Book Reviews Books

“What We Devour” by Linsey Miller is a bite-sized anti-capitalist snack

I like books with a bite. Right off the bat, What We Devour by Linsey Miller is all teeth, with its sharpest canines sinking into the same topics found in classic works like Émile Zola’s Germinal. The key to the classics—the quality classics at least—is class, class politics that is. And What We Devour is the appetizer of a full-course meal in anti-capitalist class politics. If this is the future of young adult fantasies, then the next generation is in for a real treat.

Lorena Adler is a dualwright, meaning she is one of only a few who hold the power of the banished gods, the Noble and the Vile. While she’s content to spend her days as an undertaker in a small town, that all changes when the vilewright crown prince arrives to arrest her best friend’s father. Lorena strikes a deal with him, only to uncover a much more nefarious plot: unjust inequalities within her country’s class structures. Oh, and also, an evil that threatens to destroy her world as she knows it.

The fact that Lorena is asexual is just the cherry on top of a sundae served in the first course of an elaborate meal. I call What We Devour the first course because there are so many ingredients Linsey Miller can continue to play with, I can’t imagine she’s not already well underway on the second book in this series. But back to Lorena.

I grew up in a time where it was more common to hear a spiky underwater sea critter labeled asexual than a human person. When I first described myself as asexual in college, it felt like I could finally explain something that seemed unexplainable. Now, I’m happy to replace the photos of spikey sea creatures adorning my ace shrine in favor of fanart of Lorena, because she is impeccable as ace representation.

For many years, there was barely any overt asexual representation in media, which is why there are still so many misconceptions about asexuality. Most people still cannot fathom the fact that ace people can be in relationships and even have sex while still identifying as ace. While Lorena is here to clear this up for everyone, her sexuality is the sous chef in the kitchen that is her character. And that’s how it should be.

More than that, Lorena is a compelling, fully-fledged protagonist I couldn’t help but root for. She’s very vocal about the injustices she sees in her society and makes choices to help those in the bottom class despite the fact that she has to go against people she knows and loves. Throughout her story, she comes to terms with who she is and stands by her beliefs, even when that means eating the rich becomes less of a quirky idea and more of a save-the-world strategy.

I will say Lorena could have spent more time with some of the more interesting characters rather than some of the flattest, but I understand this choice was made to make the above clear. Sometimes you can’t have your cake and eat it, too. If this had been the case, it might have spoiled our appetite for the platter of rich people Linsey Miller serves up as an hors d’oeuvre.

If you don’t have time to read the Communist Manifesto, What We Devour will do just fine. Especially because there’s interesting world-building and magic in What We Devour that’s unlike any I’ve seen before—two aspects I do find lacking in the Communist Manifesto. How power affects class structures and how the powerful use their power to keep the working class in line are conversations that translate well from the world in the story to the real world we live in.

My biggest problem with What We Devour is that the second book isn’t already published. In this first book, there were too many cooks in the kitchen who thought they were cooks but were actually just people standing in Lorena’s kitchen. Now that they’re [redacted], I’m ready to see the real cooks whip up a feast to end all feasts.

I tip my toque to you, Linsey Miller. Let the record show, I’m ready to devour the second installment in this apocalyptic fantasy series.

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Style Fashion Beauty Lookbook

This is how you can be conscientious with your spending this Pride month

It’s Pride Month, which means companies big and small are showing up and out for the LGBTQIA2S+ community. While clothing, beauty, and accessory brands are now selling rainbow merch galore, what does the commodification of Pride do for the LGBTQIA2S+ community? Well, depending on which company you’re buying from, nothing. And we have rainbow capitalism to thank for that.

Rainbow capitalism is when businesses capitalize off of the LGBTQIA2S+ rights movement through marketing campaigns and product collections. Much like white feminism, rainbow capitalism tends to be performative and fails to address real issues harming the LGBTQIA2S+ community. Capitalism isn’t always a tide that raises all ships. And this is still the case even if the tide is rainbow-hued. In capitalist U.S. society, the tide is typically man-made and designed only to raise the ships of white people, including minorities like white women and most white members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Capitalist greed is usually the reason why corporations prefer to stay quiet on some of the biggest issues harming the community.

Ghaith Hilal of AlQaws for Sexual & Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society, states, “You cannot have queer liberation while apartheid, patriarchy, capitalism, and other oppressions exist. It’s important to target the connections of these oppressive forces.” But most companies aren’t interested in fighting these oppressive forces. It’s easier to change a logo to a rainbow flag than to actively work to end homelessness, the criminalization of sex work, the carceral system, and the violence against Palestinians. In addition, police brutality, climate change, and gentrification disproportionately affect BIPOC and the LGBTQIA2S+ communities— and yet I can guarantee that almost none of the companies waving Pride flags this June will speak out against any of these issues.

Anti-Racism Daily’s Nicole Cardoza writes, “there’s no excuse for brands to ignore the LGBTQIA+ community the rest of the year while only providing rainbows as acknowledgment in June. It seems like some corporations think yearly superficial appeals to the LGBTQIA+ community will allow them to tap into this market, while making real commitments to the community would prove too costly.” Vox’s Alex Abad-Santos agrees, stating: “Brands promoting gay pride and the LGBTQ community may not always be consistent in actually supporting the LGBTQ community, but they still capitalize on the help that people want to give that community.”

Similar critiques have inspired some brands to do more than just launch a Pride collection. Last year, companies standing with the LGBTQIA2S+ community included ASOS, who supported GLAAD; Nike, who partnered with 20 organizations like Campus Pride, the Hetrick-Martin Institute, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, and the National Gay Basketball Association; MAC Cosmetics, who donated 100% of the proceeds from the Viva Glam lipstick to efforts to end HIV/AIDS; among others. However, brands like Nike have been accused of human rights violations, making their Pride partnerships and donations contradictory. Members of the LGBTQIA+ community are a part of every single global society, so putting any group at risk is an LGBTQIA+ issue.

This year, brands once again are teaming up with organizations. For example, Converse’s 2021 Pride collection is in support of It Gets Better Project, Ali Forney Center, BAGLY, and OUT MetroWest; Reebok is donating $75,000 to the Sylvia Rivera Law Project; Levi’s is making its annual donation to OutRight Action International; Crocs made a donation to GLAAD; Dr. Martens is donating $100,000 to The Trevor Project, and NYX Cosmetics partnered with the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

There’s also the much-talked-about Pride line from Target. The collection is the retailer’s 10th year in partnership with GLSEN, with this year’s donation amounting to $100,000. TikTok decided to turn everyone’s For You Page into a runway for the collection. But instead of clapping politely, most users were aghast at how ugly, questionable, or unable to read the room most of the pieces were in the collection. Walmart, Hot Topic, Spencer’s, and more received similar critiques.

