.
The answer is simple: I worked harder than anyone else wanted to.
I started working at UNICEF doing the 7 to 3 shift as an HTML lackey.
I sent my resume cold, on a whim. They called me immediately for an interview. An hour after I left the interview, they called to offer me the job. I was the only skilled candidate who was willing to work a shitty shift.
By the time the mass layoffs came, I was getting paid twice what I’d started at and now had experience as an acting senior editor at a major United Nations agency. Not bad for a high-school dropout.
So to the Diana Wangs of the world, thank you. Thank you for the yoga class in the top floor of the United Nations secretariat. Thank you for the two-hour lunches at the Grand Central Oyster Bar. Thank you for the opportunity to work. You have college degrees that you don’t appreciate and internships that are too hard for you to do and lawsuits that are apparently more important to you than getting your career off the ground. This is where I come in. This is how I got experience. I did the shit you didn’t want to do.
Thank you for not working.