Houston life & politics

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Jan 23, 2017: Post-Election Actions

After seeing so many pictures this weekend from the Women’s March, I’m glad to now see so many articles and friends posting information about actions you can take TODAY–as well as advice on getting organized to keep this work going once. I decided to compile the things that are appearing in my feed. I’m working my way down the list myself.

Some of these require you to sign up for email notifications. I get that people hate mass emails filling your inbox, but sometimes they’re actually useful. Read them.

Actions to get yourself organized:

  1. Sign up for email notifications of new legislations in Congress. Go to congress.gov. Scroll to the bottom footer, and under “Ways to connect”, select “RSS & Email Alerts.” You’ll have to create an account, but you can then select to get notifications of bills in Senate and House, or to follow the actions of particular legislators (you might consider getting notifications about the votes of your own reps). [Time: 10 minutes] 
  1. Find out who your STATE legislators are (the people in your state capitol): Visit http://openstates.org. Enter your address. See who your legislators are. Click on them. Copy down the address and phone numbers. Print them and hang them on your refrigerator or save them in your phone. Use often. [Time: 5 minutes]
  1. Find out who your representatives are in the US House of Representatives: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/ Copy down the address and phone numbers. Print them and hang them on your refrigerator or save them in your phone. Use often. [Time: 2 minutes]
  1. Find out who your representatives are in the US Senate: https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/ Copy down the address and phone numbers. Print them and hang them on your refrigerator or save them in your phone. Use often. [Time: 2 minutes]
  1. Sign up for Call Them In: This website will send you email reminders with tailored call scripts to speak to elected officials on specific legislation. http://www.callthemin.com/ [Time: 1 minute]
  1. Subscribe to wall-of-us.org: The website has 4 weekly acts of resistance that are useful. For example, Jan 24th there is a day of action on resisting the cabinet picks. If you’re looking for an action to do on a particular day, this is a good place. [Time: 1 minute]
  1. Sign up for email/text alerts from the Movement for Black Lives to receive notifications about actions near you and ways to get involved: https://m4bl.net/ [Time: 1 minute]

 

Immediate actions (some are Houston specific, others aren’t):

1. Respond to Paul Ryan’s Phone Poll about the Affordable Care Act: He’s hoping to hear overwhelming opposition to the ACA. Call (202) 225-0600. You’ll hear a recorded voice describe a few different issues that you might share you’re opinion on. Press two to voice your opinion on Obama’s health care plan. You’ll then hear the voice describing Paul Ryan’s plan to cut the ACA. Press 1 to support the continuation of the ACA. [Time: 2 minutes] 

2. Demand that your elected officials protect DACA: “Call your congresspeople (http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/and http://www.senate.gov/…/contact…/senators_cfm.cfm…), call the White House (202-456-1414), call everyone you can think of, and say: “I am calling to demand that the President protect DACA and immigrant families. DACA has helped the lives of nearly 1 million immigrant youth who contribute to their families, communities, and our economy, and it should not be touched. The President must not sign any executive order that hurts Dreamers or immigrants more generally, who are the heart and soul of our country.” [Time: 15 + minutes–the more you call the better]

3. If you’re in Houston, call the Sheriff and Mayor TODAY about ending 287g: “URGENT MESSAGE: HOUSTON Friends, tomorrow/today (MONDAY) is looking very not good for immigrants across the country. I’m asking for your help to SHARE this message far & wide; and to call Sheriff Ed Gonzalez (713-755-3647 or 713-755-6044) & Mayor Turner (832-393-0800) as early as 8am — 1-10 times. Trump seems to be making his shit moves (as early as 9:30AM TODAY) and there’s no more time to waste. PLEASE HELP. #HTownIsHome#HereToStay[Time: 15 + minutes–the more you call the better]

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4. Submit a public comment on Standing Rock to those preparing the Environmental Impact Statement on the Dakota Access Pipeline: Follow this link: https://sierra.secure.force.com/actions/National?actionId=AR0066309&id=70131000001Do2iAAC&ddi=N17ASAFB09&utm_medium=cpc&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=emacq&utm_content=nodapl_comment_v2. Fill in your info. Personalize the message if you can. You’ll be added to a Sierra Club email list, but you can remove yourself after. [Time: 3 minutes]