While publicly supporting the LGBTQIA2S+ community is important, and donations to charities and organizations are a plus, buying from these Pride collections only further lines the pockets of the abovementioned brands and corporations who may or may not be helping the LGBTQIA2S+ community year-round. These brands might seem like they’re putting their money where their mouth is to support the LGBTQIA2S+ community, but their actions elsewhere prove otherwise.

According to GLAAD, more than “40% of lesbian, gay and bisexual people and almost 90% of transgender people have experienced employment discrimination.” These stats are extremely high and show why companies have to do more than change their logo in June. If the above brands and corporations genuinely support the LGBTQIA2S+ community, then they will make sure they’re paying their workers’ respectable wages, offering healthcare and benefits, creating a healthy work environment for everyone, and fighting against discrimination with proper training and policies.

Wired’s Justice Namaste argues rainbow capitalism and “rainbow-washing allow people, governments, and corporations that don’t do tangible work to support LGBTQ+ communities at any other time during the year to slap a rainbow on top of something in the month of June and call it allyship.” Wired’s Emma Grey Ellis adds, “A decent share of these corporations could take another lesson in allyship. Being an ally is like being a wingman: If you make it about you, you’re doing it wrong!”

No one is saying brands shouldn’t support the LGBTQIA2S+ community. Discrimination and hate crimes still happen today, and brands publicly standing with the community are important. But solidarity needs to happen year-round and in acknowledgment of intersectionality. Brands need to realize rainbow capitalism isn’t always doing the most good, since most of the profits do not reach the bank accounts of members of the LGBTQIA2S+ community.

This is why it’s better to bypass most Pride collections and instead shop straight from local and small businesses owned by members of the LGBTQIA2S+ community. Big-name brands and corporations could have done this by hiring artists, designers, and creatives from the LGBTQIA2S+ community to design their collections or sell their merch in-store.

Rainbow capitalism comes down to the fact that many corporations benefit socially and economically from Pride merchandise and branding. Historically, Pride has been about protests, rights, and liberation. Unfortunately, there is still much to protest in order to achieve rights and liberation for many groups in the LGBTQIA2S+ community. The Human Rights Campaign called 2021 the “worst year in recent history for LGBTQ state legislative attacks,” with transgender people targeted by more than 100 bills introduced in 33 states in the United States.f In addition, there are still 14 countries around the world that criminalize transgender people. How are Pride-celebrating companies working to oppose this legislation?

While Pride is a celebration, there is still much work to be done globally to help liberate the LGBTQIA2S+ community. Rainbow capitalism isn’t the solution.

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Science Now + Beyond

It’s time to do away with daylight saving time and here’s why

In March, many countries, especially in the Northern Hemisphere, bumped their clocks an hour ahead, effectively signaling the entrance into warmer weather. For most of my life, I remained ignorantly unaware of the concept of daylight saving until my teens. Having grown up in the tropics, imagine my befuddlement experiencing daylight saving for the first time when I arrived in Toronto, where I went to university. I couldn’t fathom what, exactly, was the point in meddling with clocks, when the only thing that changed was the amount of daylight received based on the shifting seasons (which were marginal at best, considering the extended months of Canadian winters).

The popular, oft-touted reason we commonly hear behind daylight saving time (DST) is that of energy conservation. Logically, having an extra hour of daylight means one hour less electrical usage for lighting. However, it turns out that DST is far more concerned with exploitation than conservation. To understand this, I peered into the history of when DST actually entered mainstream discourse leading to its eventual application.

There are many stories connected to its origins, but DST most likely had to do with the surge in railway trade in post-Industrial Revolution Britain. Operating a railway business necessitated the adoption of standard time to eliminate scheduling conflicts and delivery confusion since clocks in each city were still arbitrarily set according to the sun at the time. Not one to be outdone, its counterpart in the United States and Canada soon followed suit, dividing North America into four time zones to streamline services. It wasn’t until the campaign of British builder William Willett in the early 1900s that DST’s popularity was fanned among legislators, backed by the likes of Sherlock Holmes’ author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Winston Churchill, the then-president of the Board of Trade, despite facing opposition from scientists and farmers. 

Daylight Savings is far more concerned with exploitation than conservation.

Contrary to the myth you may have heard, DST was never introduced to aid farmers. In fact, the opposite was actually true. Farmers were frequently behind aggressive lobbies against DST as it interfered with their schedule. The loss of morning light hampered their routine of getting farm produce to the market, and livestock too did not cope well. So, an industry that actually relied on natural light and labor from the working class was forced to change in order to accommodate the advancement of production chains in more profitable sectors. 

In a consumption-driven economy, DST is inextricably linked to capitalistic impulses to institutionalize time for profit. 

But wait, it only gets messier from here. It’s bad enough that DST’s provenance can be traced to railway industrialization by colonialist forces upheld by a system of indentured labor and servitudesowing the seeds for anti-immigrant violence that we see todayimperial warfare became the primary reason for its adoption. Germany and Austria became the first nations to dally with one-hour clock shifts in 1916 during World War I to save wartime fuel, followed shortly by Great Britain and the U.S. when they entered a war that caused 40 million casualties. Thereafter the adoption of DST varied according to countries and localities, causing further mishaps. A major trainwreck in France happened due to confusion in clock change, and at one point, 23 different pairs of DST start and end dates in Iowa were recorded in a single year. Given the bloody history and inconvenience of bumping clocks, it is little wonder that more countries are scrapping it altogether, or considering its abolishment.

So who profits off of DST? Some of the largest beneficiaries include industries such as retail, oil and gas, and even golf. When you have more daylight after work, you’ll tend to spend more money on leisure. These businesses shrewdly saw this spending trend decades ago, and have since accrued tens of billions of dollars in sales. In a consumption-driven economy, DST is inextricably linked to capitalistic impulses to institutionalize time for profit. 

While these industries thrive, workers’ conditions across the world remain precarious, more so with the added strain of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Many are being overworked and underpaid with no social safety net. The crisis has left women and lower-income groups vulnerable, furthering global inequality. The impact of DST time change on workers’ health is extensive and well-studied, leading to upticks in cardiovascular diseases, workplace injury, even pregnancy and childbirth complications due to sleep issues stemming from disruptions in circadian clocks. 

