Rape, the gender pay gap and that other ‘f’ word

If you missed – or ignored – the recent bout of, ‘I’m not a feminist, I like looking pretty and having men hold doors open for me’ versus ‘you empty-headed idiot, someone died so you could have the vote,’ I’m about to give you two good reasons to pay attention.

Women Against Feminism is a gallery of pictures of women, mostly young, holding banners beginning, ‘I don’t need feminism because’.

I was disappointed, but not surprised, by much of what I saw, Then I read this:

The wage gap is a result of choice not sexism’

Even then, I was ready to sigh and move on, when, on the same banner, I spied this:

men get raped just as much as women’

Those are reasons she doesn’t need feminism?

I’m aghast.

I believe in the principle of human rights. I am, ipso facto, a feminist. So is anyone, male or female, who believes that human beings have inalienable rights (and responsibilities, if they live in society). Because women are not treated equally with men.

And I mean equally while allowing for our differences, not, exactly the same as, if not better, because we deserve it.

Most banners led with ‘I’m not a feminist because …’.

I’d be more inclined to ask whether ‘we’ need feminism, myself. But let’s run let’s with that egocentric approach and see where it takes one female – me, for example.

In one sense, I don’t need feminism. I understand how discrimination works against me even if I can’t change it on my own. I have a reasonable brain, a lot of experience – I can work with it, skirt (sorry) around it if necessary.

I can, if I wish, join unions or other organisations that will work for my right not to endure discrimination.

But there are battles I can’t win alone.

Pay, for example.

Women do not choose to earn less than men. The system is still, after years of trades unions (and feminists) going out to bat for us, biased.

Take the UK:

In 2013, the median pay for a woman was 19.7% less than the median for a man. The average hourly wage for women was £10.33 while men were paid £12.97.

Guardian, 13 August 2014

This article followed the revelation that of 200 companies which signed up merely to PUBLISH data on pay differences by gender, only four had done so.

Rape.

‘men get raped just as much as women’

I interpreted that to mean ‘as often as’, though you could read it as ‘the same unwanted penetration is forced on the victim’. But let’s go where my interpretation took me.

Men are raped, but nowhere near ‘as much’ as women.

It’s hard to be accurate, even here in Britain, because there are different ways of recording the statistics.

The Crime Survey for England and Wales 2013 figures – which differ from numbers of crimes reported to/recorded by the police – suggest there were around

85,000 female and 12,000 male rapes in the previous 12 months

Now, these may not be entirely accurate, but the fact that knowledgeable people have taken an educated stab at it and arrived at such figures is utterly shocking.

And, before you yelp, I’m not condoning a ‘we’re raped more than you are’ numbers game. As someone who’s twice been at the mercy of male strangers and saved by (a) a nice couple walking a dog, (b) a London taxi driver, I’m aware that sexual assault is no gaming matter.

Men rape men. But they more commonly – much more commonly, rape women. Full stop.

Some men – and women – blame raped women for being provocative, think females should wear conservative clothing – even long black robes and veils – to avoid exciting men.

No.

Every man should respect every person’s right not to be treated as a vehicle for his penis if she or he doesn’t want to be (and, yes, that’s a whole other matter).

These issues are ones on which all feminists would surely agree. But aren’t they ones on which all rational human beings would agree?

I can understand why a comfortable young woman might feel she doesn’t ‘need’ feminism. She has shiny skin, a good job, she can vote (or choose not to), takes holidays,dee- dah-dee-dah-dee-daaaah.

But.

One day she may discover that a man she manages earns more than she does.

One day she might want maternity leave – for her partner, too – so her baby has the best start in life.

One day she might discover a child down the road has been dragged off to some ancestral home and had her sexual organs seriously mutilated – and she might think that’s not acceptable.

One day she might find out how many baby girls are murdered in India because their parents want boys.

One day, she may visit a country where she can’t drive, walk down the street, or go to the doctor alone – because she’s female. Where she has to cover her hair or face prison and 90 lashes of a whip. Where she might be killed as an adultress if she’s raped by a married man.

Late, but better than never, she might find feminism is not such a dirty word.  Because it has nothing to do with burning bras or hating men, it has everything to do with striving for fairness, human dignity and rights.

But why concentrate on females? Discrimination happens on all sorts of fronts, why pick women?

Because half (or more) of the world’s population is female. If we can’t get it right for half, how do we expect minorities to fare?

Feminism is – was – a good thing, but thanks to some extremists and some ignoramuses, that’s not how it feels any more. So, perhaps we should change the word?

