Workplace prostitution

Unpaid internships serve to aggravate the class divide and should be eliminated entirely.

She stands on the corner, fresh in fishnets and a faux leather mini-skirt. You slow down your car and stare. You want to pick her up, but you know you donâÄôt have the funds for it. You want a taste of her world âÄî the money, the sex, the drugs, the people who make it happen âÄî but in the end, you know itâÄôs you who will be exploited. Prostitutes donâÄôt put out for free and they sure as hell donâÄôt care about your feelings. âÄúSheâÄù is the epitome of a tease âÄî a metaphor better known in the work world as an unpaid internship. Yeah. ThatâÄôs right. IâÄôm comparing sex with a prostitute to unpaid internships. They are only similar in that both sex with a prostitute and unpaid internships create the brief illusion of love and intimacy and they are both adventures only accessible to those who carry a substantial cash flow. IâÄôm sorry if thatâÄôs graphic, but as I learned the hard way; so is life. I am a first-generation college graduate who worked approximately 35 hours a week while taking 18 credits a semester in order to attend the University of Minnesota âÄî an endeavor I would never recommend to anyone. During the course of my college experience, I was only able to take one unpaid internship, made feasible by the fact that my boss was infinitely sympathetic to my scheduling needs âÄî a quality that is hard to come by in the business setting. Most of my friends graduated with resumes peppered with cushy unpaid internships and a wealth of professional connections. They were able to do so primarily because they were supported by the Bank of Mom and Dad. Yes, unpaid internships are excellent means of gaining relevant work experience and developing a strong, professional network. But at their core, they are detrimental to achieving equality in society because only the privileged are financially capable of accepting unpaid internships; only the privileged have access to these resume steroids and schmoozing fests. Thus, the privileged become more elite and the rest of us remain stagnant âÄî perhaps even bitter over our dashed dreams. Yes, with extreme dedication there are exceptions to this rule and I am certainly not naïve enough to believe that any kind of job not be hard fought for in this economy. Yet the reality is unpaid internships serve to aggravate the class divide and it would be wise to eliminate them entirely. Other parts of the world appear to be taking a stand first. The UKâÄôs Daily Mail recently reported that BritainâÄôs Low Pay Commission is in the process of investigating whether companies are exploiting thousands of graduates by employing them on unpaid, long-term internships during the recession âÄî with no promise of a real job on the horizon. Arab News compares this yearâÄôs batch of graduates to JapanâÄôs âÄúlost generationâÄù after their recession, where young people found themselves employed longer hours with fewer benefits. Indeed, the few of my friends who are employed right now are working much more than 40 hours of work per week. It is obscene to me that the only two options graduates have to choose from is working for nothing or overworking for next to nothing. Either way, you have to prove how bad you want it (which is a joke) because nobody really wants a desk job anyway. Sure, it could be worse. We could all actually be prostitutes. But it could be better. We could refuse to accept unpaid internships as means of employment just like we criminalized prostitution because it promotes the degradation of women. You can keep your gazillion-hour work week for all I care America, but everyone should be paid a minimum worth, whether theyâÄôre learning or an expert. And it shouldnâÄôt be divvied out in âÄúcompany perks.âÄù It should be delivered straightforward in paycheck form. Ashley Dresser welcomes comments at [email protected]