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I don’t start every morning off with a play or two of Dolly Parton’s iconic anti-work anthem “9 to 5,” but when I do, the song hits me like a brick wall in the best way possible. I do stumble out of bed and tumble to the kitchen in order to pour myself a cup of ambition! I am just a step on the boss man’s ladder! But being reminded of these things by musical legend Dolly Parton is freeing—it helps me mentally unhook my selfhood from my work. It’s not, you know, the same thing as job stability, but it feels like a start towards living a happy, dignified life.
That’s why I let out a literal gasp of horror when I saw the news: In partnership with website-building company Squarespace, Parton reworked the song into an ode to the side hustle called “5 to 9,” set to appear as a Super Bowl commercial. That’s right, workers: “5 to 9,” as in work your 9-to-5 day job, log onto your custom Squarespace website, and then rack up another four hours of maybe paid work.
Over the last few years, “side-hustling” has become less about pursuing dreams and more about economic necessity Per a December 2020 report from Dollar Spout, more than a quarter of the people side-hustling “rely” on the money to cover their monthly expenses, while nearly half of them side-hustle primarily to earn some extra spending money. This is all happening while the minimum wage remains drastically out of step with reality: If it had economically kept pace since 1968, it would be $24 an hour today.
Workers are also taking a dimmer and dimmer view of large corporations and the way they take advantage of the pressure to “get ahead.” For instance, Uber and Lyft drivers fought unsuccessfully to be recognized as employers over the last couple of years, and continue to keep up the pressure, to the detriment of workers themselves.
Basically, vision is less in play here than need. Everyone who’s had to juggle a day job and then some in order to make rent, pay off debt, or feed a family knows that. Working more than you don’t work, wringing financial gain out of anything you’re remotely interested in, isn’t cause for a technicolor dance number; it’s a modern ailment that dulls creativity.
I know that celebrities aren’t “people we know.” I know logically Parton did not do this to me, personally. But that still doesn’t dull the sting. “Working 5 to 9/You’ve got passion and a vision!/Because it’s hustlin’ time/Only way to make a livin’,” Parton sings on the new, bastardized version of her 41-year-old hit. She’s right: As the economy tanks and the social safety net fails, creating a second stream of income often is the only way to make a living.
I’m no Dolly Parton, but if you ask me, imagining a world where we’re all well-compensated enough that we’re not forced to monetize our passions—and working towards that world—is the only side hustle worth a damn.
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