5. Keep checking back on the Women’s March List of 10 actions to take after the march: Go to https://www.womensmarch.com/100. The first action is easy: print a postcard and write to your senator. I’m sure you could just write a regular letter/postcard too, minus the Women’s March template stuff. [Time: 15-30 minutes]

6. If you’re white and aren’t already doing this, take some time today to learn about the problems with the Women’s March: Read articles about the experiences and feelings of Black, Brown, and other people of color about the Women’s March—not to mention transgender women. (Be wary of rallying calls and protest signs that essentialize womanhood in ways that exclude transgender women). Hopefully we agree the March was not enough—we’re going to have to do some much more difficult work than showing up at a rally. Time for us white people to deal with our shit and do this work better. Here are some articles about this that crossed my feed today [Time: just keep doing this all the time]:

http://www.joojooazad.com/2017/01/keep-your-american-flags-off-my-hijab.html

https://www.good.is/articles/seeking-solidarity-at-the-womens-march-in-washington

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/many-white-women-marched-now-what_us_5884d0dae4b0d96b98c1dd27?armxgm46j78llq5mi%3Futm_hp_ref=black-voices&ir=Black%2BVoices&section=black-voices&

https://medium.com/@whatchidid/an-unpopular-opinion-on-the-womens-march-on-washington-c3acc47f6ee#.ky1eh9efx

https://medium.com/@nicolesilverberg/maybe-you-marched-maybe-you-didnt-but-what-do-we-do-now-aa2bf53b9890#.87q4hxiuy

7. If you’re in Houston, consider attending and speaking at the City Council’s Public Comment Session: They are usually held at 1:30pm on weekdays. This would be a good place to voice opinions on 287g. There are more details about dates, times, and how to sign up to speak here: https://www.facebook.com/events/227047381085173/ [Time: Plan a few hours, I believe]

8. Sign another petition to the whitehouse.gov to release Trumps taxes: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/immediately-release-donald-trumps-full-tax-returns-all-information-needed-verify-emoluments-clause-compliance [Time: 2 minutes]

Feminist Discussion Post 2: The Wage Gap, Intersectionality, and the White Privilege of Liberal Feminism

liberal fem - Version 2

(This post is the second in a discussion between Lauren Southern and I about feminism. The discussion emerged after Lauren posted a video about why she is not a feminist, to which I wrote an open letter to Lauren in response. Lauren and I then agreed to take part in the call-and-response style discussion, in which we post questions/prompts for one another to reply to. Lauren is posting her replies as videos on youtube, while mine are hosted here on this blog. Follow the links below for a complete history of the discussion, particularly #3, which describes in greater detail the format for this conversation and some of my thoughts about it.

Conversation history

  1. Lauren’s original video “Why I’m not a Feminist”
  2. My response “A reply to Lauren Southern’s “Why I’m not a Feminist””
  3. Announcement about the virtual discussion
  4. My first prompt for Lauren “Feminism, the devaluation of the feminine, and men”
  5. Lauren’s first post to me “Feminism Discussion Part 1”)

Hi Lauren,

Thanks for your response to my first post. (I’m embedding the video of your first reply below so others can view it in the context of this discussion). Sorry it has taken me a few days to reply.

So, before I move to addressing your prompt for me regarding the wage gap, I want to follow up on some of the points you raised in your video reply to my prompt. I think some of the points I was trying to communicate in my prompt for you were either insufficiently explained by me or misunderstood by you, and I just want to be sure we are on the same page about what I’m actually asserting with regard to feminism before we move forward. I’ll just bullet out the key points. For those that want to skip ahead to the discussion of the wage gap, intersectionality, and white privilege in liberal feminism, I’ve delineated where I start talking about that.

