Over the years, there has been increasing debate over the low wages paid to women. According to unwomen- For every dollar a man earns, a woman earns only 77 cents, making the gender-wage gap very much apparent.
Women today still face economic discrimination despite a number of laws being made to reduce it because even in today’s ‘progressed’ world, women’s labour-power is undervalued and not given due credit for. Women are considered to be the “inferior sex” and chose occupations different from that of men leading to different incomes. (“Equal pay for work of equal value”, 2019) For example, female-dominated teaching jobs command a lower salary than that of male-dominated IT jobs. Additionally, many women work a part-time job owing to their roles of motherhood and maintaining the households. (“An economist explains why women are paid less”,2019) Women also tend to feel discouraged in spite of working the same jobs for the same number of hours as their male counterparts because of stereotypes attached with being “a woman doing a man’s job” where she is not as mentally or physically capable of doing as well men.
Marxist feminism focuses on the ways in which women are oppressed through systems of capitalism and individual ownership of private property. According to Marxist feminists, equality for women can be achieved by restructuring the capitalist economy, where women are currently underpaid or unpaid a lot. Feminists like Peggy Morton and Margaret Benston advocated for state-paid wages for homemakers for their contributions to the household; where the family was a productive entity. This paper will discuss two such work scenarios in which women are not paid/underpaid for their labour. Using feminist theory, the paper will build a case for their fair wages by refuting the conventional arguments/ common-sense patriarchal backlash against them.
Gender Wage Gap (Scenario One): Unequal Pay in the Sports Industry
One field where this discrimination is seen is in the Sports Industry. A number of instances can be seen in the industry where women are paid almost 10 times less than their male counterparts. Take our Indian Women’s Cricket team, Captain Mithali Raj, for example. Despite her record-breaking achievements, Raj’s salary was hiked from $22,500 to only $77,000, making her the highest-paid woman cricketer in the world. Whereas, her male counterpart- Virat Kohli gets paid nearly $1million dollars for the same work. Raj’s pay is still less than half of what a ‘C’ grade’ male cricketer would make. People argue that Women’s cricket has a lower fan following and lesser sponsorship as compared to that of Men’s cricket and so it only makes sense for female cricketers to be paid less. (“Tackling cricket’s gender pay gap – BBC News”, 2018)
This idea of inequality is a social construct. Society encourages men’s sports to be given more importance than women’s, hence allowing the former to receive better funding, sponsorship and media coverage. As children, we are exposed to sports as mainly a man’s occupation than a woman’s, giving us male role models to look up to. Women are not given the platform to showcase their strengths and capabilities; side-lining all that they work so hard for. If women’s sports were given as much funding, marketing and media coverage as that of men, even the women’s sports industry would be encouraged to strive higher and gain as much importance as that of men’s.
Scenario Two: Women in the Domestic Sphere
Unfortunately, in most parts of the world, women are burdened with household duties and aren’t given a choice to opt-out of them. If they choose to work outside of the home, they have to choose between spending money from their hard-earned salaries and employ someone to do the household chores, or if they cannot afford it, come back home and do the work themselves or, in many cases, give up their careers. Taking care of a household is physically and mentally exhausting. Domestic work isn’t considered as real work, and is still seen as a woman’s prerogative while men are praised when they ‘help out’.
The idea of domestic work being compensated is part of an age-old debate, in 1898; writer and feminist, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, wrote a manifesto called Women and Economics, in which she argued about the need for domestic work and caregiving being done by paid professionals. According to bell hooks, in her book, ‘feminism is for everybody’, men and women that choose to stay at home and do the domestic work should receive subsidized wages from the state and should also have access to educational material that will enable them to work towards their careers if they choose to do so. (hooks, 2000)
In the 1970s, the ‘Wages for housework’ movement came up in Italy. (“Silvia Federici reflects on Wages for Housework”, 2019) It spoke about the need for women to be compensated for the domestic work they did, because how would men that were part of the workforce even show up for work without being fed? There’s an economic benefit in compensating the domestic work done by women. In India, the value of unpaid domestic work is estimated to be 39% of its current GDP, which means that a major part of the country’s productive potential is not recorded. Domestic labour also keeps a house running and enables people to work outside the house. Missed income is not the only way invisible labour affects women, it also limits the development of their careers. When women are busy doing domestic work, they don’t have enough time to focus on their careers.
Domestic labour is still not recognized in India and there aren’t any legitimate steps being taken by the government yet to work towards compensation.
To even begin to understand the current wage gap, it is important to understand and value the contribution made by women in all industries, be it sports or in the household. To disregard their efforts and time put into the work that they do is unfair. Recognising men and women as equals is imperative and will help reduce such gender-based discriminations.
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Unpaid Domestic Labour And The Invisibilisation Of Women’s Work. Retrieved from https://feminisminindia.
Knight, S. (2019, September 25). My Husband Paid Me to Do Housework. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.
AbigailJHess. (2018, April 11). Here’s how much more women could earn if household chores were compensated. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/
Silvia Federici reflects on Wages for Housework. (2019). Retrieved 11 November 2019, from https://www.newframe.com/