Intersectionality, a term originally coined by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, is critical in the examination of social hierarchies and the power structures which govern our lives in many ways. It originated in the discussion of race within the feminist movement and how women’s experiences of oppression can vary based on their race. This is often still overlooked in what is known as White Feminism (example of a White Feminist: Taylor Swift). I’m very much a feminist, and I exist in a lot of feminist circles, both in my “real” life and online. Within these circles, I see that the wage gap is a consistently popular topic in feminist discourse, which it should be. However, shockingly few feminists— even intersectional and all-inclusive feminists— seem to understand the complexity and intersectionality of the wage gap. Given that we are often the ones to draw attention to issues such as the income disparity between men and women, it’s a major problem that we’re excluding so many women in these discussions.
One facet of the issue, as discussed in a blog post from The Hendrix Delano about a year ago, is what feminist author and blogger Jessica Valenti refers to as The Mommy Wage Gap. The Mommy Wage Gap is often ignored in discussions of pay inequality. Another point about the wage gap that should be considered much more frequently is that the eternally cited statistic of women making 78 cents to every dollar a man makes is only a partial truth. In fact, only white women make 78% of what a white man makes. Latina women make only 54% of what white men make. Black or African-American women make 63%, Native women are paid 59%, and Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women make 62%. Oddly enough, Asian American women are paid 90% of what their white male counterparts are paid. The gap is less severe, but still very real, between women of color and men of color. This range sees women being paid between 78% and 90% of each dollar earned by men of their same race.
Fortunately, the complexity of the wage gap is gaining more and more attention as people begin to pay more attention to the racial components, as well as whether women are mothers, their marital status, or what field they work in. Our government has repeatedly and directly addressed the issue, with President Obama making statements about wage inequality and the need for government to address the issue. In short, progress is slow, but we are making progress. I suppose that’s something to give us a little bit of hope. Maybe we’ll see The Equal Pay Act actually enforced.
Just as a note, I feel the need to stress that while oppression and marginalization are not a competition, they do affect individuals to varying degrees. In order to be effective in creating social change, inclusivity is very important for every movement. We need to stop watering down our activism in order to make it more palatable for people who don’t want to recognize, much less relinquish, their privilege.
http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/epa.cfm (summary of the Equal Pay Act) http://www.cnbc.com/2014/04/08/obama-on-gender-pay-gap-its-not-a-myth-its-math.html (article about Obama vs GOP and gender wage gap) http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2012/07/05/the-importance-of-intersectionality-multiple-forms-of-discrimination-and-health/ (how intersectionality is important in so many different capacities) https://roosevelthdx.wordpress.com/2014/09/30/the-slow-and-unfair-pay-gap/ (previous article I mentioned) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jessica-valenti/full-frontal-feminism_b_47031.html (Jessica Valenti, Mommy Wage Gap) http://www.iwpr.org/initiatives/pay-equity-and-discrimination (wage gap varies based on career) http://www.academia.edu/4894646/The_Concept_of_Intersectionality_in_Feminist_Theory (about Crenshaw Williams and intersectionality) http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2012/jun/21/barack-obama/barack-obama-ad-says-women-are-paid-77-cents-dolla/ https://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/equal-pay (online government stance on wage inequality) http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/04/president-obama-vows-zero-tolerance-of-pay-secrecy/ (about Obama signing executive order in 2014 meant to equalize wages) http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/09/taylor-swift-white-feminism/ (why Taylor Swift is disappointing as a feminist)