Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Misogyny of Wage Gaps

Today is the 45th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, which was passed by the late President Kennedy on June 10, 1963. Since then, we've come a long way, but persistent and blatant wage gaps continue to be an issue. I think that my fellow Impersonators, Lindsay and Amelia, have covered the basics far more eloquently than I am capable of without sounding repetitive.

Regardless, wage gaps are a part of a much larger phenomenon than simple misogyny in the workplace. Female work, even if it is the same work that a male can and does do, is consistently undervalued. If a woman does a man's work, she more likely to be underpaid and less likely to be promoted. If a woman does a woman's job—housekeeping, mothering, teaching—she is more likely to see exponential wage gaps, or no monetary compensation at all.

Take any traditionally female-dominated field and it is easy to see how much more undervalued and underpaid the work is compared to traditionally masculine fields. Even underpaid and overworked masculine careers like police officers and firefighters garner more respect than a maid, a nanny, or an elementary school teacher.

Nowhere is this more apparent than the case of the stay-at-home mother. I have nothing for respect for women, such as my mother, who choose to devote all of their waking hours to their children. Regardless, women in America often have to choose between a career and a family. Women that choose to stay home and raise children, arguably the most important job a person can do, labor unpaid to the tune of $117,000 per year. My parents had an ugly divorce when I was fairly young, and one of my father's complaints was that my mother used him as a "free meal ticket". My mother, under appreciated and overworked, labored day and night to raise me and my brother in the manner in which she felt was appropriate. How many other mothers are demeaned for their work? How many others are under-appreciated? Mothers are the backbone of our society, and yet, much scorn is heaped upon the woman who dares to stay home, raise the children and maintain the household, and occasionally shop or do things for herself.

For those that choose to work and have children, or are forced to as single parents or because of financial difficulties, the stereotypical "women's work", such as housekeeping and childcare, still falls disproportionately on our shoulders. This phenomenon was dubbed the "second shift" by Arlie Russell Hochschild in The Second Shift and The Time Bind, where she used peer-reviewed research to show that in two-career couples, men and women usually work equal hours but women still do a disproportional amount of housework.

Imagine the amount of work woman do to uphold this society that goes unappreciated, unpaid, or underpaid. A single mother chasing after her ex-husband for child support is regarded as greedy and should stay out of his wallet (another gem parroted by my father, even today). A single father that works and raises his children by himself is a saint, a real trooper. The double-standard is pervasive, especially when it couples with racism to form the myth of the welfare-queen: poor southern black women who have children for their own selfish gain.

I know that no amount of legislation such as the Fair Pay Act will ever amount to true fair pay unless the persistent devaluing of "women's work" utterly ceases. Our struggle to get paid the same amount for the same work is part of a larger struggle for women everywhere to do what needs doing—whether that is behind a desk, at the stove or both—and be able to support ourselves and our families.

Remember that when we discuss Fair Pay, we are really addressing the systematic and pervasive devaluation of anything a woman chooses to do for the simple fact that she is not a man.



The Great American said...

I have a big problem with some of this fair pay stuff. Now i do not believe that women should be discriminated based on the fact that they're a woman, it's plain wrong. However, about 2 years ago a woman started working in the dept as myself, working the same job as myself. At that time I had been there for 2 years, i had recieved a few raises and some other add ons to my salary. This woman found out how much I was making compared to her, keep in mind that I have two years experience on her. She got mad and went to management about it. They tried to explain to her, but she wasn't having it. So management told her, they're not going to pay her more and if she didn't like it, she can quit. She decided to take it to court and citing the fair pay act, she won. So this dumbass now makes the same amount of money that I do, only I put in two more years of work than she did. So the only way a woman should make the same amount of money that a man does, is that they have done everything the man has. They should not recieve special treatment simply because they are female.

Amelia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jen said...

I'm surprised she won. I was fairly certain that the Fair Pay act only covered the salaries of employees hired around the same time or after you. Nevertheless, one abuse certainly doesn't make up for the hundreds of cases that are valid, and yet go unheard. Although, it is unfortunate.

Amelia said...

**I had to repost because of one stinking typo**

I am really glad you wrote this post, Jen. It touched upon some points that I really wanted to discuss in my post, but lacked the time to do so.

The undervalument of the work that is largely done by women is a huge issue. Good for you for writing about it.

Jen said...

Thanks Amelia! Just my two bits for the Fair Pay anniversary.

Lindsay said...

This is a great post.

Remember that when we discuss Fair Pay, we are really addressing the systematic and pervasive devaluation of anything a woman chooses to do for the simple fact that she is not a man.

I feel like this sentence could read "remember that when we discuss _____(anything under the sun), we are really addressing the systematic and pervasive devaluation of anything a woman chooses to do for the simple fact that she is not a man." So pervasive, yet frequently degraded for even being acknowledged.

Jen said...

Thanks Lindsay! I hate to be a party-pooper, but I wanted to post a bit about the theory behind the gender wage gap, and how laws can only do so much as long as sexism persists.

Lindsay said...

My comment wasn't a critique of your post in as much as it was a critique of our culture and how widespread the sentiments you pointed out are.

Empy said...

Unfortunately, the whole "wage gap" thing has been largely debunked by intelligent thinkers who thought to factor in such things as hours worked, years of experience in the field, amount of education, part-time/full-time, tardiness and attendance, quality of work (a factor in getting a raise), etc. The actual "wage gap" comes out to be 5 - 10 cents. Big deal. If the wage gap was 5 - 10 cents in women's FAVOR, are you telling me that you'd all honestly post blogs about how unfair it is to men? Yeah, I'll believe that when pigs fly.

Anonymous said...

why should women be paid to raise their own children?

Empy said...

I notice you let anonymous' post through, but not mine. Is what I say too hard to deal with?