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Tuesday, 23 August 2016

The Gender Pay Gap (That Doesn’t Exist)

Hannah Barnes
First off, let me start by saying – it does exist. The gender pay gap is real and present and happening no matter how many men on twitter, or scientists with statistics, try and tell you otherwise.

Today the term was trending on Twitter and I donned my feminist cap (it’s very fancy) to wade in on the debate. I don’t always give my two pence when issues such as this arise because, really, who can be arsed dealing with the hordes of professional trolls guarding the bridges of every feminist intersection on the web? Seriously though, do they all just hang out there all the time? Do they have no jobs to go to? If it’s the latter, I expect we’ll see the gender pay gap decline rapidly as all the men sit around at home trolling any woman who dares chance an opinion on the subject of her own sex.

Of course, it’s not all the men and they’re not all trolls. I actually had an interesting (and hopefully) constructive discussion with one user who almost came over to the dark side. My tweet itself in fact, wasn’t even about the men, it referenced instead the many, many women I’d witnessed using the hash tag to denounce the gender pay gap as a thing of myth.

Now, calling out other women is not a sport I relish, I like to think that if we all stick together and stand in solidarity, we’ll create equality a whole lot faster (wacky, I know). This includes male allies too, of course, but right now let’s just focus on the women.

I chose to confront these women because too often in today’s seemingly progressive society, we still see women acting out the age old role as jailer to other women. I believe that in denying the gender pay gap and, in some cases, presenting it as nothing more than an attention seeking stunt, these women are doing just that – jailing the rest of us and in doing so confining themselves to a lower income and a lesser place in society.

So, why am I so certain that the gender pay gap exists? Because women say it does.

Personally I have little concrete experience of the gender pay gap but just because something hasn’t happened directly to me, it does not make that thing untrue. If thousands of women believe they are undervalued and underpaid, shouldn’t we listen to what they have to say? If a group of people believe they are being oppressed in some way, shouldn’t it be the perceived oppressors’ role to prove otherwise? And if the data and statistics don’t back up what thousands of people say to be true, shouldn’t we question the data not the people?

These all seem like basic statements of human rights to me, but in a world built by men for men, statistics rule and feminine ‘anecdotes’ as one Twitter troll coined them, are reduced to the attention seeking whines of a bunch of women with nothing left to whine about.  The sad truth is though, that these women are not simply whining – they are pointing out a vital flaw in the way we live and work and the symptomatic response of so many, only goes further to prove the necessity of their demands.

I work for myself and have no comparisons to draw from but in an abstract sense all women experience the gender pay gap. One of the many (fundamentally flawed) arguments of the detractors is that of child care. Women naturally take time off work to create and nurture their children and this, they say, is what results in the difference in pay between men and women.

The average woman in the UK will have 2 children during her lifetime, and traditionally this would result in two maternity leave periods which is all fair enough, but unless we’re talking immaculate conception, she’d be unlikely to have spawned any offspring without the help of a partner. A partner who has all the necessary equipment (thanks be to formula) they need to keep the kids happy and safe. So, for me that argument just doesn’t wash.

On the other hand, until recent feminist movements, little girls were raised to play with dolls and kitchens and other pink domestic fluffy things, before being ushered into creative studies and as far away from the science block as possible. It’s inconceivable that these childhood pursuits and schooling inequalities have no bearing on a child’s eventual career choices. Which naturally results in a lot of male doctors, bankers, architects, politicians and professional footballers (not to even go into the major pay inequality between male and female footballers) and a lot of women who hit the glass ceiling before they’ve even taken their GCSE’s. 

Young boys are naturally prepped, by their own perceived gender roles, for the most high paying and respected jobs on offer, whereas young girls are alienated and overlooked in these high paying areas resulting in a gender pay gap much later down the line. 

Whether or not the gender gap is one on one or far more abstract is perhaps another argument, but you can provide all the data and statistics you like to deny the gap and it still won’t change the fact that it exists. Like most gender issues, it is perhaps a hangover from past times, but it is present and it exists and it is happening. Attempting to drown out the voices of women with skewed statistics and misunderstood data will not change that. Women who deny the gender pay gap are Grace Poole in real life and they are doing themselves no favours by taking on that role. 

Let me know your thoughts on The Gender Pay Gap below, trolls will not be tolerated. 

Hannah Barnes / Author & Editor

I keep myself busy with my small business; The Loft Gifts, the period poverty charity I run; The Crimson Wave, writing here and for vaious platforms and a growing menagerie of household pets.


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