Maybe it’s because I was on vacation, but the news that “there’s even a gender wage gap in babysitting” (Maya) saddened me but didn’t outrage me. I suppose it’s also because it was simply too easy to assimilate it into my existing body of knowledge: how women right out of college earn less than men, how men earn more than women even in so-called “feminized” professions, how the gender wage gap exists not just at a national level but also within all racial groups (granting that white women earn more than men of some other racial groups), how… how? How? HOW?!
Today, at any rate, school is in session, and I was beyond outraged to learn there is a gender wage gap in allowances.
Yes, you read that right. Allowances.
As with many issues of social justice, what seems unfair on the surface – turns out to be unfair on multiple levels as well. Yes, the gender wage gap is now officially extended even further down into childhood, which is disturbing enough. Yes, it’s harder to blame society as a whole because individual parents are making these decisions (I know, all of us together make up society as a whole. But in general, parents of daughters tend to want the world to embrace them fully for who they are and not think of them as “less than” – you’d think they, if anyone, would be fair about this.). Beyond all that is the relationship of allowance to chores. Boys, it seems, are asked less often to do chores and see their allowances tied to those chores more often. And “asking girls to do more chores without paying them teaches both genders that women are meant to do unpaid work.” (Bryce Covert, quoted by Maya)
Gloria Steinem said that most social justice movements begin with consciousness-raising, and suggested that feminism has passed both that stage and the organizing stage and has arguably embarked on the final stage of transformation. However, it seems that a little additional consciousness-raising is in order.
Depressing as this news is, though, it is also an opportunity. Patriarchy operates in large part at a subconscious level, and when behaviors and attitudes such as these are made glaringly visible, one can consciously begin to work on them. Out of such work, we may hope, deeper and more permanent transformation will be possible.