Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Women should make less money than men

My dear friend L posted a link to a consciously and humorously chauvenistic article about how women should not receive higher education - the sort of article that has a point, but delivers it on purpose in such a way as to make people mad, possibly because otherwise nobody will pay attention.  The basic gist is that if women are biologically intended to bear and raise children, why are they going into debt to receive educations that they don't need?  Do you really need a physics degree to teach your children to add?

Naturally, I am a well educated woman who believes that women do have the right to be educated, even if all they are going to do with their lives is raise children.  I don't think that a college degree necessarily makes a woman more fit to be a mother, unless she majors in consumer sciences or home economics or some other such vocationally-oriented field, but that education makes anyone a more complete person.  It all centers on the simple fact that humans have intelligence, and that it is a crime against human nature not to use it.  Now, is it worth going into massive amounts of debt to get a degre that proves that you are intelligent?  Absolutely not.  Is it possible to stay at home and read good books?  Sure, but we tend to be lazy, and the best intentions of self-improvement, without structure or guidance, often lead to sentimental Christian novels from Walmart as the basis of one's knowledge of culture.  So I do think that higher education is a noble goal for women, even that subclass of women known as stay at home moms, and if I were to get into a discussion of the assumption of school debt in American society it would turn into a gigantic rant of all of its own, and I want to stay on topic.  So we will leave loans out of the question, and take as a given the assumption that somehow this higher education is (though it's almost never the case) being paid for as it is acquired, in a responsible fashion.

So much for why I disagree with the article which sparked this inspiration.  What I want to discuss is only related insofar as it began a chain of ideas which lead me to a completely different conclusion.

I actually want to discuss the issue of wages, and specifically the fact that women in the working world have fought for years to have the same wages as men.  I'm sure it made much sense at the time.  After all, a man could get a job and make enough money to support a family.  A woman, however, might only make enough for a little supplementary income.  This was criminally unfair, right?  Women aren't a lower class of people than men, and they don't deserve to be paid less than men simply for being women.  Obviously.

Only, it doesn't work.

It's a beautiful idea, that two people working could bring in enough money to effectively run two households, and could combine it to have a household of absolute luxury.  Combine that with the fact that many families with two working parents have either no or relatively few children to spend money on, and it looks like it should necessarily be part of the American Dream.  Wealth and luxury for a few hours of sitting behind a desk.  What more could you want?

Well, I for one could have wanted employers not to have caught on to the fact that with wives entering the workforce, they could afford to equalize the pay scales by paying men less.  It has long been a simple fact of our economy that it is very very difficult for one person to make enough money to pay for an entire family.  Any time any girlfriends or I express the desire to be a housekeeper and a stay at home mom, the first reaction we hear from anyone except a very conservative person who already agrees with us is "nobody can afford that."

The sad thing is, they're almost right.

I do want to be a housekeeper and a stay at home mother.  I am not lazy, and I am not unwilling to work.  I have a full time job right now, and though life is more difficult for my husband and me, sharing housework and cooking when we are already dead on our feet from working our jobs all day, it's what we have to do, so we make the best of it.  Our paychecks combined cover our modest house, our grocery bills, and a little to tuck away in savings.  I will have a baby soon, however, and I anticipate that daycare costs will come close enough to matching my meager paycheck to make it completely unreasonable for me to continue working.  I will probably have my dream of being a SAHM more from necessity than from a true ability to realize my dream.

And my husband will not receive a raise for being the sole breadwinner.  There are higher paying jobs out there, and he is doing his best to get one, but unless we were willing (and we are not) to go into even more debt for even more school for him, he will not be able to get the sort of highly salaried job that would support us in anything more than very modest comfort.  I am happy with this - I "don't want marble halls," and I didn't come up with the expression.  But the fact is that he has everything he needs, except a hundred grand in school debt, to merit a higher paying job - he is intelligent, works hard, and is diligent and ethical.  In other words, he has all the qualities to provide us with a comfortable life, not a meager just-get-by life, except for a  workplace system which will allow him to do it.

And thus I desperately want the status quo to be for men once again to make twice as much as women.  Or at least twice as much as married women.  Or at least for my husband to make twice as much for me.  Because, you see, if he could make enough money at his calling to be the breadwinner for our family, I could follow my calling to create comfort, beauty and efficiency out of a frugal home, and to be the wife and mother for our family.

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