Women, Injustice, and the Bible: Women-Injustice#2; Justice#13

Women, Injustice, and the Bible: Women-Injustice#2; Justice#13 April 6, 2021

A few weeks ago, I was preaching on the Bible, women, and injustice. As I was concluding the service I started to break down. No one noticed. But I was suddenly struck with grief as I contemplated my wife, my daughter, my daughters-in-law, and especially my new granddaughter who had been born the previous week. I wondered what kind of world is she going to have live in?

Injustices towards women[1]

It is fairly well known that women historically have been underpaid. Even when all factors are equal, such as experience and education, women working the same jobs as men are paid significantly less than their male counterparts.[2] For every dollar earned by a white male in the US, women earn $.82[3] and black women $.62.[4] Globally women earn $.54 for every dollar earned by a man. This data compares the rate of pay when all factors are equal.

It is not uncommon for some to suggest that women are less qualified, lack the experience, or the necessary education. The fact is that more women earn college, graduate, and post-graduate degrees than men and have been doing so every year since 2007.[5]

Joseph Cimpian, in an article with the Brookings Institution, noted,

“And what happens if a woman perseveres in obtaining a college degree in a field where she encounters discrimination and underestimation and wants to pursue a postgraduate degree in that field, and maybe eventually work in academia? The literature suggests additional obstacles await her. These obstacles may take the form of those in the field thinking she’s not brilliant like her male in graduate school, having her looks discussed on online job boards when she’s job-hunting, performing more service work if she becomes university faculty, and getting less credit for co-authored publications in some disciplines when she goes up for tenure.”[6]

Might it be that men are threatened by women who are more educated and even, at times, more qualified than them?

I suspect that most everyone will believe this to be an injustice. Unfortunately, fewer consider it significant enough to act upon it. But what if I noted that inequities with regard to pay are evidence of deeper societal issues that lead to more serious injustices?

Lower pay is an indication of a lack of respect. Women are more consistently passed over for promotions, or important assignments, and even turned down for jobs simply because of their gender.

Does it matter if gender injustice was only a matter of unfair wages? Yes! Paying someone less simply because of their gender, their age, their race, or any other reason,[7] is wrong.

If we were to cease our investigation into injustices against women at this point, we would have a serious issue for which the people of God must speak up. Even if gender injustice was only a matter of unfair wages or being overlooked for a promotion, the people of God should advocate on behalf of those who are facing injustice.

Paying someone less simply because of their gender, age, race, or any other reason,[8] is wrong. Overlooking someone for a worthy promotion is demeaning.

That women also face sexual harassment at a rate far higher than men intensifies the problem and confirms that the issues are much more deeply rooted than many realize.[9]

Such discrimination is an indication of systemic injustice. Some of you won’t like the charge of systemic injustice. The fact is that discrimination against women in the workplace is an indication of a deep-rooted cultural perception that men are superior to women.

The devaluing of women is evidenced not just in the lower pay rates. Women are often passed by when it comes to promotions for upper-level management positions, even when they are as qualified or more qualified than a male counterpart.

Harassment and women

The devaluing of women includes the fact that women are routinely harassed in the workplace at rates far higher than men. Harassment is a result of devaluing a person. Too often women are viewed as objects and not persons.

Harassment, including sexual harassment, is a serious problem in the US. According to a Pew Research study: 42% of women face discrimination in the workplace.[10] One of the difficulties in determining the rate of sexual harassment in the workplace is that most instances are not reported.[11] The co-chairwoman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that up to three out of four women who experience sexual harassment never tell anyone in authority about it.[12]

There are a variety of factors that contribute to the failure to report. These include, among other factors, a sense of shame, a fear of consequences, a loss of self-esteem, and an increase in anxieties caused by a past history of sexual abuse. Oftentimes, an individual’s prior victimization has created a serious trauma that renders them unable to report.

Another, and equally tragic, reason why women do not report sexual harassment in the workplace is because they are convinced that nothing will come of it and that they may be retaliated against. Mae Cannon, citing an article in the New Yorker, notes that, “75 percent of harassment victims experience retaliation when they speak up, and 95 percent of reported incidents go unpunished.”[13]

It is also important to recognize how the difficulties women face in the workplace contribute to their failure to report. As it is, in addition to pay inequities, women have greater difficulties obtaining positions and moving up the ladder. As a result, women are often convinced that they have it hard enough in the workplace, why would they report harassment and potentially make things more difficult and even jeopardize their jobs?[14]

Sexual harassment of women in all sectors of society is a global problem.

