Did you hear our President talking about equal pay for women last night? Money has been on my mind since earlier this month when I read this article at Jezebel.
As one of those rare African American entrepreneurs (to hear Newt Gingrich tell it) building a writing business, I am pretty irritated at how much harder women have to work than men to try to even the economic playing field. Some reports say the income disparity between men and women is between 13 and 23 percent worldwide. About 77 cents for every dollar a man makes in America. Despite how much education or experience a woman has. Annoying doesn’t even begin to explain it.
So, when women are talking about getting their bills paid, I understand. I don’t do it, but I can see the logic. People get irritated when they think that women are too bent on being Independent, but in my case — and for the women I grew up around — our independence was a matter of survival, not dismissing the importance of having someone to support you if you want/need that. The numbers make it clear that even if you aim at financial independence, you will have to work harder at it. I think the reasoning is: “Why do all that work when you could just find a man to support you?”
Which brings me back to the Jezebel piece, which bemoans the lack of socioeconomic diversity in stories about single ladies. The single women who would probably most benefit economically and socially from marriage in a society that grants exclusive benefits and tax breaks to married couples are almost never interviewed. And yet, it quotes an article that says 80 percent of women who are unmarried live below the poverty line:
Misogyny works by devaluing women as people and as workers, which gives rise to the wage gap, the creation of underpaid pink-collar ghettos (which [Sady] Doyle mentions), and the pressure for women to change anything and everything about themselves in order to land an all-important man. For middle-class women for whom pay inequality doesn’t mean the difference between food and hunger, it may be the pressure that’s the most difficult to deal with. Single women lower on the economic ladder may be more concerned about the fact that they have no access to the larger paychecks men (and male-dominated jobs) still claim.
The other thing, too, is that working class and low-income women are too busy working to jump at being included in this ongoing discussion. So, I like the spirit of this, there is a piece missing from it and I’m not sure what it is. There is a disconnect between the worlds of lower income single women, culturally, and everyone else, and it doesn’t begin or end with marriage as an ideal. Yet the majority of low-income and working class single women we hear about are those who only focus on the financial benefits of partnership, not even marriage. Comedian/writer Steve Harvey has said that too many women expect men to have Maybachs parked in front of their projects, for instance. (It’s inferred, of course, that he is talking to black women, though he made the New York Times bestseller list, so there had to be more than just black women buying that message, right?) But he’s not alone — there have been dozens of stories that suggest that women of color, particularly black women, are just gold-diggers, which is why they can’t get a man. I bet it has nothing to do with the fact that they may not have the money or time to gussy themselves up and sign up for EHarmony.