Me, I believe in fairism. I want fairness for everyone – though I know life’s not.

But it doesn’t feel like a rallying cry, does it?

What do we want? Fairness. When do we want it? Soon as possible please.

So, what’s to be done about that word, ‘feminism’?

Answers on a banner, in a selfie, anyone?

This entry was posted in Thinking, or ranting, or both and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Rape, the gender pay gap and that other ‘f’ word

  1. EllaDee says:

    That’s the trouble with labels, certain people may only look at the label, and either want to wear it, sometimes just for the sake of the appearance of the label, or be averse to it. Another trouble with labels is they save certain people going to the effort, as you have gone to, to put some thought to what is behind them. Easy… oh feminism, soooo yesterday, sooooo not me. All very well to say it…NOW. A lot of work has gone on to enable THAT.

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    • How true – labels. I was, as I said, not surprised by what people were saying but disappointed to see them saying things like – I like men, I don’t believe we should hate them…as if (real?) feminists do. But having looked up the rape stats I was horrified. If only for that we really ought to understand there is an awful long way to go.

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  2. Tess says:

    I love your post Mary. Strange… but I’ve never considered myself with the title of: a feminist! However, I believe in equal rights; I know how to stand up for myself; I won’t allow men (including husband) to put me down and I love going to bat for women generally. It has taken me a long time to get to this point in my life … yet I cannot answer to being a feminist. I somehow feel it is a derogatory term because I saw some crazy behaviour from women during the sixties/seventies when all this began. It has put me off wanting to put my name to being ‘A FEMINIST,’ Tess

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    • Hi Tess, I’m really enjoying your journey – never had a yearning to visit but now… hmmm. Looking forward to Uluru. A lot of your pictures remind me of rural Texas.
      Feminism is one of those things that is, I think, widely misunderstood and people, like you, who are on the same side but don’t want to ‘belong’ have seen the excesses and understandably don’t like it. The whole men-hating thing got out of hand and became associated with feminism which is sad as that is NOT what it’s about. My dad always used to say that it wasn’t about men opening the doors for women but whoever went first through the door holding it open for the person behind them – and that, in a superficial nutshell, is how I feel about feminism. It’s there to help put the world on a more even keel. BUT since so many people – like you – are put off by the baggage of that ‘f’ word – I’m hoping someone somewhere will come up with an alternative designation. I don’t really think fairism will catch on 😉
      Bye for now, Mx

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      • Tess says:

        Thanks Mary for taking the time to explain feminism in a nutshell! I know that I have been tainted by what I saw in action during my younger days but feminist women are different now. They have settled down I think. Even Germaine Greer said in an interview in recent years that she was bit radical at that time. However, I do think that even Germaine likes to shock when she is talking to the media. When I graduated from university (when I just turned fifty) she gave the address to the students. Putting aside how I felt at that time about her, she was amazing … inspiring … wonderful and I felt so privileged that she gave the address for here I was graduating from university after my mother used to say girls weren’t meant to be educated and would not allow me to be (BTW out of us six kids, I am the only one with a degree and three are boys!!). Oh I am rambling on!! But you get my drift. Mum had died when I went to study so I felt set free to do whatever I wanted … and still do! Perhaps I am a feminist and don’t even know it ha ha??? Glad you are enjoying my trip. I am at Uluru right now and about to write up a post when I saw your message. Tess x

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        • Golly Tess, I am impressed. How sad that your mother felt like that and how inspiring that you overcame it. Yes, I am sure Germaine Greer enjoys shocking – but then sometimes that is the only way to make people listen to things they don’t want to hear. I saw her speak here a few years ago and she signed a copy of The Female Eunuch for me and commented on the Ethiopian cross I was wearing – it felt very girly! I never have read the whole of the book, mind you, I’m not a feminist of the intellectual kind! And in fact talking of graduation speeches one of the most empowering speeches I ever heard was by JK Rowling to students graduating at some American university – Harvard? Can’t remember but worth seeking out. Looking forward to reading about Uluru and seeing some more of your pictures, thank you so much for keeping on reading 🙂 Mx

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          • Tess says:

            Thanks Mary and yes I used to be sad but I lost that feeling many years ago now! my Lebanese mother couldn’t abide that women should be educated … mainly because she herself was stopped from doing so! I understand that better now, plus I wanted to be a teacher but am so glad I never became one. In some ways, I ended up teaching but not in a formal sense!

            About Germaine, how lucky you were to have her sign your book. I have so much respect for her now and am not surprised she commented on your cross!

