When Sally Ride became the first female astronaut and Geraldine Ferraro the first woman vice presidential candidate for one of the Big Two parties, I was pretty sure I was living in the world that the 1960s’ feminists had fought so hard to achieve: The post-feminist world.
The Equal Rights Amendment had failed to pass, but it didn’t matter; we were on equal footing as men. Sure, salaries hadn’t caught up quite yet, but that would take time. You couldn’t, overnight, put a bunch of women in top-salary positions. By the time I reached the workforce, all this would be behind us.
Except, it wasn’t.
I’ve had a lot of conversations lately with other women, about rape culture and harassment; about the pay gap; about why “feminist” isn’t a four-letter word (and it’s not just because it’s eight letters, either). One story keeps coming back to me as emblematic of all this: The Time I Didn’t Get the Same Vacation Allotment as the Dude Hired After Me.
Women often are blamed for being paid less. We don’t ask, we’re told. We don’t “lean in.” We don’t celebrate our accomplishments enough.
I was blamed for this in the aforementioned case, in fact, despite the fact that it simply wasn’t true.
I was done at The Miami Herald. After years of leaning in, and pushing my own accomplishments and being an overall pain in the ass, I’d reached a point where the politics of the situation were untenable. I do blame myself for some of this, because I hadn’t learned to pick my battles. I constantly battled. That gets annoying. So whatever. I was moving on. I got a job at The East Valley Tribune, outside of Phoenix – a smaller, scrappier paper, up against the 400 pound gorilla of The Arizona Republic.
I’d always had three weeks’ vacation and asked for the same at my new paper (before I accepted the job offer, mind you). I was told that no exceptions were made to the rule that you needed to be with the newspaper company (different from the Herald’s parent company) for a certain number of years to be eligible. I was still young, I really liked the newsroom attitude and was willing to make the sacrifice. After all, if this was the rule, and there were no exceptions, then everyone was in the same boat. Fine.
Except, that wasn’t true. A couple months after I joined the paper, another reporter my age was hired. We had about the same amount of experience, more or less. The paper he came from also had a different parent company. But, as it turns out, he asked for and was given — with no argument — three weeks’ vacation. I found this out in conversation with him several months later. I should have asked for three weeks, he told me.
Uh, I did. Now, mind you, this was not his fault. He asked for three weeks and was given it. What was he supposed to do? Ask if women hired around the same time as him had been given the same consideration? Of course not.
So I marched my fanny into the managing editor’s office and confronted him with this information.
I should have asked for three weeks, he told me.
Uh, I did. I then looked him in the eyes and suggested that I found it odd that a man hired right about the same time as me was given the vacation time with no argument, while I was told there were no exceptions and wouldn’t get it. Not to mention that I’d been put on the weekend shift while he had not (same thing happened after we were both made editors – despite my being made editor before him).
Needless to say, I was given the extra week of vacation on the spot.
But you know what? The entire situation sucked.
I don’t even think any of this was done purposefully. That kind of makes it worse.
It shows an innate bias toward men that isn’t even thought about. Or, at least, an innate bias against women. Either way, ugh.
I don’t want to be a feminist. I want to live in that post-feminist world I was promised.
But I don’t live in that world.
And I am a feminist. And damned proud to be.
Photo by cathredfern via Flickr Creative Commons.