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Via feministe: The arguement for paying moms less

The fact that mothers are under scrutiny for how much time they ‘waste’ while at work (taking phone calls from kids and having to pick them up on snow days etc) is itself sexist. Why don’t we ask how it is men can be productive, considering how constantly distracted they are by sex? Why don’t we ask how it is smokers can be productive? I repeat: the focus on women parents is sexist – and I’m not even tackling the inherent hypocrisy in pretending that we as a society care about families, while offering to pay those who do the family work less than others, thereby making it necessary for them to work even longer hours to make the money needed to cover the costs of working etc.

Only women are under this kind of scrutiny: how they dress, how much they weigh (overweight women make less money), how assertive they are or aren’t, how they choose lower paid jobs naturally (without consideration to why the jobs women choose pay less or what influences job choices), if they have children can they be as productive as those without children, if they don’t have children they are going to take maternity leave. Only women face these stereotypes; only women are always found wanting, found to be the makers of the sexism that prevents their success.

Yet, there are literally thousands of ways to ‘waste‘ time at work. There are studies which show how much time male office workers waste surfing pornography (literally hours every day), yet there is no outcry about whether or not men should make as much money as their non-porn-surfing counterparts (women). By and large, it is men who are in the media for various sex-related scandals, much of which occurred during working hours and/or on company related trips. Do we see any media stories questioning – making everyone engage in a debate – about whether or not men can juggle their libido with dedicated work?

Do men have to give up sex in order to be productive workers? We don’t ask this question: not because it is inherently more ridiculous than asking if women should be forced to give up family (or sex) in order to be productive, but because the many ways in which male workers will ‘waste’ time at work are normalized, considered so acceptable as to be invisible, and remain unquestioned.

Young people (and certain older people) often get drunk the night before and stumble into work unable to think clearly and waste time going for multiple coffees and describing just how drunk they really were, take ‘sick’ days because they chose to get so drunk the night before they can’t face a computer screen. Smokers go for multiple smoke/gossip/stress-release breaks. People play computer games; people chat; people do their online banking. People with pets run home to check on a sick cat. Fathers leave work early to get junior and he is a dedicated father, whose standing at work generally increases, studies show. Yet, it is only women who are suspiciously incapable of having a life outside of work (in this case, children) and working too.

The debate is sexist. Nobody at work spends all their time at work working. People at all levels spend time at work doing personal things. It is only when women engage in parenting activities during working hours – activities she cannot ignore without being guilty of child neglect – that any group comes under extended media criticism.

While there are studies to indicate how much time is wasted through the use of on-line porn (I am not going to go to the effort of finding and linking to these studies because the point isn’t that men surf porn, but that we do not question the way another group ‘wastes’ time while at work, but only women parents), there are no studies which actually prove that women parents spend more company time than others doing non-work activities or that women parents have any trouble completing the work they need to complete, even when junior has a sick day, or calls her from school to ask a question. (Anecdotal evidence is ridiculous: I can tell you how a certain short man I knew spent all his time at working doing non-work-related activities, yet that doesn’t mean all short men do that all the time.)

And you know what? If someone actually did engage in a real comparative study of that sort (I can’t imagine how it would be put together), they would find that women parents in particular are often more efficient than their non-parental counterparts (male and female) because they have to be and because parenting is the best teacher of the ability to multi-task out there.

But even if that study were to prove that, it would not be published. Because what people need is an easy scapegoat, an acceptable target to resent, a canvas against which they can make themselves look like harder workers (than a parent who is working 24/7) – and above all else, an excuse to be able to pay women parents less than anyone else.


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