Certainly, we’d all have to gain more with an extra hour of sleep in the morning. Unfortunately, we live in a system that prioritizes maximizing profit from labor that cancels out our collective wellness, which is especially needed at the moment. A year into the pandemic, we’ve had enough of work and personal hours getting mixed up, virtual schooling, Zoom fatigue, and the unceasing demands for productivity to pretend as if all is well when we’re surrounded by death and illness daily. Our psychological time has been severely distorted by the pandemic. There is no need to exacerbate this confusion further with a time change that is detrimental to us when our experience of temporality has been warped by collective trauma. 

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Culture Family Life

How oppressive life expectations continues to burden my twenties

I was six-years-old the first time someone asked me what I wanted to be in life. I still remember my answer. I want to be a fairy-princess bus driver, I responded. Notably, I said that with full confidence, and of course I earned some laughs; but what was I supposed to say? A data scientist? I didn’t know any better. All I knew was that I liked fairies and princesses and all the bus drivers I had ever met back then were lovely. So, I just combined them all. However, I was told by the adults around me that my intelligence was far beyond aspiring to be a mythical being or an “ordinary” bus driver. I could be anything, they said. 

And that definitely stressed me out. 

I began to stress because I started to internalize how there was always so much expected from me at a young age. Though, the inclination of my future career endeavors mostly came from my extended family members rather than my parents. My sharp tongue was apparently unusual for a girl to have in Bangladeshi culture, so I was suddenly destined to become the family lawyer, according to members of my family.

At the same time, I was also really good at art, so they suggested I should become an architect. But how could I forget to mention my love of technology, which led to everyone believing I would be the first female engineer in the family. To sum up my point, there were a lot of expectations pinned on me and it was not enjoyable being on the receiving end of other people’s projections. Especially while combining all the impossible expectations I already had for myself. 

After realizing that a fairy-princess bus driver was not quite a plausible career path, I started looking into other options. I’ve always loved fashion. Even now, I would love to be a fashion designer. That dream diminished, however, when my weight was pointed out by those whose counsel and advice I sought out regarding how to make my dream a reality as well as how difficult it is to join the industry without the proper funds. 

So, I changed career projections again. When I was eight, I then realized my love for writing and wanted to become a journalist. But I quickly went through another change of career option when I found that I did, in fact, want to be an engineer. I loved machines, whether it was taking them apart or learning the inner mechanics of how they worked. I adored learning about machines, just not science- the very lessons I needed to take on engineering at a degree level.

What did I want to be next? Well, I’m an artsy soul; in turn, I wanted to be a graphic designer. I did graphic design at A-Level and enjoyed it very much. Although, what I didn’t enjoy was my graphics teacher who would constantly put me down for my preferred style of art by calling it “gothic” and “outdated.” All of which, brought me back to my love of writing, the one thing that has never failed me. I went to a university to receive a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing and an MA in International Journalism.

However, what differing career burdens mimicked from childhood haunt me into adulthood? Finding a job. 

I’m more than aware that being an intelligible young girl came as a shock to many members of my extended family who never, unfortunately, had the chance to complete their education. Perhaps that is the reason they pinned all their hopes and dreams onto me. However, I somewhat feel like I missed out on various aspects of my childhood because I was too busy trying to find what could make me become the “greatest” or “most accomplished” kid in the family.

What’s worse is that I can feel the repetition from my childhood of trying to choose a solid and lucrative career path happening in my twenties. And while I should now be having fun trying to figure life out, most days I stay away from friends and family, applying to job after job and slipping deeper into anxiety. I also know I’m not the only one who feels like this. A friend I have, who is around 3-years older than me, is going through the same thing I am. One of my acquaintances is stuck in a job she doesn’t enjoy simply because it pays the bills.

I can’t speak for other cultures, but here’s what I know about Bangladeshi culture: girls, particularly ambitious ones, must have their lives sorted out by 25 with a job, orderly finances, and assets, etc. After that, according to our elders, we get old and no man will ever want us. I’ve heard people use ‘expiry date’ when a woman ages because she faces the possibility of being less fertile. What on earth is a woman without a family? Well, every bit still a woman.

The non-progressive Bangladeshi mentality pushes women to have achieved everything they must in order to be successful by their mid-twenties, so they can spend the rest of their lives pleasing their spouse and his family. So many of us spend so much time and energy worrying about how time is slipping through our fingertips. As a result, the vast majority of us then feel as though our twenties were just a blur of tears and failure.  

Although my parents do not push me to live with these oppressive life burdens, I can’t help but feel the pressure radiating off of my extended family members. Even my friends sometimes voice their concerns for me and my future projections in life. Sadly, even though I am not physically forced to stay in this trap of life insecurity at such a young age, I remain here as a part of the tradition.

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Books Pop Culture

How “The Clique” novels taught me the importance of eating the rich

The ambiguous “they” say not to judge a book by its cover, but that’s exactly what I did when I first came across Lisi Harrison’s The Clique series in my middle school library. At the time I just thought the girls on the cover (of what was actually the third book, Revenge of the Wannabes) looked pretty. A decade later, I view that otherwise unmemorable afternoon as the start of a journey that radicalized me. No, unfortunately not regarding the inanity of Eurocentric beauty standards (we’ll save that story for later) – but rather on the excesses of capitalism and the power of a PalmPilot gone unchecked.

As a quick primer, The Clique focuses on the ultra-rich and glamorous Massie Block and her equally wealthy friends, dubbed the “Pretty Committee.” Massie, the queen of the all-girls Octavian Country Day, seemingly has it all — an endless collection of credit cards and designer bags, a cute pug named Bean, and the affection of the hot guys at OCD’s all-boys counterpart, Briarwood. The only thing standing in her way to continued total domination of the 7th grade is the arrival of the shy and naive Claire Lyons and her family, who move into the Block family’s guest house as they get set up in Westchester.

It’s possible to read through the 14 books (and 5 bonus novellas!) and come away with nothing but a feeling of mild disgust. At first glance, the series does read as just Gossip Girl For The Youths. But, digging deeper into the absurd, excruciatingly detailed depictions of the ultra-rich girls and their complicated middle school friendship dynamic – based on Harrison’s own experiences at MTV, I’ve realized the brilliance of Harrison’s subtle manifesto.

For starters, The Clique taught me that power corrupts. Take Alicia Rivera, the eternal “beta” to Massie’s “alpha.” Alicia doesn’t appreciate how good she has it, with all of the benefits of being at the top of Massie’s inner circle and none of the responsibilities of running an empire. Instead, she desperately wants more influence and tries on multiple occasions to dethrone Massie, only to let her ego get in the way. She finally becomes an alpha after Massie’s departure to London, but not before spending several hundred pages proving that you can be the hottest girl in school and still be completely ugly.

