Kari Schott from Jordan High School, in Utah, created quite a controversy through her Young Democrats Club bake sale. The Young Democrats Club sold their cookies for a dollar to boys and 77 cents to girls (Carlisle). It was meant to raise awareness about the wage gap between men and women in America. Some commented that it was a clever way to put a light onto the issue but not everyone responded positively.
The bake sale has initiated a lot of discussions, both online and offline, about gender equality. Unfortunately, the Young Democrats Club fails to go past the ideologies of the second wave feminism, in that they see gender as a binary structure. They also fall short in acknowledging wage gaps for people of colour and for the LGBTQ community.
However, rather than focusing on the bake sale, I would like to highlight the way some reactions from Jordan High School, as well as from the comment section of the news article, are expressed. Interestingly, they bear the same pattern that occurs as responses to other women’s rights issue, such as rape culture, and social injustice like racism. Therefore, this article serves as an example of the nature of intersectionality of these issues.
Victim blaming is commonly seen in discussions about women’s rights, such as wage gaps and rape, as a response to justify the offenders’ actions. One of the comments on the article criticizes that women do not take high paying jobs. The commenter is accusing the victim for putting the misfortune on themselves, rather than examining the big picture and seeking systemic flaws, which inhibit women to get promoted to higher positions. Similarly, fingers are often pointed at rape victims for being under the influence, dressing inappropriately, and being out late. Victim blaming deflects the attention from the crime and the offender and reinforces dehumanization of gender and sexuality, which subjects them to further violence and abuse (Wolfe) (Faludi).
Another common reaction is questioning the validity of the data, thus, the existence of the problem itself. This is a response, by a Jordan High School student, taken from the news article:
“…I believe in their standing for a cause, but I just don’t believe the statistics they’re using are correct. I would love to have a debate with them, about what they believe in…” (Carlisle).
By using words like “believe” and “debate”, he illustrates the statistics as something questionable and can be proven false. In fact, I was able to trace a US government document that supports the data. A commenter of the article also suggests that wage gaps do not exist:
“So roughly half the people feel one way and half feel the other. Got it. I’m a hiring manager, I have all the salary data… I know we can’t underpay anyone and expect to keep them.” (Carlisle)
Again, by using a word like “feel”, the comment suggests that the problem is a matter of perception and emotions. On the contrary, by stating his position and authority, the commenter hints legitimacy of his personal experience in representing the entire condition. These remarks that reject the existence of problems are comparable to those made about racism in Canada. Well-known for our hospitality and multiculturalism, Canadians can easily assume that there is no racism in Canada. With thousands of Indigenous women disappearing, the false representation keeps others and Canadians ignorant about Canada’s race problem. By the way people word and present themselves, they can rephrase a fact as something arguable and deny that injustice exists in the first place.
In another news article, Schott states that several students called her sexist (Catalfamo). They argue that charging men more for the cookies is discrimination against men based on their gender, which is sexism. This idea that sexism can be directed towards the majority by the minority is analogous to the concept of reverse racism, where racism is directed towards white people by people of colour. A Video by Aamer Rahman covers issues, such as colonialism, imperialism, and privilege, to effectively explain why reverse racism does not exist (Rahman), which can also be applied to “reverse sexism”. The oppressors of both sexism and racism exist through privilege and power, which the minority group does not possess. Thus, “oppression” by the minority does not hold any real social implications on the majority. Some backlash, by suggesting the dictionary definition of sexism and racism, which defines them as discrimination against people based on gender and race, respectively. However, they fail to recognize the historical and social context the terms carry in real life. Sexism and racism cannot merely be defined as prejudices but a social hierarchy that systemically reinforces itself to assure the domination of a certain group. By illustrating victims as oppressors, these notions have repercussions similar to those of victim blaming.
Adverse reactions against movements to eradicate sexism are found in many forms, such as victim blaming, disregarding the existence of the injustice, and “reverse sexism”. Unfortunately, they are often obscured by nuances of language and are challenging to identify at first glance. Nonetheless, these reactions intersect with those of other social issues like rape culture and racism. Therefore, it is important to closely examine the phrasing and wording that can further contribute to oppression of minorities.
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Carlisle, Randall. “Gender equality bake sale causes stir at Utah high school.” Good4Utah (2015).
Catalfamo, Kelly. “Bake sale ignites gender controversy in Utah high school.” The Salt Lake Tribune (2015). <http://www.sltrib.com/home/2308842-155/sandy-students-use-bake-sale-to>.
Faludi, Susan. “Introduction: Blame it on Feminism.” Faludi, Susan. Backlash : the undeclared war against American women. New York: Crown, 1991. xi-xxiii.
Majority Staff of the Joint Economic Committee. Invest in Women, Invest in America: A Comprehensive Review of Women In the U.S. Economy. Government document. Washington DC: United States Congress, 2010.
Rahman, Aamer. Aamer Rahman (Fear of a Brown Planet) – Reverse Racism. 28 November 2013. 5 April 2015.
Wolfe, Lauren. Eight reasons why victim-blaming needs to stop: Writers, activists, and survivors speak out. 17 December 2012. 5 April 2015. <http://www.womenundersiegeproject.org/blog/entry/eight-reasons-why-victim-blaming-needs-to-stop-writers-activists-and-surviv>.