            Now, about JK Rowling, I watched her being interviewed last year on a Book Club show and loved the things she had to say about success and her obligations to other people. Thought she was wonderful. When I get home (three weeks time) I’ll do a google search to watch her if I can.

            I’m flat out getting the internet on my laptop here in the wild west (yes it’s a bit like Texas as you said!) so I take what I can get when I can get it. Not doing too badly so far. Love Tess x

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  3. mud4fun says:

    Interesting post and I agree with much of what you say. Not wishing to get involved in an argument but with regards pay I don’t believe the situation is as simple as the generalisation ‘women get paid less than men’. There are other factors involved and looking at the situation from an employers point of view it can be difficult employing women due to all the legislation, taxation changes and general government attitude. In theory these have been put in place to make things better an yet in many ways have made things worse as the cost of employing anybody is now higher than ever and more so with women in certain industries.

    I work in a medium sized company of a hundred people with approx 50/50 split between male/female workers. The staff are spread across most age ranges but the dominant age group is 20-30. Almost every role requires significant experience and skill that can take years to accumulate and costs the company in skills training etc. We have had a serious problem with turnover of staff, mostly females who have left to have children and either not returned at all or have taken long absences. At one point we lost most of the female workers in our accounts/payroll department and other departments have been similarly hit. This causes a huge additional cost to the company in employing new staff and training them up, not to mention the issues that arise when all your experienced people leave at once. I would guess that one of the major factors in lower wages amongst female workers is to compensate for the very high risk of additional costs down the line.

    In our company the risk of a female leaving within five years is extremely high, I’d reckon on about 50% whereas very few males have left putting the risk of them leaving down at about 10%. Virtually all the staff that have been with the company for over ten years are male. Now I am not condoning this at all but merely explaining why there may be a disparity. Is it fair that a women that has no intention of leaving to have children is paid less in order to cover the costs of those that do? No! However what can be done? If pressure is put on companies to pay equally and remove the disparity all I can see happening is that less women will be employed or they will be employed in junior roles on lower way scales which is already happening.

    I am a senior analyst web developer with 20 years experience, ten of them in this company and I do get a very high salary compared to the female developers in our department. However both females are juniors, one having been employed just three years ago with no previous experience as she was previously a hospital cleaner to pay for her degree which got her the job. The other female developer is new, also straight from university. Both are talented and hard working and more than capable of doing the job BUT the girl that has been here for three years is getting married next month, is from a very strict religious family and is already under pressure to produce grandchildren. It has taken three years to get her trained up for the role she does and she has done so well she is due promotion shortly where she will then become a very high wage earner for a 30 year old, probably amongst the top 10% of wage earners for her age so there is no brick wall in place to prevent a female getting up to good salaries and yet she will almost certainly have children and leave. This is obviously very frustrating for the company who will have to go through the whole process again but it also skews the average wage figures to seemingly show females being on lower wage. If all the female workers remained within our company for the same length of time as the males their wages would be the same, the lower female wage average within our company is simply because of the fact many have left and been replaced with people starting at the bottom again.

    I believe in fairness and I’m certainly the first to support my female colleagues as being more than a match for any male in the same job. I also have three daughters and I want them to have every opportunity that I had. I do however get annoyed with ‘Feminists’ who make claims about low wages without actually examining the facts. Statistics and government figures can be manipulated to show what you want them to show and too many people fail to ask how those figures where derived. This is doing more harm than good as it is causing resentment between the sexes where in many cases there is no call for it.

