Last week I came across some information about Equal Pay Day from equalrights.org. Their goal was to raise awareness of the pay gap between men and women in various professions by commemorating the day in 2013 that women would have to work to in order to earn the same amount that men earned in 2012. I looked up the gap for my profession and found that it’s higher than the national average (77 cents per dollar).
My reaction? “Oh! That’s not too bad.”
I didn’t even realize that was a weird thing to say until hours later. Really? Not too bad?
Now, my school uses a specific payscale, so to my knowledge I’m not earning any less than equally qualified males at my school… but who knows, maybe there’s some “congrats on your penis” stipend that I don’t know about. The point is, not everyone is on my payscale. On average, I (as a female representative of my profession) am not getting my 9 cents. No, that’s not “too” bad – it could be 23 cents or 50 cents or, hell, the whole dollar – but I shouldn’t be okay with a wage gap at all! Inequality to a lesser extent is still inequality. It still exists. And it’s bad – no qualifier necessary.
I experienced a similar reaction yesterday when I first heard about the Boston Marathon bombing. I saw reports saying “2 dead, many injured” and thought the same thing. “Oh… that’s not too bad.” Of course, then I watched the video and looked at the pictures. I cried and felt sick to my stomach. I realized “injured” in this case can mean “limbs blown off.” I spent all night waking up from horrible, stressful nightmares about terrorist attacks and explosions.
That initial reaction – “that’s not too bad” – doesn’t mean I don’t care. What it does mean, I think, is that horror has become too normal, too unsurprising, too common in our everyday lives. I wait for more information before I feel an emotional reaction, because it’s just so exhausting to care about this stuff over and over. I hope that somehow it was a tragic accident so I can be just sad instead of sad and furious and hopeless. It reminds me of the type of articles The Onion published after the Sandy Hook shooting, which they are continuing in a similar vein now. Definitely a case of being funny (in a morbid, gut-wrenching, I-just-can’t-handle-feeling-like-this-again way) because it’s true. “Not too bad” is still far, far worse than it should be. 2 or 3 dead (instead of dozens or hundreds) is still 3 too many.
I recently came across this clip where Ever Mainard comments “Every woman in their entire life has that one moment where you think, oh, here’s my rape!” and again, I’m reminded that rape culture is a thing and whether it’s sexism or violence, we tolerate a lot of shit we have no business tolerating.
I don’t really have anything particularly constructive to say, I guess. Just a collection of thoughts. Sometimes it’s painful to care so much.
Updated to add: After I published this, with the wishy-washy ending, I realized that the reason I wrote it was that I wanted to call myself out. I’m glad I caught myself thinking something I know I shouldn’t, because it gave me an opportunity to think through WHY I was thinking it and why it bothered me. It’s the kind of thought process I want to encourage in my students, and anyone else I happen to encounter, so it’s important to notice it when it happens to me.