There’s something that happens whenever I speak about the very real issues of inequality – things like sexism, classism, racism and pay gaps.
I’m met with responses such as: “Don’t be ridiculous!” or “Why are you making problems where there aren’t any?”
Every time. And every single time, I get frustrated. How do they not get it? Why don’t they care?
I honestly believe that they just don’t know any better. I think we’ve reached a point in society where inequality has become so prominent that we don’t even realize it’s happening when we see it happening. We downplay it, we minimize it, and we overlook it. And why?
Now, to preface this, I grew up in a very middle-class comfortable white family. By many, many, many accounts I have had a lot of privileges in life. I’m not trying to cry foul, I am merely trying to shine a light on the fact that as a society, women are largely undervalued in a world dominated by ‘boys-club’ mentality.
When women speak the very real truth that we’re underpaid and undervalued for the things that we do in the workplace, we’re mocked. Or ignored. Or, in a lot of instances, we’re even called liars. And why?
Heaven forbid we stand up for ourselves. Heaven forbid we point out the very reality that we’ve come to face every day in society. The reality that we, for the most part, quietly, humbly, and politely accept. We’re taught to. We’re told to. From a very young age it’s instinctively drilled into our minds that this simply the way the world works and trying to fight it, or change it, is going to be a waste of our efforts.
It doesn’t feel good. It doesn’t feel right. And it most definitely doesn’t feel fair.
But maybe they just don’t know? Perhaps they aren’t aware that a male and a female doing the same job have salary differences in the upwards of tens of thousands of dollars per year. Perhaps they don’t know measure education, work-experience and skill-sets when setting these salaries. Perhaps it was just a lottery and he won the larger salary.
Maybe they honestly believe that calling us ‘gold-diggers’ is a fair assessment to make when we seek financial assistance in raising children.
Maybe they simply think that they bring more value to this world.
They most certainly don’t believe they’re doing anything wrong when they insult each other in ways that demean the female gender. “Don’t be such a pussy”, I’ve heard said more times than I would ever like to admit to. You throw like girl. You’re such a little bitch. Sissy-boy. And the list goes on…
They don’t see it when we clench our jaw, force a smile, and continue on as to not ‘cause a scene’.They don’t know how often it happens. So often that it’s become routine to ‘grin and bear it’.
And heaven forbid we stand up for ourselves. Heaven forbid we raise very valid points that treatment of that nature is not fair, not right and not called for. Being labelled as a “difficult woman” is not a title that simply fades away with time.
This isn’t a new way to view the world. It’s always been happening. As female we’re taught from a young age how to do this. How to stand down. How to not cause a scene. So much so that we often don’t realize we’re doing it anymore. We’ve taught ourselves to be masters of de-escalation. To treat it as though it’s not happening; to be grateful for the mere fact that we have a job at all; to accept every name called, every insult heard, every insecurity showcased as a fact of life.
That’s the reality of being female.
At my former place of employment my boss was married to a doctor. A very highly respected, hard working, incredibly talented doctor. Though she had more education, more skills and was far superior to him in intelligence measures, he weaseled his way into a high-paying job where he got to treat people like crap. His wife’s salary was 20,000 less per year than his and he never let her forget that. It almost seemed as though it was priority in life to demean and demoralize his wife for not contributing in the way that he did to their shared expenses.
My best friend’s ex-husband, without an education, works a job that pays him more than 100,000 dollars per year more than his ex-wife. His ex-wife that he, on regular occasion, referred to as a ‘free-loader- whilst she stayed home during the first year of each of her two young-children’s lives. His ex-wife, who he then referred to as selfish for not wanting to be with her kids, when she attended nursing school to help establish her career. His ex-wife whom which he now refers to as a ‘gold-digger’ on any of the rare occasions in which she has asked him to contribute towards hockey registration fees, or dance class fees.
These are just stories at top of mind. These are just people. And it’s not just in the people that I know. It’s everywhere.
It’s in the hallway of the office, any office, where I hear a male coworker to tell one of his counterparts to ‘stop pms’ing’.
It’s in the hockey arena, when the coach shouts that a ‘Dumb Bitch’ isn’t qualified to officiate his team’s hockey game. Because she’s female, she can’t possibly know enough about hockey to be qualified. Is that what we’re supposed to believe, coach? Thank you for passing along this incredible messaging to the next generation.
It’s over the phone, when a complete stranger’s first words to me are ‘Oh, you sound like a hot line call girl’, only to further that with ‘That voice could get me through a lot of lonely nights’.
It’s everywhere and nowhere, all at the same time.
It’s so frequent and prevalent that we pretend it doesn’t happen because often times it means requires a battle so time-consuming and recurring that it’s not something we can physically and mentally focus on.
When a woman asks to be treated fairly, do it. It’s not a lot to ask.
When a woman comments on the pay gap, don’t ignore her. Don’t devalue her.
When a woman seeks help, don’t criticize her. Don’t diminish her self worth.
When a man doesn’t measure up to your standards, don’t insult him by demeaning women. Don’t insult him by demeaning anyone. Actually, don’t insult anyone. Negativity perpetuates negativity.
I guess all that I’m trying to explain with this really long-winded discussion is, be kind. Treat everyone with the respect that they deserve. Try to understand. Or, at the very least, try to listen. Don’t de-escalate. Appreciate. Value. Put a stop to the inequality, the bullshit and the unfairness. Put yourself in their shoes. Put them in your shoes. Remember that no one else in this world has had the advantages that you have.
Be fair. Create equality on your own. Perhaps others will follow suit. At the very least though, at the very possible least, you’re going to make the women in your life feel a whole lot better when you attempt to understand. And it doesn’t take a lot of effort.
So just fucking do it.