Last week, the viral world exploded following a podcast interview with Love Island star and social influencer Molly Mae, in which she shared her belief that ‘everyone has the same 24 hours in a day’. A seemingly innocuous statement, this idealogy has sparked mass discussion on the concepts of poverty and privilege, the out-of-touch world views of the wealthy and influential, and the powerful debate over hard work vs rich reward.
Many opinion pieces have emerged from writers of vastly different walks of life as they shared their thoughts on her comments, from overworked NHS staff to exhausted single parents, comparing their own 24 hours to those shared by Molly Mae herself. Largely, it appears that the overarching argument is that Molly’s comments come from a place of privilege, with online commenters picking up on her middle-class upbringing, wealthy parents, appearance and health allowing her the freedom to make a name for herself online. By comparison, many people in positions of struggle, ill health, poverty, low-paying jobs and difficult family situations don’t have access to the same opportunities she does, meaning that their 24 hours look entirely different to hers.
For a while, I’ve been cautious to share my views on the situation. For the most part, I’m incredibly similar to Molly-Mae; we’re both young white women, of good health, working for ourselves in the digital space. This alone can often be enough to create opportunities for us to achieve and progress without discrimination and struggle. However individually, I also face my own battles with mental health, which can often prevent me from reaching certain heights in my career, and you could argue this makes my own 24 hours look different to Molly’s too. As far as we’re aware, she doesn’t face the struggles of OCD that would stop me from living the life I would prefer. But who knows what happens behind closed doors?
Personally, I wanted to use this space as a place to really discuss the privilege we all have as freelancers, and debate about the struggles we face throughout our working lives. In my own line of work, I’ve faced age and gender discrimination, as well as mental health bias as well – however, my business has persevered despite this. And that seems to be one of the core advantages of freelancing or working as a self-employed person, in that we aren’t subject to our downfalls causing immediate unemployment or termination. We can lose clients, but we can’t get fired. Our work is within our control and we have the power to navigate our own way through it. This is a luxury that so many people around the world simply do not have, as many workers live in the fear of losing their jobs and the repercussions it may cause.
From a financial perspective, it’s ignorant to suggest that freelancing is a secure industry for a reliable income. Particularly throughout the pandemic, a steady monthly income was hard to come by and for many of us, our businesses were hugely affected. To remain working as a freelancer through that time was a brave decision, largely supported by my own personality circumstances – with a boyfriend in full-time employment, savings and government support grants. But had I been a parent or a carer with larger responsibilities, or struggling with my health at the time, my decision would have had a completely different outcome. Even without the pressures of an epidemic, monthly expenses can pile up and for many individuals, a steady income is the difference between feeding their children and letting them go hungry.
Another important privilege awarded to freelance workers is the simple factor of time. My time, right now, is spent working in a cosy independent coffee shop on my laptop, typing this up before heading for a wander around the shops. I am so incredibly lucky and grateful to be sitting here today, doing this. With time comes freedom and opportunity and ability. I can make a doctor’s appointment at 3pm in the afternoon, without worrying about losing my job. I can take care of my pet at a time that suits me. I can schedule my working hours around the demands of both my life and my mental health and for me, that is a life-changing benefit that I would struggle to live without. The majority of workers around the world will be making vast sacrifices for their job and this needs to be recognised – for every missed doctor’s appointment, for every late school pick-up, for every abandoned dream and for every hour slogged just to earn a daily wage. Time is a gift, and for freelancers, influencers, celebrities and anyone else whose livelihood doesn’t depend on endless shifts and clock-in times.
Finally, my positioning in life allows me to be a freelancer. That is a simple fact that I would be ignorant to ignore. I grew up in a house with instant access to a laptop and a computer from my teenage years. I learnt English as a first language and live in the UK. I went to good schools and a good university. I could afford to pay for on-campus accommodation, which led to my first experience in social media management. I was physically able to head to various workplaces for job experience, interviews, placements and internships. I didn’t have restrictions holding me back from quitting unhappy workplaces, I was able to afford a flat in the city and shape my own career from there. I might not have £1m in my bank account, be the Creative Director of Pretty Little Thing or have my own self-tanning line, but I am a person in a privileged position.
There are so many people in the world who are skilled, talented, able and creative, who are being failed by the system that keeps them from succeeding. The hours in their day are restrictive, overwhelming, unfair and unfortunate. With every article I read (and even write) on the struggles of freelancing, I want to always remain this aware of my own luck in life. Our jobs aren’t flawless, but they are heavy with freedoms and opportunities and we should all aim to remember this.
In summary, the comments made by Molly-Mae were, in my opinion, born from a place of ignorance rather than snobbery and it’s important to recognise that. She has taken advantage of the opportunities handed to her and she has succeeded in her field, and many of us would do the same. Whilst her views perhaps weren’t expressed as humbly or as inclusively as they could have been, the very least we can take away from it is the awareness of our own privilege in life by comparison.
What are your thoughts on the ’24 Hours A Day’ debate? How do you view your own professional privilege? Let me know and let’s discuss it!