So, yesterday, I made a rushed post (with several typos I discovered later) about how Christians, white people, and men are NOT being oppressed in this country. Your culture is not being destroyed. People who are different from you having both the right to be different AND the same civil and human rights as you is not oppression. You also cannot sit in a position of extraordinary power (seriously, White Christian dude in 21st century America? There has never been a more powerful and privileged group of people in the history of the world) and whine about how you’re being oppressed while simultaneously laying into people who are ACTUALLY being oppressed for complaining about it. You can’t have it both ways.
I ran short of time when ranting about men, and at least one friend on Facebook asked if I would please finish it. So, since the actual oppressed group here (women) includes me, sure, why the hell not?
Let’s begin by establishing: as things go, historically there’s never been a better time or place to be a woman. Especially if you have the fortune to be a white woman. And, yes, I’m a teacher who grades on a curve, up to a point.
However: Men, you piss me off. #notallmen, but enough of you that you get to be thrown in with the “people who don’t know how damned good they have it” crowd. This is what it is to be a woman: you get paid ON AVERAGE 78% of what men do for the same job. The average here is important, because it obscures the often-even-worse numbers it averages. In Washington D.C., where women have the best deal, women make 91% as much as men do. That’s as good as it gets. On the other end, in Louisiana, women make a disgustingly low 2/3 of what men make for the same work. It’s worse if you’re not white (actually, it’s worse if you’re not Asian. Asian women average 90% of what white men make). If you’re a Hispanic woman, you make 54% of what white men make. So, you see, inequities can be stacked – you get to be both not white and not male! Yay!
This gap exists in every occupation. Read: sexism in pay exists everywhere. In fields where women dominate (elementary school teachers), to where we’re the rarity (computer programmers), women are always, apparently, worth less.
Tellingly, the gap is small (90% equity) for women under the age of 35. It jumps to 75-80% after the age of 35. Ladies, what happens around that age? Yeah, that’s right. We have babies. Now, men have babies, too, but…it’s weird how kids seem to HELP men in their careers, isn’t it? Men with kids are seen as more stable, more mature, and as needing their jobs and money more. Women with kids, well – they are probably about to quit to stay home, and anyway, don’t they have a husband to support the family? And why are they always taking their kids to doctor’s appointments? (Hint: because society still expects us to.)
So there’s that. Women get paid less, and the excuse is, “Well, you do less work because you’re taking care of babies.” Bullshit. Women over the age of 35 with no kids STILL face that wage gap. And also? When men do take care of their kids, they don’t usually get dinged for it. (Sorry; I have a reference for that, but my Google Fu failed me.) Finally, even if we assume that men work more hours because fewer kid duties…more work does NOT equal more productivity. The “work limit” is a phenomenon that we’ve known about for a while now – as you pass your work limit (somewhere between 38 and 50 hours in a week for 95% of all people), you become LESS productive. That is, if your work limit is 39 hours, and you decide to work for 42, you wind up with less than 39 hours of actual work product.
Then there’s the fact that we have to constantly withstand a barrage of unwanted male attention, which is usually physically benign (“hey, hey, smile, baby, what’s wrong with you, what you think you’re too good to smile, bitch?”), but is emotionally draining. Just so we’re clear: ALL OF US EXPERIENCE STREET HARASSMENT. If you’re male, and not an asshole, that should horrify you. Men who are strangers have put their hands on me more often than I really want to get into.
We’re afraid to walk alone, especially (but not only) at night. This is NOT because we’re terrified little mice. Please. It’s because there are actual threats, and those threats are a nasty subset of men. More of them than you want to admit. This post says “only” 6% of men admit to having raped someone. ONLY? That means that if I pass 25 men on the street as I walk alone to my car, there was probably at least one rapist in that group. That means that there were an estimated 4 rapists in my genetics class last semester. ONLY six percent?
While we’re on the subject of college kids – one-third of college-aged men say they would rape if they thought they’d get away with it. Holy. Shit.
There’s more, but let’s leave it at that. I want to discuss the more…subtle sexism, now.
Tim Hunt. Not the only example, but the one from my own sphere that has most recently outed himself as a bit of a sexist ass. What he said, for the record:
“Let me tell you about my trouble with girls … three things happen when they are in the lab … You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticise them, they cry.”
Sure, this was meant as a joke. Which he chose to say to a room full of female scientists and science journalists. Some of whom say he asked in advance whether he should make the joke and was advised against it. Here’s the thing: it’s not funny. And it’s not that I’m a humorless feminist. (People who know me will confirm that I am, on occasion, a very funny feminist.) No, it’s that it’s punching down. Hunt is a Nobel Laureate, a fairly privileged rich white guy, and he was making jokes at the expense of people over whom he has power. Many of whom were in the room, having invited him to be an honored guest. So, right. Walk into someone’s house and insult them to their faces. Funny shit, that.
Hunt was later asked if he’d meant the comments, and admitted that he did mean the part about his “trouble with women”. It’s only after he started having to resign from purely honorary positions that he started to claim “it was only a joke” and act like he was the victim of some sort of internet witch hunt.
Again, let’s be clear: nobody was fired. And free speech does NOT include the right to be free from the social consequences of your speech (also, Hunt is British, and they have a somewhat different attitude about free and appropriate speech). But even if we assume our standards are “best”: you can say assholish things. But often you will face social consequences for those things. You come into my house and insult me, you probably get shown the door and not asked back. The First Amendment only says the government can’t abridge your speech. The government can’t punish you for your speech (within reason, most of the time). Other components of society can, and do.
Also, this isn’t about academic freedom. Tim Hunt wasn’t fired from an academic job for saying something controversial. He is a retired scientist who was cut loose from an honorary position because he was not the public face the university wanted. Actions, meet consequences.
Speaking of no sense of humor, one of the major responses to the Tim Hunt shenanigans was the hashtag #distractinglysexy. Go to Twitter. Check it out. We’re funny as hell; but Tim Hunt said it was a “savage attack”. Who has no sense of humor?
The inevitable backlash from Hunt’s resignation was oodles of privileged white dudes (many of them scientists, some Nobel Laureates) who once again started acting like they were being oppressed by the twitter lynch mob. Because…wait for it…they feel like they can’t say whatever the hell they want to anyone they want without consequences. Gosh, privilege is nice. Guys? Other people watch what they say in public ALL THE TIME. All the time. Partly because not being sociopaths, we want to avoid having our words hurt other people. Partly because there may be social consequences for the words we choose to use…and partly because those consequences are unequally meted out. What you’re reacting to is being treated LIKE EVERYONE ELSE. Sucks, right?
So, again: grow up. Join us in the world of people who expect consequences for our actions.
There ya go, Shan. 😉