Why The Gender Pay Gap Has Not Gone Away.

At a recent bake sale at a Utah high school students decided to sell cookies for one dollar to males and seventy-seven cents to females as a reflection of the current pay gap in today’s society. In Canada our statistics tell us that for every dollar a man makes, a women with a graduate degree makes 96 cents, a women with a bachelor’s degree makes 89 cents and a women with a trade’s certificate makes a mere 65 cents to her male counterpart. (Stats Can) In the recent past social constructs told women that they were not permitted to be in the workforce and once given admission to join were doing so under the conditions of men who had already occupied it. Rooted in women’s initial entrance into the workforce, men continue to employ antiqued stereotypes about gender roles as a means to maintain the stable system of inequality that is the gender pay gap in society.

Despite huge strides made towards eliminating this belief, gender socialization still tells us from an early age that household roles for females take precedence over their roles in a career. There has been a stable system of inequality in place that places men as breadwinners and as a result power holders while women remaining at home, powerless. This system has been argued to have been maintained by stereotyping women as communal, docile beings. (Rudman and Glick) If a women’s career cannot be validated as her true job, instead of raising kids or maintaining a house, how can she expect to be credited for he work in the same way that a man is? It is also these same stereotypes of emphasized femininities that tell women that if she sticks to ‘traditional’ caring and nurturing roles she can bask in what society deems to be a woman. Seeking ‘non-traditional’ roles triggers sexism in her society. (Fine) I feel many women fear this backlash and work to fit the expected niche of a woman in a family. The concept of sacrificial motherhood means a woman may not be able to devote herself to a career in the way that a man can without fear of criticism. Sadly, I feel this means women will not pick careers that require extended amounts of graduate studies (often those that are high paying) or once having her career may not put in extra time, opting instead to use this time fulfilling duties she feels is expected of her at home. This pattern would maintain the pay disparity we see today.

It is important that pay inequality be viewed as a discriminatory act against women despite it not being as overt as a racial slur or a tangible hate crime. The discrimination a woman may face during both her hiring process and her time employed also correlates with how much she will make on average comparative to men. The jobs that often bring in a larger paycheck are those that are managerial positions. The traits that we associate with leadership are in direct conflict with traits that society perpetuates that belong to women. Studies have shown that agentic women are viewed to be socially deficient and as a result experience hiring discrimination. (Rudman and Glick) Discrimination is something that is learned and not innate. We see discriminatory practises intersecting with inbred social constructs to disqualify women from positions where they may earn higher wages. These constructs that do not have room for women in positions of power are the same that often delegate women to ‘pink-collar’ jobs where they are obstructed from advancing in organizational hierarchies. (Fine)

The androcentric lens in which many view our current workforce in free markets sees no pay gap. We seem to believe that where you end up is a direct result of the work you put in and the degrees you have earned. Removing this lens, you will see a hierarchy in which men are elevated. Susan Faludi asks “what ‘equality’ are all these authorities talking about?” She reminds us that American women make up two-thirds of poor adults and nearly seventy-five percent of women still make less that twenty thousand dollars per year. (Faludi) For women to make more however, men must make less. I do not think it is in the nature of anyone who holds power to relinquish it. Living in a society driven by personal incentive and gain, we often do not see people investing themselves in issues that do not affect them personally. In the United States, Reagen’s reign as president pushed millions of women below the poverty line as his administration made severe budget cuts to programs that serve women. (Faludi) You cannot expect an administration lead by and serving the interests of white, wealthy males to consider women, the poor and people of colour when making decisions. Until we see women, and all kinds of women, represented in places of power in society, I think it will be hard to push the issue of a pay gap to the forefront of any political agendas.

-srhs

-Word Count: 834

Works Cited

Rudman, Laurie & Glick, Peter. “Prescriptive Gender Stereotypes and Backlash Toward Agentic Women.” Journal of Social Issues (2001) : 743-762. Web. 2 Apr. 2015

Fine, Cordelia. Delusions of Gender. [Kindle Edition]. (2010). Retrieved from Amazon.com

Statistics Canada. “Women in Canada: A Gender-based Statistical Report.” (2013). Web. 2 Apr. 2015 http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/89-503-x/89-503-x2010001-eng.htm

Faludi, Susan. “Backlash, the undeclared war against American women.” (1991) Web. 2 Apr. 2015 <https://ereserves.library.queensu.ca/ares/ares.dll?SessionID=R112317293N&Action=10&Type=10&Value=13761&gt;

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“Every Breath a Black Trans Woman Takes Is an Act of Revolution”

Laverne Cox’s newfound fame earned by her role on Orange Is The New Black has given her an active political voice. The transgender actress made a speech recently detailing what it means to be a black trans woman in the United States. In this speech she focuses on the intersect of two systems of oppression prevalent in our society. The oppression of two groups, the black community and the trans community, affect Laverne and others like her doubly. It is no secret that these two groups are devalued in societal systems, but it is still questioned why it is the combination of these two labels placed upon a person that makes them the target of an intense form of systemic discrimination that has lead to them being the most targeted victims of violence in the LGBTQ community.