[Image Description: 4 girls lie down on their backs with their heads on pillows in a circle at a slumber party]. From The Clique movie / Alloy Entertainment.
[Image Description: 4 girls lie down on their backs with their heads on pillows in a circle at a slumber party]. From The Clique movie / Alloy Entertainment.

The Clique’s most convincing call to arms, however, comes in the form of Claire Lyons. Claire, one of the only explicitly lower-income characters in the series, begins as an outcast mocked by Massie. But over the two years the series spans, Claire repeatedly turns the tables on Massie and beats her at her own game by accidentally stealing the heart of Massie’s first real crush, beating her out for the starring role in a movie, and even planting fake bedbugs in Massie’s bed so the Blocks have to fumigate their house. Claire learns to read and capitalize on her enemy’s weaknesses and there are certainly times where she fights dirty, but she never loses sight of who she is at heart.

Massie is eventually forced to recognize her true power, but even when she’s accepted into the Pretty Committee, Claire continues to eat with her “Loser Beyond Repair” best friend, Layne Abeley. She sees through the posturing of middle school social dynamics and brings truth to power. In doing so, she breaks the oppressive iron grip of the Pretty Committee from the inside. My one critique of Claire is that she’s a reformist, not abolitionist, but I trust she gets there in high school and beyond.

I like to think that I learned about as much about class warfare from The Clique as I did in my introductory sociology classes. Rereading (and literally laughing out loud at) the books as I’m home during the pandemic, I recognize how much I’ve used what I learned, first as a girl from rural Wisconsin at a fancy private white university, and now as a Desi woman who did not come from generational wealth and who started in community organizing, but somehow landed in corporate America.

I still pull on the lessons on how to talk like a rich person – and all the brand names – that I learned from The Clique when I talk to certain coworkers at the coffee station. But even more so, I pull on the reminders that it’s all BS. No matter how many microaggressions I face, I am reminded that arbitrary flexes of social status and wealth, and the power structures that amplify them – whether they’re traditional capitalist institutions or the Pretty Committee – are really all just waiting for a Claire Lyons to tear them down, start society anew, and spread the wealth.

Harrison is no Marx but there’s definitely a socialist reading of The Clique that I’m 100% willing to believe actually makes this pre-teen chick-lit series a truly revolutionary text. I will not rest until it’s made into a full Netflix Original Series. Until then, I’ll be happily rereading this gutsy manifesto about my problematic eternal faves.

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Race Money Now + Beyond

The origins of tipping at American restaurants are rooted in racism

In the United States, it’s a common custom within the service and hospitality industry to tip waged workers. The federal minimum wage for tipped workers in the US is $2.13, compared to the main federal minimum wage which is $7.25, and has remained just short of two dollars for many decades.

People have been critical of the exploitative practice of tipping for years. The critiques mostly surround corporations utilization of tipping to legally get away with paying their workers an unlivable wageEssentially, customers are responsible for paying restaurant worker’s wages through tips.

And although tipping is optional, many Americans view not tipping service workers as rude or unethical due to their low wages. The other spectrum of people’s critiques simply highlights how grossly low and unethical paying individuals $2.13 is.

Restaurant workers are more likely to live below the poverty line than the general population, and that likelihood increases depending on things like race and gender. Activists have been trying to raise the minimum wage for hourly workers for decades. The Raise the Wage Act, which would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, would additionally raise the minimum wage for tipped workers for the first time in almost three decades.

American capitalism makes our economy inherently unethical and predatory.

The stagnation of wages for tipped workers is itself abhorrent and a clear illustration of how predatory capitalism is on lower-income and working-class people. Workers’ wages being reliant upon (optional) tips from customers, rather than a guaranteed right from million or billion-dollar corporations is unethical. However, upon an even deeper examination into the custom of tipping in the US, its history is more corrupt than most know. 

Tipping actually originated in “medieval times as a master-serf custom wherein a servant would receive extra money for having performed superbly well,” Rachel E. Greenspan explains in an article for TIME. In the mid-1800s, wealthy Americans discovered the concept of tipping after travels to Europe and brought the custom to the states in order to seem dignified and well-traveled. 

The custom stuck in the Post Reconstruction Era, after slavery “ended,” as a way to opt-out of paying Black people who were now looking for work. Restaurants would pay Black workers little to nothing and forced them to rely on (optional) tips from white clientele, which “entrenched a unique and often racialized class structure in service jobs, in which [Black] workers must please both customer and employer to earn anything at all,” says Dr William J. Barber II in an article for Politico. Thus, legally continuing the practice of slavery but in a re-imagined way.

The custom was nationally unpopular for a while and only a custom done in the South because many people felt forcing customers to tip was condescending and classist. People thought it cruel to suggest poor people should give an additional amount of money on top of their bill. As a result, some states even made laws against the practice.

Additionally, tipping was thought to be a concept reserved only for Black workers, whereas white workers deserved to be fairly paid for their work. However, as Black people began moving north for economic opportunity and to escape segregationist laws, the custom of tipping followed, becoming the national standard within the US’s restaurant industry.

It’s imperative to know the history behind malpractices deemed as “normal.”

Fast forward to today, conversations (or arguments) surrounding the ethics of tipping at American restaurants occur often on social media between wait staff and restaurant workers and restaurant-goers. I’ve always found these discussions to be futile because the ethics of greedy corporations are never questioned, which in turn produces no real, systemic change for waged workers.

Rev. Dr William J. Barber II further states in his article, “We may live in a very different society from 150 years ago, but the subminimum tipped wage still exacerbates the inequalities passed down from that time.”

American capitalism makes our economy inherently unethical and predatory. So, rather than people regularly arguing amongst each other on whether working-class people are responsible for paying the wages of other working-class people, we should be collectively challenging our government to pay us livable wages.

Although the history of tipping in America is racist, raising the federal minimum wage benefits all working-class people regardless of race. Thankfully, an organization of restaurant industry leaders called Restaurants Advancing Industry Standards in Employment (RAISE) was founded in 2019 to champion living wages, basic benefits, and fair promotion policies for waged workers in the restaurant industry.

In addition, wages for hourly workers reliant on tips are being raised in isolated policies across the states like in Michigan or Washington DC. However, there obviously needs to be a national standard that correlates with the cost of living in America.

With racism being examined so closely this year, it’s imperative to know the history behind malpractices deemed as “normal.” And instead, challenge or dismantle those norms to begin building an economy that equally serves all.