RESPONSE PART 1: Clarification of last post

  • Are all of women’s issues taken care of? Early in your most recent video, you say that past feminist waves have already addressed all the issues in women’s lives. Frankly, this is really troubling if you in fact believe it. I’m not sure you do believe it though, since later in your reply you refer to women’s problems when you suggest women could address their issues by acting more masculine (I’ll address that a little later), and at the end of the video you refer abstractly to “the real problems both genders have.” I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt, therefore, and assume that you do believe women still face unique inequalities and problems in their lives (particularly, if you think about women’s experiences intersectionally and transnationally). However, if I’m wrong and you do believe that all issues facing women have been addressed (and thus you presumably believe that men are the only ones facing gendered issues), perhaps we can discuss that in the next round.
  • Did I say all men need to be more feminine? You seem to have taken from my last post that my goal is to make men more feminine. This is not what I argued. What I was saying is that the devaluation of things that are deemed feminine (e.g. emotions) hurts being treated like a manboth men and women. Even in your original video, you argue that men are hurt when they are ridiculed for not being “manly enough”, and the examples you cited for things that put men in harms way are deeply linked to gendered norms of acceptable masculinity. Rigid expectations about gendered behavior foreclose options, and in some cases they help produce male injury and death (for example, in relation to male suicide, where expressing and seeking help for emotional distress is often seen as shameful and feminine). Thus, the goal is not to say that men need to be more feminine, but rather to say that men (and women) should be not have to embody rigidly defined norms of masculinity in order to be deemed intelligent, worthy, productive, strong, or so on. It should be socially acceptable (even healthy) for men and women to embody a whole range of behaviors and characteristics. For men, this includes those deemed feminine, like being nurturing or expressing emotion. You say, “Feminism’s goal is not to fight for equal rights between men and women, but instead to make men more feminine.” Feminism is about equal rights between men and women. It is also about the equal valuation of femininities and masculinities (there are certainly multiple forms of both), and the freedom for both men and women to embody these in ways that they feel comfortable with.
  • Is gender natural? This is a place where we clearly disagree. You argue that it is an “obvious fact” that men are naturally/biologically more aggressive, competitive, visual-spatial, sexual and driven. This is by no means an “obvious fact”, however, nor is it “lazy” or “pseudo intellectual” (as you say) to discuss the ways that gender is learned. That’s actually a pretty dismissive and insulting treatment of an incredibly large body of work by generations scholars and researchers. There has been a lot of work (by feminists and non-feminists alike) that debunk the assertion that gender is essential and determined by biology. Yes, we have material bodies, but they do not determine who we are, how we behave, or how we identify ourselves. Thus, the meaning we make of bodies and how we are taught (and decide) to use our bodies is deeply social. Just look take a stroll down the children’s toy aisle, and you will witness the early reproduction of gender norms. Boy’s toys encourage action, creative building, strength, and aggression, while girls toys teach beauty, the importance of male attention and protection, and how to perform domestic responsibilities like childcare, cooking, cleaning, and decorating. These lessons extend well beyond the toy aisle though, and we learn, interpret, and perform our gender in relation to norms taught in our homes, schools, media, and everyday interactions. Moreover, your argument that men are naturally aggressive, competitive, and sexual (in contrast to women) actually helps to produce the very narratives that you yourself are trying to challenge–for example, the problematic narrative that men are natural aggressors (not victims). These narratives have also helped to make certain violences like rape seem natural, as people assert that “boys will be boys” and “they just can’t help themselves, it’s in their nature.” Finally, your assertion of the biological essentialism of these gendered behaviors undermines your own argument that women could achieve success by just acting more masculine. When you say women can learn to be more masculine, you too are acknowledging that much of these supposedly natural behaviors are social, learned, and thus alterable.
  • Proof that feminists speak on men’s issues? You say that I provide no proof that feminists speak for men’s issues. This is a bit confusing, since my last two posts have been filled with citations of feminists speaking on men’s issues.
  • Do the top issues for feminist in 2015 pertain only to women? This is something you claim in your video, and you offer two sources (1 and 2) to support your claim. While I don’t think that feminist issues can be reduced to these lists given the breadth and diversity of the field, the fact is, when you examine these links there are actually plenty of issues that speak to men. In the first article, you see Janet Monk calling for coalitions with other racial justice and LGBT movements, which include men of color, and gay, bisexual, and transgender men.  Lux Alptram similarly calls for the inclusion of gender non-conforming people and people of color, which will include men. Ai-jen calls for a livable wage and quality care for working families, which again would include men. Elizabeth Nyamayaro calls for solidarity between men and women, creating “a shared vision of gender equality that benefits all of humanity.” Jessica Pierce, Charlene Carruthers, Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Mikki Kendall all call for a focus on police violence against black people–a movement that has gained particular momentum recently in response to state violence against black men (although women do face much police violence too). Tometi’s call also includes detention and deportation issues, which affect men. Lindy West and Alexandra Brodsky call to protect victims of assault, and both are gender neutral in their call. And, Mia McKenzie points to issues of queer and trans people of color–again she does not limit this to women (and the website she curates regularly includes articles by men and about men’s experiences). The second article you cite also includes family leave and paternal leave policies that pertain to men, although I have to say I see a lot of this second article as indicative of some of the problems with liberal feminism that I will describe in the discussion about the wage gap. Stay tuned for that though.
  • Are most feminists really misandrists who want men to die? Do I represent the fringe? According to you most feminists are misandrists who want men to die, and in contrast, my (non-man-hating) approach to men is representative of the fringe of feminism. I’m really do not understand where you’re getting this from. I have been studying feminist theory and been engaged in discussions with feminist scholars and activists for years, and I have never once met or read a single feminist who said they wanted men to die. Not one. I also haven’t heard feminist “rage” about women wanting to walk around naked either, yet you claim these are the “most active and vocal” feminists. In contrast, you say that the feminism I subscribe to “is not widely practiced” and is a “fringe version”. What do you base this on? I could literally cite hundreds and hundreds of feminists both inside and outside of the academy that describe feminism in relatively similar ways as I have, but I cannot cite a single feminist who wants men to die or who is deeply invested in women being able to walk around naked.
  • I’m sorry you’ve been jeered and ridiculed in replies to your video. Trust me, I’ve gotten the same, as I’m sure you know if you’ve read comments on my blog (or even those comments directed to me on your video). I’m not complaining too much. What I’ve gotten is nothing compared to other feminist bloggers, who receive a daily barrage of people saying they should die, that they deserve to be raped, or other cruel and violent things. People on the internet can be truly awful to one another. Now, that being said, one of your complaints was that feminists said your original video was anti-feminist and anti-equality. I have to say, I do think the characterization of your video as anti-feminist is arguably pretty fair. You have been vocal in your distaste for and dismissal of feminism. On the matter of equality, I do actually believe that you desire and believe in equality, but I have deep reservations and concerns about the anti-equality outcomes that emerge through some of your positions. My guess is that you would probably say the same about me on the topic of equality. By now, it seems clear we have different ideas about what equality looks like and how it is made, which is perhaps something we could talk about.

