Women doing the Work without the Compensation
As we enter Women’s History Month, pills the conversation regarding equal pay for equal work continues to be on the front burner of women’s issues. Women STILL earn $0.77 to every $1.00 that a man earns, and that disparity increases significantly when applied to women of color and, specifically, Black women. This is true regardless of the level of education or training. Although President Obama, as one of his first acts as president, signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, equal pay for women has made no significant improvement since the legislation was signed in 2009. Regardless of this legislation, it is still extremely difficult for women to pursue equal pay in the workplace for many reasons, foremost among them being a lack of equity or inclusion at work that would allow women to sit at the table when decisions are made and policy is determined.
Twitter was abuzz on Oscar night when Best Supporting Actress Patricia Arquette made comments regarding equal pay for women and went further to claim that it’s now time for people of color, gay people, and others to fight for women’s rights ”…just like “we” (women) have fought for them.” Fundamentally, Arquette “meant well,” her intentions were good, but her comments were completely ignorant. The “We” to whom she referred seemed to embrace white privileged women like her and exclude those women whose identities comprised the “people of color” and “gays” who she included in her previous remarks. This is a classic oversight within the feminist movement that continues to marginalize people who have multiple identities that intersect with being female. Sojourner Truth spoke to this all the way back in 1851 when she made her famous “Ain’t I A Woman?” speech. When you are black and female, there are multiple intersections of oppression that you deal with on a daily basis; and when you are also a gay or transgendered woman, the complexities of that intersectionality compound exponentially. Clearly Arquette, in her comments, did not intend to exclude these women but the comments were woefully misinformed, insensitive and based on a white privileged position. Race and sexuality continue to desperately effect women of color over white women and denial of that fact diminishes the struggle for the equality of all women.
Octavia Spencer became “the help” all over again when Neil Patrick Harris enlisted her participation in his running “gag” throughout the Oscar broadcast. He kept calling out her name and directing the camera to focus on her as he continued using her as a sidepiece (prop) in his awkward attempts at inclusion. Neil Patrick Harris got a big time paycheck as the host of the nearly 5 hour-long broadcast, while I am certain Ms. Spencer received a pittance, if any compensation at all, underscoring the clear inequity in the value of women’s work and contributions as compared to our male counterparts and, more specifically, the distinct disparity in the value placed on Black women in particular. It should be noted that Octavia Spencer has been both an Oscar nominee and winner while Neil Patrick Harris has been neither. The old adage, spoken by our elders, “You have to be twice as good to be even with white folks” rings hauntingly true, and if you are Black AND a woman you carry more than your share of that load without appropriate compensation.
Up Next Week: Some women you should know