Gender Equality Discussion Hampered By Poor Use of Language

ABC Good4Utah’s Randall Carlisle reported on a gender equality bake sale, where boys were forced to pay $1.00 for each item, whereas girls were only charged $0.77. The idea was to show how gender inequality was unfair, and while the bake sale was generally a good idea, the language associated with the bake sale and used in the article leaves room for improvement. The organizers of the bake sale were promoting white feminism more than anything, and the reporter used language that wasn’t as neutral and open-minded as one would expect from a reporter.

The organizers of the bake sale, all high school students, were pointing out how unfair the wage gap, and more broadly, gender inequality is. While this is true, the figures they used in their explanation revealed the lack of intersectionality in their fundraiser. While the wage gap is definitely a real thing, the $0.23 wage gap doesn’t take into account all the different marginalized groups women can be a part of; it is a number that only applies to white, cisgender, heterosexual, able bodied women. Black women in America make $0.64 for the white man’s dollar, and Latina women make even less- only $0.53. [Anderson] Trans women are hit even harder, making 32% less than what they’d made pre-transition. [Smith] It is also well documented that men of colour also suffer from the wage gap- black men make $0.75, and Latino men make $0.67 to the white man’s dollar; both figures are less than what a white woman makes in comparison to a white man. [Ashton, Infoplease] Disabled people, whether it is men or women or someone who fall outside of the gender binary, also generally make less than the white woman, if they even get hired at all. [Omaye] The bake sale doesn’t account for any of these marginalized groups; in fact, if you fell outside of the gender binary, would you have been able to purchase anything at all, without having to adjust your personal identity to fit the organizer’s standards? The bake sale is part of a bigger movement for gender equality in the workplace, but if the movement is based on a statistic that doesn’t account for anyone besides the white woman, is it really going to help anything? If your brand of feminism is white feminism, as opposed to intersectional feminism that fights the patriarchy for the benefit of both men and women (and everyone in between and outside the gender binary), how much change are you going to create? As Jake Knaphus, a student at the high school that hosted the bake sale said, the statistic that started it all is not necessarily correct and merits discussion. [Carlisle]

However, further analysis of the article reveals that the way the situation was reported on makes the bake sale seem more problematic than it might actually be. Though Jake Knaphus said he wanted to debate the statistic, we as readers don’t know how he approached the club. We don’t get to see the club’s perspective, so we are led to believe that the club members sent him away without giving him a chance, but whether or not this is true is not evident in the article. As is common in the patriarchy, the male’s opinion is given precedence, to the point where we don’t even get to hear the other side of the story. The story also focuses on the controversy of the bake sale, as opposed to the actual issue of gender inequality; instead of a discussion around how the bake sale came to be and why, Carlisle reports on how much debate it started around the school. While discussion was the point of the bake sale, so was awareness, but Carlisle doesn’t report on that at all.

There is also some problematic language used to discuss the issue in the article. A quote used in the article state that women deserve equal pay because “a lot of women out there are just as good as men out there”. This is problematic in two ways; first it says that women deserve equal pay because women work just as hard as men, not because women are inherently equal to men. Secondly, it doesn’t say that all women are equal, only that a lot of women are, again implying that a woman’s worth is dependent on whether they are as good as a man. Reporting on the issue this way shows how the reporter is still unaware of how the patriarchy is affecting the way he reports. Carlisle doesn’t dispute the statement, thereby implying that he supports it, thus proving that he is not reporting from an unbiased perspective.

In conclusion, this article is an example of how white feminism is not as effective as it appears, and of how poor reporting can make a situation seem more problematic than it actually is. The bake sale is based on a generally good premise, even if its lack of intersectionality is less than ideal, but the reporter presents it poorly, thereby making it seem worse than it is, while also supporting the patriarchy.

Works Cited

Anderson, Jessica Cumberbatch. “Wage Gap Hits African-American, Latina Women Hardest, Report Shows (INFOGRAPHIC).” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 29 Jan. 2013. Web. 8 Apr. 2015.

Ashton, Deborah. “Does Race or Gender Matter More to Your Paycheck?” Harvard Business Review. Harvard Business Review, 10 June 2014. Web. 8 Apr. 2015.

Carlisle, Randall. “Gender Equality Bake Sale Causes Stir at Utah High School.” Good4Utah. ABC, 17 Mar. 2015. Web. 8 Apr. 2015.

Infoplease. “The Wage Gap by Gender and Race.” Infoplease. Infoplease, n.d. Web. 8 Apr. 2015.

Omaye, Jayna. “Study: Workers with Disabilities Paid 10% Less.” USA Today. Gannett, 23 Oct. 2013. Web. 8 Apr. 2015.

Smith, S.E. “Advocacy Organizations Must Not Ignore the Wage Gap for Transgender People.” RH Reality Check. RH Reality Check, 09 Oct. 2014. Web. 8 Apr. 2015.

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3 thoughts on “Gender Equality Discussion Hampered By Poor Use of Language

  1. Really great blog.
    I was actually widely unaware of the wage-gap that exists among different women so reading this was very eye opening and has sparked my interests to do more research on my own. I think the way you spoke about the language used in the article is critical when analyzing an issue that needs intersectionality. How do you think language in the media influences the wider audience? Do you think this leads to misconceptions about feminism in general? I’d love to know what you think.
    Overall very insightful blog!

    Like

  2. Fantastic bog, Mayflowerfair!
    You did an excellent job raising the point that this news story only focuses on the issue of gender inequality as it relates to white women, and is exclusionary of many other groups. You made it very clear that the issue is not as black and white as the media portrayed it, and effectively highlighted the shortcomings of the news report. Do you think this is emblematic of a problem seen in the media all across America, where patriarchal and white supremacist ideas are subtly enforced? Do you think this problem applies to Canada also, and maybe other countries around the world? Since your blog was very similar to Snowflake123’s I will ask you some of the questions I asked them. Namely, Do you have any ideas on how people could begin to challenge the media to be more inclusionary, less bias, and more fair? Also, do you think the American media can ever change given the people who fund it? I would love to hear your thoughts on these questions.
    Once again, really great blog.

    Like

  3. Hi mayflowerfair,

    I was surprised at how similar our blog posts were – we approached the topic from essentially identical angles. Therefore, I’m curious to know if we share the same opinions on possible solutions to the issues raised. Should we write Randall Carlisle to inform him of the problematic nature of his report? Do you think a news outlet such as ABC 4 Utah would be open to such criticism? When it comes to social issues, is it simple ignorance, or hateful apathy, that causes bias in reporting?

    One thing about your post that confused me was your statement, “the way the situation was reported on makes the bake sale seem more problematic than it might actually be”. The phrasing gives off the impression that the segment is critical of the bake sale’s white feminism, when it is not. I think that it would have been useful to mention that Carlisle supported the white feminism by failing to question it – that he only questioned the ‘feminism’ part.

    Overall, it was interesting to read the same topic as approached by someone else, even if it was done in a similar way. Great work!

    Like

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