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Why Are We Still Talking About Pay Equity In 2008?


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I still have my old green 59 cents button around somewhere. That relic symbolized the female pay gap in the early 1970′s. I can’t help feeling we should have done a lot better over the past decades.

We are up to 77 cents for all women workers, but an embarrassing 63 cents for African American women and only 52 cents for our Latina sisters. I’m not much good at statistics, but I think I can spot a major racial as well as gender gap here.

Fortunately, there is now an important discussion going on in the feminist movement about the inter-relationship of race and gender. It’s sometimes hard to watch because it’s a painful subject in so many ways. But it’s a necessary conversation even when the volume rises and some people flee the room.

I’ve read of longterm friendships put on hold, blogs going offline, angry denunciations that accused people of being traitors and worse.

Much of this is a spillover from the Democratic primary where I’ve seen ugly public displays of racism and sexism from people I once respected. Recently Yahoo News published a story about how Obama supporters are having their sisterhood questioned.

The feminist blogosphere is in the midst of a battle over racism that is shocking because these issues have come up so many times before in American history. It reminds me of that oft said cynical history teacher’s refrain,"The only thing we learn from history is that nobody ever learns anything from history."

Still, for those of you who grew up with sisters, you know that you argued with them as part of your family dynamics. For those of you who grew up with brothers, you know that you argued with them too. I sure argued with my brother and sister. That’s just part of the human condition.

But sometimes our family arguments end in total estrangement because the differences are irreconcilable. We don’t have to agree with, like or even respect everyone who stands beside us in our social movements.

In fact that’s probably the greatest strength of any social movement, being able to stand beside  people  we couldn’t stand to be around at any other time…and also learning that our allies on a particular issue may not be our allies on 99 others.

It’s also the only way to win the battle for women’s pay equity. Or anything else for that matter.

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