Within the first weeks of January, there is a spike in gym memberships. Meal services like Hello Fresh cash in a profitable crop of patrons who are looking to "do better," with advertisements aimed at reinforcing the general mood and message:
"New year, new me."
In a highly capitalistic society, these measures for newness involve some form of transaction. And companies, of course, respond with irresistible promos. There are so many ways to kickstart a brand-new beginning as the air changes, the year an open landscape for the journey beyond. Statistically, many people will face ups and downs in their quest to complete their resolutions, but it's still something encouraged as the ball drops around the world. The highs are extraordinary and almost makes up for the fatigue that rolls in after a few weeks into January.
But there is a group of people left behind in this excitement.
The holidays are anxiety inducing for a large portion of the population-- and worst, it's a miserable reminder of the condition of one's life.
How many people were below the poverty line in 2020? Where are we now, in 2023-- is there a reset, a look forward, for the numbers of people who find the consumerist, capitalist pressures of the modern holiday season suddenly erased at the turn of the year?
We can count on a day, when paying attention, how many workout and health aimed ads we view within the first week of entering January. How many ads do we see focused on rehabilitation? Shelters for domestic violence victims open for those wanting to start their new year with a new self? Programs to express openness for job help for the disenfranchised?
In the holidays, homelessness can mean anxiety, fear of safety, and depression for femmes dealing with displacement. Being without a solid place does not mean a lack of festivity-- the myth that all "worse-off" people are in a constant state of misery is patently untrue. However, many cite sadness, isolation, and caution for themselves and their children, turning to charities and shelters especially in cases of abuse.
This is no incident. The majority of the world's poor consists of women; they are the largest population to be seen in poverty and the easiest to fall victim to it from even the simplest of life changes to a disproportionate degree. Being born into below-average conditions makes an economic rise or growth in social standing notoriously difficult, but for women, it's even harder. Pay disparity is one of the key factors, with women having to suffer lower wages and longer workdays on average compared to their male counterparts. But, along with this, is the role of care.
Femme-presenting individuals are appointed as primary caregivers in most societies and are the largest victims of domestic violence situations that involve a child. Already, there is nearly year-round pressure for these individuals that they must choose between multiple roles as workers, as friends. When someone becomes a caregiver, either to a child or someone else, like an adult, their drive and focus shifts to their charge. Caregiving is unpaid, expected, highly scrutinized labour. Keeping a home clean and a person taken care of on top of being paid low wages exacerbates mental duress; it's not confusing why some choose to leave their jobs, as the balancing act can be nigh impossible.
The unbalanced weight is allocated to women in general, but with a lack of access to equal opportunities in fields like education, sanitation, all the way back to the workforce, poverty-stricken women are left at increasing levels of disadvantage and mental duress. Situations often crop up where young girls are sent to work as early as possible, while her male counterparts may have more access to starting or furthering education, and less obligations to stunt that growth.
The widening economic gap will only make the winter holidays harder on the disenfranchised and poor. In a few years alone, we've seen countries like the United States, England, and Canada (among others) hurdle towards a recession to rival the massive burst of 2008. This is scary for vast populations.
If someone is already poor, how do they become poorer, and what happens then? What are the options and avenues they have to buoy themselves? How can people help themselves when the odds are continuously stacked against them? And how do these previously discussed anxieties of gifting, providing, increase as we reach panicking levels of hardship across most of the middle and poor classes?
These are concerns that go unaccounted for. Feel good radio-show moments and ads may be sprinkled across the season, and this isn't to discredit the impact they have, and kindness they show! But our attentions beside hardly ever steer to highlight those who actually need the help. Today, daily lives are filled with concerns and stresses already, with almost all corners of social and occupational space targeted at cultivating and breeding negativity in people's hearts and minds. The intention is not to shame anyone for not constantly thinking about people less fortunate than themselves, but to point out how easy it is to get swept up in forgetting them. It's almost inescapable; our lives have been structured by outside forces that were specifically meant to steer our attention away from hardship to begin with.
So it is an eternal obligation towards the human being not to let him suffer from hunger when one has the chance of coming to his assistance.
Manufactured issues are what sell. Body modification and consultations, exercise plans and memberships, food subscription boxes and active/leisurewear. It isn't anyone's fault they take up so much mental space; it's been planned and executed time and time before. And the victims are not only us ourselves but the aforementioned people who fall at the wayside of our attention.
Thankfully, we've been aware of this designed tunnel vision for a long time. Soup kitchens are not just the small, volunteer-ran places functioning solely for Hugh Grant to look charming in. Dating to the 18th century, they've been establishments dedicated to serving the poorer. Their varying successes and many scandals throughout history give them a slightly heightened theatrical view nowadays. However, there are more modern programs that specifically help these disenfranchised people facing hardship, as well, especially during the holiday season.
Food drives and food pantries were started later in our world's history, prominently in the 50s. A great number of children in the U.S. may have much closer experience with food drives, especially if they've benefitted from one. Classrooms collect canned vegetables and fruit, non-expired snacks, and all other assortments of food, hygiene products, and household necessities that then go to a larger pantry to shift through and make available. People also go directly to these food banks and pantries to drop off all number of items that are desperately needed, expanding a beneficial inventory. These pantries open their doors to customers looking to live on a very tight budget; during the holidays, some volunteers mobilise and leave packages on front doors, in shelters, and at designated drop offs.
The largest recipients of this charity are single femme caregivers, people who are solely taking care of children, doing the best they can in a variety of ways.
For many of us, the holidays are a time where we lose sight. We give to our loved ones but may not extend that compassion and thought outward. Although Christmas has come and gone, and gift cards may have already been bought- even cashed in- it's never too early or too late to recognise our world's poverty-stricken and extend help.
January is a new leaf, but it's also poverty awareness month. Faced with so many images, videos, voices selling us a new, promising something, we've learned to craft a robust filter. Perhaps a resolution going into 2023 is to pay attention to the unmentionables the market does not want you to remember, in and outside of your community.
Here are just a few charities and organizations I've personally encountered that specialise in helping those who struggle during the holiday season. This site is also a comprehensive site for finding non-profits that provide care and support in your local community, and worldwide. In this new year, let's not forget those who dreaded it, who fought to see it and, in their exhaustion, deserve care and love extended toward them.