Home Roland Rocchiccioli Why is everyone so surprised to learn there is a gender pay-gap?

Why is everyone so surprised to learn there is a gender pay-gap?

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Of course there is, and it was ever thus! You would have to be living in some parallel universe not to be aware. As a friend of mine – and a victim of the practice – said: ‘The drover’s dog could see it!’ She was a brilliant English teacher, and when she married she was forced to retrain as a domestic science teacher. It was believed, back in the dark ages, that once a woman entered into matrimony, her brain immediately atrophied and she was– presumably by osmosis – rendered senseless and incapable of distinguishing a noun from a verb! To make sure she understood her place in the male hierarchy, when she moved from one teaching form to another, she lost all her seniority and accrued long-service leave. There was a punishment to be suffered for being a woman wanting to work after marriage. That was strictly a male prerogative, unless of course you were the parish spinster, which made you a figure of fun.

What else would you expect? The pay gap is a manifestation a vile by-product of living in a stridently patriarchal society. From the cradle to the grave we are taught that women have less value than men. The examples are glaring, and, sadly, it starts in the home. At the risk of being stoned in the street, I venture to say the problem begins with women. Too many mothers treat their daughters differently from their sons. Girls are expected to help with the housework; clear their brother’s plate from the table; to make his bed; and help do his washing. Girls grow-up believing they are inferior to men and their contribution to society is less worthy. The boys are left to do whatever they choose, occasionally helping dad to mow the lawn and rake the leaves. It is outrageous, by any standard.

Too often one hears a woman say: ‘I’m just a housewife.’What an extraordinary thing. JUST a housewife!! What are you talking about? It is bloody hard work running a house, cooking meals, doing the washing and ironing, shopping, getting the kids the to-and-from, and the myriad other tasks women are expected to perform. How often do you hear of a husband rushing home from the office, calling into the supermarket on the way to buy the ingredients to cook a meal for the family, and then, having fed the tribe, to being dealing with all the household chores and children’s homework problems. That’s women’s secret work!

It is a curious phenomenon, but in the tragic event that a mother dies, the family, invariably, falls apart; however, if the father dies the woman manages, by whatever means, to maintain the family unit. There is no doubt, women are the stronger sex – and I am not talking about lifting heavy things! That is for dopey men. We have come a long way from the days when female teachers and bank employees had to resign when they married, and when female teachers, bank employees, actresses, and psychiatric nurses were paid less than their male counterparts, even if the qualifications were superior. The bank was a bastion of male superiority. Women were not permitted to be tellers, and, for the most part, they worked in the Savings Bank area. In the trading bank they were employed as comptometrists, posting the daily activity to the various cheque accounts, and balancing the bank at the end of the day. A female accountant was too outrageous to contemplate. The highest should could aspire to rise up the ladder was as a private secretary to the manager of a large city branch; and she had to be single! The ABC paid female announcers – no matter how talented or popular they were – less than males. Women were allowed to read the news on radio, but television news reading was a strictly male domain. It was a hard fought battle to bring about a change. It was argued their voices lacked gravitas, and were too irritating for the male listeners. Women were relegated to presenting classical and popular music programmes, and talk shows which dealt with female specific topics – cooking and the fine arts. Women were not considered to be capable of conducting a serious political discussion. There were those dinosaurs who argued that women’s brains were smaller than men’s, and, consequently, were less able to think seriously, and for any prolonged period. The stress of intellectual stimulation was deemed seriously deleterious to their health and well-being. Only a man would have thought that!

The final insult for women is the solemnisation of matrimony according to the Book of Common Prayer. The celebrant asks: ‘Who giveth this woman to be married?’ as if he is giving away a prize-winning ewe. Then, as a final insult, and just to make absolutely certain there is now ambiguity about the relationship, he announces: ‘I now pronounce you man and wife.’ Man and wife! Surely it should be husband and wife – or man and woman. That is how it would be in an equal society, but not in a patriarchal society. The woman is still seen as an appendage – a man’s chattel.

As my late mother, Beria, was wont to stay:

‘That’s been going on since God was a boy!’

Roland can be heard each MONDAY morning on 3BA at 10.30.Contact: rolandroc@bigpond.com