I remember my first day of class, eagerly sitting in my seat-my eyes scanning the syllabus intrigued as to what would be required of us for the spring semester. I remember initially feeling out of place. Activism itself was foreign to me, and getting involved spurred up even more feelings of disconnection. Personally I have always been a typical shy and introverted person. My ultimate goal in high school was to remain unnoticed by literally everyone-mostly because interaction usually or eventually comes with conflict. Obviously as I have grown older, my social skills have gone up but a few characteristics still linger.
For my activism project I participated in the Pay Equity Bake sale-an effort to reach out and create awareness about the obvious gap in yearly wages between men and women. Feelings of invisibility exist among women who work just as hard as men in our society- Discrimination of gender and race can appear in the workplace and it becomes prevalent in how much income both groups take home at the end of the day. There are laws that supposedly protect against this (such as the Equal Pay act of 1963) and opportunities for women to challenge the workforce when injustice emerges but like a lot of laws in this country-sometimes it is not fully enforced.
I think I chose this particular topic because although personally I had not experienced discrimination (at least in terms of gender) in the workplace, I knew that as a woman of color I would eventually encounter this problem-especially upon graduating college. What is interesting is why exactly the wage gap exists. I think the problem bleeds deeper into our culture, it’s not just because all employers are sexist. For some reason at a young age we are taught a phrase and an attitude that was pushed into the limelight years and years ago by our past feminist comrades-that “women can do anything”. The problem is a conflicting one in which society tends to serve us on a daily basis-that it’s alright to believe you can do anything but in actuality you must conform to a standard that has been set for hundreds of years. This comes to light in schools, where female students are pushed towards academics that do not favor math and science and in return women do not go after careers that center around it. Careers in math and science statistically collect more profit than other fields, which can put women at a disadvantage in the long run. A few years ago a teacher of mine directed a piece of advice to all the women in the classroom: It was that before we choose a career field or a particular major in college, we must first be mindful of the impact a child would have on whatever was chosen in the future (Assuming we would all have children since this is our biological purpose in life anyway). So when choosing to be a doctor or an astronaut-keep in mind a child will prevent any truly successful outcomes, so it was best to aim a little lower. Needless to say, hearing this from a teacher was extremely disheartening. But this could also be a reason as to why women make less. Women are more likely to take time off when children are born, leaving the opportunity for more promotions and better incomes to men. Because in our society women are still the nurturing caregivers and the responsibility isn’t evenly shared with men.
My favorite part of the bake sale was the pricing strategy. The price of each baked good depended on a person’s race and gender. For example a white male would pay a dollar for a cupcake, whereas an African American woman would pay 63 cents-because each African American woman makes 63 cents to every dollar a white male makes. Not only did this genuinely genius pricing technique draw interest by passerby’s, forcing people to self-identify gave people a chance to connect with the information on a personal level and when this happens the material will stay in the brain longer. If there is anything I would do differently it would be to find out how to be more involved in the actual process and not execution. I think in order to truly be involved in something one must be extremely persistent and my shyness definitely took over in times like this. However, I really did enjoy participating in this and it really sparked my interest in getting involved in other things next semester. And I’ll always have extra cake mix in my cabinet for any bake sale in the future