Marking 90 years of women’s suffrage is a wonderful thing. And you’d think that with almost 100 years of constitutionally recognized civic rights the nature of the debate surrounding women’s participation in the public sphere and the public sector would have changed.
You’d be wrong.
Just this week the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in their attempt to mark the accomplishments of women since suffrage, noted that current attempts to close the pay gap were misguided and, indeed, went against the “equality” efforts of the suffragettes. According to the Chamber, there is no pay gap, their is a choice gap. Women earn less because they chose to. Or, said a little differently, women routinely make different personal choices than men which results in them gaining less experience and making less money.
According to the Chamber, women need to learn to make better choices, from choosing the “right place to work and choosing the right partner at home”. The logic continues that those who now fight to close the pay gap are now fighting against choice–the choice to earn less, and apparently, be discriminated against in the workplace for making an unfortunately poor choice in employer. The logic, or lack thereof, is astonishing.
It should come as no surprise that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce opposes equal pay legislation.
But as Kate Kelly pointed out, this kind of thing is hardly new. American culture continues to insist that women were “given” the right to vote. Of course women were not given anything. They demanded the right. They fought for the right and they would not quit until it was theirs.
Contrary to what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce may think, the fight is far from over. Women still face persistent and pernicious discrimination in the workplace and the Equal Rights Act remains a dream and not a reality. Women continue to face unequal access to health care and reproductive autonomy remains under attack. So on this important day marking a significant step in the right direction in the rights of women, let’s honor those who got us here by not giving up on all those achievements yet to be realized.
photo courtesy of dbking via Flickr