Thursday, August 22, 2013

Wage Gap Begins Early

When I was a kid, I was good friends with some neighbors, who I'll call the Hendersons.  The Hendersons had 3 kids, consisting of two girls and a boy, all roughly close to my own age back then.

We spent many summers playing baseball or kickball on our relatively-rural street, hiding from our mean neighbor when our ball accidentally hit his house, and riding our bikes to various swimming holes around town. Just kidding about the swimming holes part, this wasn't 1950. We actually swam in a pool.

But I digress.

One afternoon, I went over to the Henderson's, and the boy, I'll call him Timmy, answered the door. I asked if they wanted to play basketball. Timmy said that he would be right out but that his sisters were busy cleaning his room that day. Confused, I asked him why he wasn't cleaning his own room and, in my direct 12-year-old way, suggested that he might be lazy.

Reflecting back, Timmy himself seemed confused as to why I would be confused about why his parents were making Timmy's female siblings clean his room for him while he got to sit around and watch Full House. I remember him huffily retorting, "I'm not lazy! I play sports and stuff!"

I've thought about that interaction from time to time, especially when noting larger patterns of the phenomenon whereby work is often perceived as Very Valued And Important if it is done by a man or boy, but it's dismissed and undervalued if it's done by a woman or girl.

Over at Salon, Soraya Chemaly has noted some studies showing that even young girls do more housework than young boys, with boys getting more hours of play and more money for chores when they do them. One of the studies linked to (PDF) notes, "...girls spend more time doing housework than they do playing, while boys spend 30 percent less time doing household chores than girls and more than twice as much playing."

I've been thinking about and debating gender stuff for long enough that I could do a re-cap of the comments without even actually reading the comments. Let me guess. Maybe some folks might chalk these disparities up to inherent and essential differences in "interest" between boys and girls, as though it's a defining feature of girls to just want to do chores rather than play, and that it's a defining feature of boys to want to play rather than do chores.

And, wait wait, maybe somebody's saying that efforts to maybe make boys do more housework and allow girls to play sports more frequently would be "social engineering" that goes against each gender's very nature and blah blah blah. I bet some people in the comments were even noting that the work that little boys do just is more valuable and more dangerous and harder and whatnot than the simple, menial tasks that little girls do! And whatever, little girls just want to take time off to take care of their dolls, so. Boom! It's all settled! The wage gap in kids' allowances is just a logical, foregone, unalterable biological conclusion.

My overarching point here is that I think these findings are mostly sad.

People seem really quick to look to "biology" and "inherent gender differences" to explain away disparities to then justify segregating work by gender, and to justify women and girls' work being devalued and taken for granted.

It can be illuminating, though, to juxtapose the Salon piece with yesterday's post, which quoted a Christian pastor boasting about how he was indoctrinating his daughters to be entirely dependent on men. I mean, dude has to try, like work really hard, to teach his girl children how to be suitably dependent, servile, submissive, and (purportedly) feminine. He has to teach them that, because deep down he knows they don't come out of the womb knowing how to be authentic girls, although if pressed he'd likely blame any gender non-conformity on feminist propaganda.

We are to believe that traditional gender indoctrination doesn't happen and that these so-called feminine traits are inherent to girls and women, indeed vital and essential to their very beings as girls, and yet at the same unattainable to them without the proper education. And, if we do not accept this belief as 100% True Common Sense, gender traditionalists mock us as unreasonable, irrational, politically correct feminazis who don't understand the Truths about gender.

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