A practical, nonviolent act of resistance, part one

In this article we discuss the generals of the gender wage gap and its hidden assumptions

Housework #1, Csilla Klenyánszki, 2017

Women who are mothers and who are artists - specially immigrant mothers, as is our case - get to experience an almost perfect storm of factors working against them from all angles.

Everything from the "gender wage gap", the "motherhood penalty" 1 and the trickle down nature of artist's pay in the industry, to name a few.

It is not our point to paint ourselves as victims that must be rescued. It is in fact the point of Mother in Arts to self-organise and work pro-actively to improve our conditions. That's what our model is about.

In this series of articles we want to approach, however, as much of these adverse factors as we can, because we feel that women and specially mother artists need to now more than ever to “be fearless, speak up, work together”, and move the progress along, which many sources agree, after an initial improvement in the first part of the 20th century has stalled in the past 20 or 30 years.

Part one, Gender wage gap in general

Firstly, as women, mother artists see the effects of the "gender wage gap". This is a universal measurable tendency where in average female workers earn less pay than male workers. It also means that higher paying jobs with bigger responsibility and influence - specially, but certainly not limited to the art industry 2 - tend to be occupied by mostly men.

It is well documented and even critics of the concept acknowledge the gap as a mathematical fact but argue that "differences in the life choices of men and women—such as women tending to leave the workforce when they have children—make it difficult to make simple comparisons", to quote the words of a fact-checking reporter from The Washington Post 3.

This counter-argument although seemingly simple, strikes us as a fairly loaded "appeal to common sense" fallacy that has at its root unmentioned preconceived notions about the roles that men and women should play in society. That particular article's motivation is clearly political but it echoes the general consensus of what is argued to undermine the gender wage gap argument. We will return to this point briefly.

Know your arguments : The "appeal to common sense" fallacy

Relies on the vague notion of ‘obviousness’, which means something like ‘what we perceive from personal experience’ or ‘what we should know without having had to learn.’ In other words, common sense is not necessarily supported by evidence or reasoning. As such, beliefs based on common sense are unreliable. The fallacy lies in giving too much weight to common sense in drawing conclusions, at the expense of evidence and reasoning.4

Example : "If a little vitamin C is good for you, a lot more must be much better, must it not?"

In our local context, even though according to The Global Gender Gap Report 2016 5, the Netherlands ranks well in this issue (ranked #16) compared to other western countries (U.S. ranked #45, U.K. ranked #20) it still scores pretty low in fields like "Economic Participation and Opportunity" lagging behind close neighbours like Germany (#10), Sweden (#4) and Norway (#3) and sees, according to the report : "... their progress stall on women’s labour force participation and estimated earned income..." 6.

A recent article from De Volkskrant 7 declares that ".. even though the gender wage gap has diminished, women still always earn less" in their analysis of a survey conducted by De Loonwijzer called "Waarom zijn er beloningsverschillen m/v?" (Why are there wage differences between men and women?)

The survey places the inequality in pay in the Netherlands at around 19% and cites causes like women working less hours to take care of children, women having less years of experience as a result of taking care of their children, women being placed in less "respected" jobs or positions where wages are generally lower but provide better opportunities to care for a family.8

It also acknowledges "a conscious or unconscious level of discrimination by employers". They estimate that particular factor to account for 8% of the total 19% gap. That's nearly half of the difference being attributed to net gender discrimination.

Analysis in a 2012 American article published in the National Center for Policy Analysis entitled "The Disappearing Gender Wage Gap" comes to similar conclusions : Women work less, have less working experience or choose jobs with flexible arrangements all based around taking care of a family. The article proudly declares that when all these factors are taken into account the pay gap went from ¢79.4 cents to ¢88.6 on the (U.S.) dollar.9

Even leading female artists like Marina Abramović seem to confirm this line of reasoning by declaring "Why do men take over the important positions? It’s simple. Love, family, children—a woman doesn’t want to sacrifice all of that” in a statement that we find particularly troubling and damaging to the progress of women rights in the art world and elsewhere. She goes further to say that "Children Hold Back Female Artists" 10. We cannot think of a more antagonistic statement to our position.

