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Sunday, May 26, 2024

We need to ditch ‘hustle culture’ once and for all

You can’t out-hustle The Man

As a minimum wage-earning, slightly overworked college student, I wouldn’t say that the term “hustler” applies to me. I’d say that the term “hustler” implies a certain level of grace to one’s hustling. As a “hustler,” you’re the person who’s taking three million phone calls on a little Bluetooth earpiece, breastfeeding a baby and signing checks all at once. 

    Humanity’s love for “hustle culture” is not a new phenomenon. The first use of the word “hustler” to characterize an individual as someone who “sells and promotes energetically or aggressively” was in 1825. Modern iterations of hustling are found in movies and print, such as the 2019 film “Hustlers” and Hustler magazine, respectively. The celebration of feminine sexuality in these examples provide positive connotations for hustling. 

On the other hand, humanity’s aversion to hustling has been around just as long. In pioneer sociologist Max Weber’s “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,” Weber argues that society has developed into a highly work-centric environment that insists humans make profit for profit’s sake. In short, people make money just so they can put more money into another business to make more money. 

    Enter social media. In the longstanding battle between pro-hustle and anti-hustle, social media platforms provide the basis for a seemingly paradoxical relationship to exist in tandem. The pro-hustling side of the argument, however, seems to find more solace in its internet home, thanks to the world of influencers. 

    Give influencers all the crap you want, but there’s one thing that we can know for sure: They know how to make you feel jealous. Whether it’s lounging in the Bahamas during the pandemic to living in a lavishly furnished brownstone in NYC, influencers have it good. Really good. There’s a solid amount of these internet celebrities who get their clout from viral videos or associations with other influencers. But there is one particular subset of influencers that attributes their success to mere hard work––and pushes you to live up to their unrealistic expectations. 

    The “hustle culture” pushers of the influencer world are the worst of all vermin that scour the internet. It’s one thing to say that you’ve worked hard for your success, but to flex the fact that you wake up at two in the morning in order to “increase productivity” is a bit of a stretch, especially if your audience consists mainly of everyday folks.

 I found a post recently on @iamnatalie’s Instagram account (founder of @bossbabe.inc) that reminded users that “your time and the time of your loved ones here is finite” and that we shouldn’t put off grinding as a result. Another post by @thehustlerhive told me: “Our reality is a reflection of our inner world. So if life isn’t looking the way you want it to, you have to conquer your limiting beliefs…” Et cetera, et cetera. 

    Reminding people about the mortality of themselves and their loved ones in an effort to get them to work more is probably one of the weirdest ways of motivating people I’ve seen. And I wouldn’t say that everyone’s realities are a reflection of their inner worlds––I highly doubt that impoverished Americans in a systemically unjust economic system are simply suffering from unconquered “limiting beliefs.” By this logic, the devastating pandemic unemployment in the past year could’ve been fixed with a quick mindset shift.  

    A post by @bossbabecorner tells me that “it’s time to ditch the 9-5 and become the CEO of your own life. It all starts with a $7 investment.” This entirely ignores the fact that returns from a $7 investment wouldn’t be immediate. People have children to feed—today. Not in two years. Investing is a realistic way of making money if you’ve already got a little cash in your pocket, not if you’re trying to work everyday to make ends meet.

    The language in these influencer’s posts are all underscored by a certain sense of condescension. Those who aren’t a part of the clique of hustlers are feeble-minded sheep, in their eyes. They haven’t been “awakened” to the world of wealth. Also in the language is an overemphasis of “financial literacy,” defined as “the ability to understand and effectively use various financial skills.” These people stress the need for financial literacy in order to effectively pull yourself up by the bootstraps. But, let’s be honest: When it comes to who’s rich or not, there are many more factors at play than just “financial literacy.”

    The phrase of hustle culture ignores the lived experiences of many low-income folks, especially in an economic democracy like the U.S. The ability to dedicate oneself solely to the art of “putting in work” and “chasing a bag” is a privilege that only few can sustain in this country.

Written By: Isabella Chuecos––ifchuecos@ucdavis.edu 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.


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