Gender Equality Bake Sale Causes Stir at Utah High School

Since the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there have been significant improvements for women’s rights and large steps have been made towards more equality between the genders. In the past century, women have gained the right to vote, certain reproductive rights, taken on more prominent roles outside the home, and it has become more socially acceptable for women to work full time. Despite these accomplishments, women are still the victims of discrimination in the gender-based wage gap. For every dollar a male earns in the workplace, women earn seventy-seven cents, thus creating a wage gap of nearly twenty-two percent. In addition to this, women of different ethnicities and aboriginal women in Canada make roughly ten to twenty cents less than white middle class women (“Pay Equity & Discrimination”). Although many men and women alike believe that we have achieved the highest means of equality among the genders, the current presence of the gender-based wage gap proves this to be untrue. It is arguable that this wage gap is a result of systemic discrimination and outdated notions of gender binary-based roles (“Pay Equity & Discrimination”).

A few weeks ago, on Tuesday March 17, 2015, a group of Utah-based high school students held a bake sale to raise awareness for the ever-persisting gender wage gap (Carlisle). During the bake sale, male students had to pay one dollar for two cookies, while female students had to pay only seventy-seven cents. The differences in prices were reflective of the average differences in earnings between male and female workers (Carlisle). Although the bake sale raised much controversy among students and in the news, the students responsible were able to get their point across in an effective and safe manner (Carlisle).

One student, Jake Knaphus stated, “I believe in what they’re doing. I believe in their standing for a cause, but I just don’t believe the statistics they’re using are correct.” In addition to this comment, the news article on the web page was filled with hundreds of comments echoing disbelief in the fact that women make seventy-seven cents for every dollar a man earns (Carlisle). Most of those who commented were quick to state that the wage gap was a myth, or chose to blame it on differing interests based on stereotypical gender roles, discrepancies in education or they blame it on the fact that women are responsible for raising children and caring for the family (Carlisle). What I find most horrifying about this situation is the fact that so many men and even some women today think that there is no gap at all. Moreover, I found it appalling that many of the comments resort back to arguments based on the ideal family, ideal femininity, and ideal masculinity. It is these arguments that allow for the systemic discrimination of women to continue well into the twenty-first century (Carlisle).

The persisting wage gap is an example of systemic discrimination because it exemplifies the fact that patriarchy, defined as a male dominated society, is extremely prominent in the world today and has been for centuries (Aulette and Wittner 7). By executing such blatant misogyny in the workplace, it enables men and society to remain functioning in a patriarchal fashion. Misogyny is most commonly defined as the hatred or dislike of women and girls, and it can be manifested in various ways, including discrimination in the workplace (Aulette and Wittner 95). These ideas of patriarchy and misogyny are not inherent to human nature, but rather, are taught to children in the form of gender socialization. Gender socialization is the process by which children are taught the dos and don’ts of gender binary, boy and girl (Aulette and Wittner 58). From gender socialization, norms of emphasized femininity and hegemonic masculinity are instilled throughout society. Emphasized femininity is an exaggerated form of femininity in which girls are expected to conform to the needs and desires of men (Aulette and Wittner 8). In addition, girls are taught that they must be soft-spoken, dress nicely, and adhere to certain interests such as dancing, Barbie Dolls and the colour pink. Hegemonic masculinity is the idea that men must always be the superior gender, and therefore, they should be the more educated, breadwinners of the family (Aulette and Wittner 8). Moreover, this relates to the wage gap, as it is these ideas that society has normalized that resulted in women being paid twenty-two percent less than men. These norms have also enabled society to attribute the wage gap to differences in education, interests, and ideals of who should be responsible for childcare.

This wage gap becomes increasingly more complicated with the intersectionality of race and gender (Aulette and Wittner 7). While Caucasian women make seventy-seven cents for every dollar their male counterparts make, women of ethnic minorities and aboriginal women on average, make ten to twenty cents less. The fact that women of different ethnicities make less than white women is another example of systemic discrimination against both women and race. Moreover, it clearly demonstrates the idea of white privilege, which can be defined as social privileges that benefit white women (in this case), in Western societies (Aulette and Wittner 117). Additionally, in situations like this, the idea of a glass ceiling comes into play. A glass ceiling is described as the seen but unreachable barrier that keeps women and minorities from reaching the highest corporate rankings, despite education and achievements (Aulette and Wittner 527).

