It’s very simple. Men getting paid more for their work than other genders at the job is patriarchal.
In these past couple of months, I’ve come to know three different men who have both (a) known about a wage gap between themselves and employee of another gender at their workplace and (b) done absolutely nothing about it. All three identify as having “progressive” to “radical” politics and have been involved in various gender-based violence, intimate partner violence, and gender centers during their time in college. All have stated to hold feminist values and maintain strong friendships with radical women of color in their lives.
But when it comes to taking action, there was nothing.
Scenario 1: Same Job, Different Pay
K had been working at a non-profit, where another one of his friends works: a queer woman of color, C. K knew from the beginning that his pay was more than C’s; they have the exact same position. In fact, C does much more tedious, administrative work as part of the position than K. K acknowledged all of this, and yet when I pushed him about the unfairness, he justified that he had been the first choice candidate during the round he had been hired, and that C had been a second choice during the round she had been selected. The implication was that the wage gap was based on some pseudo-merit. I didn’t say anything, because they both left their jobs recently. It’s just as if he forgot that the self-confidence he had during the interview, the ability to negotiate his fair share, and not being subjected to scrutiny of his clothing, speech, and appearance were all due his own merits — not benefits of patriarchy. It’s so easy to think that way when you come out on top.
Scenario 2: Same Job, Different Qualifications
F recently got a job at the same organization as G, thanks to her referral. G is a woman of color. Initially, G had been hired at a entry level position with lower pay when she had started with the organization, then after working almost a year at the organization, she had been promoted to a higher pay position. G, who was applying straight out of college, got the same promoted position as G. From what I know, F also has less relevant experience. I never directly talked to F about the wage gap. Instead, I heard about it through G. When I asked her if F knew about the wage gap, she said that he knew that he was being hired at the same promoted position as G. People should be able to put the two and two together. F has done nothing about it, nor talked directly to G about the situation.
Scenario 3: Same Job, Counteroffer Pay
K recently graduated college and took an entry level job. He talked about a woman that was joining the team soon, but that she was hired at a salary that was $5,000 less than his. I asked him why the pay gap existed, and he said that it was because he had another offer and had asked the firm to match his other offer. The other woman had not negotiated or pushed the firm to get a higher pay. I told him that it was still unfair because they were going to be working the same job. He agreed that $5,000 was a lot and that the woman was going to ask for a raise to match his pay. “You should say something. It’s hard to say something when you’re the one being paid less,” I said. He seemed to consider it, but then talked about how the pay was going to all be equalized anyways once some employment law changed. “We’ll all be getting paid $xx,xxx because the organization doesn’t want to be paying us overtime. And that’s the minimum they have to pay exempt workers.” That does not mean that his responsibility to challenge patriarchal practices at his job disappeared, but of course, it is always easier to have equality “happen” rather than to have to push for it.
It’s always “subtle.” They’re not going to sit a man next to employees of other genders and say, “You’re going to get an extra $10,000 because you’re a man.” That’s not how patriarchy works in our current world. It’s the questions of professionalism and competence that rise in the minds of interviewers when they see a Black woman with natural hair; it’s the negotiating ability and entitlement that this patriarchal world has naturally equipped men with; it’s about that complacency you settle into after justifying the wage gap with your “merit-based” qualifications like your technical skills, confidence, and counteroffers, not realizing that everything was also shaped by you being a man in a patriarchal society.
It’s very simple. If you’re a man doing the same work as other gender folks at your job and you are getting paid more — that’s a gender wage gap. Say something to your supervisor. Don’t pretend to do this as a savior for the other person who’s getting paid less than you. No one is going to give you an ally cookie. Provide space and emotional support for the person who is getting paid less than you because of their gender. Push for more transparency around employee’s pay. Examine if your workplace has non-discriminatory hiring practices towards trans individuals. Ask them to re-examine their hiring practices.
Where are all the feminist men when it comes down to challenging patriarchal capitalist practices? My heart sinks just a little bit, every time I see someone not acting on their stated values, as soon as it seems to “disadvantage” or “hurt” them. The inaction is just so frustrating and heartbreaking.