The wage gap and cowboys
For crying out loud! In this country, we have a huge wage gap between men and women, a problem that should have been fixed a long time ago but actually has been getting worse and worse lately. But out of the thousands of counties in the United States, 15 actually have women making more than men on average. Clearly, this encroaching problem of potential balance needs to be addressed immediately, NPR sent some reporters to the where the gap was the widest to see if the men are all eunuchs or something.
Well, the truth actually makes for an interesting story to those of us interested in gender issues. The county where the gap is the widest is King County, Texas, and the reason for the woman over man wage gap is pretty much a fluke, albeit one with an ironic twist. The men there aren't unmanly by any stretch. In the tiny community in King County, most of the men are cowboys. And as someone who grew up in cow country, I can tell you that your average cowboy doesn't make enough to buy a pot to piss in.
Listen to the story--it's a hoot. The reason that the women in this town make more on average than the men has zip to do with feminism or the women's movement or anything like that, well at least the women's movement after women won the right to vote and own property. This wage gap is the result of the poverty wages that your average cowboy makes. These women work, as many women do, because they have to in order for their families to get by, as women of the working class have done throughout this country's history. The wives of cowboys have never been genteel women whose husbands take pride that they don't work. The work that they do has maybe changed some, brings in more income, but the basic fact that they are working has stayed the same.
That's why it's funny to hear the residents they interview hesitate when asked by the reporter if the woman's higher wages strain their marriage. (How come no one worries that marriages are strained by men's higher wages? The real wage gap of men over women is probably one of the major reasons we have a high divorce rate in this country.) The common perception that men are threatened by women who make more money isn't really as big an issue to people who need every penny they can get for the household. Where I grew up, women who took non-ranch jobs to support cowboy husbands were perceived as sacrificing so that their husband could keep the job he knew or loved. That's hardly the feminist clarion call for independence.
I'm not criticizing any of these people in King County, by the way, not the men who take on cowboy jobs or the women who may be making sacrifices in order to help their men keep the jobs they want. Everyone is doing the best they can for each other and for their families, something many of us would do well to emulate. In fact, one could even suggest that strategies for evening out the wage gap for the rest of us might come from their work ethic where usefulness has such a high value and women working is considered a normal part of life.
And I did get irritated at the NPR reporters who came off as condescending. Come on, people! Let's drop the condescension already! It's costing the Democrats elections, for fuck's sake!