The black community has been the target of violence and oppression ranging in forms from blatantly overt to almost unidentifiable. In terms of citizenship in our society, it is easy to say that in the past the black community has been excluded. In response, I feel the black community created their own citizenship to remain strong against tides of adversity. I feel like for black males, this citizenship also came embedded with hegemonic masculinities that told them that any feminine behaviour was not acceptable. Homophobia also crept its way into this new citizenship. This need to be strong for their race obliterated another citizenship inherent to all of us. Plummer’s concept of intimate citizenship describes a “bundle of rights concerning people’s choices about what they do with their bodies, emotions, relationships, gender identities and desires” (Surya and Munro 348). The intersect of black citizenship and intimate citizenship is fraught with conflict. For a black trans person this then in turn threatens their trans citizenship as any behaviour other than that of extreme masculinity will be rejected and ridiculed.

We are told that a flaw in feminist theory is the “simplistic equation of masculinity with oppression”. (Surya and Munro 355) I think we can further extend this to the flawed simplification in our equation of whiteness with oppression. Systemic anti-blackness that has oppressed the black community has formed a hierarchy within the race itself. These power structures have created many divides, placing those that are fairer skinned above those that are darker, men over women and cisgender women above those that are transgender. It is unfortunate that some within the race itself have accepted these power structures as truth and perpetuate such systems of oppression themselves. Comparable to the exclusion of the “hijra” in Southeast Asia, these social ladders leave many black trans people at the bottom of the social hierarchy within society as a whole as well as with the hierarchy within their own race. They are unjustly excluded and victimized by a group to which they expect membership. I don’t wish to label the black community as oppressors, but instead as victims trying to hold onto power in a system that was not of their making.

To continue moving away from the equation of whiteness with oppression we can look to the hypersexualization and other racial subtexts in the sexualisation of the black female body. This false perception of black women as beings with insatiable sexual appetites was created during colonization and remains perpetuated today. Julia Serano describes to us a categorization of trans women as either ‘deceivers’ or ‘pathetic’ (Serano, pars 4-11). The hypersexualization of the body of a black trans woman either as a ‘deceiver’ or ‘pathetic’ proves to be extremely damaging. The black trans women whose sex at birth is not blatantly apparent to men, or rather the ‘deceivers’ illicit anger in men who feel an unjustified sense of trickery. Serano tells us “deceivers are… used as pawns to provoke male homophobia” (par 8). I feel it is the age-old story of hegemonic masculinity that tells a male he should reject his attraction to trans females. Rather than sort through his own emotions these men lash out with anger and hatred. For a black trans woman, this anger and hatred is made amplified by the hypersexualization of her body. For what Serano has dubbed the ‘pathetic’, someone’s whose birth at sex is obvious, their body will never conform to the expectations (laced with racial subtexts) that have been placed upon it. Constantly being made to feel as if they are not a ‘real woman’ these black trans woman are the target of constant ridicule and discrimination as well.

We cannot separate the oppressions of being black and being trans for an individual that is both. In a society fuelled by power systems it is rare to see those give up what power they have to move the oppressed to loftier positions. Those that speak out against anti-blackness cannot choose to not support the trans community by simply ignoring those members that belong to both groups. As Leverne Cox reminded us of Cornell West’s words during her speech, justice is what love looks like in public and currently there is a lack of love for black trans women amongst both the black and trans community. (Cox)

-srhs

Word Count: 846

Works Cited

Cox, Laverne. “Laverne Cox on Bullying and Being a Trans Woman of Colour.” Everyday Feminism. Youtube. 2 December 2014. Web. 7 Mar. 2015.

