Enough is Enough

When is Humanity Going to Get That We’re All in This Together?

Why Will My Daughter Earn Less than My Son?

Posted by honestpoet on June 9, 2008

Thanks to my dear friend Nan for this link to the American Association of University Women’s study showing that women, all things being equal, and even accounting for motherhood, etc., earn significantly less than their male counterparts. Still. And it starts within a year of graduating college.

I abhor the blatant sexism of Islam. But the insidious sexism practiced here in America isn’t much better. I think Sen. Clinton and her supporters could tell you something about it, as well. I know one woman, a bright, articulate hospital administrator, who is hopping mad about what she heard from folks during the campaign. She’s so mad about it she doesn’t think she’ll be able to support Obama, even though she’s been a lifelong Democrat (she’s got other issues with him, as well, and NOT that he’s a reptilian-human hybrid).

I recently read the excellent novel by Ursula K. LeGuin, Lavinia, which not only illuminates the causes and costs of war, but also what it feels like to be an intelligent female coping in the world of men, set in the time when Rome was but a backwater. Things haven’t changed all that much.


15 Responses to “Why Will My Daughter Earn Less than My Son?”

  1. ubuntucat said

    While women earning less than men is evidence of sexism, I think it’s important to note the sexism is probably more institutional than personal. In other words, in very few of those cases is an employer saying to himself or herself, “Let’s see. I have two employees who do the exact same job, have the exact same experience, but one is male and one is female. I think I’ll pay the male employee more.”

    It’s subtler than that. There are several sociological factors at play here.

    It’s probable that men in general are more likely to ask for raises than their female counterparts. Now, of course, if the employer is really cognizant of being egalitarian, she or he will think, “If I give him a raise, I’d better give his female co-worker an equal raise, too,” but more likely, the employer will think, “He makes a good case. I think I will give him that raise,” or to justify the difference, “He’s showing some real initiative and introspection here that she isn’t.”

    The employer (even subconsciously) may also look at the family situation of the employee and have those biases factor into salary determinations. I have seen some non-traditional families (in which the wife is the breadwinner and the husband is the homemaker), but in the vast majority of households, either the husband works and the wife doesn’t or both spouses work. Either way, there’s a lot of societal pressure for the man to “bring home the bacon,” and the employer may feel she or he is only doing her part to make sure he can provide for his family. It’d be an interesting study to see if women who are sole breadwinners for their families are underpaid by the same margin as other women.

    And I hate to bring up such a trite argument, but most feminist women I know still expect the men they date (and potentially marry) to pay for dinner and romance them. That conflict diamond ring also doesn’t usually come out of her paycheck.

    Yes, employers should be very wary of giving raises or initially higher salaries to men when their women employees aren’t getting the same, but there also needs to be a general psychological and sociological shift in society when it comes to expectations and pressures around money and gender.

  2. honestpoet said

    This all may be true but it still sounds like rationalization. While the pay-gap may be institutional, it must reflect a personal sexism at some level, whether conscious or not, on the part of the people determining who gets paid what. And I can’t believe anyone is factoring in the “need” to buy someone a diamond or dinner.

    The fact remains that we aren’t the egalitarian society we pretend to be. Yes, it does need to start with a “general psychological and sociological shift in society.” How do we bring that about? By recognizing the problem and talking about it, to begin with.

  3. ubuntucat said

    It’s all subconscious, of course. I doubt any employer is thinking consciously, “Well, Herbert just asked me for a raise, and I haven’t given one to Gertrude. Herbert is about to propose to his girlfriend, though, and I know that diamond’s going to be expensive.”

    And I fully agreeing about recognizing the problem and talking about it; that’s why I left that long post.

    People already talk enough about the pay difference and not really enough about what causes the pay difference. I’m proposing that it’s less to do with the consciously sexist behavior of individuals and more to do with expectations and gender roles that we as a society generally put on males and females.

    We need to stop rewarding employees for being aggressive in asking for pay raises and start rewarding them for simply doing their jobs well. Both employers and potential partners of men need to stop thinking of men as the breadwinners and providers. And, yes, heterosexual women should stop expecting men to pay for dates and be very open to dating and marrying men who make less money than they do.

    Every little bit counts in making change.

  4. honestpoet said


    But having just escaped back to the north after living for almost 13 years in the Deep South, where I stopped working outside the home because the relocation was going to mean a 50% pay cut for the same job, I have to say that down there, there isn’t much subconscious about the sexism. It drips off of them. And they put their feet in their mouths over it constantly. (Not all the men, of course, but a whole lot of them.)

    I’m not sure why anyone would think that having a Y chromosome and that little bit of extra flesh in the pants would have anything to do with intelligence.

  5. ubuntucat said

    Point well taken. I guess I’m playing up an aspect of the discussion I think is typically overlooked, but there is certainly blatant and widespread explicit and fully conscious sexism involved, too.

  6. honestpoet said

    I think men like you have difficulty understanding how ignorant some men can be (I’ve just been reading at your blog).

