We’ve all heard that women still only make a sad percentage of what men make in this country. I heard today from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) that the current U.S. number is 78%. And I’ve heard all sorts of bullshit reasons why that is. At a holiday get together couple years ago at my parents’ home, one relative of mine even said that she’s fine with it because she’s never known a man who called in sick because of PMS. My cousin and I took offense as neither of us have called in sick for PMS and found the idea laughable. My cousin, awsome as she is, made jokes the rest of the day about getting her “women’s pay” discount at Target. After all, if women make 78% of what men make, then all women’s purchases, cable, bills, cell phone plans, even college tuition should be reduced appropriately, right?
People, especially young women, don’t want to call themselves feminists because of the negative connotations of the word. In my classes, I tell my male students that if they think the women next to them have just as much a right to be there as they do, they’re feminists. And they get a little weirded out, because they think that feminists are militant bulldykes. Of course, that’s not the case; only a very small percentage of feminists are militant bulldykes. I’m quite girly, and I am one mad mat feminist– I’m wearing a pink shirt today and I have a Hello Kitty toaster, for the love of poundcake!
My brand of materialist feminism includes anyone who doesn’t think human beings should be judged by their naughty bits. Or their parents. Or their cars (or lack thereof). Or their noserings. Or even an accent or tattoo.
So, as a materialist feminist, I’m already for pay equality. It’s a no-brainer. Equal pay for equal work isn’t just good for women, it’s good for families and human beings. It is just. Companies providing family leaves isn’t a P.C. way to say “maternity leave” — all employees should be able to take time to welcome new additions or care for children, parents, or other family members. That’s just good for everyone. But when I talk about these things, sometimes I get blank stares, like I am trying to explain postmodernism. Maybe to see things this way, one has to think a certain way.
But there are numbers coming in related to this recession that should encourage all Americans to be for pay equality too, regardless of how Alex P. Keaton-esque their mentalities, because it seems that men –even single and childless men– are being directly negatively affected by women’s lower salaries: According to NELP, while men make up roughly 50% of the workforce, they account for 80% of the layoffs that have occurred in this recent economic downturn. Now, that just doesn’t seem fair to me. Even after accounting for the higher percentage of jobs held by women considered slightly safer in a recession (like education and healthcare), there is obviously something else at play here. And guess what it is? Yep, I already told you: it’s pay inequality. If women earned what men earn, the layoffs would be closer to 50/50, not 20/80.
Think about it: layoffs occur to cut costs, so it makes perfect sense that the employees making the bigger bucks (i.e., the men) with the better benefits are more often the employees let go.
I love men, I really do, but I wonder how many men out there are at home, on the couch, who once sat in an office or at a conference table and decided against promoting a woman, or maybe turned down her plea for a pay raise, simply because of her anatomy.
—And to any women out there who’ve been laid off, it really, really sucks, and I feel for you, but think of it this way– in your former position, you were just as valuable as a man! Rock on, sister!
*I am tempted to discuss the possibility that, historically, some women have been drawn to the idea of having a job because they need to, like, pay for stuff, as opposed to simply wanting to wear pants for a change, but that might have to wait for another entry.