End the chauvinist mentality

Katherine Taylor

Who runs the world? Girls.

I wish more than anything that statement were true.

Sadly, it should read something closer to “Who’s the poorest? Girls.” This week, Soraya Chemaly of the Huffington Post reported that women own 1 percent of the world’s property even though “they perform 66 percent of the world’s work, produce 50 percent of its food and earn a whopping 10 percent of its income.”

This disproportional rate between labor worked and income earned persists at every level of society. Across the United States, women earn 80 percent of what men earn during their first year out of college, according to a 2007 report by CNN. Sadly, that discrepancy only widens the more time passes.

We feel this issue at UT as well. The 2007 Gender Equity Task Force Report reveals that female professors earned on average $9,028 less than their male counterparts.

The gender pay gap is more than just a feminist issue; it’s an economic one as well. According to the United Nations’ gender report, the United States’ Gross Domestic Product would be 9 percent higher if women’s paid employment rates were raised to the same level as men’s.

Given the seriousness of this problem, it’s important to first figure out why it exists in order to understand how to solve it. Since women outnumber and outscore men at every degree level and are predicted to account for 59 percent of undergraduate enrollment and 61 percent of graduate enrollment nationwide in less than a decade, according to the Washington Post, then educational attainment is not what’s preventing women from catching up to their male peers in terms of income.

Instead, it’s something much more insidious: implicit, pervasive chauvinism. You see it and experience it every single day. When you write a paper and mistakenly attribute a female author’s opinion to a man because it sounds more academic; when a cute, blonde girl tells you she’s an engineering major and you laugh at the incredulity of that statement; when you emotionally manipulate a woman into thinking she’s overreacting just because you know all women are ‘crazy;’ when the testimony of each of four eye witnesses of sexual harassment and misconduct is discredited to the point that two-thirds of Republicans say it won’t affect their support of presidential hopeful Herman Cain.

It’s this kind of behavior that creates a mentality that puts men above women and takes away the strength of women’s voices. When stripped of their voices, women are victimized­ — first by the perpetrators of violent acts committed against them and then by the society that refuses to listen to them.

Think about the millions of women worldwide who have been sexually violated. Do they have a voice to defend themselves? Not if we don’t take the time to listen to them.

One step we can take to end this mentality is to quit paying women less for work that is equal to the work of their male counterparts. When we pay women less than what they are worth, we devalue their work and create a culture that devalues their voice as well. The University has a responsibility to do its part to end chauvinism. UT should end pay inequality on this campus and pay female faculty members at a rate equal to their male counterparts.

Taylor is a Plan II and rhetoric and writing senior.