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.

Concerning topic #2 and black masculinity in North America – a short essay

In a recent speech for Keppler, Laverne Cox commented on the fact that trans women of colour experience much street harassment, and have the highest homicide rate of the LGBT community. However, she sympathized with the black men who have harassed her, theorizing that they see her as a disgraceful “embodiment” of the emasculation that black cis men suffered during the eras of slavery and Jim Crow. I would like to expand on her theory by suggesting that transmisogynoir (hatred of black transgender women) among black men also comes from the aspect of their oppression that holds them as less ‘masculine’ than white men. This essay will argue that popular portrayals of black cisgender men are what have caused some to lash out at black transgender women.

There are detectable patterns within cases of harassment and killing of trans women in North America. As suggested by Ms. Cox, it is often done by cis men, and soon after the realization that the woman is trans – to oppose outward previous sexual interest. I theorize that cis men use verbal and physical violence to regain the sense of masculinity ‘lost’ by expressing interest in trans women. In North American society, men are disciplined to display masculinity through heterosexuality, sexual prowess (e.g. catcalling), and violence (Fields). Many hold the incorrect notion that trans women are really men, and thus that attraction to them is ‘gay’; therefore, they may express embarrassment about this attraction, and a desire for redemption, with violence.
As suggested by Ms. Cox, the situation is very particular within the black community. Throughout history, colonialism and cultural imperialism has held men of colour as more effeminate and therefore somehow inferior to white men. Uchenna Offor describes the oppression of black men in particular during the eras of slavery and Jim Crow:

Black Men were not allowed to perform the duties of what is considered masculine because it would allot power to the Black Race. The controlling images of the Coon, Brute, Tom, and the Picaninny were all ways to degrade and hold Black men to a lower esteem. Although stereotypes of being lazy, ignorant, child-like, angry, overly strong, over sexed, crazed, animalistic were constructed out of the Jim Crow era, these stereotypes are still commonly used when depicting Black Men in media.

Moreover, the fetishization of black masculinity during slavery, as described by Ms. Cox in her speech, lives on, albeit less violently, in works of media such as “Django Unchained” (Cook). It is and has always been an attempt by white men to control black men. As Ms. Cox suggested, the trauma of such oppression, which continues to exist, may pressure black American males to have to prove their masculinity and make it their own. In a short documentary by Byron Hurt an interviewee stated, “We, unlike white males, had to earn our masculinity… because of the difficulties of being able to obtain a sense of masculinity, because of our past, it became the most important thing to us”. Avery Jonas spoke of many black men having to obtain this sense of ‘cool’ masculinity through gang activity, due to economic oppression preventing opportunity for advancement (Morss). Moreover, street harassment would be an easy way to associate oneself with hegemonic masculinity. I theorize that transmisogny may exist among black cis men for the same reasons as they do in all cis men, but that additional pressures may motivate additional aggression. Moreover, with masculinity defined as the absence of femininity (Fields), transmisogynoir is very particular within the black cis men who believe that black trans women give in to white supremacy by denying masculinity.

The media continues to contribute to this aggression by offering no solution. According to Charles Gause, “National broadcasts of African-American males being apprehended by law enforcement locally and regionally is a daily ritual”. However, I have noticed that in news reports of black-on-black violence, speech is usually used to demonize the aggressor rather than sympathize with the victim. This is not the case in situations where the aggressor is white, and/or the victim is white and cisgender. The priority does not seem to be to end transmisogyny, but rather to enforce racist stereotypes of black men. Moreover, there is never any contemplation on this black violence as the possible result of white supremacist patriarchy. Especially without this consideration, constantly representing black men as “studs, pimps, players and criminals” (Jackson, 87) in news and in fiction implies that their violence is somehow biological. This parallels the way that black American slaves who revolted were thought to be sick (Naragon). In result, all black masculine culture, even non-violent, is demonized – taken back ‘under control’ of white supremacy. It is implied that black masculinity, as a resistance of white supremacy, must be contained, and this has ‘justified’ the unfair number of incarcerated black men (Gao).

To summarize, white supremacy has historically branded black men as less ‘masculine’, and therefore inferior, to white men. The operation of this oppression has evolved but still demonstrates similarities to the eras of slavery and Jim Crow. In result, black men may feel additional pressure to meet the constructed standard of masculinity through sexual prowess and aggression. This aggression tends to be directed towards black trans women, who are accused of surrendering to white supremacist ideas. This poses questions about how transmisogyny might be operating among other races victimized by colonialism and cultural imperialism.

Word Count: 900

Works Cited

Cook, Robert. “Black Masculinity in Narrative Media Part 3: Noble Savages.” Web log
post. World Within Logos. WordPress, 10 Aug. 2013. Web. 9 Mar. 2015.

Cox, Laverne. “Laverne Cox on Bullying and Being a Trans Woman of Color.” YouTube,
19 Dec. 2013. Web. 9 March 2015.

Fields, Errol Lamont. “Codebook First Draft: October 2007.” Racial Identity, Masculinity
and Homosexuality in the Lives of Young Black Men Who Have Sex with Men: Implications for HIV Risk. Maryland: Johns Hopkins U, 2009. 248. Web. 9 Mar. 2015.

Gao, George. “Chart of the Week: The Black-white Gap in Incarceration Rates.” Pew
Research Center. Pew Research Center, 18 July 2014. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.

Gause, Charles. “The Social Construction of Black Masculinity: (Re) Presentations in the
American Pop Culture.” Gradnet. Miami University of Ohio, Oxford, n.d. Web. 9 Mar. 2015.

