Unjust approaches to wage inequality in the United States – a short essay

In a recent segment for ABC 4 Utah, Randall Carlisle reported on the controversy surrounding Jordan High School’s Young Democrats Club. The club, wanting to bring attention to the disparity of earnings between men and women, sold cookies to men for 1 dollar each and to women for 77 cents each. The segment features interviews with club member Karli Schott and with a few outside students, framed by narration from Carlisle. Unfortunately, I found that Carlisle’s dialogue, as well as the footage choices, subtly support patriarchy and white feminism.

Carlisle’s segment prioritizes male opinions on gender equality. Firstly, he was allowed to state that the notion of equal pay “sounds strange” (Carlisle). Editors also decided to include Helamen Matmata’s assertion that “a lot of women out there are just as good as men” (Carlisle), which insinuates that not all – only a lot – of women deserve equal pay. The segment, while constantly referencing the controversy behind the club’s affirmative action, does not acknowledge the controversial nature of such statements. Moreover, the segment includes student Jake Knapus’s complaint “I just don’t believe the statistics they’re using are correct. I would love to have a debate with them… But the fact that they tell me to go away is kind of disheartening” (Carlisle) while intentionally not giving the club’s side of the story. A separate article by Taylor Pittman for The Huffington Post, however, proves that this side exists, reporting Schott as having said, “We told them we would be happy to debate them, but only after they took the time to read the fact sheets we had printed up for the event… When we did that, they walked away”. Regardless of who was being truthful, Carlisle’s segment chose to exclude Schott’s perspective entirely, demonstrating patriarchal demonization of gender activism. Pittman’s article also includes her statement “I’m so proud we did it”, which contrasts with Carlisle’s declaration “Schott’s dad says he’s proud of Karli”. By intentionally replacing Schott’s feelings of pride with her father’s, Carlisle implies that the uninvolved man’s opinion is more important. It supports the patriarchal notion that women are simply extensions of their fathers, always requiring their approval. Moreover, by prioritizing male opinion on gender equality, the segment implies that gender activism is only valid when it receives male approval.

I also think that the segment prioritizes whiteness, cisness, heterosexuality, and able-bodiedness. While it is true, according to the National Women’s Law Center, that a women typically earns 23% less than a man in her field, this is only true if both parties are white, straight, cisgender, and abled. Neither the club nor the segment considered wage inequalities for other marginalized groups, such as the examples listed below (note: the numbers are averages, as earnings also depend on other factors).

Table 1

Examples of Wage Disparities in the US

Group

Percentage of earnings Data source

White (non-hispanic), cis, straight, abled men

100% (“the dollar”)

(Openly) gay and bisexual men

79% of the straight man’s dollar The Williams Institute in 2014

(Transitioned) trans men

78.5% of the cis man’s dollar S.E. Smith in 2014
White women 77% of the white man’s dollar

National Women’s Law Center in 2013

Black men 73% of the white man’s dollar

“”

(Transitioned) trans women

68% of the cis man’s dollar S.E. Smith in 2014
People with disability

64%a of the abled man’s dollar

Michelle Yin, Dahlia Shaewitz, and Mahlet Megra in 2014

Black women

64% of the white man’s dollar

National Women’s Law Center in 2013
Hispanic men 61% of “”

“”

Hispanic women 54% of “”

“”

a.Varies greatly, depending on the disability/disabilities.

This table does not even make an intersectional analysis, failing to consider the earnings of, for example, transgender latino men, who make only around 54 cents to the dollar (Smith).

In theory, the bake sale had students with disability, as well as non-white, non-straight, and/or trans students, paying the same for a cookie as students receiving higher earnings than them. Moreover, because they are male, students of colour and students with disability would have had to pay more for a cookie than women receiving higher earnings than them (see table 1). I also wonder how students outside of the gender binary, unacknowledged in the segment, would have been accommodated; would they not have been allowed to purchase a cookie at all? Although it would have been much more complicated to host an accurate bake sale, I believe the effort required would have been worth the awareness it could have spread. The segment, however, failed to question the whiteness of the bake sale’s feminism – all it questioned was the feminism. Although Knapus’s concerns could have been with the club’s exclusions, the surrounding context made it seem like he did not agree in the existence of any wage gap. This is another example of footage being manipulated in order to support power structures existing in the United States.

