Growing up, I had two working parents. My mother worked in the non-profit sector, while my father worked in as a graphic artist for a major tech company. When I was a lot younger, my mother would stay home but run a home daycare. I remember my father being unemployed for a few months, but he was at least always working on something. They both worked hard and both had real jobs, but I grew up considering my father, not my mother, as the ‘breadwinner’ of the household. This is not to say my mother didn’t work her butt off, or at many points of the relationship earned equal if not more than what my father was making at the time. The lenses of a child are shaped by the environment we are in.
School doesn’t really do anything to dispel this. You all remember going to school and doing art projects where you drew your family. Regardless of actual size, I bet if you look at those projects, you’d see that you drew your father two to three times larger than your mother. Or maybe that was just me, I was a shitty artist. I didn’t take after my dad in the art department. Growing up, it was still ‘normal’ for women to stay at home, and men go out and work, despite that being some sort of 1950’s fantasy that wasn’t ever really true. I’m not going to knock on couples who make a decision that one should stay home and look after the kids, that’s not the point of this post. It’s more about the social perception of how women are still perceived in society.
The media also seemed to keep this image going of the father worker/mother nurture thing. I’m a child of the 80s, and there weren’t exactly a lot of ‘working mother’ TV shows that I can remember. Remember, this was before gritty reality and boobs took over TV. It was everywhere. What did Calvin’s (from Calvin and Hobbes) Mom do? I have no clue. I know his dad is a patent lawyer. TV, Books, Comics, Cartoons, and just about everything I can think of always portrayed mothers as being secondary in earning power to fathers. Dad made the money. If Mom worked, well, that was just ‘helping out’ the household. This is how society shaped us to view women. This is how it still shapes us.
I’m in a loving marriage with a wife that makes more than me, and probably always will. And who the hell cares? I certainly don’t. We both try to do our part. I’m not jealous, nor do I wish or feel any pressure that the tables should be turned. I’ve had many a discussion years ago wondering why I should care about the wage gap. I certainly didn’t see it where I am. I apply for a job, I earn what the job pays. Why does this affect me?
It affects me because in order to be an equal society, we must be treated with equal respect. One of the ways we show respect in a capitalist society is with a paycheque. Doctors make more. Lawyers make more. Stockbrokers *gag* make more because we at some level find them to be respectable positions. Broadcasters and television personalities make quite a bit as well. That’s why I was really surprised (and happy) to read about men in the BBC taking a voluntary paycut. I kind of wish that it wasn’t voluntary, but let’s be perfectly honest, gentlemen – if your boss came to you at work and told you that you were making more money than women at work, how many of you would be quick to jump at a voluntary paycut? Frankly, I think the reaction should have been to raise the wages of the women, not make cuts, but that’s just me.
I’ve never had to make choices between family and work, or a paycheque and dignity. These are things that women have to deal with that due to a freak hormone in the womb that gave me a Y chromosome, I don’t have to. To my fellow men who have been stewing about this debate, try to come to the realization I eventually did – you don’t have to get it. You just have to acknowledge it. You have to respect it. And you have to vote with your wallet and in the ballot box to correct it. Like so many things in life, this doesn’t affect you but it does affect those you love. Maybe we can start working towards a world where growing up, we see both mother and father as equal earners, and as equal providers. Until then, ladies, I guess keep marching on.