———————

 

RESPONSE PART 2: Reply to your question about the wage gap

money

Alright, now onto your question. Again, it’s easiest for me to organize my reply as a list, so here goes.

1. You say the wage gap is a “feminist myth”.

It is not only feminists who document and analyze the wage gap, and it cannot be simplified to an issue invented by feminists. In fact, a review of just some of the most recent literature on the matter reveals an overwhelming consensus on the existence of a gendered wage gap (AAUW 2015; Aizer 2010; Alon and Haberfeld 2007; Bastos et al 2009; Briggs 2011; Broyles and Fenner 2010; Budig and England 2001; Campbell and Pearlman 2013; Carrillo Hemmeter 2008; Cech 2013; Cho 2007; Christofides et al 2013; Daczo 2012; Daly et al 2006; Day 2012; Diaz and Sanchez 2013; Douglas and Steinberger 2015; Dozier 2010; Elmelech and Lu 2004; Fisher and Houseworth 2012; Flippen 2014; Franks 2007; Glauber 2008; Hirsch 2008; Hoyos et al 2012; Ioakimidis 2012; Kassenboehmer and Sinning 2014; Kennedy et al 2009; Kim 2013; Kunze 2005, 2008; Liu 2004; Livanos and Pouliakas; Machin and Pahani 2003; Maume and Ruppaner 2015; McDonald and Thorton 2011; McGee et al 2015; McGregory 2013; Mishel et al 2014; Misra and Murray-Close 2014; Monk-Turner and Turner 2004; Neal 2004; Nyhus and Pons 2012; Palomino and Pevrache 2010; Pastore and Verashchagina 2005; Penner 2008; Renzulli et al 2006; Sabir and Aftab 2007; Schulze 2015; Smith and Glauber 2013; Vera-Toscano et al 2004). And, I should note that only a couple of those scholars identify as feminist or even mention the word “feminism” in their work.