To conclude, I find that news content in the United States, even when addressing topics of social justice, continues to be patriarchal, white supremacist, heterosexist, transphobic and ableist. Randall Carlisle’s segment for ABC 4 Utah, for example, conveys patriarchal ideas while also failing to challenge white feminism, thusly supporting it. I believe that the news, as many citizens’ go-to source for truth and morals, must get better for unfair power structures to collapse. Furthermore, I wonder how the news operates in other countries.

Word Count: 900

Works Cited

Ashton, Deborah. “Does Race or Gender Matter More to Your Paycheck?” Harvard Business Review. Harvard Business Publishing, 10 June 2014. Web. 06 Apr. 2015.

Carlisle, Randall. “Gender Equality Bake Sale Causes Stir at Utah High School.” Good4Utah. Nexstar Broadcasting, 17 Mar. 2015. Web. 06 Apr. 2015.

“INFOGRAPHIC: Evidence of Discrimination: LGBT Employees in the Workplace.” The Williams Institute. University of California, Los Angeles, Mar. 2014. Web. 06 Apr. 2015.

Pittman, Taylor. “High Schoolers Charged Men More At A Bake Sale To Highlight The Gender Pay Gap.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 24 Mar. 2015. Web. 06 Apr. 2015.

“Closing the Wage Gap Is Crucial for Women of Color and Their Families.” National Women’s Law Center. National Women’s Law Center, Nov. 2013. Web. 06 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. 06 Apr. 2015.

Yin, Michelle, Dahlia Shaewitz, and Mahlet Megra. “An Uneven Playing Field: The Lack of Equal Pay for People With Disabilities.” AIR. American Institutes for Research, Dec. 2014. Web. 06 Apr. 2015.

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Unjust approaches to wage inequality in the United States – a short essay

  1. Really great blog, Snowflake123!
    I did not expect you to do what you did with your blog, and was pleasantly surprised the whole way through. A passive, non-critical media consumer would probably have watched the ABC video and read the corresponding article without questioning the subtle patriarchal white supremacist themes which you brought to light. I though you were going to use your blog as a jumping-off point into the glaring issue of the male-female wage gap, but you went much deeper – exploring the systematic, subtle, and exclusionary tones of the American media. I really appreciate your use of secondary sources, as I believe they strengthened you argument. Do you have any ideas on how people could begin to challenge the media to be more inclusionary, less bias, and more fair? Do you think the American media can ever change given the people who fund it? And, as your last sentence asks, how do you think American news outlets rank compared to other country’s media in terms of their subtle racism, instillment of patriarchal views, and white supremacist attitudes?

    Like

  2. Really great analysis SnowFlake123,
    I think you made an excellent point stating that the media is the go to source for morals, because this proves how influential the media is and when issues such as the bake sale are portrayed, people often get the wrong idea’s or incorrect information. I specifically caught interest in the part of your blog that spoke about the male to female wage gap. I would have liked to hear more about the reasons behind the wage gap, and possibly about feminist movements in the past that have tried to fix this issue. You used a wide variety of sources, such as the table provided which really enhanced your arguments. Do you know of any other instances when news reporters use language that ends up framing an issue to be seen in a specific way and the repercussions this has? I think you’re blog would have benefited from an explanation of some of your bolded words, like power structures and if you spoke more in depth about the exclusion of other bodies.
    Overall great analysis and interesting read!

    Like

  3. Great blog Snowflake123! I discussed the same issue, and it’s interesting to me that we both came up with very similar points. This lead to me to think about how our opinions are shaped by what we’ve learned, and how the same applies to the people behind the bake sale. Do you think they are acting out of ignorance? If they are, can we say that they are being transphobic or ableist? If the assumption is that they only know about the wage gap as it applies to white women, can we critique them for not fighting a battle they don’t even know exists? I’d be interested in your answer!

    I also really like that you didn’t talk about the wage gap, but instead talked about the problems with the reporting of the bake sale. Media presentation and representation is so influential, and it is important that we be critical of our sources in order to make sure we are getting the most accurate information. When I watched the video, I was personally troubled by how the segment seemed to almost ask the group behind the bake sale to prove themselves, and I love how you addressed that in your blog. Well done!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s