Unfortunately, men oftentimes do not recognize the significance of the problem. Surveys have shown that men do not consider discrimination against women to be a serious issue. When ask to estimate the percentage of women that have experienced sexual harassment men consistently underestimate the numbers.[15]

For example, in the US, as many as 81% of women say that they have faced some form of sexual harassment in their lives.[16] When men were asked what percentage of women they believed had faced harassment, the average answer was 44%.[17] This conception is universally consistent. In Denmark, where upwards of 80% of women have experienced some form of sexual harassment, the average answer among men was 31%. In the Netherlands, where 73% of women have reported being affected by sexual harassment, the average answer among men was 38%.

The World Bank’s “Women, Business, and the Law” report found that 104 countries prevent women from working certain sectors; 59 countries lack laws on sexual harassment in the workplace, and in 18 countries, husbands are able to legally prevent their wives from working.[18]

I closed my last post with this statement and subsequent question: “I began this series of posts on justice several months ago by saying, “injustice, maybe I am the problem.” Now I wish to ask you: “injustice, are you a part of the problem?””

 

 

[1] Though injustices occur against men also, the fact that women experience injustice at a far higher rate across the board is why I am focusing on injustices against women.

[2] It goes without saying that there are a number of reasons why women are paid less than men. We are intentionally simplifying the discussion here to address women working the same positions as men, with similar educations, and similar qualifications. It is acknowledged that in some sectors the gap between men and women for entry-level wages has all but disappeared. Nonetheless, over time, in many of these fields, the wage discrimination continues to favor the male. Often this is the result of the fact that women more commonly take time off from their careers in order to attend to children and the home life.

[3] https://www.businessinsider.com/gender-wage-pay-gap-charts-2017-3. Last accessed 9-28-20.

[4] We have already discussed some of the injustices that affect the African American community. In this chapter, we are looking at the issues of injustice towards women. In many cases, African American women in the US have it doubly difficult. They are both Black and women. The statistics are even worse for Latino women. See https://www.businessinsider.com/gender-wage-pay-gap-charts-2017-3#overall-black-and-hispanic-women-face-the-biggest-pay-gap-when-compared-to-white-men-3. Last accessed 9-28-20.

[5] https://www.aei.org/carpe-diem/prediction-no-graduation-speaker-will-mention-the-29-gender-college-degree-gap-for-the-class-of-2018/#:~:text=Overall%2C%20women%20in%20the%20Class,million%20total%20degrees%20for%20women). Last accessed 9-30-20.

[6] https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2018/04/23/how-our-education-system-undermines-gender-equity/ accessed Aug 25, 2020.

[7] Discrimination takes on many forms beyond the focus of this work: including disabled persons.

[8] Disabled persons are routinely discriminated against as well.

[9] The focus of this section is discrimination against women. That men are discriminated against and sexually harassed is also an injustice that should be called out.

[10] https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/12/14/gender-discrimination-comes-in-many-forms-for-todays-working-women/. Last accessed 8-25-20.

[11]

[12] https://www.eeoc.gov/select-task-force-study-harassment-workplace. Last accessed 9-28-20.

[13] Cannon, Mae Elise. Beyond Hashtag Activism. InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition. Loc 2836. See: Eliza Griswold, “Silence Is Not Spiritual: The Evangelical #MeToo Movement.” The New Yorker, June 15, 2018.

[14] These are indications of abuse. They are the same reasons why an abusive spouse remains silent.

[15] Guardian Dec 6, 2018 “research shows that men significantly underestimate the level of sexual harassment women experience.”  https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/06/men-underestimate-level-of-sexual-harassment-against-women-survey. Last accessed 9-30-20.

[16] As reported by NPR. https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/02/21/587671849/a-new-survey-finds-eighty-percent-of-women-have-experienced-sexual-harassment. Last accessed 9-30-20.

[17] Guardian Dec 6, 2018 “research shows that men significantly underestimate the level of sexual harassment women experience.”  https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/06/men-underestimate-level-of-sexual-harassment-against-women-survey. Last accessed 9-30-20.

[18] https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2018/12/21/year-in-review-2018-in-14-charts. Last accessed 9-29-20.


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