What could be cuter or more representative of the American dream than kids selling homemade refreshments from a lemonade stand? Undoubtedly, the four budding entrepreneurs featured in this video by the amazing Issa Rae and nonprofit group Make It Work are adorable. But these guys are doing more than peddling drinks — they're using the lemonade stand to illustrate the wage gap and the inherently flawed logic behind it. Precious though they may be, the truths they're illustrating don't go down nearly as smoothly as the sweet citrus libation they're selling.
However, it's a message that needs to be heard and has yet to truly sink into the American psyche. Did you know that in the last three decades, the wage gap between what women make and what men make for the same amount of work has only lessened by around 14 percent? If you break it down, that comes out to less than half a cent per year between 1963 and today. That gap, as the little girls in the video point out, is even larger for women of color. This cannot stand.
So perhaps the juxtaposition of innocent children against a backdrop of Corporate America's sexist ideology will jar people enough to make them remember to "stop being polite," as the video implores at its end, and "start asking questions." To that end, the video illuminates six tenets of wage gap logic we should all question — because women are tired beyond words of hearing them, and it's high time for a change in rhetoric.
1. Money Is A Taboo Topic
Since the day we are born, women are ingrained with a sense of decorum. There are certain topics that are simply not appropriate for conversation, and money is one of them — women don't like talking about money (much less asking for it), because we have been conditioned to believe doing so is crass. What's really problematic, though, is the suggestion women shouldn't speak up about the very matters affecting their well-being.
2. We Didn't Specify, So It's Our Fault
I very nearly had this quoted to me verbatim by a former employer. After years of fighting tooth and nail for every overdue raise, I learned a new male hire had been welcomed into the fold with the salary it had taken me five years to "earn." Did I mention I was his boss? How can women possibly specify a fair wage when we don't know what our male colleagues are making for the same work? Employers shoulder an intrinsic responsibility to be gender-balanced.
3. We Should Be Grateful For What We Get
Le sigh. Between this argument and women's natural inclination to be polite, speaking up can be daunting. If we demand equal pay, we are deemed ungrateful. If we get angry over the injustice of the wage gap, we're pegged as over-emotional, which wage gap defenders bend to suit their narrative — women should focus more on work and less on their feelings and, above all, they should be grateful they're working at all. Cue the "there are plenty of people without work right now who would kill for your pay" zinger.
4. It's Just the Way Things Are
When the video's male ally in the form of a mop-topped little boy questions why his female friends only made 78, 65, and 54 cents to his dollar, he's met with the classic defense of "Because that's the way it's always been." And, sadly, that much is true. In fact, when the U.S. Census first recorded females in actual occupations in 1870, women made up 15 percent of the workforce — yet government studies in the early 1900s showed the average weekly wage for a woman was less than half that of men's. The gap may have narrowed, but progress is stalling.
5. We Just Need To Work Harder
Men would have women look at the wage gap from the perspective that more hard work equals more pay. This argument is the proverbial horizon — an ever-elusive line that recedes as you draw closer. It doesn't matter how hard we work if the system only works for men. We shouldn't have to put in twice the effort to make the same amount of money ... for the same work.
6. Let's Change The Subject
If all else fails, defer. Avoid. Flee. Talking about the wage gap makes people uncomfortable, because it makes them face the truth — Women are paid $11,000 less per year than men for doing the exact same work. And it's even worse for women of color, who suffer a loss of up to $25,000 compared to their male counterparts.
Check out the full video for a dose of empowerment against the wage gap:
Images: YouTube (7)