It’s Equal Pay Day in the United States which is still a thing because we need it. Regardless of whether you live in the United States or in Canada, white men are — by default — earning more than everybody.
In Canada, specifically, women who work full time earn 74.2 cents for every dollar made by men who work full time, while women who work for an hourly wage earn 87.9 cents for every dude-earned dollar — while women of colour, Indigenous women, and women with disabilities earn even less, which explains Canada’s embarrassing ranking as #35 on last year’s World Economic Forum gender gap list. And for all their talk of women’s rights, the Liberal government hasn’t done much (or anything) to appease it.
And this trend also thrives south of the border, duh. Where American women make 80 cents on the dollar, black women make only 68% of a white man’s weekly pay and Hispanic women earn just 54%. This shit is disgraceful and yet, here we are in the year of our lord 2017 rallying to remind our world leaders that women are people and/or as valuable as white men.
But that said, when talking about the wage gap, we — white, cis, able-bodied women — have to recognize that we’ve contributed to the problem, too. It’s important to fight for equal pay and it’s important that we get it, yes, but the fight for equality has to include the acknowledgement that as a rule white women are still being paid more than black women, Hispanic women, Indigenous women, Asian women, transgender women, disabled women and, well, honestly anybody else who isn’t white. And while it’s easy to sit here and say, “Yes, but if we all rally for equal pay, we’ll all get equal pay, everything will be better for everybody!” that’s not how it works.
The economic norms put in place are the products of a system that reflect not only sexist values, but racist, homophobic, transphobic and xenophobic values too. To devalue a person by paying them less because of their gender and their race and their pronouns and, and, and is an ugly assault on one’s self worth. It says “Yeah, you’re not enough.” (Among many other things.) And while it sucks to know some white dude is earning more because he’s just that, it sucks even more to know that on top of gender prejudices, there’s a shit-ton more at play. And it sucks to know that when those things are brought up, they tend to be glazed over with an “But we’re all in this together!” friends forever mantra despite feminism having a very long, sad history of being very much for white women.
Which isn’t brand new information. Nothing I’m saying here is a surprise. No one is reading this and saying, “What?! No way — I had no clue!” Of course you did. We all did. We can see the way things work, but it’s been easier to avoid digging into centuries-old history than it is to reconcile the fact that white women have screwed up, too. It sucks to earn less than men, but it’s sucks even more that our brand of feminism has been so non-inclusive that it’s left anyone who isn’t white or cis or hetero out of more than a few processes, subsequently financially and economically fucking them.
And Equal Pay Day is an important opportunity to bring this shit up to the surface. It’s important not just to remind your politicians and MPs and senators and municipal, provincial, state, and federal leaders that “equal pay” means equal pay — for all women. (And that’s where phone calls and letters and attending council meetings come in.) But it’s important to look at what you’re doing, too. Are you hiring diversely? Are you paying everybody the same? Is there space for everybody? If there isn’t, are you asking why? And are you actively trying to make some? Did you shut up and listen when you were being confronted with facts about another woman’s reality? Did you raise hell where you could raise it? Did you donate to Oxfam or the ACLU or an organization you feel is doing important work? Did you protest? Did you educate yourself? You have so many options. You are powerful. You can change things.
The wage gap is frustrating and it is shitty and it is real, but it only shrinks upon action. And there are so many types you can take to benefit everybody.