Opinion: Feminism, the dirty word

Madison Newingham

The fight for women’s rights has been ongoing since the latter half of the 1800s, constantly sidelined by other issues and drowned in misinformation.

First, let’s clear these rumors of misandry.

Feminism is another word for equality. They are synonymous. Women want to have equal rights — period.

To dumb down the conversation, the following is a feminist statement: “I want equal pay.” I stress the word equal and note that in no context will this ever mean “more.”

The following is a misandrist statement, sometimes known as radical feminism: “I want female supremacy. Women deserve more rights than men. I only care about women.”

I know this seems extreme, but I have heard over and over from those against closing the gap that feminists stand for these misandrist values, and it is simply not the case. No feminist will argue superiority and anyone who does is not a feminist.

Do not let the extreme radicals of any movement represent the entire movement.

Equal opportunity does not equate to equal rights. I have the same opportunity as a man to pursue a career in law, for example. Though I have that access to higher education and a legal position in the public sphere, that does not inherently mean I will reap equal benefits or equal work.

In other words, sure, I have the ability to become an attorney, but economic justice has not yet been achieved, despite expanding career opportunities.  

I have compiled some interesting statistics in regards to the gender gap to support this notion.

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) has completed an analysis of census data and have consequently estimated that the gender gap will not close until 2152. This is unacceptable, and if we want to see success as a nation with inherent values of liberty and equality, we must mobilize the cause further.

For example, families do better when both parents are on equal playing fields — not only as a family unit, but from an economic standpoint. The world of work is skewed against mothers. The AAUW reported that it takes mothers six months longer to earn what fathers make in a year.

We must stress to our sons and daughters that they can do and be anything, that they are equally important to our country and world for the same reasons.

The average woman earns 78 percent of her male counterpart’s salary, according to CNN. I want to stress the word average here. This statistic is far more unbalanced for women of color than for white women. In the struggle for economic justice, the conversation must be inclusive of all women.

Helping a subset is helping no one. That is not justice.

To breakdown the gender gap, the AAUW differentiates several groups by ethnicity and demographic. American Indian and Alaska Native women earn, on average, only 59 percent of their male counterparts. Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander women earn 65 percent. White, non-Hispanic women earn 78 percent. Finally, Asian American women earn 90 percent.

While it is impressive that Asian American women are the closest in closing the gap, we have yet to achieve justice for these women and compensation for their equal abilities to perform in the workforce. To demonstrate how multifaceted a problem the gender gap represents, consider debt in this equation.

Poor women of color experience more difficulty in paying student loans because their income is unfairly set back. To give an example with student debt in consideration, a woman of color will have a lower credit score because she has loans; thus, she will experience a harder time getting approved to finance a car.

Because of poorer credit, she will have higher APR and interest rates. All factors considered, the final cost of a car will be more expensive for that woman of this demographic due to the gender gap.

While most employers are not likely to ponder how they can disadvantage women, it is important to recognize how institutional a problem this is, embedded in our values and traditions and set in practice through Christian Republicanism (the ideology that Christian morals influence the functions of our republic).

This is true of most issues. Most people do not go out of their way to hinder the progress of a certain group of people, but they also are not actively trying to overcome an issue with which they may not empathize.

Some failing to recognize the gender gap as a valid issue may reference education. More education does not close the gender gap; it merely enables specific individuals to more career options. Access is not equality – it does not mean anything.

Of equal importance, the gender gap references the work of male counterparts, not the average income of all women in comparison to all men. While those statistics are out there and cloud the conversation, we must not let them hinder the cause and blind our vantage point.

To give a specific example of the gender gap, let’s examine a high-paying occupation and break down confusing variables. A group called Doximity compiled data from twelve states, gathering public reports of salaries for state employees in order to visualize the characteristics of 10,000 academic physicians working in public medical schools in those states, according to TIME Health.

TIME reported that the comprehensive data accounted for age, specialty, years of experience, count of published papers, Medicare reimbursement, amount and status as a leader of a clinical trial and a recipient of a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Doximity’s data, independent of the above considerations, reflects that women physicians earn $50,000 less than their male counterparts in reference to annual earnings. To further break this down for those skeptical of the gender gap, when considering the above qualifications in influencing salary, the wage gap still left a $20,000 deficit for women physicians in comparison to men.

To reference another occupation, let’s look at teachers. According to CNN, male teachers earn a median of $1,096 a week, whereas women earn a median of $956 a week. That is 87 percent of the male educator’s weekly income.

We all must work toward leveling the playing field. Our founding documents mean nothing if – in 2017 – we cannot recognize the equal worth of our diverse citizens and amend our past misjudgments. While “We the People” did not account for women, minorities and non-wealthy citizens without property, it does now. We must strive towards upholding equality for all of us, and for the future of out nation as well.

That is what feminism truly argues.

Madison Newingham is a columnist, contact her at [email protected].