We definitely need to break this down and talk a bit about what all these people are saying. Before we do that, however, we clearly need to get on the same page about what the wage gap is since your definition is much more narrow than its standard definition. The American Association of University Women (AAUW) has a really user-friendly definition, and I assure you their definition is representative of the way most scholars (including those cited in the articles you offer) define it as well. According to the AAUW, “The pay gap is the difference in men’s and women’s median earnings, usually reported as either the earnings ratio between men and women or as an actual pay gap.” So, the wage gap does not refer only to gaps in wages for “the exact same job, with the same seniority and education”, as you describe. The pay gap is a term that more broadly encompasses the uneven earnings of men and women. Now, that being said, as Briggs (2011) writes, “research consistently shows individuals doing the same, or comparable work, are not getting paid the same.”

2. The role of choice in shaping the gender wage gap.

So, in thinking about our definition of the wage gap, there are multiple approaches to understanding and explaining it. Many talk about the wage gap using theories of human capital. These people examine the wage gap as a function of characteristics of the worker: unequal education, training, skills, personal choice of occupation, or personality. This is the camp you seem to fall into, since you argue, “men are paid more than women because of their choices.” It’s important to note that this human capital approach is not a denial of the existence of the wage gap however; rather they are just explaining it in a particular way.

In fact, feminist (and non-feminist) interventions into the wage gap often deal with addressing the structural ways that gender norms (not just overt gender discrimination) help produce these outcomes. For example, they discuss how gender ideologies work to route women towards particular jobs, and how occupational sorting impacts the pay gap (Penner 2008). They discuss how women’s uneven childcare responsibilities impact their choice of occupation and ability to advance their career, a pattern that has been dubbed the “motherhood penalty” (Budig and England 2001)—in contrast to evidence that men actually earn a wage premium for fatherhood (Glauber 2008). They also demonstrate how the norms of acceptable gender behavior influence confidence and negotiation stills (Nyhus and Pons 2012; Palomino and Peyrache 2010). As Misra and Murray-Close (2014) argue, the argument that the wage gap is solely a matter of choice and thus no policies are needed to address it is representative of “widespread confusion about the sources of the gender pay gap and a failure to appreciate the extent to which contextual factors, including policy supports for pay equity, condition the impacts of men’s and women’s choices on their earning.” Further, as the AAUW (2015) describes, even though women are more likely to go into disciplines like teaching that are paid less, we still should be asking questions about whether lower wages in female-dominated fields are fair. In this regard, perhaps it’s also worth considering how the gender composition of certain labor fields has also contributed the way that the labor is valued, as fields like teaching are often treated as reproductive labor akin to childrearing (going back to my previous discussion about productive/reproductive labor).

Ultimately, choice is far more complicated than you are acknowledging. One of the problems with this type of faith in a meritocracy (the idea that anyone can be successful if they make good choices and work hard) is that it can lead you to turn a blind eye to the systemic conditions that help produce certain outcomes. In this case, it is leading you to ignore how gendered social systems help produce gendered outcomes in wages, and the ways these outcomes distinctly impact people of color and other marginalized groups (as I discuss in a minute). I’m not saying these systemic conditions wholly determine futures, but dismissing them only allows us to see half of the story. Moreover, it allows us to unproblematically blame people (in this case, women) for their position, rather than critically and compassionately examining the systemic factors that might lead people down certain paths or to make certain choices.

3. When all things are equal, the gender wage gap still persists.

There is ample evidence that even when you account for occupational sorting, education, and skills the wage gap cannot be explained away. Analyzing data from the US Census, the Department of Education, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the AAUW describes how, even after “accounting for college major, occupation, economic sector, hours worked, months unemployed since graduation, GPA, type of undergraduate institution, institution selectivity, age, geographic region, and marital status”, there is still a 7 percent earning gap between men and women college graduates that is unexplained a year after graduation. Ten years after college graduation, there is a 12 percent difference in earnings. Many studies demonstrate the persistence of wage gaps even when controlling for key “human capital” variables (e.g. Briggs 2011; Chech 2013; Daly et al 2006; Kim 2013; Machin and Pahani 2003; Misra and Murray-Close 2014; Schulze 2015; Weinberger and Joy 1997).