What Abramović is implying is that women and only women should be faced with the choice between their career and a family life because family is the role of the woman and not of the man. When she says "Women don't want to sacrifice all of that" she is offering us a false dilemma, pre-approving that men have nothing to do with raising children and thus as a woman you choose to "Sacrifice all that" or not "Sacrifice all that" to be successful. She is also phrasing it as if to say : it's ok to take the short end of the stick because we are women and we (not men) have love and family (they have jobs and money); as a woman you must love love and children and family (men don't have this concern), "..it's simple"

Know your arguments : "False dilemma"

A type of informal fallacy in which something is falsely claimed to be an either-or situation, when in fact there is at least one additional option.11

Example: "You're either with us, or against us"

She's implying that to be successful like she is, women have to be free of the burden of family like a man, in her opinion, is entitled to be. This view, an inherently patriarchal view, is specially demorsalizing when it comes from a woman who has grown up to accept it. If Marina chose not to have children to focus on her career that's all fine and well (kudos and more power), but is not her place to explain away and generalise for the rest of women (and men) what they should want and not want specially not using the same traditional gender roles that are drilled into men and women since childhood.

It is our opinion that these unmentioned preconceived notions about the roles that men and women should play in society are the root of the gender wage gap and other discriminatory practices targeting women.

Work less on your career, get paid less

Nobody knows better than mothers than raising a family is time and resource consuming. It is also fairly obvious that when someone has less time to invest in their career then their progress (and pay) will also be less.

But why is the burden of family disproportionally loaded onto the female even after the baby is no longer fully dependant on the mother's breast milk.

Why is it that De loonwijzer concludes that in the Netherlands when a child is born in the family, the wage of the man tends to go up while the wage of the woman takes a nose dive? it's the same event happening to the same people.

Government policy seems to mirror this unfair gender role if you consider that in The Netherlands maternity leave is 3 months (a low amount by European standards) for women and only a handful of days for men. There is no shared parental leave whatsoever.

If we go back to that gender gap index and see what the law is in the top 3 countries where the gender wage gap is the least, we find a different approach.

The head of the list Iceland, has 13 weeks leave for the mother, 12 for the father and 23 weeks of parental leave for each of the parents. 12 Iceland has made it state policy to bring the father in to be a part of the family raising process.

Finland allows the father 3 weeks of paternity leave and additionally one of a child's parents can take parental leave lasting 26.5 weeks beginning immediately after the maternity leave has ended. Parents can also take turns in using up their shared parental leave13.

in Norway both mother and father have set quotas (10 weeks each, as of 2014), but after the quotas are up, the father can also choose to take the leave in place of the mother making use of the "shared" quota (26 or 36 weeks long)14.

Seen this way, if critics of the gender wage gap claim that women are paid less because they work less, and they work less to take care of family, then they should be by definition supporters of fatherhood leave rights and/or shared parental leave rights.

Realistically it is not the case, but it's a fun way to think about it.

It is our conclusion that making child raising a family matter, and not just a female matter, is one of many effective measures to achieve gender equality.

The gender wage gap is a big topic of which we have merely scratched the surface. For example, how do women fair economically specifically in the art world compared to men? That's a topic for another time.

For Mothers in Arts,

Csilla Klenyánszki
Juan Carlos Ospina Gonzalez
Guest writer

1 "The Motherhood Penalty and The gender wage gap", fairdealforwomen.com.
2 "The Gender Gap in Art Museum Directorships", Anne Marie Gan, Zannie Giraud Voss, Lisa Phillips, Christine Anagnos, Alison D. Wade, Souther Methodist University
3 ["President Obama's persistent '77-cent' claim on the wage gap gets a new Pinocchio rating". Glenn Kessler, April 9, 2014, The Washington Post.] (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2014/04/09/president-obamas-persistent-77-cent-claim-on-the-wage-gap-gets-a-new-pinocchio-rating/?utm_term=.e1021d1dd7f0)
4 "Common sense fallacy", Tim Harding
5 "The Global Gender Gap Report 2016", World Economic Forum
6 ["The Global Gender Gap Report 2016 / Western Europe", World Economic Forum] (http://reports.weforum.org/global-gender-gap-report-2016/western-europe/)
7 "Loonkloof iets kleiner, vrouwen verdienen nog altijd minder", 11 may 2016, De Volkskrant
8 [© WageIndicator 2017 - Loonwijzer.nl - "Waarom zijn er beloningsverschillen m/v?"] (http://www.loonwijzer.nl/home/vrouwenloonwijzer/beloningsverschillen-m-v/beloningsverschillen-m-v)
9 "The Disappearing Gender Wage Gap", June 22, 2012, June E. O’Neill, National Center for Policy Analysis
10 "Marina Abramović Says Children Hold Back Female Artists", July 25, 2016, Henri Neuendorf, artnetnews
11 "False dilemma", Wikipedia
12 "Parental Leave", Wikipedia
13 "Family Friendly Finald", ThisisFINLAND Magazine
14 "Paternal quota (paternity leave), maternal quota and shared period", Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration