Bake Sale controversy is not an issue

This March, Jordan High School in Utah has gained national attention after a bake sale. 16 year old Kari Schott, president and founder of the Young Democrats Club organized the bake sale and decided to target a specific social issue – the gender wage gap. She did this by charging the students different prices: the boys would pay a dollar, while the girls would pay 77 cents. This was done in order to reflect the statistics that state women earned 77 cents for every dollar a man earned in 2012, in a study targeting men and women who worked full-time, year-round jobs. This number increased in 2013 to 78 cents.

The event has since attracted a lot of media and has been titled controversial, causing a lot of disagreements on social media as well as within the high school. The website Good4Utah.com featured the story along with a 1:31 minute long video. Starting off with the words “sounds strange, but the issue is gender equality”, a reporter talks to Schott and other students at the high school. One comment comes from fellow student Helamen Matmata, who says “I really think that women should be paid equally. A lot of women out there are just as good as men out there”. Another student, Jake Knaphus, states “I believe in what they’re doing. I believe in their standing for a cause, but I just don’t believe the statistics they’re using are correct. I would love to have a debate with them about what they believe in. But the fact that they tell me to go away is kind of disheartening”. In the feature itself, this critique is not brought to Schott by the reporter, but it is evident in the video as well as through the coverage from other media outlets that Schott and her friends handed out information about the cause: “We told them we would be happy to debate them, but only after they took the time to read the fact sheets we had printed up for the event,” Kari said. “When we did that, they walked away.” (huffingtonpost.com)

Nevertheless, this disheartening matter is not mentioned in the Good4Utah report and is left hanging as an unaddressed problem and questions the girls’ credibility and the disbelief in the statistics is echoed online, with people refusing to acknowledge that the wage comparison might be fair and is the result of discrimination and the persistent existence of a glass ceiling in companies. One reader, Beth Mccartney-Faint, comments on buzzfeed.com: “I worked a decade in a place my co-workers called the ‘mens club’. One of the largest companies in the world. I hold business degrees and some of my male equals did not. Busted my ass to get there and had a young man I trained promoted to a lower position than I and promoted to my salary, less time in the company, too, fresh out of college! I confronted my MALE division manager and was told “he is a energetic young man and deserved the salary” As a parent of 3 sons who complain all the time that I work more than dad, I’m happy they are exposed to the reality of non-equality.”

No work is put in by the reporters to clarify, ask for, or provide the source of the statistics, (which is the United States Census Bureau) something news sources such as buzzfeed.com and huffingtonpost.com took time to do.
Overall, the Good4Utah report takes the issue quite lightly and the tone of the piece ends up feeling shallow, resembling a “feel-good”, local piece, undermining the seriousness of the issue that the girls try to bring to light. The story might have benefitted from a few adult voices and their opinions on the issue, but it allows only one, which is a closing quote from Schott’s father, reproduced by the reporter “he’s proud of Kari for getting involved and working for a better future”. It is interesting how the concept of a better future is presented at the end, at the same time as the station chose to start with “sounds strange, but the issue is gender equality”. Apart from this comment, the station makes sure not to voice any opinions themselves, but allows the students to speak. Perhaps some of this lighthearted approach to gender equality comes from the fact that Utah is a Republican state (the most republican state in 2011, gallup.com). A great deal of the comments against the bake sale, have claimed that the girls are pushing a liberal agenda.
The student quotes chosen for the piece serve to further undermine the validity of the situation, with statements such as “a lot of women are as good as men” and the questioning of the statistics without giving any cause for it. These are perhaps statements teenagers do not consider too carefully, but they are statements the channel chose to keep in the feature. The issue is never directly acknowledged. The video ends with the reporter, stating, “It raised some controversy, but it made a point”, with the girls counting their money in the background.

