There’s a lawmaker in Wyoming who is winning all the awards for A-Hole of the Year for his comments on women in the workplace — and let me tell ya, the “accolades” are not unjustified.
In an interview with Better Wyoming that was published on Monday, State Representative Gerald Gay was asked whether or not he believes there is a gender wage gap. (A stupid question, to be sure, as unlike unicorns and hippogriffs there is nothing mythical about the gap. I assure you, it is very much real and not exactly open for interpretation.) But nevertheless, Gay responded by saying:
“Men and women have different ways of going about taking time off — moms for maternity leave and that sort of thing. Women are always going to take their full maternity leave, and there’s the dependability issue about whether they’re going to show up for things.”
What. The. Actual. F*ck, Gerald.
I won’t even begin to dissect the flippant nature of “and that sort of thing.” What really grinds my gears is how he in one sentence manages to both shame women for taking their “full maternity leave” (the audacity!) and questions the reliability of an entire gender.
First of all, federal law requires only employers with 50 or more employees to grant 12 weeks of unpaid maternity or paternity leave. When The National Partnership for Women and Families graded Wyoming on their family and medical leave policies, to no one’s surprise here, they failed.
So when Gerald criticizes women for “taking their full maternity leave,” what he’s saying is that after the birth of a child, women have the balls to peace out for 12 weeks without compensation while their expenses explode overnight. They then spend that time getting manicures and going shopping, or you know, whatever it is women do with their 12 weeks of maternity leave after birthing the future generation.
Excuse me, my sarcasm is showing.
The truth is, this kind of rhetoric is damaging and categorically untrue. In fact, we know that one-quarter of mothers return to work less than two weeks after giving birth, probably because, oh I don’t know … THEY CAN’T AFFORD NOT TO. Between the time being uncompensated and the fact that they make 70 cents to a man’s dollar, it’s kind of hard for a lot of women to justify taking off any more time than that.
He then goes on to say that women “misuse” their sick days, which also contributes to the wage gap:
“Historically [women] tend to take every sick day that’s available with them, and that’s a gender thing. They look at how many sick days you get in a year. Say you get 12 sick days a year. If they go for two years and they’ve only taken three sick days, they’re going to cash in the remaining 21 sick days. That’s a gender thing and it hurts getting [the gender wage gap] rectified. Some of the misuses and abuses that go on there, and it’s predictable, it’s statistics that are written in stone. As long as you have people who behave differently on it between the two genders, it hurts the chances of getting that gender wage gap shrunk all the way down. We’ll make small progress on it, but they won’t make it [go away].”
Since when, Gerald, does using the actual sick days a company offers you hurt your chances of being taken seriously in the workplace? Since when does using them for a completely selfless reason — to take care of another human being — make you less worthy of being appropriately compensated? When did the value of your work on Monday get negated by your absence on Tuesday?
It comes down to this: When I — or any man or woman — signs a contract to begin a job, we are entering into an agreement. We are saying, “OK, you get 40 hours of our lives every week. In that time, we will give you our all. We will give you all our best ideas and churn out our greatest work. We will work hard, for both our own personal fulfillment, and also with the hope that we will be financially rewarded just as you are rewarded with our hard work. If we fail to do so, OK yes, you can fire us.”
But you only get so much of us. You only deserve so much of us. We are entitled to live our lives. We are entitled to start families without being judged, criticized, belittled, or unfairly compensated because of it. We are entitled to use the sick days you offered in the contract we signed with you.
And we sure as hell don’t need to justify what we’re doing on those days. It’s not up for debate. Whether we’re battling pneumonia or our sitters canceled last minute. It’s not a “misuse” of sick days — it’s making the most of what we are given in order to create some sort of workable balance.
Also, last I checked, it (usually) takes two people to make a baby. But apparently in Gerald’s world only one should be punished for that miracle — and that’s the woman, of course. Apparently there are no dads who ever call out sick to take care of their kids. No, they’re too busy kicking ass and taking names at work — earning their extra 30 cents. Really, women shouldn’t be the only ones up in arms over Gerald’s antiquated and misogynistic excuses for why the gender wage gap exists — if I were a father, I’d be pissed too.
It should be said that Gerald told Mic that he was “unfairly represented” in the interview and that he was only “pointing out what he admitted was a sexist ‘perception’ … rather than expressing his personal feelings.” Which makes sense, you know, because the interview wasn’t a word-for-word transcript open to vast interpretation. (Sarcasm, again. I’ll work on it, I promise.)
Look, I don’t have kids. Maybe I will some day, maybe I won’t. But what I know for certain is that my time and my work now is no less valuable than that of a man — and it won’t decline if and when I decide to procreate.