Today’s post will be on (drumroll please)…the wage gap! Woohoo!
First, a couple of YouTube videos to get you in the mood. The first (via Feministe), by the Get Out of the Way of Fair Pay Campaign, featuring Batgirl along with her more famous counterparts, Batman and Robin.
The second is an ad (via Feministing) – subtitled in Dutch, so probably distributed in Belgium or the Netherlands. Original actors seem to be speaking with non-American accents, though, so I would imagine it’s from the UK.
The thing about the wage gap is that it persists, to this day, when feminism is supposedly no longer needed and men and women are completely equal and everybody farts rainbows. It’s a tremendously complicated issue, with the actual gap differing changing in size (but never disappearing) when different factors are taken into account. There is no way I could do justice to the wealth of information around on the topic, so if you’re really interested in either learning more about the matter (or, idk, debunking it if you’re an MRA troll), I must direct you to Echidne of the Snakes’ definitive (and exhaustively researched) three-part series on the wage gap. I’ve tried for a couple of days to make the other points and sources that I want to incorporate into some kind of coherent, paragraph-form, post, but I’m too tired, so…
- The wage gap is like most (or every) other issues that negatively affect women, in that women of color are even more disadvantaged (that is to say, discrimination on the basis of race as well as sex occurs, so women of color get a double dose. Men of color, of course, are also doing worse than white men).
- This study made a lot of waves when it came out last year: men who think belong in the kitchen have significantly higher incomes than men with more egalitarian views.
— Less surprisingly, women with less “traditional” views made more money than their counterparts, probably because they actually believed they had a right to be there and fought hard for their jobs, among other possible reasons. However, the average amount by which the womens from the two groups’ incomes differed – $1500 – was a lot lower than that the discrepancy between the two groups of men – BBC says it’s $8500 and Jezebel says $11, 930. I can’t find the original study to find the exact statistics – it’s possible that the two numbers come from subdivisions of groups – but in either case, there is a very large difference between the sexes. Is this because men (generally) earn more than women, and so there’s a larger gap between their lowest and highest salaries, or some other, more overtly sexist reasons?
— Despite the differences in the increase, “traditional” men and “non-traditional” women both made more than other members of those populations. Is it because these two groups share something in common – perhaps assertiveness, “go-getter”-ness, or some other indefinable quality? Or is it perhaps that more feminist women were less easy to squash down, and more sexist men were more able to get ahead by explicitly hindering female coworkers’ progress? Perhaps this study, which found that agreeableness in either gender was correlated with lower incomes, can help explain. Go read for more information on which of the Big Five personality traits help women versus men (shocker: high “neurotic” scores hurt women but not men! (via Jezebel).
— Here we have another instance of how men directly benefit from sexism – it’s not just about the oppression of women, it’s about the benefiting of men. And unfortunately, it’s an instance of when being more feminist or egalitarian or (insert applicable adjective here) actually hurts men – no word on whether these men made significantly lower salaries than men as a group, or whether the sexist men were the ones with outlier-esque, abnormally high salaries – but either way, it’s a clear disincentive for men to embrace and respect women in the workplace. It’s a shame, because one of the things I truly believe is that feminist goals benefit men as well as women (I don’t want this to become a “What about the menz” post, but the patriarchy does hurt men too). In many, if not most cases, the average woman would benefit more than the average man would from the accomplishment of feminist goals, but this is a function of men’s rights not being as marginalized as women’s in the first place, not a result of feminists hating or working against men. I guess this is one of the rare cases in which it does hurt men to be a feminist. Sigh. (Of course, since this is an example of the patriarchy hurting men who don’t conform to its strictures, one would argue that more egalitarian men would eventually benefit from feminism, though espousing its beliefs hurts them in the short term).
- Men with children tend to make more than men without, but women with children make significantly less than women without. Yay. Also, 90% of adult women in the U.S. have children, so…yeah.
- People who say the gap is merely a result of women working fewer hours to take care of children are both incorrect (the gap persists even with equal numbers of hours worked) and ignoring the fact that we do not exist in a vacuum. Women are much more vilified for “neglecting” children by working long hours, and much more encouraged/forced to stay home and take care of the house, than are men (though to be fair, men are also mocked if they choose to stay home and take care of their children). So even if the gap could be entirely explained away by differential amounts worked as a result of parenting/childbearing, it would still be evidence of sexism.
- Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. was a 2007 Supreme Court case about pay discrimination against women. Lilly Ledbetter, the plaintiff, lost her claim that she should be allowed to sue for pay discrimination. beyond a 180-day “waiting period” (and be awarded a $360,000 settlement making up for her decades of lost pay). She lost, 5-4, with my homegirl on the SCOTUS, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing a scathing dissent (she even read it out loud from the bench, which is apparently not commonly done). Some points she brought up on why the “statutory waiting period” is, to put it simply, bullshit:
The Court’s insistence on immediate contest overlooks common characteristics of pay discrimination. Pay disparities often occur, as they did in Ledbetter’s case, in small increments; cause to suspect that discrimination is at work develops only over time. Comparative pay information, moreover, is often hidden from the employee’s view. Employers may keep under wraps the pay differentials maintained among supervisors, no less the reasons for those differentials. Small initial discrepancies may not be seen as meet for a federal case, particularly when the employee, trying to succeed in a nontraditional environment, is averse to making waves.
