There is one obvious area where the equal pay concept stretches out beyond the male/female paradigm, and that is, of course, the LGBT world. But that conversation, to me, is as easy as saying: wouldn’t it be great if we lived in a society where people all got treated fairly regardless of their minority status?
This is about something a bit more interesting, in my opinion, than the complaint that there are people in the world who are biased, bigoted asses. I found a handful of articles on a recent study about sexist attitudes and the wage gap, these articles explain that it is not just women, but also men that support equal pay and women in the work force, that receive less pay than men that lead households that support the so-called traditional gender roles in regards to out-of-the-home work.
The theory behind this finding is that if an individual (in this case the “traditional view” holding man-of-the-house breadwinner type) perceives themselves as the SOLE bread winner, then that individual will simply be more aggressive about pay negotiations; meanwhile, the fellow who’s wife is out working, won’t be under the pressure of being the sole provider for the family, and therefore will be a bit more “laid-back” about the pay they are offered, resulting in a less aggressive stance. The same can be said of women who go out to work in a house where there is a significant other also providing income. The findings of the study show that it is likely the attitude of the employee that results in the lack of pay, not (or rather not entirely) of the employer.
It is this behavioral aggressiveness on the part of someone who perceives themselves as the sole bread winner that tends to lead to greater pay for men who prefer their wives to stay at home and care for the family. This seems a logical explanation to how the dynamic begins in a society. If we take that a few steps further and suggest that men have been at practice for a very long time with this game, we can assert a sort of behavioral evolution principle, a trait that gets passed and taught. This might explain “why” the gap…to a degree.
But this is not a totally satisfactory explanation, I have stayed away from the idea that the employers have anything to do with the problem so far. Well, this is because that argument is ALL the conversation seems to be about in the world about this issue. I never hear any conversation about any other dynamic. It seems fairly small minded to me not to explore other possibilities than “it’s the white male employers fault”, or something to that effect. Simply looking for someone to pin the blame on is a disease and is counter productive. What we need is not blame, what we need is a solution. That said…of course part of the blame rests on the employer side.
I think we can assume that, if the previously discussed dynamic of “aggressive” pay negotiation is at part the root cause, then we can assume that there is an evolving perception on the part of employers in general to perceive, not out of any attitudes of male superiority or female inferiority, that men tend to be responsible for earing the income for the family. It is not a question that this tends to be the reality of the situation, or has been the reality in the mainstream workforce. The general perception, the mainstream perception, the modal perception and reality is that men are the breadwinners, and employers will have seen that principal at play for a very long time. It is no wonder, then, that they will be more willing, on an automatic level, to give a man more pay, since it is usually assumed that he will be providing for a family that depends on the income provided by him to survive.
Of course these arguments do not take into account bigots or male superiority complexes. But it is my belief that dynamics such as this are at the beginning of most social ills. That dynamics such as this tend to be at the root of bigotry, and that if we want to cure the problem, we should investigate all potential avenues of logic AND NOT THROW THEM OUT BECAUSE WE PREFER THE VICTIM/VICTIMIZER train of thought. Everybody wants someone to blame, but what do you do when there is nobody to blame? OR when you cannot blame them as much as you would like? Lets not make scapegoats out of people just because things are messed up, that is not the way to solve problems.
All of the “isms” people get labeled with imply superiority assumptions on the part of the accused. Sexism, racism, etc. But what if the gender pay gap isn’t about, at its root, a belief or perception of superiority? This study suggests this is the case. What if it is simply about the perceptual evolution of our workforce? Yes it creates a bias if we accept this theory, but it is not a bias based on inferiority, superiority, or any level of prejudice. It leaves work to be done, yes. It creates a situation that requires our care and attention, yes, but I know that it stings some that prefer the victim game. Some people want someone to blame, and that accusing someone of being less than noble is not going to solve our problems. It may make us fee self-righteous for a few moments, but not much else.
We hear a lot about how women are forced to be home makers, about how women do not receive equal pay and the whole gambit of how unfair it is for women in the world. You hear the “stay at home” Mom role treated as it were a prison sentence in University lectures and rants on civil liberties and feminist agendas. But I never, not once, have ever heard ground given for the women who do PREFER to stay at home, never do I hear about how proud a man can feel for providing for his family and allowing, yes ALLOWING and agreeing to a woman’s desire to be a home maker and raise the family. We do not about hear about the nobility of the men who make the sacrifice of working 50, or 60 hours a week to provide for their wives and children so that they do not have to endure the coldness of the work-force world. WHY NOT? There are, believe it or not, people who embrace those roles. I come from a family that does, and has no shame or self doubt about this fact.
My wife prefers to be the bread winner, and I prefer to be the home builder, the care taker of the family. We embrace the same roles, but prefer to play different parts (no comments from the peanut gallery about role reversal…unless you plan on buying me a few beers first). So I have a stake in equal pay, and as I am the father to a wonderful little girl, I am a big supporter of gender equality. But I think we go to far at times in our mission to promote that equality. I think we, as humans, tend to want someone to blame, and want to coddle ourselves in our victim hood. Bigots do exist, but I think the roots of our ills are much deeper than base prejudice, and as long as we do nothing but look for “who is to blame and how do we punish them” rather than “what is the cause, and what is the solution” then my daughter will never receive equal pay, and neither will yours.