4. Feminist theories of intersectionality are essential in understanding the wage gap.

A review of the literature on the wage gap makes it clear how important it is to distinguish which women we are talking about. Women’s experiences are not universal, and the wage gap does not operate the same way for women in every pay scale, in every discipline, or in every country or region, and it certainly does not operate the same way across race, age, class, or sexuality. As Smith and Glauber (2013) write, “Inequality between women and men has decreased over the past four decades in the US, but wage inequality among groups of women has increased.” The wage gap must be examined intersectionally. Let’s look at a few indicators of this.

tweet-menAlon and Haberfeld’s (2007) study of work history data reveals “constant racial and ethnic wage gaps among women with college education and a widening race gap among women with no college degrees.” They continue, “minorities earn less even in comparison to Whites with similar levels of education.” The existence of a racial wage gap is also well established in the literature, as the skills of people of color (even when they are equal to those of white people) are less valued. Broyles and Fenner (2010; see also Fryer et al 2013; Heywood and Parent 2012; Kennedy et al 2009; Kerr and Walsh 2014; Lyons and Pettit 2011; Mason 2011; McGregory 2013; O’Gorman 2010) review the ways that hiring has consistently found evidence of racial discrimination, with studies suggesting white preference rates ranging from 50 to 240 percent higher than for black candidates. On the whole, white people spend less time looking for jobs and less time unemployed, they tend to get more stable jobs, and are offered higher wages. As Dozier (2010) finds examining the period from 1980 to 2002, “Although the transition to an “office economy” rewarded both black and white women with wage gains, white women reaped greater benefits.” And, while women of each racial group in the US are more likely to be poor than men of their same origin, “white women are less likely to be poor than minority-status men” (Elmelech and Lu 2004). Similar inequalities are found between white and Latina women (Carrillo Hemmeter 2008; Flippen 2014; Rodriguez and Devadoss 2014).

Further, just as feminism is a transnational movement, so too is the gender wage gap also a transnational issue. Gender wage gaps are documented in Portugal (Bastos et al 2009), Korea (Cho 2007), Honduras (Hoyos et al 2012), Czech Republic (Ioakimidis 2012), Vietnam (Liu 2004), Greece (Livanos and Pouliakas 2012), South Korea (Monk-Turner and Turner 2004), Belarus (Pastore and Verashchagina 2005), Pakistan (Sabir and Aftab 2007), the UK (Schulze 2015), across the European Union (Christofides at al 2013), as well as in other comparative international studies (e.g. Daly et al 2006; Diaz and Sanchez 2013; Machin and Pahani 2003).

The gender wage gap also varies between major metropolitan areas and nonmetropolitan areas, where women suffer more of a gap (Smith and Glauber 2013; Vera-Toscano et al 2004). It varies from state to state. It unevenly impacts people who are gay or lesbian (Douglas and Steinberger 2015; Elmslie and Tebaldi 2014). It impacts non-unionized women of color more than unionized women of color (McGregory 2013). And it varies between high-income men and women and low-income men and women (Kassenboehmer and Sinning 2014; Mishel et al 2014; Shannon 1996).

Therefore, the gender wage gap cannot be understood just through gender. It must be understood and confronted intersectionally with attention to context.

5. You say the wage gap “has been disproved many times before”.

First, you’re overshooting the mark a bit here. Even the sources you yourself cite don’t say the gap has been disproved. They say that it has narrowed, or they question one specific statistic used to measure it (the often-cited 23-cent pay gap figure). As Kunze (2008) describes, “There is no undisputed method for measuring the gender wage gap,” and this leads to different interpretations about it’s size and operation (particularly when it’s examined intersectionally). The consensus (even among those you cite), however, is that it still exists.