Pay disparities are thus significantly different from adverse actions “such as termination, failure to promote, … or refusal to hire,” all involving fully communicated discrete acts, “easy to identify” as discriminatory. See National Railroad Passenger Corporation v. Morgan, 536 U. S. 101, 114 (2002) . It is only when the disparity becomes apparent and sizable, e.g., through future raises calculated as a percentage of current salaries, that an employee in Ledbetter’s situation is likely to comprehend her plight and, therefore, to complain. Her initial readiness to give her employer the benefit of the doubt should not preclude her from later challenging the then current and continuing payment of a wage depressed on account of her sex.
So, the point is that pay discrimination on the basis of sex will, very likely, not be apparent within a mere 180 days, and forcing a woman to both recognize the pay discrepancy and sue her company about it is ridiculous. That didn’t stop five (conservative male) justices agreeing with the corporations and enabling sexist pay policies to continue, though.
*For added shits and giggles, contrast MNSBC’s and the Washington Post’s coverage with that of BBC!
- In response to the “Ledbetter” court case (which has had more far-reaching consequences than just tying womens’ hands – it’s being used to justify discrimination against all minority groups), the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was written and submitted to Congress. During the election, McCain earned my ire by being explicitly opposed to the bill, on the grounds that it could lead to “frivolous lawsuits”. So…people suing about being discriminated against + being legally able to do so = frivolity. Yay for straight white rich Christian male privilege!
- The bill is among the first (if not the first) to be voted on in the 111th Congress, which started session yesterday. So, depending on when you read this post, contact your representatives and senators!
- In contrast to Radical Feminazi McCain, Obama was a co-sponsor of said bill and vows to sign it into law when it reaches his desk; it is because of him that the bill is going to be voted on so quickly. So – not perfect by any stretch, but still pretty damn awesome, in this matter.
- Another reason McCain used to justify his throwing working women under the bus?
Having delivered his objections to the Ledbetter bill this week, McCain went on to tell reporters that what women really need is “education and training, particularly since more and more women are heads of their households, as much or more than anybody else. And it’s hard for them to leave their families when they don’t have somebody to take care of them.”
Look, I know it’s really easy to find reasons to dump on McCain; it was easy even before The Election That Made Him Lose All Credibility. But I can’t just let this slide – justifying/explaining the wage gap in terms of women’s supposedly deficient education and training? Clearly, McCain hasn’t heard about the infamous “gender gap” in education – you know, the one where there’s more women than men. Women are now approaching (or surpassing) equal numbers compared to men in all kinds of higher education fields, from just absolute numbers in undergraduate and graduate schools, to such traditionally male-dominated fields as law, business, medicine, math, and physics. The evidence seems to indicate that women are making more progress, whereas men are more stagnant than regressing, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been used as evidence that “FEMINISM HURTS MEN” and “WOMEN RULE OUR SOCIETY NOW” and other such drivel from the usual suspects. I just find it laughable that McCain would be unfamiliar with such a tailor-made talking point to justify Keeping Women In the Kitchen and Helping Teh Menz.
- Another important thing to remember – despite such incredible advances in educational equality, the wage gap has remained largely the same – even more evidence that the basis for said gap goes beyond “education and training”, and may even be benefiting less-qualified men.
- The trend is present on a global level, as well – in one of my favorite studies of the year, the 2008 Global Gender Gap Report – 130 countries are evaluated for gender equality in four spheres: economic, political, educational, and health-related equality. In the “economic equality” subcategory, 24 countries are tied for first-place, each of whose score is 1.000 (meaning that women are greater than or equal to men in each of the four submeasures calculated). The U.S. is one of these countries (the only subcategory in which it made a respectable showing), along with such likely (and unlikely) candidates as Finland, France, Denmark, Ireland, Australia, Belize, Lesotho, and Honduras.
By contrast, the #1 slot in “economic equality” is held by just one country, and its score is 0.8345. So, even though educational equality on the basis of sex has been achieved in many countries, the smallest economic gender gap is ~16.5 %. Joy of joys. It’s also interesting to note that the holder of the top spot – Mozambique – doesn’t show up on the educational equality list until #121, and a member of the #1 spot on the “education” list doesn’t show up on “economy” until #6, with a score of 0.7838 (it’s Norway, btw). As for the raw score of 0.8345? That doesn’t show up on the “education” list until #118-119 (The Gambia and Cameroon). Clearly, educational equality is much easier to achieve than economic parity, and there’s not a one-to-one connection between the two variables.
This post is already plenty long, but coming up – ways in which the wage gap completely undercuts most/all attempts to establish actual equality between men and women!
Further reading (all chock-full of statistics and other Cold Hard Facts):