Gender Pay Gap Women face discrimination in the work place arguable their entire lives, beginning when they enter in the public sphere of the work world. In the work place women are discriminated against based on their age, appearance, family or marital status and these factors can contribute to how safe women feel at work, the type of benefits they receive, how much time they dedicate to their jobs, and most of all how much they are getting paid. Many famous authors and speakers claim gender discrimination isn’t real, and sex bias is an urban legend.
The statistics and facts show differently. The gender pay gap is one of the most infamous issues that forces women into dependency and second class citizenship.
Both Liberal feminism and Socialist and Marxist feminism attempt to adequately address this major flaw in societal patriarchy. In this essay I’m going to discuss the pros and cons of each theory and how they address the pay gap between women and men.
According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research full-time female workers made 78 cents for every dollar being earned by men, making the gender wage gap a massive 22%. Careers dominated by women often pay less on average than jobs controlled by men (Hegewisch, Hartmann). According to Marxist feminism this difference in pay is one of the causes of women’s oppression, which Liberal feminists and other theories could probably agree upon.
However, Marxist feminists credit this oppression not to sex, but to class. Women’s lower economic status and men’s clear control of wealth due to the gender pay gap is the cause for women’s class status being below men, thus contributing to their repression.
Marxist feminists attribute this inequality to the economic system of capitalism. Marxist feminists believe capitalism is a harmful system that oppresses women, and should be replaced with a more equal, communist system. Throughout history most of women’s work has dominated the private sphere, they have not been able to thrive or participate in an economic world that pays them living wages. Women have been forced into the home while men are able to go into the public sphere and thrive because of the capitalist institutions that exist.
The ‘meaningful work men do is what earns them money, which is harmful to women because the only work seen to have value in a capitalist society is that which makes money. Raising children and cleaning the house do not make money, so it’s seen as useless, invaluable and not worthwhile. This cycle is the cause of women’s lower socio-economic status that Marxist feminists attribute to women’s oppression. One famous Marxist Feminist is Evelyn Reed, author of “Women: Caste, Class, or Oppressed Sex”, where she makes the claim that “women’s oppression as women is (not) the worst kind of oppression for all women” (Tong, 104). In a male-dominated society, women take the place of subordinates, and women also oppress other women. Reed urges women to join lower-class men and wage a class war against those in high economic classes. In my opinion, this is problematic because it encourages women to join other men, as if this is a battle that women cannot win on their own. Also, it fails to recognize that women are oppressed as a class because of their gender. Marxist feminists do not acknowledge that women are oppressed because of gender.
Although women are oppressed as a class it is because of their gender. Therefore, a Marxist feminist’s solution to the pay gap would be to eliminate capitalism and replace it with communism. This would definitely help to bring women and men onto the same level, or in other words bringing women up to men’s level. This is problematic because it still fails to recognize women as people separate from men. Also, it would still put men as a supreme figure, something that women are ‘brought up’ to be equal with. In order for women and men to be truly equal, our ideas of women have to change. If attitudes towards women do not change, no economic system in the world could help, and misogyny will continue to be disseminated. Socialist feminists are often grouped with Marxist feminists because they also believe that class is one of the major oppressors of women.
However, Social feminists argue that sex plays an even bigger role in women’s oppression. With the problem of the wage gap between the sexes, Socialist feminists also look at capitalism critically. They acknowledge the role of a capitalist society as a tool to enforce the patriarchy. Personally I am more inclined to the Socialist side of feminism over the Marxist branch because of the acknowledgment of sex as an oppressor. I think it has to be recognized that the reason for the wage gap, and discrimination of women as a class and a working people is because of the way society views women as less than human. Liberal feminists place their focus on political rights and creating laws and conquering new political ground for women. Classical Liberal feminists favor limited government and a free market. This is a challenging notion because it accepts and endorses a capitalist system that perpetuates patriarchy, but it also is more attainable because it doesn’t include re-working the entire global market.
Liberal feminists favor capitalism because they believe it is based on exchange relations. Marxist and Socialist feminists argue that capitalism is not based on exchange relations, but power relations that gives the employer superiority and authority to take advantage of employees. Liberal feminists try to address the gender pay gap by simply working within the system that exists, instead of creating an entirely new system like Marxists and Socialists aim to do. Liberal feminists would rather pass legislature that requires women receive equal pay for equal work. The pros of this are that it would be a more realistic change, and probably a lot faster solution. However where it fails again is that liberal feminists seek to give women equal rights to men, again bringing women up to same ‘level’ as men. This perpetuates the idea that men are at the peak of the social hierarchy, and being like men is something women should strive towards.
A famous critic of Liberal Feminism is Allison Jagger who accuses Liberal feminists of enabling political solipsism and political skepticism. She thinks that in order for people to be equal the idea of ‘what is human?’ needs to be addressed and re-answered (Tong, 38). I think Jagger asks a good question that is hard to define outside of patriarchal view of personhood. As a group, there needs to be a new definition that is inclusive to women, and the widespread view of women as second class citizens needs to be changed. I think it is important to acknowledge that women are different from men, and these differences should be celebrated instead of criticized and hidden from the public world. Socialist and Marxist Feminism and Liberal feminism offer reasonable responses to the gender pay gap.
Liberal Feminists want to address the pay gap by working within the capitalist system and creating laws that give women more power in the work world. Although this is reasonable I still struggle to accept it as the best option because it continues to place men on a pedestal, and propagates an economic system that has upheld the patriarchy. On the other hand, Socialist and Marxist Feminists seek to do the exact opposite by throwing capitalism and patriarchy completely on its head. Although this sounds like it would be best course of action, I don’t think it’s a realistic feat and find it unreasonable. Although I agree that capitalism should be viewed critically and could be drastically altered, I don’t think it should be completely dismissed. I think that with enough reforms in the public and private spheres, and through learning to view women as more than bodies, there is a good possibility that capitalism could provide the free market that Liberal Feminists idolize. This free market has the potential to benefit women the same way it benefits men once women can be seen as equal players.
On the contrary, even though communism promotes equality, the misogynistic view of women would still exist, and I think this could be even more limiting to women. With most feminist issues including the gender pay gap, I gravitate towards a middle ground that seeks to educate the masses and recognize women as individuals. Women need to be paid adequately and addressed as fully autonomous human beings. As far as addressing the gender pay gap, I believe both theories I’ve discussed offer good beginnings but inconclusive results. Unfortunately, this issue still exists and I believe will continue to exist until we are able to view women as complete, self-governing humans.