If you think The Feminine Mystique isn’t still relevant today, then you have got another think coming. Atlantic writer Phoebe Maltz Bovy recently pointed out that unpaid internships, especially those in fashion, are often written off as a rich kid problem — specifically, a rich girl problem, as women take the majority of unpaid internships and usually have another source of income (most likely their parents.)
“To many people, the face of the unpaid intern is already that of a young woman whose survival (and possibly It-bag) needs are already being met, and there’s a reason for that,” she wrote. But she points out that the assumption that these young, (possibly) privileged women don’t need to be compensated because they are taken care of financially is the real problem, one which housewives used to face when they first tried to work outside the home.
Though they may have cool clothes and be in the same room as awesome designers, it ain’t so easy being a fashion intern. Last year more than 100 prominent fashion houses were being investigated by HMRC concerning the payment of their interns. Tanya de Grunwald, founder of the career website Graduate Fog and campaigner for paid internships, says this is not exactly breaking news, as fashion houses have been exploiting young workers for years.
“For too long, fashion houses have recruited brazenly for what are clearly illegal roles that take advantage of those who do them and exclude those who can’t afford to do them. These interns are not just work shadowing, making the tea and sorting the post. They are effectively doing full-time jobs, just without any pay. Most of the time they do not lead to paid, permanent jobs – only to another unpaid internship. Many fashion companies are known to have a revolving door system, where one unpaid intern is simply replaced with another at the end of their placement.”
The web site Fashionista did a piece on the horrors of being a fashion intern. Young women’s experiences included washing a urine-soaked dress for a fashion shoot for Vogue, scooping up dog poop, retyping to-do lists and returning yogurt to a store.