I debated subtly titling this piece but decided fuck it, I need to rant and so I shall. Psych yourself for a rant. A cohesive and valid one at that.
As the HMRC released their discovery (interns exist did you know!? No shit Sherlock) last week that interns across the media and fashion sectors (amongst others) are masquerading as full time, unpaid workers, my eyes have been opened and my jaw has not left the floor.
I understand the definition of an intern to be a role that is: 1. temporary and 2. additional. Interns, by dictionary definition do not run the press agency, publication etc. They're merely an extra pair of hands in times of encroaching deadlines. They should not be a fundamental part to the daily runnings of their chosen intern host. It surfaces that the reality paints a contradictory picture.
Call it blatant ignorance or genuine naivety but fortunately for me, I have never, in all of my countless placements from nationals to locals had the misfortune of being exploited just because I was a mere intern. I obviously didn't write the cover feature and there's the standard intern / editor hierarchy but I ain't had to sack off my out-of-work life in order to get through a mountain of returns, long into the night, to this day. I don't plan to make that a reality either. This week, I met girls who for that is a weekly event. And its not even thought of as a big deal, its compulsory, part of the pay packet. Except there's no pay-packet or even a whisper of a job after months of living on next-to-nothing, so called expenses.
What gets me the most is the fact that these CEOs are most likely rolling in it, in their made to order, silk, Versace suits, no less. If you're throwing lavish events, ordering Dom Perignon on tap, you can afford to pay struggling graduates who graft their arses day in, day out, for you. Frankly, its disgusting and I refuse to be caught up in that trap.
I have reached the point now whereby I started my twelfth, (as if) internship, on Monday and got the standard, introductory Q&A. "So do you do fashion?". It makes me think, did you even read my fucking CV? In my actual response, there are two facts that leave the fashion assistant of each intern host stunned. One is that I am old enough to have a degree (I have been assumed to be school leaver, more than once). And two, it is an English degree from one of the top twenty universities in the country. You would've known this had you read my CV. The dialogue that follows usually questions why I am there in the first place.
I have began to ask myself this very question and have reached the brutally honest conclusion: I am too good to be a returns bitch. There I said it. Fair, if I wanted to be a stylist or fashion assistant I'd happily lug suitcases up and down stairs. But no ta, I do enough of that in my actual life. Once, you've done one return, you've mastered the art. It's not rocket science. And if that's all you're 'gaining' and 'learning' then what is the point? I have served my time in fashion cupboards - some sweet, some not so great and can't help but feel that I'm overqualified and under paid to be a glorified skivvy. So, I shall return to the drawing board once the festive period is done with.
Back to the initial point. It infuriates me how this whole minimum wage debate is being publicised as a new discovery. Interns have kept the fashion industry ticking over for as long as fashion week has existed but its only now that they're threatening to do something about it. Something that will actually never be enforced, as as long as there is a queue of over-keen, wannabes the fashion world and others will continue to exploit the free labour. The words catch 22 spring to mind; can't get a job with an internship, can't get one without.
Who run the fashion world? Interns do. They at least deserve minimum wage or failing that, a whisper of a job promise after a mammoth six month stint. AT LEAST. Some credit wouldn't go a miss either.
Thoughts? My nosy nature revels in hearing other's stories - horror and fairytale.