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USA Media Watch Tech The World

Here’s why you should be worried about Muslim Pro’s alleged privacy breach

The Tempest Exclusive series Media Watch investigates and introspects on the intricacies of free speech around the world, right from The Tempest newsroom.

This week, in an all-new episode of “get your private information stolen by a tech giant”, was Muslim Pro’s scandal of indirectly selling user data to the US military intelligence and counterterrorism unit.

Muslim Pro is a comprehensive religious app, boasting about 100 million downloads across 216 countries, dubbing itself as the “most popular Muslim app” on its website. It features religious content, ranging from the direction of Mecca which Muslims pray facing, to audio versions of the Quran. So how did a seemingly innocent app, aiming to reinforce Islamic values, become a pawn of state surveillance?

According to a riveting expose published by Vice, Muslim Pro seems to have allegedly handed off sensitive location data to a third-party data broker, X-Mode. Such brokers typically auction off data to contractors, who in turn sell it to buyers. And apparently, the buyers could also be the US military.

How did a seemingly innocent app, aiming to reinforce Islamic values, become a pawn of state surveillance?

Due to non-disclosure agreements at play, X-Mode refused to identify the specific contractors they were disseminating information to. But they did confirm that the international contractors are focused on three types of cases: counter-terrorism, cybersecurity, and predicting future COVID-19 hotspots. In a recent interview with CNN, the company’s CEO Joshua Anton revealed that the company tracks 25 million devices inside the United States every month, and 40 million elsewhere, including in the European Union, Latin America, and the Asia-Pacific region.

However, just a day after the fiasco unfolded on social media, with many angry users expressing their apprehension, Muslim Pro’s team sent out a press release on Twitter clarifying that the “media reports circulating” were “incorrect and untrue”. In the same statement published, they also claimed that they have “terminated relationships with all data partners” especially their four-week-long liaison with X-Mode.

In their defense, Muslim Pro also clarified that “every single feature of the app is available without signing up or logging in” which contributed to the “anonymity”. And the greatest selling point, of course, is that it is free.

But remember: “if you’re not paying for a product online, you are the product.” These words from the 2020 Netflix documentary, The Social Network, could not be truer in the case at hand. Our naïve illusion of a tech ecosystem where we are the willful consumers, and the app or the network is the product needs to be shattered. Many skeptics have long pointed out that users and our experiences are actually the product of these apps. The consumer or buyer for this “product”, you might wonder? Giant corporations and state organizations.

Harvard Professor Zuboff, who coined the term “surveillance capitalism”, suggests that our private information is far more derogatory than a product: it is simply the raw material or the input for a future product. And this commodification of human experiences, feelings, emotions, and desires is conveniently euphemized as “data” to cushion the blow on the terms and agreements page. An average layman, with little tech literacy, is overwhelmed by such legal jargon and cannot be fully cognizant of the repercussions of letting their data be accessed. So we all become victims of this so-called “transparent agreement”.

An interesting tweet in response to the issue stated: “True, apps have long been selling users’ data to third parties since the discovery of smartphones. However, in Muslim Pro’s case, which is patronized by millions of the very people who are most vulnerable to be cataloged as terrorists, the betrayal seems to be far deeper.”

We all become victims of this so-called “transparent agreement”.

And rightly so, though the extraction of data for advertising has been the oldest trick in the tech trade, here it is exacerbating vulnerability for a particular religious community. Here, the unilateral and non-consensual extraction of data has far more grave repercussions: the US military can use location-sensitive data to accurately target drone strikes.

It is one thing for algorithms to generate attractive advertisements on your Instagram based on your Google searches (we’ve all been subjected to the sorcery of Artificial Intelligence, haven’t we?) But it is an entirely different affair for technology to assist state security, in particular, the U.S. Special Operations Command, a branch of the military tasked with counterterrorism that became the key beneficiary of this “leak”.

Muslim Pro has promised to “launch an internal investigation”. But this was just another in line with multiple major privacy breaches in the past few years. The Cambridge Analytica scandal, for instance, revealed the hideous truth about Facebook’s new realm of power and its capability of contorting the organic human experience. One might be compelled to wonder: are these isolated incidents or are they glimpses into the dark underbelly of the tech world?

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History History of Fashion Ancient Practices

The evolution of Halloween costumes: how did we go from eerie spirits to Wonder Woman?

In the spirit for more spooky stories? Check out our Halloween series here!

Thinking of ideas for who you want to impersonate this Halloween? Or, thinking of how much you want to spend on a costume for a night out, a parade or a party? Think $87 dollars. Well, that is the amount The National Retail Federation estimated each American was willing to spend per outfit last year. That makes up for a whopping $3.2 billion on Halloween costumes in total. So where did this creepy appeal of Halloween originate from? The festive occasion finds its roots in some sinister antiquity. And this is how an ancient pagan festival transformed into a multi-billion dollar industry.

The purpose of Halloween costumes was not originally to channel your inner Catwoman or sexy nurse

The festival could be traced back to the pre-Christian era. Halloween, then known as Hallow’s eve, was a Celtic tradition of the Samhain which lived on earth about 2000 years ago. It was the eve demarcating summer from winter. And the arrival of the “darker months” was said to begin with spirits and ghosts visiting the earth. It was the eve when the paranormal and the mortal realms overlapped. With these two worlds colliding, it was important for humans to camouflage as supernatural beings. 

Hence, the first Halloween costume ever worn was not for decorative or festive purposes, but was actually for protection. So, the Samhain wore animal heads and skin on their own to disguise themselves. They painted their faces and wore blurry silhouettes. It was thought that this would also give them a chance to connect with their lost ancestors. 

Angels and Demons. Fairies and Witches.  

[Image Description: Photo taken in 1905 of a person wearing a ghost costume in a rural schoolhouse. Credit: Historic Photo Archive/Getty Images.] via CNN
With the advent of Christianity, there was a need to erase Pagan rites and rituals. But old traditions die hard. Eventually, the influx of Christian values merged with existing Pagan traditions. 

So the costumes were now eschewed by Biblical terms. Animal heads and skin paved the path for people dressing up in all forms of Biblical binaries: angels and demons, saints, and the devil.

So basically Halloween became a religious event. Even what we know as trick or treat today had a religious connotation to it. People would go door to door chanting verses in exchange for baked goodies. 

Americanizing Halloween costumes 

The infamous Irish potato famine in the 18th century resulted in the diaspora of the Irish community to the New World. With this, came the import of Irish traditions. They brought with them superstitions, myths, and of course, costumes. And Americans, especially the rural population, loved it. And who wouldn’t? Finally enjoying anonymity through costumes along with leisure and pleasure after decades of Puritanical domination must have been liberating.

