In 1977, a group of eight women set up a picket line on a day that the temperatures (with wind chill) were dropping to -70F. They were protesting the fact that their male coworkers made more money while doing the same work.
In 2015, Jennifer Lawrence penned the question, “Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co-Stars?” to Lenny Letter, in which she examines whether or not she makes less because of a bias on the part of her employer, or because she’s afraid to ask for more.
This week’s Ms. Magazine Monday comes from the September 1978 issue. The article, titled “The Long March of the ‘Willmar 8’” covers (at that time) ongoing protests by eight women who worked for Citizens National Bank. According to the article, these women first filed their claim in 1976 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The author Judith James writes, “The discrimination charge referred specifically to female employees who had been in banking 15 years and received a wage of $600 per month. Newly hired male employees were paid $700 per month and were trained by female employees whose wages were as low as $400.”
In her Lenny article, Jennifer Lawrence writes that during the recent Sony email hack, when she learned how much more her male co-stars were making, she realized that she had given in to the contract that she was offered without much fight. Throughout the article she comments on not wanting to “piss anyone off” or be seen as a “brat." But she realized that her co-stars had fought for their contracts, and now she’s wondering why she didn’t do the same. She writes:
“But if I'm honest with myself, I would be lying if I didn't say there was an element of wanting to be liked that influenced my decision to close the deal without a real fight. I didn't want to seem ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled.’ At the time, that seemed like a fine idea, until I saw the payroll on the Internet and realized every man I was working with definitely didn't worry about being ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled.’”
I’m frequently reminded that women don’t make as much money as men because they are less apt to ask for a raise, or push for the wages they deserve, and unfortunately many are using this as a reason we don’t need feminism. I mean, it’s all the fault of the women, right? If they just asked for what they wanted, equal pay wouldn’t be an issue?
This looks to me like more evidence as to why we need feminism. Our cultural norms are still teaching women to fear the things that Jennifer Lawrence was fearing before the Sony hack. Women are still all-too-often afraid to make a stand for themselves on an individual basis.
In 1977 women were picketing for the right to have equal wages. Today, the laws are in place to protect us, but the social norms still prevent it. Too many women are still afraid to be seen as demanding when in actuality we have every right to ask for a raise and make our voices heard.