Further, buzzfeed.com, along with people commenting on the case on social media, have chosen to highlight that the wage gap is even greater when it takes race into account. Asian-American women earn an entire 90 % of the amount a white man earns, while other ethnicities range from 65 to 54 %, Hispanic or Latina women earning the least. The evasion of these statistics seems to echo the second wave feminism, the main beneficiaries of which were white middle class women.

http://www.good4utah.com/story/d/story/gender-equality-bake-sale-causes-stir-at-utah-high/10246/0gE6cCkPA0mvNkLZEjyO4Q

http://www.buzzfeed.com/juliekliegman/social-justice-cookies#.glXGL8mqz
http://www.aauw.org/2014/09/18/gender-pay-gap/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/23/jordan-high-school-gender-equality-bake-sale_n_6925692.html?utm_hp_ref=tw

http://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2014/demo/p60-249.pdf

http://www.forbes.com/sites/forbeswomanfiles/2014/04/07/the-awful-truth-of-the-gender-pay-gap-it-gets-worse-as-women-age/

http://www.gallup.com/poll/148949/hawaii-democratic-utah-republican-state.aspx

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The intersection between transphobia, racism and misogyny – a combined oppression

Laverne Cox sheds light on the intersection of transphobia, racism and misogyny from an insider’s perspective in a video published by Keppler Speakers. According to Laverne Cox, it is the trauma of oppression that still governs the black community’s perception of themselves, and it impacts how the black community treats her, as a transgender woman. This is a community that still struggles to prove itself in a society that is on the verge of transitioning out of racism but doesn’t seem to get there. Cox asks, “what is it about you that you have a problem with?” She goes on to tell stories of harassment and violence which affect the lives of transgender people, and how the harassment is based on several power structures: “they began to argue whether I was the b-word or the n-word”, Cox explains during a retelling of an incident that happened to her in New York.

As Cox shows us, different types of oppressions intersect and it is often hard to separate them. Often, they rely on each other to survive and uphold the hierarchy within a society. So what is being protected?

The Australian sociologist Raewyn Connell published her book “Masculinities” two decades ago, sparking a debate on the subject that would be discussed and evolved for years. This was the first time that the term had been spoken of as plural. In her book, Connell popularized the term hegemonic masculinity and suggested a hierarchy within the gender. Hegemonic masculinity is understood as the dominant form of masculinity – traditionally seen as the ideal, which carries with it connotations of power, strength and government. This type of masculinity is content with the gender binary as well as the hierarchy within their own gender seeing as it suits their interest of maintaining their position in society.

Another category in the hierarchy is the cooperative masculinity, which may not meet the strict standards of hegemonic masculinities, but enjoys the benefits that come along with being a heterosexual male in society. The next group in the hierarchy is the marginalized masculinity, which does not fit into the mainstream model of masculinity. This group largely consists of lgbtq men as well as non-white men, who do not strive to achieve or uphold the status of hegemonic masculinity, and thus challenge its construct.

The feminist movement has caused a lot of unease specifically for their attempts to even the field between genders. One recurring fear is that the equality of women will lead to imbalance in society – the very fear of losing the concept of a woman, which is complementary to the man. People of color, a marginalized group in Western society, as Cox points out, also carries with it a history of oppression which is being reexamined in today’s society. The fear is deepened by the existence of transgender people, which simultaneously undermine the gender binary as well as undermining the masculine hierarchy. What are some of the problems that occur when oppressed groups come together in one body?
The ultimate, combined force of the abovementioned marginalized groups is that they represent unknown territory, and few types of fear are greater than the fear of the unknown. When we remove the social structures we have become so accustomed to, what is left? How do we understand the world around us? The consequence of operating on a system that categorizes people based on color or gender is that it breeds injustice. As we see in society today, this is a system that is oppressive and one that society has outgrown. Despite great strides in equality and ongoing debate concerning all mentioned parties, the biggest obstacle is the internalization of the categories that separate us. We recognize and respond to people who do not fit into the binary and we impose sanctions on their behavior because it contests with our understanding of how the world should be. This circles back to Cox asking, “what is it about you that you have a problem with?” It appears that we as a society punish each other because of the restrictions imposed on us. If I am not allowed to be a free, complete version of myself, then neither are you. Still, what is most important is that these outdated values are challenged and talked about. Historically, human rights movements have often moved forward together, as they are in the current wave of lgbtq, gender and race equality. It is perhaps not a coincidence that these events take place as education rises worldwide (worldbank.org).

– zarmel

http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/12/laverne-cox-intersection-what-to-do/

Connell, R W, Messerschmidt, J W: “Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept”

http://gas.sagepub.com/content/19/6/829.short

http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SE.SEC.ENRR/countries/1W?display=graph

http://culturalstudiesnow.blogspot.ca/2011/07/rw-connell-masculinities-relations.html