But still, one thing remained consistent: though the purpose of costumes was now ornamental, the look remained the same – scary and frightening. The masquerades and town events held in the 19th century still revolved around the same theme: death masks, white sheets, and an obsession with the grotesque and gory. The costumes, of course, were still homemade. 

Hollywood, pop culture and fandom

[Image Description: Elvis Presley (left) opts for a subtle Halloween costume, wearing only a mask to a party in 1957.] via Getty Images
Through the 19th century, the costumes detached even more from the original context. The festival was secularized. Capitalism took over. And, the Industrial Revolution allowed for the costumes to be commercially produced. An entire industry for costumes now began to emerge. 

Enter Hollywood. Many pop-culture figures were now fair game to dress up as. And this allowed people a chance to express their fandom. Thanks to horror movie marketing, there were more and more pop culture horror icons such as Frankenstein and Scream which became popular costume choices. But as the case with mass-produced products always is, there were fewer DIY costumes. 

With the sexual revolution of the 1970s, sensual costumes were all the rage. And this gave birth to the sultry witches, the Wonder Woman, and the Medusa, an all-new Halloween aesthetic. 

This was also around the time when the queer community was facing vulnerability due to homophobic violence and Halloween proved to be one occasion which allowed fluidity: of gender, sexuality, and costumes. It was then that Halloween became an explosion of booze, glitter, music, and dynamically experimental costumes, particularly in San Francisco. This was true only for America, where Halloween costumes became the physical space where gender politics could be negotiated. In many other parts of the world, Halloween costumes remain predominantly spooky to this day.

[Image Description: A woman wearing a black costume for Halloween. She is holding a skull which is acting as an accessory.] via Unsplash
Over time, the (all-American) frivolity of Halloween also resulted in some problematic transgressions. This obsession with dressing up as something you consider “exotic” could be a form of cultural appropriation. Remember Justin Trudeau’s blackface moment? Well, such stereotypical representations have often come up. In the past years, Caitlyn Jenner costumes have popped up at several retailers along with some native American headgear. Considering these transphobic and racist costumes, just shows how exploitative the industry can sometimes be. 

So this Halloween make sure your costume does not offend anyone. 

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Culture Travel Life

Why Kolkata should be on your travel bucket list

You have heard about Delhi, Bombay (Mumbai) and Bangalore, but my home town (not a town but a metropolitan city) is rarely talked about. It’s a wonderful, fragrant, nostalgic, beautiful place with colonial heritage – it is a city that bleeds revolution. The City of Joy, the city of ‘roshogolla’ and ‘mishti doi‘ (two famous Calcuttan sweets), the city of poetry and literature, of orators and socialists and revolutionaries, the love of my life, the city of Kolkata has my heart.

A picture of the Indian museum.
[Image description: A picture of the Indian museum.] Via Wikimedia Commons on Google images
Not only is Kolkata homely, beautiful, and romantic, it is also the cultural capital of the country. Before Delhi was declared the capital of India, Calcutta (Kolkata) served as the capital of the British Empire. Thus, it still bears colonial roots and influences. From the Howrah Bridge to the Victoria Memorial, from S.S. Hogg Market to the Indian Museum (the oldest and largest museum of the country), Kolkata is a wonder to behold. Catch a ride from Ahiritola Launch Ghat to Salkia (a small part of Howrah). Visit College Street, a book lover’s paradise, which is also the world’s second-largest second-hand book market. Take a ride on the beautiful trams, because Kolkata is the only city in the world where you can get a tram-ride with a view of the effervescent sunset right around Howrah Bridge.

A picture of Vidyasagar Setu or the Second Hoogly Bridge
[Image description: A picture of Vidyasagar Setu or the Second Hoogly Bridge.] Via PDPics on Pixabay
Kolkata is home to five noble laureates and is the cultural breeding ground for theater, dance, music, cricket, and wonderful Bengali movies. It is also high-key obsessed with rock music (where most Bengali teenagers are either listening to Kurt Cobain or Brian May), literature and philosophy, and a lot of food.

Calcuttan cuisine is diverse and delectable, with food ranging from ‘daab chingri’ (shrimp cooked with tender coconut), ‘ilish bhapa’ (hilsa fish cooked in a mustard curry) and ‘kosha mangsho’ (slow cooked mutton). You will find yellow taxicabs everywhere, and be greeted with ‘autorickshaws’ driven by the hardest working men.

A picture of a yellow taxicab, famously found in Kolkata
[Image description: A picture of a yellow taxicab, famously found in Kolkata] Via Arindam Saha on Unsplash
Our Durga Puja, the festival to celebrate the Goddess Durga’s arrival to mother Earth, decks the city in the most varying lights for a period of four days. There’s idol worship that brings everyone together to the rhythms of the dhak, a membranophone instrument indigenous to India. Christmas celebrations light up Park Street in color, and the city goes crazy as everybody comes together in Allen Park to celebrate the 25th of December and usher in New Year. Eid celebrations entail everyone making delicious biriyanis and exchanging gifts.

A picture of 'shidur khela', a celebration with vermilion in the last day of Durga Puja.
[Image description: A picture of ‘shidur khela’, a celebration with vermilion in the last day of Durga Puja. ] Via Debasish Poddar
There is beauty in every step in the varied Bengali culture. From “adda” and para culture, a form of interaction where everyone in their community sits down at least once a week to catch up on politics, sports, literature and pop culture, to homely North Kolkata streets where one can buy spicy food from local vendors. The mystical elitist nature of humans who truly are proud of their heritage will surprise you.

You can shop for exquisite jewels at the cheapest price from New Market, and have romantic outings in cute coffee shops in South Kolkata. The pangs, anxieties, love, thrills, delusions of the species that brags about how many phuchkas (deep-fried hollow crepes filled with spicy potatoes and tamarind water) they can stuff into their mouths, are also incredibly proud of the blood that won them freedom.

Our city celebrates Kali and Durga, female deities so badass they slew demons and are worshipped for it. From Kalighat to Dakshineswar, spirituality floats among the romantic hauntings of the city, breathing life into everyone. A breeding ground for utter contempt of mere commerce, a city that is the heart and soul of every Bengali, a perfect marriage of heritage of Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and everybody else, one seems to always take back a piece of this city wherever you go.

Kolkata is a passionate city, a city that has the Eden Gardens (just a stadium but it is heaven enough for us). So pack your bags, once it is safe to travel again, and visit the wonder that is Kolkata. Rabindranath Tagore (who is the first Asian Nobel Laureate and the first love of my life who inspired me with his songs and poetry) and Subhash Chandra Bose (the socialist freedom fighter who taught me revolution) will charm you.

