A 21st Century Feminist Dowry To Combat The Effects Of Sexism
The writer Paul Ford has come up with a novel way to take on the pay gap: he’s going to put aside money for his daughter rather than her twin brother. Unfair? Sure. But the playing field is tilted unfairly in the other direction and he can only do so much to balance it out.
How much difference, in hard dollar figures, will there be between my daughter and son? If they go to college, they’ll enter the workforce in 2032. Let’s say my daughter’s starting salary (adjusted for inflation) is something like $80,000. Further adjusted for inflation, getting out into 2070 or so, we’re looking at somewhere between $1 million and $3 million of lost wages for her, at least according to my spreadsheets. It’s a huge number and it bums me out. …
We can predict that, because of the systematic economic inequities, our daughter will not be on the same financial footing as our son. And so why not start now? If the wage gap is going to be there for the rest of our lives, and we know we want to help our children for the rest of our lives, it seems like the most ethical thing to do. (It’s odd to think that if we have grandchildren, they’ll be born into this same wage gap.) …
I want to know that I created freedom for another person, freedom that otherwise might be impossible. I’d enjoy knowing that we’d paid down all the obvious taxes that women pay on womanhood
Over the course of the piece, Ford also mentions that his wife used to make more than he did. After she took off a year when their children were born, though, she could not find a full-time job to return to. She is now frustrated, underpaid, and underutilized.
Every time she decided to change her path—to go into construction, to return to school—it took substantial effort and planning, people were critical, and sometimes it just didn’t work. And every time I decided to change something—I was going to go to graduate school, then just sort of…changed my mind, wasn’t in the mood—it worked out fine.
Plenty of women will read this story and shrug: She just should have tried harder; she should volunteer more; she should get out of construction; and so forth. But others will read it and sigh and say, “Sounds familiar.”
The thing is, men just get to make more choices, take more risks. We get to change our minds more often. And we don’t end up removing ourselves from economic circulation for a year or more when we have children, not usually. It looks like that when I survey my friends, and it looks like that when you read the statistics.
My wife does not have a full-time job, and she wants one, and that is out of our control.
That is some hard truth right there and it’s a story I’m glad Ford told. I’m also glad that he admitted the following:
Without recognizing it, Maureen and I assumed that the money she made would go for child care. This doesn’t make any sense, really. We share a bank account; our money all goes to the same place. But somehow we decided it was her job to earn enough to finance day care. Think about it: I expected my wife to justify the freelance work she was doing by covering child-care costs. It’s weird. But we just took it for granted.
SO MANY PEOPLE DO, PAUL. We’re working on it, though. By which I mean we’re working on burning that idea to the ground.