It’s almost a cliche now, that when a feminist is challenged to name one way in which men and women are unequal that the first issue on her lips will be the pay gap. It’s a simple, obvious, irrational inequality, backed up by statistics galore, an easy issue to bring up with a non-feminist friend.
I try not to bring up the pay gap, because it was my experience that the middle-classe, university-eduated, non-feminist set are likely to believe either a) that the statistics are skewed, by women working part time, taking maternity leave and so on; or b) the statistics are inaccurate, because times are changing and the pay gap won’t be relevant by the time we get to those top jobs! The former is more easily argued than the latter, but it’s often not worth arguing with either, so I just don’t bring it up.
However, this article addresses a point that I just hadn’t considered making to my non-feminist friends, namely that the pay gap does a disservice to men too, as they may feel obliged to stay at work as the higher earner when they would actually rather be at home with their children.
There’s far too much of a spin towards gender norms in the article for my taste. 15% of women in these families feel resentful that their partner doesn’t work – surely that could well tally with the number of working men who resent their stay-at-home female partners? 10% of men feel less like a man for looking after their children instead of working – what is the percentage of women whose self-image is negatively or positively affected by working full time while her partner stays at home? What about LGBTQ couples, what are common approaches to childcare for families who just don’t subscribe to gender norms? We can’t know from this article.
This is hardly an exhaustive study (just over 1000 participants) and Not that we’d know, since no such equivalent statistic is included…) but it frames the pay gap issue in a new way for me (again, I’m still early on in my feminist journey!) that makes it feel much more relevant and real than the standard “Women receive on average 17% less than men over the course of their working lives.”
It’s a very hetero-centric article, but more stay-at-home dads and working mothers means more women in workplaces, which has the potential to change gender dynamics in the UK. That said, single mothers and working class parents need not apply – the cost of childcare is still prohibitive, meaning many families in the UK are unable to view either parent staying at home full time as an option, let alone a reflection on their masculinity or femininity.