Take the Time article by Christina Hoff Sommers that you cite as an example. She is taking issue with the one statistic. She says “the 23-cent gender pay gap is simply the difference between average earnings of all men and women working full-time. It does not account for differences in occupation, positions, education, job tenure or hours worked per week. When such relevant factors are considered, the wage gap narrows to the point of vanishing.” Alright, yes, the 23-cent statistic does not control for all those factors. As I’ve described already, however, this does not make this statistic irrelevant or unimportant, and it reflects the accepted definition of what the wage gap is. Now, her claim that it narrows to the point of vanishing is a bit suspect. First, we again need to be vigilant to the question of which women we are talking about. Feminists do not treat women as a universal block, and the gap is variously narrow or wide depending on who you are referring too. Second, when we take a look at her sources, their “decisiveness” is a bit more muddy than she claims. She refers to the decisive evidence from economists, and she cites one report by CONSAD research corporation to support her claim. Aside from the fact that one study alone isn’t decisive evidence, if you examine their report you’ll find they describe problems of insufficient data and the need for more research on the matter. Moreover, their argument isn’t not even that the wage gap doesn’t exist, it’s that they believe much more of it can be explained by the human capital model of thinking than others acknowledge. The additional two sources Sommers offers as evidence that the wage gap has been debunked are both articles that she herself wrote, which again rely largely on the same CONSAD study. She also claims that the AAUW has debunked the gender wage gap, which if you actually read any of the AAUW reports is plainly false. In fact, their extensive studies (1, 2) reveals quite the opposite.

Needless to say, your claim that the wage gap has been debunked many times before has a handful of problems: 1) it relies on a warped definition of what the pay gap actually is, 2) it takes arguments about the relative role of human capital and extends them in ways that the original researchers are not actually advocating, 3) it over-extends an explanation of the factors shaping of one statistic to claim that the wage gap doesn’t exist at all, and 4) it relies on a small sample of research and characterizes it as decisive, despite those authors own acknowledgement of the incompleteness of their data and findings.

6. You say feminists argue that women aren’t welcome in higher paying STEM fields when women are in fact favored two-to-one in them.

A couple points in reply to this.

  • The all three (1, 2, 3) of the sources you cite for this claim are in reference of the exact same study by Williams and Ceci, so this isn’t exactly overwhelming evidence. Particularly since one of the articles you offer also quotes other well-established scholars describing reasons to be suspicious of their methods and findings. This should make us at least be cautious about their finding, and necessitates that we temper claims about the decisiveness of their research.
  • As many other researchers have argued, you cannot extrapolate what happens in one field to assume this is the case in all fields. Williams and Ceci’s claim that their study on STEM indicates that “anti-female bias in academic hiring has ended” is frankly academically irresponsible. They step back on this claim a little in a follow up question when they clarify that they aren’t saying women don’t face discrimination, and they agree the paper doesn’t demonstrate that the problem is solved.
  • The calls in the article to focus on things beyond overt discrimination are actually quite in line with feminist efforts to increase women’s representation in STEM—for example, by getting girls interested in science at a younger age, challenging ideas that science is masculine, etc.
  • Williams and Ceci’s claim in their abstract that the under-representation of women is typically attributed to sexist hiring is just not true. Sexist hiring is just one among many things it is attributed to, including gendered pipelines towards certain disciplines that start at young ages, perceptions/realities of institutional cultures, etc. Feminists argue that gendered outcomes often have gendered origins, even if overt sexist discrimination is not the cause.

7. You point to one incident with Sarah Silverman to characterize all feminists as dishonest.

silvermanLook, I don’t know what was up with the Sarah Silverman situation. Maybe she was being manipulative and dishonest, maybe she didn’t remember the incident well, maybe there was a miscommunication between her and the club manager about what she would be getting paid. I don’t know. The point is, even is she was being totally dishonest, it is wholly unfair to use that as evidence that feminists at large are desperately conspiring to make up wage gaps “to keep their narrative going”. There is plenty of evidence that wage gaps persist, particularly if you look at them intersectionally. Using one person’s dishonestly to justify dismissing all claims is ridiculous.

8. You ask why feminists keep talking about this “invisible problem” “instead of dealing with some of the real problems that both genders face.”