Outfits Office Lookbook

$300 suits should no longer be the standard of professional attire

The first time I had a professional interview was in October of last year. I was applying to be a part of a scholars program at my university, and knowing the program was both prestigious and competitive, I was incredibly stressed about what to wear. But a lot of things went wrong on the day of my interview.

I’d hurt my ankle so I couldn’t wear my heels, the only professional shoes I had with me at the time. It was raining so I chose to not wear my blazer because I didn’t want to risk ruining it. So I went to my interview in a semi-professional blouse, black pants, and floral flats. Not ideal, but my roommate said I looked fine so I didn’t give it a second thought.

I went to my interview, answered every question to the best of my ability, made the interviewers laugh, and walked out feeling great. Then I saw the next candidate to be interviewed, dressed in a crisp pencil skirt, heels, and a fitted blazer. I felt so small and my mind flooded with doubts.

“She’s clearly more qualified for this than me.”

Why did I think that? I’d only seen her for a few seconds. Was her outfit really enough to shake my confidence?

But the fact of the matter is, I know how deeply appearance is valued in the professional sphere, and I believe the extent to which it’s considered, is not okay.

When people go for job interviews, it’s not uncommon for them to cover up any exposed tattoos and to take out unconventional piercings, such as any nose or facial piercings.

For most companies, if you show up to an interview in a t-shirt and jeans, you’re not getting the job. If you show up to work in leggings, you’re getting in trouble.

Most companies have dress codes that are intended to maintain a “professional atmosphere”. Even ones that are more lenient draw the line of professionalism at some point.

To be honest, I understand the argument for professional clothing. Some people believe that establishing standards of professionalism is an important part of an effective and successful working environment.

But I can’t find it in myself to support it. The culture of professional appearance is really nothing more than another tool of capitalism and white supremacy.

Just take a look at the cost of professional attire in the United States. High-quality suits can cost up to one thousand dollars. If you’re on a budget, you can get an acceptable suit for about three hundred dollars, but to a lot of people that doesn’t make their situation any better.

Just the high cost of professional attire shows how inaccessible it can be for some people. Essentially, having money is a prerequisite to even engaging with professional environments in the first

But professional standards of appearance are exclusive in other ways too. Take tattoos as an example.

A while ago, my sister and I were discussing getting tattoos to which my mom replied, “Go ahead if you never want a job.”

It was harsh, but not that far from reality.

Over 45 million people have tattoos in the US. While the stigma around tattoos is definitely being alleviated socially, professional culture still frowns on them.

Research shows that around 42% of people believe that visible tattoos are unprofessional in the workplace. That view becomes increasingly lenient among younger responders, which is definitely a sign of progress.

But tattoos really shouldn’t be an indicator of professionalism at all. To many people, their tattoos carry deep personal significance, and as such, they shouldn’t be forced to cover them up. They especially shouldn’t miss out on career opportunities because they have exposed tattoos.

Even piercings, which are easily removable and more common, put wearers at a disadvantage.

I’m not saying that we should be rid of professional clothes forever, or that we should never wear suits and heels again. What I am saying is that standards of professional attire, as they currently are, discriminate against less privileged individuals. Tattoos and piercings don’t affect a person’s ability to work at all, so why are they an obstacle in professional culture?

Many more companies have started to embrace casual dress codes, but it’s undeniable that the culture of professionalism still runs deep.

As we strive towards a more equal world, avoiding the denial of opportunity based on a person’s physical appearance will be crucial. A tattoo or a piercing should never stop someone from professional advancement. Let’s stop the judgment and instead celebrate people taking control of their bodies and their appearances.


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Editor's Picks Race Inequality

South Asians have been guilty of anti-Blackness for so long – it’s time we question our own selves

In late May, the nation erupted in protest as every state in the country and countries around the world opposed the brutal murder of George Floyd and the system that enabled it to happen.

While many celebrities have been beacons of hope, others have exposed themselves as performative allies, jumping on the racial justice bandwagon only when it became trendy and convenient for them. As an Indian immigrant, I am particularly disturbed by the hypocrisy in the responses to Floyd’s death from my South Asian friends and Indian celebrities.

Priyanka Chopra Jonas, for instance, a Bollywood and Hollywood actor, posted on her Instagram in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Later her husband, Nick Jonas, tweeted out that they both were distressed by the events and had donated significantly to the ACLU. On the surface, the actor’s post was nothing more than a generous post from a prominent figure.

However, if we delve into Chopra Jonas’s history, an unmistakable pattern of ignorance and discrimination emerges: Chopra Jonas has always supported the far-right Modi government, which is directly tied to racist, casteist, and Islamophobic violence. In addition to being complicit in this oppressive regime, Chopra Jonas openly praised the Indian Army in a tweet that came right after the Indian government ordered a retaliatory airstrike against Pakistan.

In 2019, a Pakistani-American beauty influencer, Ayesha Malik, confronted Chopra Jonas about the ignorance of her tweet at Beautycon. Chopra Jonas belittled Malik, implying she was “venting” (and thus playing into the trope of the hysterical woman) and saying “Girl, don’t yell at me.” All this happened as guards seized the microphone from Malik and dragged her away. It’s also worth noting that Chopra Jonas is no ordinary celebrity. She’s a UNICEF ambassador. Someone who is supposedly supposed to advocate for justice everywhere, not just when it benefits them.

Colorism has long been ingrained in South Asian society, leading to overt discrimination against darker-skinned individuals

Chopra Jonas’s statements do not exist in a vacuum. Rather they are indicative of a much larger issue of systemic discrimination in South Asian communities. For example, fairness creams are an incredibly lucrative business that exploits and weaponizes India’s obsession with fairness. Chopra-Jonas is just one of several South Asian celebrities who have endorsed fairness creams and in doing so, perpetuated racist and colorist standards. Others include Sonam Kapoor, Disha Patani, and Deepika Padukone.

As a child, family members would tell me not to play in the sun, to take exceptionally good care of my skin. All these messages reinforced to me that, ultimately, fair was lovely; dark was ugly. My experience is not isolated.

Colorism has long been ingrained in South Asian society, leading to overt discrimination against darker-skinned individuals. Tarun Vijay, a politician of the Bharatiya Janata Party, once claimed that Indians can’t be racist because they’ve lived with South Indians for so long. South Indians are often darker-skinned than many North Indians. All this to say, South Asians are obsessed with color, infatuated with light skin, set upon pedestalizing and aspiring to whiteness.

