Why do people tend to look down on those who pursue careers in visual and performing arts?
It’s generally assumed that this is because people in arts careers traditionally don’t make a lot of money, but I think a lot of this is actually an element of jealousy. I say this because opera singers actually make pretty decent livings, so I’ve had the following conversation a lot…

Acquaintance: An opera singer! Where do you sing? [implication of tone is that the only acceptable answer is the Met]

David: Oh all over! I just finished a couple years at the Met, but now I’m freelance, so this season also the Bolshoi, Canadian Opera Company, San Francisco Opera, a bunch of places.

Acquaintance: Freelance? That sounds hard. No stability, right, but I guess that’s the life of an artist.

David: Yeah, sometimes! But opera singers are lucky, we book a few years out, so I know where I’ll be working for the next few years!

Acquaintance: Good for you! Probably helps with day job planning, too.

David: I don’t have a day job, there’s no time! But yeah it helps with life planning.

Acquaintance: How do you make it work, then?

David: …I show up, I do my job well, and then they pay me very well.

Acquaintance: To sing opera? Really?

David: …

I used to think these people were trying to understand, but with time I’ve come to see that there’s no way to end this conversation with these people feeling good. They wait, throughout the conversation, for a parameter on which they can denigrate an artist’s job, and failing that, they don’t seem happy for me, they seem frustrated. It’s as though they’re cheated of the scorn they’d hoped to have justified.

I sort of get it. The way society portrays this is that there’s a trade off: I get to have a “fun” job, in exchange for which I should have less security and be living in a cardboard box. If that’s really a given artist’s situation, they’re able to respect him and look down on him at once, but if the artist doesn’t have these particular problems (trust me, we have others), then there’s just a lot of jealousy manifest.


Growing up with an always sad mother. With a woman who sacrificed her job to raise two daughters. How many women sacrifice their careers because husbands don’t want them to neglect their children? Growing up with a mother who little by little no longer laughs, no longer sings, does not want to go out, becomes antisocial, changes character. A father who commands with money, with greed, with control over everything from clothes to food. And he has the power to say yes or no. A mother who is stripped of her worth, humiliated because she stays at home and was forced to choose to be close to her daughters. A woman finished, emptied, become unhappy. This was my mother. Destroyed by a man who wanted her only for himself and always at home. Instead she was a very good stylist, she had a lot of creativity and imagination, she taught me so many things. But then it got bad because of my dad. A woman should never be hindered by a husband or life partner or boyfriend.

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