First, I hope I’ve addressed enough by now the ways that wage gaps persist as a problem. Second, I’m glad you’re acknowledging here that there are real problems facing women too, in contrast to your earlier statement that First and Second Wave feminism had already solved everything for women. Finally, the question of “why wage gaps” and not other issues is actually totally in line with my own concern and the concern of other feminists about the focus on the issue, particularly when you consider how work on the gender wage gap has tended to unevenly benefit white women. Feminists who focus largely on the wage gap, while ignoring systemic issue of racial inequality, poverty, and imperialism, for example, need to think more critically, and this is where I want to turn to a discussion about white privilege and liberal feminism in relation to wage battles…

The white privilege of liberal feminism

It’s interesting that you took from my earlier article that I was deeply invested in the debate about the wage gap, particularly after I said in the announcement of this discussion that I would rather talk about the current situation of police violence than the wage gap. I mean, by now it should be obvious that I do believe gender wage gaps exist and matter. However, most efforts to address the wage gap have unevenly helped white women, as they have been the primary beneficiaries of increased access to higher education and higher salaries. As bell hooks writes, the reality is “that privileged white women often experience a greater sense of solidarity with men of their same class than with poor white women or women of color.” In this regard, giving some women more access to higher wages doesn’t do much to challenge the broader social and economic structures that produce so much inequality for so many people. In other words, it leaves structural racism and poverty unchallenged.

The issue of the wage gap is a good marker of the difference between liberal feminism and radical feminism. The word “liberal” here is not in reference to the common dichotomy of liberal versus conservative. Liberal feminists focus on how women can gain equality through existing structures of liberal democracy and market capitalism. Key liberal feminist goals would be to gain equal political representation (without challenging the existing political system), or equal pay (without challenging the existing economic system). While being a prominent form of feminist scholarship and activism, liberal feminism is often critiqued by feminists of color, postcolonial feminists, and socialist/Marxist feminists (among others) for its individualism and its failure to challenge existing societal structures that produce inequality (of which the law and the economy are at the forefront). Thus, feminists debate extensively about whether equality can be created through liberal feminism, and the issue of women’s equal membership in an unequal economic system is a prime example.

hooksIn her discussion of Sheryl Sandberg’s best-selling book Lean In, feminist icon bell hooks describes the issue far more eloquently than I could, so I’m going to quote her heavily here. In Lean In, Sandberg describes how women can climb the corporate ladder and gain leadership if they just have the courage to ‘lean in’ and persevere. In a sense, Sandberg is making an argument similar to the one you made, Lauren, (although she does call herself a feminist), that if women just play by the gendered rules of masculinity, they could overcome inequality. Here, hooks’ concerns about Sandburg’s message could be also be offered as a reply to your message about choice and the wage gap: “It almost seems as if Sandburg sees women’s lack of perseverance as more the problem than systemic inequality. Sandburg effectively uses her race and class power and privilege to sandberg1promote a narrow definition of feminism that obscures and undermines visionary feminist concerns.” Thus, uncritical narratives of “choice” and “meritocracy” erase the undergirding structures that shape the landscape within which one is able to “choose.” In other words, the narrative about the choice to lean in erases how these structures are distinctly raced, classed, gendered, euro-centric, and heteronormative. “To women of color young and old, along with anti-racist white women, it is more than obvious that without a call to challenge and change racism as an integral part of class mobility she is really investing in top level success for highly educated women from privileged classes.” (As another example, we saw concern about this emerge in response to Patricia Arquette’s recent Oscar acceptance speech where she called for gay people and people of color to support women’s efforts for equal pay. Here is a good elaboration of the white privilege that her statement reflected. She got some deserved flack from anti-racist feminists on this.)

arquette 2

As hooks describes, feminism does not begin and end with the notion that it’s all about gender equality within the existing social system. I’ll conclude with her words:

“Importantly, whether feminist or not, we all need to remember that visionary feminist goal which is not of a woman running the world as it is, but a woman doing [her] part to change the world so that freedom and justice, the opportunity to have optimal well-being, can be equally shared by everyone—female and male.”

The end.

My prompt for you, Lauren

I think that I’ve written enough in this essay for you to reply without me posing a new question. So, in order to keep the conversation manageable, I’ll leave it open for you to respond however you want. Feel free to follow up on things I’ve said here, or pose new topics for discussion. As you may have gathered by my slow reply, the time commitment of writing these replies had ended up being more than I anticipated. With that in mind, I propose that we keep the conversation going, but allow it to happen at its own pace. What do you say?

All the best,

Jenna

 

 

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