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    • Hello, I’m glad you commented – and the point/s you make is/are fair. In a piece of under 1000 words (I don’t know why but I always try to keep to that) it’s hard to range as far as this situation requires. I know I quoted medians and of course that says very little really – but the link to the article enabled anyone who wanted to read a little more at least.
      One reason there is so much distrust is that it is genuinely hard to compare and contrast – for example, that group of 200 companies who agreed to publish pay grades and differentials – then only 4 did – that’s the kind of thing that perpetuates friction, the hidden nature of the gap.
      I fully understand the maternity leave issue – I have been in the position myself of hiring young women in the knowledge that they might leave to have children. It’s tough and it is of course tempting to hire males rather than females, or older women – it’s a two edged sword for women. (But good paternity leave might be sensible and help…)
      In only one case out of four during my last job in a large organisation did a woman avoid telling me whether she genuinely would return or not. The others trusted me – we were a good team – and I was able to plan ahead. Admittedly the roles I managed were not technical – but good creatives such as highly skilled graphic designers are also hard to find, more for their innate ability (very scarce) and commitment than their training.
      BUT … while I understand what you are saying, the issue about fair pay is not as simple as this either – not all jobs are highly skilled, not all jobs require years of training, a cleaner – for example – can drop out of work and be replaced immediately, whatever the sex, thus should – I believe – be paid the same whether male or female. The main reason for gripes about equal pay is not the sort of situation which you describe but the comparable, benchmarked unskilled jobs that have obvious pay differentials for no reason other than – often – historic, and at the other end, the more mature (older people!) end of the jobs market where, having reached senior levels and maternity issues well behind them, women are often paid less than males and, if not paid less – I saw the figures last week but can’t remember them – usually receive lower bonuses. Now, I am not about to be sexist but women do work hard to get to the top and often – not always – have to work harder than men, particularly in very male-dominated businesses. I have done it, I know (and have not had children). I would just like there to be a level playing field. OK, so maybe you have to allow for maternity leave in that scheme of things when it comes to jobs that require a lot of training and experience – a catch up scale for example after return to work – I can’t speak from experience on that and would be interested to see what unions’ positions are. But moving on – I had decided not to write about this until I saw those horrific rape statistics – for me, that is a far more serious cause for concern. We will eventually (60 years the Labour party says at current rate of progress, don’t know how they estimate that!!) reach some sensible status for pay – but what about rape? It is almost beyond belief. Huge numbers go unreported, presumably because of shame, guilt, fear – are family members involved? Is it husbands or partners who believe it is their right? If 85,000 women are raped in one year there is something seriously wrong with how many men view women. And as for killing baby girls… I’d rather we changed all that than achieve equal pay, frankly. Like I said, for me feminism is just about equality and fairness, not about demanding more than is my due. It is not about having more than men or being better than men. I hate all that ‘because I’m worth it’ stuff – grrr. Anyway, Mudman, thanks for commenting and believe me, I do understand where you are coming from, but I also see how far many women have to go.

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  4. mud4fun says:

    Yes, I understand that unskilled labour is a different ball game however I have zero experience of low paid or unskilled jobs and employment as I’ve worked in ‘skilled’ environments/jobs since I left school so without knowing anything about it I can’t really comment on what goes on there.

    The rape situation is truly dreadful. I honestly believe it is actually far, far worse than that as several of my previous girlfriends have told me that they have been raped or abused in the past. None of them reported the incidents as in some cases it was distant family members and in others next door neighbours. I have had quite a varied life and have had quite a few girlfriends and sexual partners and I’d say at least half those thirty plus people had experienced a situation verging on, if not actually, rape and that includes myself. On the whole though I don’t believe rape is always linked to sexual frustration as some would have you believe. I suspect it is more to do with men forcing their dominance on somebody, male or female, because they are lacking authority in their own lives and jobs? I can’t see how it can simply be a sexual thing as I’ve gone for months before with a sexual partner and I haven’t resorted to going out to rape somebody. Also as a man I admit that a girl in provovative/suggestive clothing is a turn on but it doesn’t make me want to grab her and force myself on her either. There must be something else that triggers a man to do such things beyond the sexual frustration part?

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    • Yes, agree completely and while I won’t go into my own experience (long ago,the man in question lives far, far away) it bears out what you say and makes me convinced that while violent rape by a stranger is absolutely terrible, the betrayal we feel if it is people we trust or have any kind of relationship with is awful and never ends. As you know from reading this, I am no spring chicken. but just this week I have been shocked by a man, a trusted tradesman who has worked in my house when I have been on my own – on replying to a text from me asking for a number for another tradesperson, he used the opportunity to suggest we met up – with xx at the end of the message. I hope it was a mis-send but now I cannot bring myself to contact him – and would I believe him if he said it was a mistake anyway? If it is genuine, I know he would blame me for being sympathetic – because I am – but I gave him no encouragement whatsoever and he knows I am married. I now feel I do not want to trust any man working alone in my house. Isn’t that awful? A long, long way from sexual hostility but still disturbing.
      But back to rape. You must be right, it cannot be simple sexual frustration alone that causes men to rape – it must sometimes be a power thing – or perhaps, at its least aggressive, simply a belief that the other man or woman really does want it and will enjoy it – because the aggressor cannot empathise with the victim. Or perhaps he does not think it is a big issue. I suppose I shouldn’t have started this without knowing more, sorry. But thanks for being so open and honest, M

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      • mud4fun says:

        I hope that your text problem was simply a misunderstanding or he sent it to the wrong person. My wife doesn’t like men working in the house when I’m not here so we usually arrange the visits when I’m about. Thankfully these are few and far between as I do most repairs on the house myself.

