Refusing to debate fair pay is one more way Republicans are trying to marginalize women — and their votes.
It should come as no surprise that Senate Republicans have blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act for the third time. On Wednesday — the day after Equal Pay Day — they blocked a vote to simply open debate on the bill.
Republicans don’t even want to talk about equal pay for women. The 53-44 vote was split across party lines, reinforcing the fact that it’s the GOP that consistently refuses to face the realities of the wage gap. Apparently, the GOP doesn’t see a problem with women being paid less than men.
But it is a problem, and a big one. Despite what the Republican spin machine says, women are consistently paid less than men for the same work. President Obama signed an Executive Order on Tuesday that would do what the Paycheck Fairness Act does. It prohibits retaliation against employees who share their salary information with each other and requires the Department of Labor to collect wage data on employee compensation by race and gender, to help employers take proactive efforts to ensure fair pay. But the Executive Order only applies to federal workers.
We still have a long way to go, baby.
Women still make 77 cents to the dollar compared to men — and women of color often make even less. The comments being bandied about on Equal Pay Day imply that women don’t have the same experience or commitment to their work that men do. That, to paraphrase Vice President Biden, is a load of malarkey.
The cold, hard reality is that women who earn less than men are being held back. They are not being given the same opportunity to enjoy the fruits of their labors that men are. They have to work harder to earn the same amount of money men do, and the idea that they somehow deserve less pay for the same work marginalizes women. It trivializes their contributions to our society.
As my friend and Eclectablog colleague Anne Savage said so aptly: “I am not 3/4 of a person.” She went on to make an even more important point. If money is speech, as the Supreme Court keeps reminding us, then what happens to the voices of women when they earn less money than men do? Are their voices muffled or even silenced in the political process because they don’t have the same earning power that men do?
Think about it: If a woman makes $77,000 a year compared to a man’s $100,000, who is going to have more disposable income to contribute to political causes? That’s pretty easy math. And it doesn’t even take into account that the very perception of women as not being “worthy” of equal pay only serves to marginalize them even more.
The cause of women’s equality isn’t being helped by Republican women like Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land in Michigan. We were reminded on Equal Pay Day that she does not think women want equal pay.
Here’s what the ultra-wealthy Land said in a 2010 speech:
Well we all like to be paid more and that’s great but the reality is that women have a different lifestyle. They have kids, they have to take them to get dentist appointments, doctors appointments all those kinds of things and they’re more interested in flexibility in a job than pay.
I have no problem with women who choose to raise kids and want the flexibility to be there for them — they should absolutely be able to have that option. But not at the expense of women who do not choose that lifestyle. Many women don’t want children, or they have husbands, wives or partners who stay home with the kids so they can pursue their dream job. However they choose to lead their lives, women should not have to justify wanting to earn the same wage as men.
We need to start from a place of equality, where every woman earns the same wage as a man with the same experience and qualifications. Women who want to opt for lower salaries in exchange for greater flexibility can have that choice, too, without penalizing everyone else.
I certainly don’t want women like Land, or Republicans who oppose treating women as equals, speaking for me. I want elected officials who will stand up for women as fully participating members of this society — which we are. It’s time we were recognized as such.
I am not 3/4 of a person. I’ll never settle for 3/4 of the salary I deserve. And I’ll certainly never settle for 3/4 of my voice being heard at the ballot box.
[Photo meme by Anne C. Savage | Special to Eclectablog]