Monro, Surya & Warren, Lorna. “Transgendering Citizenship.” Sexualitites. 7.3 (2004) : 345-362. Web. 7 Mar. 2015

Serano, Julia. “Skirt Chasers: Why the Media Depict the Trans Revolution in Lipstick and Heels.” Julia Serano. Web. 7 Mar. 2015. < http://www.juliaserano.com/outside.html#skirtchasers&gt;

BOY MEETS GIRL: FILM REVIEW

Last Wednesday my floormate and I ventured out of the university bubble to partake in the Reelout Queer Film + Video Festival here in Kingston. Seated in a cozy theatre sprinkled with locals throughout the mass of my fellow Queen’s students, we watched Eric Schaeffer’s latest work. His film, Boy Meets Girl is sex-positive, coming of age tail of a transgender girl, Ricky and her friends, both old and new.

The film was designed to cater to any viewer. The lead was instantly relatable with universal problems as a twenty-something, with her problems consisting of getting into school and finding a new relationship. Eric Schaeffer slowly introduces turbulence as the film moves forward, intricately weaving in problems unique to Ricky being transgender. The small southern town became less of a safe heaven and became more pronounced as a cultural hegemony when Ricky became involved romantically with a young, politician’s daughter, Francesca. Francesca’s conservative Republican mother goes as far as to tell Ricky that transgender is an “ugly word” to which birth defect is preferable. Her heterosexist fiancé flies into a rage, pushing Ricky to the ground when he learns of Ricky having a sexual relationship with Francesca; not because of her infidelity but rather because Ricky is transgender. In the film, small-town, southern, old-fashioned ways of thinking clearly reign outside of the small bubble Ricky has created for herself.

This newfound turbulence all culminated in a poignant scene, which stood out to me. After a fight in which her best friend Robby tells her she is neither a boy nor a girl Ricky seeks refuge in a familiar spot, a lake that her and Robby frequent. It was in this scene that I feel both Ricky and Robby came to wholly accept Ricky as being transgender. Ricky went from being unable to verbalize telling someone she was transgendered, resorting to writing it on paper or in a text, to being able to exclaim it unashamedly. Robby finally was able to admit his feelings for Ricky knowing that being with her meant being with her as she currently is, not having undergone a sex-change surgery. In this scene Eric Schaeffer decided to include a shot that included Ricky’s nudity. It’s easy to accept Ricky when she is presented as someone just like you and up until that scene the audience was never forced to make a conscious choice to accept her in her entirety. It was then that the audience was delivered the final reminder that Boy Meets Girl is more than a feel-good comedy, but a film with a statement to be made in the realm of gender politics. Eric Schaeffer made sure Ricky gradually goes from a girl just like you to someone slightly different, which in my opinion allows the audience to explore Ricky’s issues in their own time and accept her on their own terms.

While I felt this film did its job as a sex-positive film, I still questioned its message to girls in general. Boy Meets Girl had the opportunity to break gendered stereotypes and I felt, failed to do so. Eric Schaeffer made a commendable decision in casting trans actress, Michelle Hendley. However, I do not think it is coincidence that she also happens to be a model with a particular set of body and facial features we’re bombarded by the media to value. Ricky is a character created with a host of emphasized femininities. She’s often presented in dresses, with flawless long hairstyles and her one hope is to get into fashion school, a hyper-feminized degree. Her estrogen pills allow her to grow breasts, yet it is not enough for her and she wants implants, again conforming to another idea that men only value women with larger breasts. The film in a way reinforced our binary thinking. Every character in the film stayed neatly within the lines of what we think a male is and what we think a female is. Robby working as a mechanic, always needing to defend his female friend to Francesca forgoing school to be a housewife to her marine fiancé.

Another transgender female who watches this portrayal may feel she won’t be valued or accepted as Ricky had been because she may not feel she lives up to such preconceived standards of beauty and desirability; comparable to a cisgender female looking at airbrushed models in a magazine. No racialized minorities were represented; again possibly making a transgender who is racialized feel undervalued or less than those that are white. For a cisgender watching they will simply be bombarded with yet another show of binary thinking drilled into us from birth. I felt that adhering to these emphasized femininities and misrepresenting the diverse world we live in detracted from the overall message of the film.

Overall, my first experience at the Reelout Queer Film + Video Festival was a positive one. It was great to see members of the Kingston community so engaged and excited to watch the film as they exclaimed aloud to the more comedic or hard-hitting scenes in the movie. Their energy was easy to feed off of and ultimately I felt became reflected in myself and those watching around me.

-srhs

Works Cited

“Trans Actress Michelle Hendley on Trans Rom-Com Boy Meets Girl.” Advocate, 1 Jan. 2015. Web. 11 Feb. 2015. <http://www.advocate.com/arts-entertainment/2015/01/01/trans-actress-michelle-hendley-trans-rom-com-boy-meets-girl?page=full>