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On March 8th, our country experienced “A Day Without a Woman”, a strike/protest that was supposed to make the rest of us consider just how vital women are to our country’s function. Angela Davis, one of the United States’ most valuable humans, and other progenitors of this protest are owed a debt of gratitude from people of all genders; the inequality experienced by women in this country cannot be allowed to continue, and A Day Without a Woman was an important step. Although, it is important to note that all the employed women I know went to work that day; my wife explained, “I can’t afford to take the day off. I have too much stuff to do!”
In the U.S., women make about 80% of a man’s pay for the same work–if that percentage is applied to the annual calendar, that would amount to about two-and-a-half months of unpaid work just to make what a man does. What if women reminded us about this inequality for striking for ten weeks, instead of just one day? That length of strike would be more commensurate with the degree of inequality women face in the workplace, but the wage gap is just the tip of the iceberg for gender discrimination (consider how underrepresented women are in positions of power in government–only 20% of Congress is female–and business–a measly 4.6% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women), but we all know this stuff. With inequality this pronounced and ubiquitous, it makes me wonder how we got here?
My theory about how we’ve ended up in such a male-dominant society is an anthropological/biological one–before the Industrial Revolution, physical strength was a valuable commodity. Due to biological conditions (read: higher testosterone concentrations), men tend to have more musculature than women, on average, so they could have been seen as more inherently “valuable” in pre-technological cultures, specifically farming communities. Men’s tendency toward upper body strength made us better suited to physical labor like tilling soil or digging irrigation ditches, but now having big delts and pecs is only useful for selling cologne or hitting home runs. We are definitely living in the Digital Age, and, thanks to advances in mechanization and technology, increased musculature just doesn’t seem to have as much value as it used to. As a teacher, I found that my thoughts and emotions were put to the test a great deal more than my body was, and I would argue that’s now true for an increasing number of jobs.
While working on Team 21c, the emphasis on ideas and feelings (rather than physicality) has been even more pronounced–considering our department is future-focused, I take this as a sign that the days to come will be increasingly “female” in nature. The idea of “political correctness” (which I argue should just be called “correctness”; there’s nothing “political” about avoiding discriminatory language), humanity’s desire for peace, the dramatic increase in the world’s linguistic communication (and the empathy, not sympathy, that arises from it), concern for the environment, democracy, movement away from a harsh, punitive (ineffective) criminal justice system, a fairly consistent increase in charitable giving, legalization/decriminalization of certain controlled substances, and the expanded power of the human rights movement, among other things, all seem decidedly feminine (read: empathetic, progressive, thoughtful) trends. Of course, my perception that these are “feminine” trends reinforces some of the supposed gender norms that humans need to rethink in the first place.