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Enabling Oppression

January 29, 2009 - LLee Janssen

"Why are the Republicans so against women?," I wonder aloud.

"Are you just now beginning to realize that?" my colleague responds.

The issue: The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, overwhelmingly supported by Democrats and overwhelmingly rejected by Republicans in Congress. And signed into law today by President Obama.

Republicans may spout "conservative" ideals as they voted against something so important to the female side of our species -- basic protection against pay discrimination. 

Equal pay is not just a woman's issue. It's a family issue. Consider this:

Domestic violence remains rampant in our country. Police report going to domestic reports and encountering women who remain in the home, only to be repeat callers. They may be reluctant to leave their sources of support, their experiences in the work force having been limited during young reproductive years. And now there are children in the mix. So they'll continue to take the beatings and to call the police when it gets out of hand.

Say she does stand up for herself and her children and strike out on her own. How is she treated in the civilian workforce? Will she be able to provide for her family the same as if she were a he? We would all like to think the answer is "yes," but the sad truth is that it's not.

There long existed an attitude in our society that stems from the historical view that men are the breadwinners, that men are supposed to make more money than their spouses. Even though the society that supported that ideal has deteriorated to the point that 41 percent of all women are their families' sole source of income.

What if those women could go out and compete in what historically has been "a man's world?" Why not define socially and legally their ability to be paid a man's wage while doing the same work, often side by side? That's already happening, you say? The fact is, women in this country still make only 78 cents for every dollar earned by a man, according to the 2007 Census. And most women of color experience even more severe pay inequity, with black women making 68.7 cents to a man's dollar; and Hispanic women, 59 cents.

That is a significant wage gap. The average working American woman this year will toil until April 22 -- Equal Pay Day -- to make the same amount of money that her male counterpart made last year.

Now consider this: While the working single parent may need to have an equal payday more than the two-earner household, simply because she must go it alone, this wage gap affects two-earner households too. Today more than ever it takes two people to pay the bills, to furnish the home, to put groceries on the table.

So back to that original question: Why are so many Republicans against this measure? It seems to me that their opposition simply enables oppression, keeps women under the thumb of men and dependent on them for support, and stands in the way of any true partnerships among the genders. It's disrespectful and casts women into a state of servitude for which a man would never stand.



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