        With regards the rape, I guess we can rule out lack of money or poor education as a factor because just look at the recent convinctions of wealthy celebrities who have raped or abused people. In fact this would probably support my theory that it is lack of authority, lack of independence and a feeling of not being in control of their life that contributes to this behaviour. While they may have lots of money, many celebrities are effectively locked up from society and not able to walk around without being plagued by the press. They can’t just walk into supermarkets like we can and they can’t go down the pub for a quiet drink. I’ll wager that many of them are tightly controlled by their managers so that their life is planned out down to where they go, who they meet and what they are allowed to say.

        My wife and I have discussed this many times and while we would like a little bit more money we certainly would not want to be a celebrity and live that life.

        I also wonder if this situation is not also made worse by the other topic of your post – feminism. I am fortunate to have come from a reasonably wealthy family and I’ve had good jobs where I’ve had a large degree of control. I have also had the money, skills and opportunity to make decisions in which direction my life will lead so again have had control. While there are many decisions that I’ve made that turned out to be bad choices for whatever reason I at least made the decisions.

        In my opinion feminism has definately led to more men feeling that they have less control in their life. It is not uncommon these days to find two working parents or married couples where the women is earning more than the man. Indeed it is true of the young female developer I spoke of above, she earns significantly more than her boyfriend. My eldest daughter has also recently split up with a guy after he became moody, argumentative and generally unpleasant after she got a job earning more than him. As more women enter the workplace there will be less men out there who are, as I am, the sole wage earners in their household.

        Most modern men are also lacking basic life skills that in the past they would have had control over such as being able to do major repairs to the home, fixing the car etc so often the woman is as likely to be able to fix something as the man or they both have to get in a tradesman. While women may think this is great I see a simmering problem because the male mind is wired up differently to a females and in my personal opinion men need to feel like they have control over their life and in many of the day to day decisions to be truly happy and content. Things such as which car to buy, what restuarant to eat in, being the one that pays for a meal. In fact I can say personally that I have always paid for meals, cinema or whatever when taking girlfriends out and this gives me pleasure and satisfies the element of my brain that needs control.

        I was having a discussion with my eldest daughter last weekend about men. She feels that she will never meet Mr Right and I was trying to explain that there is no such thing as a perfect man and that she will need to compromise on something instead of spending her life wandering from one man to the next in frustration that they aren’t perfect. Curiously one of the comments she made was that many men that she goes out with insist on paying for a meal whereas she insists that she must pay half. She is so strong willed that it causes an argument. I appreciate that you may feel she should be allowed to pay her half and I do understand her point of view too however I feel that women sometimes need to understand that we are not equal, the male mind is not the same as a females and in many ways it is the simplest things in life that can bring the most contentment to a male. Feeling that he is able to pay for a meal is one of these key things.

        So in my opinion in trying to level the playing field, make things fairer to women and pushing equality above all else, feminism may have actually resulted in an increase in resentment and a decrease in the number of men that feel in control of their lives. The result of which may actually be an increase in rape where the men feel so frustrated and lacking in control that they have to force the situation. Just my opinion and theory which you can probably ignore as I have no skills in psychology so am clutching at straws to explain the stats.

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        • Hmmm. I think this is a debate that we would have to have in person or it could get tricky! I will just say that I was for a long time the breadwinner in this relationship – and it certainly never bothered my husband – though there were those who suggested he would be psychologically damaged! The roles are now reversed – he is now the main breadwinner and that is fine with me and I have no problem with anyone buying me a meal! Vouchers also welcome!! If, however, I felt that someone buying me a meal meant he felt that he had some sort of claim over me that I didn’t want him to have………
          If men and women have equality of opportunity it does not mean we all have to behave in the same way and have the same norms of behaviour in our relationships. As I said in my post, equal allowing for our differences – and also allowing for individuality I suppose I should have said. As long as baby girls are being murdered I’m still rooting for equality and fairness.
          And I’m planning to learn to drive a steam train, by the way. Giving in to my husband who doesn’t really want me to try flying a small plane!!! See, we can compromise even from a position of equality. (Thought I should introduce a lighter note into this to end with!!!) (Sorry about all the exclamation marks in this response).

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  5. mud4fun says:

    LOL, I wouldn’t have any problems if my wife was the sole wage earner – I’d have more time to spend working on the Land Rovers 🙂

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