    Thanks for participating here! It’s always nice to meet reasonable people. I think I’ll add you to my blogroll under “Christians worth knowing.” Monte’s probably getting lonely in that category.

  7. ubuntucat said

    You’re probably right.

    Thanks for thinking about adding me to your blogroll.

  8. A few quick thoughts… if the pay gap persists in the same jobs (same hours, same physical labour, same educational requirements), then that’s horrific. I’ll add in that women perform better than men in college, so, if an employer is trying to compensate for demonstrated ability, this would tilt the other way.


    And I hate to bring up such a trite argument, but most feminist women I know still expect the men they date (and potentially marry) to pay for dinner and romance them. That conflict diamond ring also doesn’t usually come out of her paycheck.

    I used to think the way you do. I learned the hard way, however, that men who don’t pay for dinner aren’t interested in a serious relationship. Men who are really interested will make the sorriest excuses imaginable to treat the girl; men who aren’t really into a woman will either go Dutch, not take her out at all (v. common in the modern era), or expect something in return for dinner.

    My attitude? I don’t care how much each of us are making – if he doesn’t pick up the tab, then I have no desire to waste my time with someone who may as well be wearing a sign that says, “I’m only in this for booty, and I’m gone if it isn’t all about me.” If he’s not making a lot of money, then he can treat to ice cream, a picnic in the park, coffee, or the like. If I’m out-earning him, I’ll reciprocate – which, again, is required (at least by the Miss Manners crowd) regardless of income. Find a way to show each other that you care – otherwise, you’re f-buddies.

  9. honestdebate said

    interesting discussion, from a latecomer’s perspective.

    i have a slightly different take on the ‘equality’ arguments, if you’re interested.

    the simple ‘equality equation’ doesn’t always solve problems. for starters by striving to ‘give equal rights to women’ we are using the male yardstick. whatever the man can do, the woman should be able to do. if men work, women should be able to too. now that’s all fine, but what about the fact that women get pregnant, may have morning sickness and as a result of their pregnancy may not be able to do ‘heavy lifting’ etc and it may affect their ability to work. With the simple equality answers, we’d expect women to continue doing the same job without any allowances or accept reduced pay for time off.

    Women and men are both human beings with many common features, but we are very different too. Equality in itself doesn’t give us the answers, as in some cases women require rules and rights specific to women and vice versa for men.

    in times of divorce, which parent should have custody? if a woman wants an abortion, who’s right is it: father’s, mother’s or child’s? the concept of equality falls short of providing comprehensive answers to our more complex existence.

    honest debate.

  10. honestpoet said

    Hi HD, I’m glad you stopped by.

    While it’s true that equality does not equal sameness, this study takes into account pregnancy, etc. It shows that even with those considerations, women in America are still not earning the same as men FOR THE SAME WORK. There’s a significant UNEXPLAINED discrepancy in pay that can only be accounted for by sexism.

    The abortion issue is a complicated one. In the end, I believe that it is the mother’s right to choose. It is her life, not the father’s, that will be changed irrevocably by carrying the child to term, even if she were to give it up for adoption. (Personally, I’m glad I never felt the need to make that choice, because it would be a terrible one to contemplate. But I would not take that choice away from another woman.) And if the abortion is performed early enough in the pregnancy, there really is not a child to speak of, only a potential one. I don’t believe in an immortal soul, just in consciousness, and consciousness is lacking in an early-term fetus. That said, abortion as a primary means of birth control is unacceptable. Abortion ought to be much rarer than it is in America, where it’s taken far too lightly, often to the psychological detriment of the woman.

    Women in the workforce, because of child-bearing issues, have actually made the workplace safer for men. Men once were expected to put up with toxic environments on the belief that it didn’t matter, since they don’t bear children. (It turns out that exposure to many toxins is not only bad for the father but also bad for children he may bear, so all of the population is healthier if the workplace is made less toxic.)

    Your question regarding divorce really needs to be addressed on a case-by-case basis, as it is here in American courts.

    I’d say the differences between men and women are primarily socially derived. There are some very important biological differences, but they are not nearly as great as society would have you believe.

    And Theobromophile, it’s nice to see you here again. Interesting thoughts. Sure makes me glad I’m not out there dating (we’ll have been married for 17 years this summer, so I don’t even remember what that’s like).

  11. honestdebate said

    i agree with much of what you said. i also agree that discrimination is not justified, a lot of it is sexism. i’m just not convinced equality’s the answer. Of course you know i’m a muslim, so believe in rights being different for men and women. that’s what’s inspired me to think along these lines.

    i also don’t agree with women getting jobs simply because they’re women. women exploited in the media to use femininity to sell cars, chocolates… you name it and she sells it.

    men and women should be paid for the job they do and should be paid equally. their gender is not relevant, that means no positive discrimination either. that’s as far as work goes. where society is concerned, men and women have different roles and responsibilites in life. these need to be clearly defined. islam lays down those boundaries and makes life a little easier in this regard for Muslims. If you take that criteria away, people will learn through mistakes – but as with everything nowadays, how much worse will it have to get before we realise that human beings are too limited and incapable of enforcing a just system. – if that’s made any sense.