To conclude, the bake sale carried out by the teenaged Utah students, and the wage gap among women themselves, are prime examples of male privilege, as well as white privilege. Those who are generally the best off within society are white, middle-class men, as they earn the most and have the best education available to them. While this has changed for women, and continues to do so, it is important to remember that the fight for women’s rights and wage equality is not over and will not be for some time. As long as outdated notions of the gender binary (male-female) are persistent in society, one can expect systemic discrimination against women; especially women of aboriginal descent and those who are ethnically diverse.

 Works Cited

Aulette, Judy Root., Judith G. Wittner. Gendered Worlds. Third ed. New York: Oxford UP, 2009. Print.

Carlisle, Randall. “Gender Equality Bake Sale Causes Stir at Utah High School.” Good4Utah. Nexstar Broadcasting Inc, 17 Mar. 2015. Web. 05 Apr. 2015.

“Pay Equity & Discrimination.” Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 2010. Web. 05 Apr. 2015.

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10 thoughts on “Gender Equality Bake Sale Causes Stir at Utah High School

  1. rau

    Hi MJ,
    I really enjoyed reading your review, especially considering we focussed on the same topic. I really like how you started off very strongly. Right away you stated some good details about the progress that women have made compared to the past and introduced the concept of intersectionality. I think this got you off to a good start because it gave us a solid idea of where you were going to take this assignment.
    I agree with you when you say that privileges such as the one being targeted in this bake sale are becoming (or have become) normalized within society. I think a large precursor to this normalization is due to the fact that women are often made to feel powerless within society, therefore feel they have no voice and no chance at achieving total equality. I think it is for these reasons that women often do not put up a larger fight to earn the extra 23 cents that they are being deprived of.
    Do you think that this wage gape is due more so to the concept of misogyny or patriarchy? Do you think the gap is actually due to a firm hatred towards women or because employers view men as more capable?

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    1. MJ Post author

      Rau,

      I think the wage gap relies on both misogyny and patriarchy, as the two concepts usually go hand in hand. Without a patriarchic or male-dominated society, misogyny would be less prominent due to the fact that society would likely see more equality between the genders. Personally, I think that there are varying factors that contribute to the wage gap and these include things like; stereotypical views of women, genders expectations, as well as the fact that many employers view men as more capable. I also find it interesting how employers are reluctant to hire women who are married, have children, or at a certain age in which they are about to start a families. Even though women’s rights have come a long way, every now and again you hear of a story in which a woman was fired because she was pregnant and would need time off. Overall, I think that the wage gap is attributed to both misogyny and patriarchy, as well as the perceived capabilities of men over women.

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  2. Ash

    MJ, it’s always a pleasure to read your posts! I agree that we’ve definitely come a long way as a society in terms of improving social equality, however, there’s still a lot of progress to be made. I liked how you astutely outlined some of the underlying and fundamental reasons behind why the wage gap exists – notions of misogyny, emphasized femininity and hegemonic masculinity. By acknowledging the fallacies in these constructions, we can dismantle social hierarchies that breed systems of privilege and oppression. Furthermore, I liked how you included an intersectional analysis in this piece, describing that there are multiple forms of privilege that need to be addressed with respect to the wage gap. When you think about all the powerful CEOs and business people in the world, it’s almost always white men who come to mind because of white, patriarchal privilege. Because of this, the glass ceiling effect, as you mentioned, becomes a barrier for so many women of colour. I have a question for you: how do you think transwomen, transwomen of colour, or queer women are affected by wage gaps and workplace discrimination?

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    1. MJ Post author

      Ash,

      I think that the wage gap definitely exists for transwomen, transwomen of colour and queer women as well. These groups of people experience more workplace discrimination due to the intersectionality of race, gender and sexuality. Like aboriginal women and cisgendered women of colour, transwomen make significantly less than white women or even cisgendered women of colour. Moreover, it is even more likely that they will not be hired due to their sexuality or will face significant glass ceilings because of such.