Hurt, Bryon. “I Am a Man: Black Masculinity in America.” YouTube, 30 Oct. 2006.
Web. 9 March 2015.

Jackson, Ronald L. Scripting the Black Masculine Body: Identity, Discourse, and Racial
Politics in Popular Media. Albany: State U of New York, 2006. Web. 10 Mar. 2015.

Morss, Paige. “Avery Jonas ’16 Discusses Black Masculinity in the Media.” The
Phillipian. The Phillipian, 22 Jan. 2015. Web. 9 Mar. 2015.

Naragon, Michael D. “Communities in motion: Drapetomania, work and the development
of African‐American slave cultures.” Slavery & Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies. London: Routledge, 1980. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.

Offor, Uchena. “Masculinity: A Depiction of White Manhood vs. Black Manhood.”
Gender, Sexuality, & Women’s Studies Program. University of Pittsburgh, 7 Nov. 2011. Web. 9 Mar. 2015.

The Way I Saw “The Way He Looks” – a film review (spoiler alert)

This January/February I attended the Reelout queer film festival in Kingston, and genuinely loved it. The atmosphere was warm and welcoming, and, unlike in regular movie theatres, there were introductory speeches and prize giveaways. My best experience was definitely the first screening, which doubled as a fancy-dress gala. Many people spoke, including members of the staff, the mother of the film’s star, and a representative of RBC (which sponsored the festival). The representative said something quite touching: that if the company were to replace its entire staff with duplicates of its best member, it would be a much worse company, as it needs diversity. It’s hard not to wonder whether this sentiment, and support in general, is genuine, or merely part of the company’s desired image (and pursuit of pink dollars). I like to be optimistic, though.

I’m going to be reviewing the 2014 film The Way He Looks, directed by Daniel Ribeiro. A self-representational film, the characters are Brazilian, just like the director; the film is also in Portuguese. Ghilherme Lobo plays the protagonist Leonardo, Tess Amorim his best friend Giovana, and Fabio Audi his love interest Gabriel. It is a coming-of-age drama, centered on Leonardo’s struggle with having parents who are overprotective about his blindness, as well as with his affection for new classmate Gabriel.

The scene I’m going to be discussing is near the middle of the film. Leo and Giovana sit in the school courtyard, talking and laughing until interrupted by Leo’s phone. The exchange agency has called to inform him that they have found an American agency specializing in blind kids. Giovana however reminds Leo that his parents will never let him go on exchange. Karina then interrupts, stating that she is looking for Gabriel. Spotting him, she leaves to flirt with him; Giovana calls her a slut.
While the day lighting and background noise of socializing make for a calm and cheerful tone, the protagonist undergoes a strong mood change. It’s in fact the interplay of various social issues that determine his mood, and that is why I chose this scene. I feel that it reflects the rest of the movie as a whole in terms of the social issues that it attempts to address.

Leo and Giovana’s laughter as a display of friendship is important. The heteronormative idea that men and women cannot be friends fuels platonic male-female relationships in film to often turn romantic, when existing at all. Although knowledge that Leo likes men would help heteronormative audiences accept his friendship with Giovana, it could be considered that Leo also likes women but simply not her.
As a side note, a clear statement of his and Gabriel’s sexual orientation in the film would have clarified which they are representing, and prevent audiences from viewing them as ‘straight with one exception’.

Leo’s phone conversation reminds the audience of his blindness, which I want to address. Specifically, a possible issue in the actor’s non-blindness. In her TED talk concerning disability studies, Maysoon Zayid stated, “Disability is as visual as race. If a wheelchair user can’t play Beyoncé, then Beyoncé can’t play a wheelchair user.”1 Leo’s uses a cane to walk – his disability is visual. It’s unfortunate that actors with disabilities are deprived of such roles (on top of able-bodied ones) in favour of able-bodied actors. Self-representation in the film only goes so far.

Despite this, I think Lobo did a good job. His subtly sad eyes and posture effectively communicate jealousy. However I like that the movie isn’t sad overall. The rare homosexual love stories in film are often tragic, and never get to share genres with heterosexual ones. A light coming of age story about two boys in love is refreshing. They realistically have to deal with bullies, but these are easily thwarted.

The scene is not the first example of Giovana’s Karina-oriented complaints. I was surprised, then, when Karina turned out to be sweet; Giovana’s hatred is clearly pure slut shaming. Perhaps the filmmakers were attempting to thwart the ‘flirts a lot = bad person’ idea by making Karina likeable, but if so, this did not come through. The stereotype should have been further addressed in order to be clearly subverted – and Karina’s storyline is too overshadowed by Leo’s. Therefore, the film seems to support misogynistic slut shaming.

Altogether, I really enjoyed the film. Leo and Gabriel have great chemistry, and the Brazilian setting was an escape from the current Canadian weather. The cinematography was well done, and cooperated with lighting, set design, and smooth editing for formal realism. The choices made sense considering that without formal realism, social realism is never as clear. As anticipated, it was refreshing to see South American nationality, disability, and queerness intersect within a protagonist; it’s rare to see one of these characteristics in mainstream film.
However, as a film wanting to push boundaries, it could have gone further. Although Portuguese-speaking Brazilians are typically ‘othered’ by North Americans, it’s mostly when they are non-white; yet no other race is represented. The film has queer characters, but all are cisgender (as far as the audience is made to know). The film did not pass the Bechdel test, either, and there could have been more class diversity.

Word Count: 871 (introduction 371; review 500)

1 Zayid, Maysoon. “I got 99 problems… palsy is just one.” TED. TEDWomen 2013. Dec. 2013. Lecture.