    you see as an individual you may come up with a fantastic solution, but it’s not necessarily going to be comprehensive. it may be great in the economics, but may lack in the legal. we may get a group of individuals together, but still won’t necessarily agree. we need a system, that’s a reality. we’ll never be able to agree, find a comprehensive one that is just for all beings and then thnk of problems and have solutions, convince everybody else to enforce them on oour behalf whilst uniting people under our belief.

    if one man can claim to do that, that’s surely ‘an extraordinary claim’. and that is what Mohammed brought.

    i’m about to post a documentary on my blog about islam: empire of faith. CH 4 in Britian did it a few years back and it may be of interest to you.

    thanks once again for bringing some sanity to the online world.

    honest debate

  12. honestpoet said

    Again, I would remind that when we demand equality we’re not saying that “equal” means “same.” But we women, as humans, have every right to vote, to own property, to drive, to speak with whomever we wish, to determine our own futures. And yes, to make mistakes. The only role that law should have is to protect people from each other. My rights end where another’s begin. But laws that dictate my own choices, if those choices harm none but myself? Not something I can accept. I would argue that in many ways comprehensive systems of conduct like Islam infantilize people and leave them powerless, so that they are more easily controlled by the warlords and Robber Barons. Much better to have a populace that has learned to think for itself than one that looks to some authority for guidance.

    I’ve never proposed that a woman should get a job simply because she’s a woman. Jobs should be granted on merit. (I’m equally disgusted, btw, at how sex is used to sell everything from cars to shaving cream. We don’t watch TV in my house primarily because I don’t want my daughter OR my son exposed to the garbage created by Madison Avenue…as well as because there are so many better uses for their attention and time.)

    But why should a man have different rights than I? I believe those sorts of ideas belong in the past. They may have served some purpose when humanity was in its infancy, but it’s time to grow up.

  13. honestdebate said

    Much better to have a populace that has learned to think for itself than one that looks to some authority for guidance.

    how does the populace learn to think for itself? aren’t we limited in our understanding as humans? our rights and wrongs, dos and don’ts only come from experience, experience of others and society/upbringing or environment. if you live in some parts of the far east, it’s ok to eat dogs. in other parts, that’s an appalling suggestion. to those in the far east there’s nothing wrong with it. who decides and why are they right/wrong?

    ok you could argue that if a person wants to eat a dog, that’s his choice as long as it doesn’t affect someone elses. but our relationship is often complex. who is to look after the elders in their old age? who is to provide for the disabled child? who should stay at home? who’s responsibility is to bring home the bread? when is it appropriate to abort? What about being attracted to someone whilst you’re married?

    i’m sure you’ve got opinions on all of these and you seem like a down to earth person. but the point i’m trying to make is that our relationships overlap and our actions affect others, sometimes even by our inaction. islam doesn’t remove creativity, it solves the problems for man – that we will inevitably encounter in life. It answers the fundamental questions without contradiction, where we came from, why we are here and where we will go after this life.

    human beings naturally look for purpose and meaning to life. if we don’t have concrete boundaries and individuals are left to decide them for themseleves they will choose different boundaries. society is not just a group of individuals, but rather individuals are a part of society. their decisions have an impact on society.

    who decides what is nakedness? what is appropriate for adults to wear in public life? If it’s just the individuals right, he can go out butt-naked. but what about the kids who’ll have to see him and people who have to interact with him. 100 years ago, appropriate clothing was different to what it is now. we’ve not necessarily progressed, we’ve just changed acceptable values. who knows what it will be 100 years from now. many times we don’t even realise the consequences until generations later when people don’t want to know what we think anyway.

    make sense? islam answers these questions for me. it makes all the roles fit in place. what attracted me to islam was its comprehensive nature. if you study all of them you’d be in awe, as to how much detail goes into the ruling, the economics, the social, the relationships etc. all that thought of by one man?

  14. honestpoet said

    A populace learns to think for itself by being given the freedom to do so. I don’t think Americans are doing it as well as we could be, largely because our government and our media are corrupted by the multi-national corporations who are running things. We’re actually living under a fascist regime with the barest veneer of democracy. This isn’t what was intended by the framers of our constitution and bill of rights, which saddens me. But I think we’re going to grow out of it. I have to hope so, or I’d give up in despair.

    I’m glad Islam answers the questions you have. It’s especially refreshing to hear from a Muslim who respects my right not to embrace it. Unfortunately, many of the Muslims I’ve seen online have been of the “Islam is going to take over the world, get used to it” variety, who aren’t doing much to ameliorate the anti-Islamic sentiment already rampant.

  15. honestdebate said

    i agree, intellectual debate is lacking on all sides. I’m not saying this because i’m muslim, but i do empathise with them reacting to the islamophobia in the media. it’s tiring. the good that muslims try to do never reaches the mainstream for people to recognise. the bad is blown out of proportion and reported as fact and as if it’s from islam.

    ultimately, not a progressive debate either way.

    hopefully we can change that trend in our blogs.

    honest debate

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