Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America

by Barbara Ehrenreich

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Critique the concept of "fun, casual workplace environments" in Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed.

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When Ehrenreich moves to Maine for part of her experiment in Nickel and Dimed, she notes the manner in which employment is advertised. As she looks through job postings, she points out that some potential employers use phrases such as

"mothers' shift . . . 'job fairs' where you could stroll among the employers' tables, like a shopper at the mall. . . and 'fun, casual' workplace environments" (52).

Ehrenreich's assumption is that this type of advertising demonstrates that when you have that many "white" people in a state, they treat each other "real nice." It is quite a stretch for the author to associate seemingly benign employment advertising with race, because most states use the phrases "job fair" and "casual workplace environment." However, it is appropriate to note that employers for manual labor positions and low education jobs believe that they have to rely upon gimmicks to attract employees. This concept is nothing new, for most advertising--whether it is for a product or a position--employs glittering generalities and card stacking in order to make its subject more attractive. While job postings such as Ehrenreich found might seem silly and ineffective, they probably attract first-time job seekers who might still hold a somewhat idealistic view of labor.

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