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Inside The Perimeter

Writer and photographer Shannon VanRaes spends her days with the Manitoba Co-operator and her nights covering urban affairs in Winnipeg. Look for her in Metro every Tuesday.

VanRaes: Stop the excuses and give women equal pay

But how to achieve that goal remains a challenge for feminists even as women’s rights gain prominence in light of recent threats to equality.

Some days it evolves into a simmering rage as I go about my work — the knowledge that for every dollar a Canadian man earns a Canadian woman is still paid an average of 74 cents.

Since childhood, we’re sold the falsehood that if you work hard you will be rewarded. But the truth is that even in our so-called developed and egalitarian nation a penis is worth 26 cents more right out of the gate.

Yes, the excuses defending unequal pay have softened since the advent of the women’s movement. No employer explicitly tells women they are going to be paid less because they have a vagina, at least not in so many words, but the message is the same. 

“Women just choose to work in sectors that pay less!” Um, no. In fact, female dominated industries are consistently undervalued and underpaid, purely because they’re dominated by women.

“Women earn less because they take time out to have children!” Right, because ensuring the future of the human race is a completely selfish endeavour, adding nothing to a woman’s skill set and they should absolutely be penalized for it.

And my favourite excuse? 

“Women just need to ask for more money! Like hey, did you ever just ask your boss to pay you more?” No, I never thought about asking for more money! Thanks for the suggestion, man.

And then there are the men — no doubt using the leisure time higher wages afford them to pontificate — who suggest women just get over it. 

“You are equal! You can work and vote, birth control is legal, what more do you want?”

I’ll tell you what women want, women want equal pay. But how to achieve that goal remains a challenge for feminists even as women’s rights gain prominence in light of recent threats to equality, such as the election of President Donald Trump.

Tomorrow, on International Women’s Day, women are being encouraged to participate in an international women’s strike by not working or spending money. It’s a move that harkens back to the socialist roots of the equality movement and targets the wage gap in a particularly pointed way.

But it’s also a type of activism reserved for women who are privileged by factors such as race and economic security. Women in precarious employment, women working to support children or grandchildren, those living paycheque to paycheque or marginalized by other factors will in most cases be excluded. 

In essence, women facing the largest wage disparity are those least able to participate in tomorrow’s “Day Without a Woman” strike. Yes, action is desperately needed, but so is solidarity and inclusion. 

As much as I’d like to be a part of what may well be a historic day in the unforgiving slog towards gender equality, I won’t be able to participate either. But the fight for equality is far from over and other battles will be fought, I just hope the next battle cry is one with the ability to rally all troops.

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