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  3. mac2121

    MJ, I really enjoyed reading your work! I believe this topic is extremely important to address and change as it negatively affects so many people. I especially enjoyed that you included the reasons why wage gaps may exists, in doing so it helps people have a better understanding of the flaws behind wage gaps and where to start making changes. I strongly agree with you that it is horrifying that so many men and even some women today think that there is no gap at all. Despite statistics proving otherwise, people are still in disbelief that wage gaps are present in today’s society, which is problematic for progression. Do you think eventually we will be able to eradicate this thinking? “This wage gap becomes increasingly more complicated with the intersectionality of race and gender.” I’m glad you included this point to bring awareness of not only wage gaps between women and men, but wage gaps between races/ethnicities. Thanks for you work!

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    1. MJ Post author

      Mac2121, I hope that eventually the wage gap will be eradicating but I’m not entirely sure that its possible. There are so many factors involved in the creation of the wage gap not only for white women but for women of colour, transwomen, transwomen of colour, as well as radicalized men. I think living in Canada today, we definitely do see more equality than other places in world and compared to the discriminative history of women. Due to this it is definitely more likely that the wage gap could be eradicated here, but for those living with less privilege or in the third world, there is still a long way to go. Many women in those regions still don’t have inheritance rights or the right to vote. While I hope that someday the wage gap will be completely eradicated, I think in a sense our world and our society functions due to these inequalities, and because of such, it is extremely hard to eradicate them.

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  4. aba

    MJ, awesome analysis! I really like how you talked about the intersectionality between gender socialization and patriarchy. Family upbringing and family values definitely play a huge role in building gender hierarchies and keeping patriarchy alive, although it is something that should be long gone! Also, you mentioned the wage gap between people from minority groups make even less, and it was also something that I mentioned in my post of the same report. What do you think is most strongly reflected about our (modern-day industrial force) by these wage gaps? How do you think it may affect people who are looking to immigrate to ‘multicultural’ countries such as Canada and the United States?

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    1. MJ Post author

      Aba, I think the most strongly reflected factor that creates these wage gaps today is the fact that we still live in a mainly patriarchy society, and the fact that many people think that we have achieved gender equality – which is not the case. These two factors allow for a gender wage gap because I feel that most people are unaware of the wage gap or choose to ignore it all together. In terms of those people looking to immigrate to either Canada and the United States, the wage gaps due to the intersectionality of race, gender and sexuality will prove to be an issue in their wage gaps as well. Since there are distinct differences between the wages of different ethnic minorities, these people, although potentially will make more money that before, will be subjected to ethnic-based wage gaps.

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  5. Jac

    Hey MJ great post!
    I think it’s great how you discussed how things like hegemonic masculinity and emphasized femininity contribute to our perceptions of the ideal “man and woman”, and how this language is often used to explain or justify the wage gap. I also really like your integration of intersectionality, especially highlighting how Aboriginal women are often victims of this type of systematic discrimination.
    One of the really interesting articles/positions I’ve been reading about in the gender-race-wage gap was looking at how Asian women in the United States were “less oppressed” or in a position of power over white women because they made more on average. Naturally, these statistics didn’t look at things like which Asian women (Southeast Asian versus East Asian, upper class versus middle class, recent immigrant versus third or fifth generation, etc), how systematic oppression is not just a wage gap difference (although this is important as well), the fact that Asian men make less than white women and white men, and it didn’t account for the fact that Asian women tend to be twice as educated as their white counterparts for the same job. I think this really relates to how statistics can be easily manipulated, and how we should be careful when we read facts or statistics. Obviously, these can be used to maintain positions of power, or to illustrate how predominant systematic oppression is.
    I’ve seen a lot of article that say that Hilary Clinton is “breaking the glass ceiling”, which wasn’t rhetoric people used to describe Obama. What do you think about this? How do you think her privileges make it possible for her to even run as a presidential candidate? Do you think that the misogyny and patriarchy might contribute to how people view her?

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    1. MJ Post author

      Jac,

      I don’t necessarily think she has broken the glass ceiling yet and I saw this because she has run for President before and lost. I think if she were to truly break the glass ceiling, she would have to become the President. That being said, I do think that it’s great she’s running because in politics, not a lot women end up in the top positions. I think her privileges are the driving factors in her campaign. She is a white, older woman, who has had significant privileges in her life that include being the First Lady and Secretary of State. I think due to these and her education, she is the ideally privileged candidate for the election. The only thing working against her is that she is a woman. I think that both misogyny and patriarchy are strong contributors on how people see her and this is based on the fact that only male powers seem powerful enough to run a country.

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