9 Ways Male Feminists Can Help Close The Gender Wage Gap
Tuesday, April 4 marks Equal Pay Day. Coming in the first year of the Trump administration, which has hardly been a positive experience for progressive women, Equal Pay Day in the age of Trump is being powered by some of the same kind of activist and grassroots fervor as the epic Women's March on Washington in January, and countless other demonstrations since. And, of course, there's a role men can and should play, too. Here are nine ways male feminists can help close the wage gap, because solidarity around issues of equal pay is as important as ever.
Make no mistake, if you consider yourself a male feminist, or you know of other people in your life who do, there are both responsibilities and opportunities that come with adopting that label. Namely: It's important to actively and vocally support women's equality both in and out of the workplace, and to fight to level the playing field, rather than tacitly or explicitly benefitting from an uneven one.
And this Equal Pay Day is as good a time as any to consider some options and put in some work. Here are nine possibilities for how you or a male feminist close to you could try to make a positive difference this year.
1. Join A March Or Protest
One of the simplest ways to show your solidarity on any issue is to join a march or political demonstration. If you're looking for ways to find ones that have already been scheduled, looking at social media (Facebook in particular) to find activist groups is a good place to start.
Just remember, if you're a male feminist joining a protest centered around women, make sure to keep it centered on women. While your solidarity it useful and important, it's also important to remember that it's still not about you.
2. Listen To Women Who Tell You They're Being Discriminated Against
Conservatives in recent years have loved to mock anything progressives do or say that sounds a little too politically correct — like the notion of microaggressions, for example. But mockery aside, they exist, and it's not hard to figure out how they work: regular, hurling familiar slights, insults, and understated dismissals at members of historically marginalized groups has a way of incubating some serious stress, hostility, and alienation.
And all those things make it harder for women to effectively confront uniquely women's issues like the wage gap, and make it harder for them to trust that male feminists actually, you know, get it. Or care enough about it to actually follow through on their words with action. So, if you're looking for a simple way to help improve the discourse, try reserving your own opinions the next time a woman talks to you about discrimination she's faced, and just listen and receive for a while instead.
3. Learn About The Wage Gap So You're Able To Educate
Despite being frequently cited by former president Barack Obama, the popular statistic about women earning 77 cents for every dollar men earn is hotly contested, and has some problems. And the reliance on it by advocates for equal pay has enabled right-wing critics to pull the "fake news" card, insisting that actually, the wage gap doesn't exist.
Except that it does. When studies have attempted to determine the gap in women's wages that can't be explained by education, or experience, or absence from the workforce, they've still found one, usually in the 90 to 93 cents per dollar range, still a tangible and unacceptable difference. And besides, the differences in training, education or experience some conservatives use to dismiss the wage gap are in many ways related to sexist and patriarchal cultural standards, too, so it's hardly irrelevant. In short, arguing on the best available facts serves the cause best.
4. Call Out Sexism By Men Who Ignore The Facts
If you're a man who wants to help advance any women's cause, this is as important a responsibility as you have. Men out there who're hostile to women's rights often rely on the silence, and therefore enabling or tacit approval, of men around them who really do know better. You feel reluctant to get into an argument, or to challenge somebody close to you for saying something sexist, and so the remark goes unchallenged.
Which sends a big signal to the person saying it: this is a-ok, and deep down, even these "male feminists" have my back. In short, helping any feminist cause means getting over your discomfort, and talking to other men about why they're wrong, and what they should be thinking about to get a new perspective. That should be your job, not women's.
5. Contact Your Member Of Congress, Especially If You Live In A Red State
If you're trying to make change in the political realm as a citizen, calling your member of Congress is one of the foremost ways to do so. As simple as it sounds, public pressure by way of phone calls to your senator or representative's state or district offices can be a game-changer, as the public campaign against the Republican Obamacare replacement plan showed.
And calling up to remind your member of Congress that men care about the wage gap too could have a big impact. The more a group of voters that a politician doesn't anticipate start calling in, the more urgent the demands seem. Just remember to be polite and articulate, although make it clear that this is a serious issue for you ― you can find the relevant phone numbers by using either the House of Representatives phone directory or the U.S. Senate phone directory.
6. Get More Men To Join You
Of course, whether you're hitting the streets in an act of protest, or calling up your member of Congress, numbers matter. So if you're a male feminist who cares about addressing and closing the wage gap, spread the word and get the some like-minded men to join you. This is especially true of calling up the Congress ― it doesn't take too many phone calls to convince an elected official that an issue is bubbling up to the surface.
7. Be Informed About The Intersectionality Of The Wage Gap
It's important to remember that the gender wage gap isn't, well, strictly about gender. It's about race too, as highlighted by the varying levels of wage gap different women face. Black women, for example, earn strikingly less than their white counterparts, and Latina women earn even less. In other words, even successfully closing the wage gap for white women (or Asian women, who studies have found actually earn slightly more than white women) would still leave an unequal, broken system for millions of women of color.
8. Prioritize It As A Voting Issue
The only real way to force politicians to take notice of your demands is to make it clear to them ― whether you're calling their offices, or questioning them at a town hall, or standing in a voting booth ― that it's not just a passing concern that'll be outweighed by your feelings on other issues. Rather, you need to send the clear, concise message that yes, I will withhold my vote from you if you don't get serious about this.
9. If You Employ Women, PAY THEM THE SAME AS MEN
Seriously, guys. If you own a business, and you employ people, make sure the women in your workforce are earning just as much as the men, and are given just as many opportunities to succeed and advance upwards in the company. Because contrary to what many people seem to think, fixing the wage gap isn't someone else's problem, or some impossible dream.
You start in your own sphere of influence, and you build outwards. And if you can't even meet this standard in your own professional life, it's time for a long look in the mirror.