South Asians in the US largely subscribe to the model minority myth, a uniquely manipulative tool of white supremacy.

This aspiration towards whiteness goes further than just skin-deep fairness creams. South Asians in the US largely subscribe to the model minority myth, a uniquely manipulative tool of white supremacy. The model minority myth depicts Asian Americans as hard-working, intelligent, and highly productive members of society — and, most sinisterly, pits them against Black people, who the myth portrays as the opposite. Neither of these images is true, and falsely present both Asian and Black Americans as monolithic groups. The truth about the model minority myth is that it is solely a tool of white capitalism intended to blame the oppression of Black people on their own ostensible shortcomings (the “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” fallacy that ignores systemic racism and institutional oppression) while ignoring the root of their disadvantages.

Of course, this all happens as the South Asian community continues to exploit Black culture for our own entertainment. Young South Asians are avid consumers of Black music and culture. South Asian figures such as Lilly Singh routinely exploit Blackness for their own profit.

Clearly, I’m not saying don’t listen to or support Black artists (far from it!). But I am saying that the pattern of appropriating Blackness while simultaneously endorsing explicitly anti-Black ideologies is a prime example of both racism and hypocrisy. We can’t love Black culture and oppress Black people at the same time.

We can’t love Black culture and oppress Black people at the same time.

While discussing the issue of anti-Blackness in South Asian communities with others, dangerous rhetoric about the merits of the model minority myth and disturbing colorist remarks have shown up, which raises an important question. How can one be pro-Black and pro-Black Lives Matter while also maintaining these inherently anti-Black ideas? Oftentimes South Asians are unaware of their own internal biases. We’ve been raised in a community that values colonial standards of whiteness so greatly that they’ve become normalized to us. We may say, do, or think things that explicitly go against our supposed beliefs.

Anti-racist advocacy starts with you. It starts with actively decolonizing your mind so that you can truly believe what you endorse. It’s impossible to be a true ally to the Black Lives Matter movement while also maintaining problematic standards.

When I say that we must examine our own internal biases, I don’t mean to say that you shouldn’t openly voice solidarity. I wholly believe that right now we should be doing everything to amplify Black voices. But you cannot truly support Black communities while endorsing colorist, casteist views. You cannot endorse change without condemning systems that have explicitly oppressed Black communities.

Before we can decolonize our systems and institutions, we must decolonize our minds.

To all South Asians who have yet to acknowledge and address their own anti-Black biases yet continue to post on social media in support of Black people: before preaching to others, focus on yourself. You cannot support casteism, colorism, Islamophobia, or perpetuate the exploitation of Black culture and be anti-racist. Education and understanding how your own biases have shaped your view of the and your treatment of others.

Advocacy starts at home. With you, your loved ones, and your community at large. And before we can decolonize our systems and institutions, we must decolonize our minds.

Work Career Now + Beyond

Sure, the customer is “always right,” but sometimes, they’re just an asshole

Products and services can’t exist without the people who use them, putting customers in the driver’s seat when it comes to business, a notion which is solidified in the tired statement, “the customer is always right.”

And as someone who has worked in the service industry for nearly half a decade, in one capacity or another, I’m here to tell you that it’s an outdated and unhealthy way of running a business… for everyone involved.

It’s an outdated and unhealthy way of running a business.

I’m hardly the first person to point this out. The abuse of customer service staff is notorious, especially in big cities, where having a skinny cappuccino (served with just the right amount of foam and chocolate dust) before rushing off to some business meeting, or making snide comments to a waiter about the prices on the menu, supersedes people’s sense of humility.

“I’ll have the salmon, make sure it’s pink. But I don’t want broccoli, I want artichokes.”

“We can definitely do that for you, ma’am, but more expensive substitutions do cost $2. Is that okay?”

“No. No, it’s not okay. I’m already paying $20 for it. That’s outrageous.” 

When the time comes for dessert, of course, she wants something other than the tiramisu that explicitly comes with the set menu. The chef is now also annoyed with me but begrudgingly offers an apple tart. The customer accepts this, but only if she can also have a scoop of ice cream. 

Bad reviews are bad for business.

This sort of entitled behavior continues through to her coffee order, and despite going out of my way to make her happy, she decided from the second she walked through the door that nothing would be “enough.”

After being yelled at for the restaurant’s no refill policy and told to smile more, I’m on edge for the rest of the dinner service, and it makes me forgetful and sloppy. My manager says there will be consequences if we get a bad review.

“Bad reviews are bad for business.

This is one example of the many soul-sucking scenarios that customer service workers deal with on a daily basis, and they do so whilst constantly being told by their superiors to grin and bear it. 

Working in the industry, you’re quite literally at the mercy of your customers; all it takes is one negative interaction to really change the trajectory of your mood (and workflow) for the rest of the shift.

Dealing with people is stressful.

After all, you’re juggling different personalities and emotional states at a rate which, even for the most extroverted people, is incredibly exhausting. And if you thought managing people and their expectations weren’t hard enough already, the rise of social media has made it even trickier to navigate customer disputes.

This is due to something that I have started to call  “review anxiety.” 

Customers have never been as powerful as they are now.

In the past, disgruntled patrons could only communicate with companies through writing a letter, making a phone call, or showing up in person. Now, social media permeates our everyday lives, and it’s a force to be reckoned with.

Customers have never been as powerful as they are now, with platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Yelp allowing them to share potentially damaging reviews with the world at the mere click of a button. Evidently, the customer is always right, even when they know they’re wrong. And that is a seriously damaging precedent. 

The bottom line is that business crowns money as the king. Aside from the negative implications that this can have on employee happiness and work ethic, it also raises important questions regarding the institutions, both physical and philosophical, that are so prevalent in our society. 

“The customer is always right” permits a childlike mentality that if you scream (or type) loudly enough, you get what you want, giving particularly abrasive customers an unfair advantage. It can also perpetuate a cycle of abuse, kind of like the chain of screaming that Barney Stinson talks about in How I Met Your Mother. 

Customers are sometimes wrong.

The truth is, customers are sometimes wrong, and not just wrong, they’re often assholes, despite businesses going to ridiculous extents to meet their expectations. I have come to the conclusion that there are just some people who are determined to be displeased, and those people need to be told when they’re crossing the line.

Besides, putting your employees first will almost definitely mean that they’ll do the same for your customers – the ones that actually matter. 

All in all, critical thinking and healthy debates are actively avoided in favor of an out-dated philosophy that appeals to customers’ overzealous sense of entitlement. Alas, the notion that the customer is always right is only a symptom of a bigger problem – modern society is built on disingenuousness.