Monday, December 22, 2008

Social History #3

The professor and I saw this car one day in August, along the route we usually walk our dogs. It was gone (towed away) by the time we came back down that block. I've been waiting for a time to post this photo for a while--unfortunately, I think I've found it.
This Research Note from the National Endowment of the Arts fits perfectly with an image of an old, rusted out antique car.
Why, you ask? Well, according to this research on women artists in the United States from 1990-2005, women will have to work 25% longer to earn what male artists earn. Worse, the pay disparity becomes worse as women artists the older women artists become, the less likely they'll be to catch up to male artists. Women artists will have to work until they are perhaps as beat up as this jalopy and---still don't earn what male artists earn.
If you're up on your feminist statistics, this seems like old news. In fact, the current statistic for women nationally is that women in the United States earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. (working full time, at comparable professions.) However, for women artists, it's 75 cents to every dollar a male artist earns. If you read the research note in detail (and I encourage that, it's not long and it's enlightening) it indicates that there are exceptions. Younger women (18-24) earn up to 95 cents for every dollar men earn, while older women earn 67 cents for every dollar men earn. The findings are not radically different when compared to other labor markets...but overall, it's bad news for women artists in the workforce.
In particular, it indicates that women artists may marry but don't have children with the frequency of the national average. I wonder, is that because it's very hard to have health insurance or provide it to your children as an artist who is self-employed? There are also interesting statistics that indicate that women earn more in Kentucky than the average--but I daresay that is because the overall average for men's salaries is lower here. State by state statistics for this can be illuminating.
What does this have to do with social history and the phrase "and she knits?" Social history often looks at the underclass...and if the research starts with 1990, we're looking at historical data from 3 to 18 years ago. Knitwear designers and writers are part of this overall labor category of "artist." Fiber artists, of course, fit in the category. Until we find a way to value women's work and women -- knitted work, written work, design work... the way we value traditionally male work and men-- women artists will be undervalued. Many talented female writers/designers/artists who do not rely on spousal support end up needing to change fields just to support themselves. Alas, even 2 cents on the dollar makes a big difference.
What a miracle it would be if women in the United States earned equal wages for equal work. That's part of this mystical thing that we call equality, part of the parity refered to by feminists like me. I know that I earned more the year before marrying than I've ever earned in the ten years since--almost a penalty for wedlock...and yes, that's with two graduate degrees. (not lacking in the education or experience department...)
To read the whole report rather than just the summary above, Click here to download the pdf. (it takes a bit to download--warranted, given the weighty topic.)
So, don't like being compared to a Tin Lizzie? What do you think about the NEA's research note? What are good solutions?

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Blogger cyndy said...

I remember when I first learned about pay disparity (I was in the 6th grade...and learned about George Sands)!!

oh my...things haven't changed much....have they?

December 22, 2008 at 8:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't know the solution, but it's slooooooowly getting better. I believe the figure was 69 cents (all fields, not art) that women earned compared with the men's dollar when I was in college--30 years ago.

December 22, 2008 at 10:24 PM  
Blogger Geek Knitter said...

I was about 8 years old when I made the terrible mistake of asking my mother at dinner how come she got money from dad when she "didn't do anything." My, but didn't she just pin my ears back!

Equality... what an interesting idea. We should try it sometime.

December 23, 2008 at 5:51 PM  

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