Equal Pay for Equal Work: the truth about the wage gap

Upon reading the article, “Gender equality bake sale causes stir at Utah high school” it becomes clear that the awareness of the pay difference is something to be brought to the attention of the younger generation; but is the fix as simple as raising women’s salaries?

Across North America, the wages of women are on average 74-78 cents to the man’s dollar, depending on the country or province/state (Ontario’s Pay Equality Commission, 2014). Women consistently make up the majority of post-secondary graduates, and yet their wages are not reflective of this (Chamie, 2014). There are several factors that weigh into why this is the case, but two of the largest components that hinder women’s wages across the globe are racism and gender binaries.

The intersectionality of race, gender and age all interact together to create differing levels of wage inequality. Specifically race has shown to play a major role in affecting women’s wages, something that was noticeably missing in the bake sale awareness attempt. The gender pay gap affects women of all races but is far worse for women of colour. Women of Asian ethnicity show the smallest wage gap of 90 cents to a white man’s dollar, while women of Hispanic ethnicity have the largest wage gap at 54 cents to a white men’s dollar (“The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap”, 2015). In Canada, Native American women earn 59% of a white male’s salary (Covert et al, 2014), this sort of prejudice is stemmed from years of racism and colonization of the Native peoples of Canada.

Canadian colonialism was different in the sense that European settlers took over indigenous lands and created a predominantly white society. Prior to the settlers, men and women’s work was considered equally valuable because even though work was gendered, both relied heavily on each other’s contributions. It was not uncommon for women to hold positions of power within the indigenous community and maintain the respect of their male counterparts. If we analyze the role of colonialism in Canada, it becomes clear that indigenous communities were, in fact, far more progressive in regards to their approach on gender and politics. It was not until European culture became the primary mentality of the country that women’s contributions were seen as inferior and gender binaries began to flourish. This outlook has continued into the present day wage gap among many other sources of sexism in modern society (Matini, 2015). This systemic racism is not specific only to the Native women of Canada, but also the black and Hispanic women.

Black and Hispanic women are less likely to receive an education; they are less likely to graduate from high school and go to college (Hill, 2015). Because these women are entering the work world with limited access to education, employers are often able to reduce their pay grade without being held accountable for racism. This perpetuates the stereotype that women of colour are less intelligent and capable in a working environment.

Age also plays a role in women’s wages, as age increases the gap between men and women increases. At it’s largest, the gap at ages 55-64 is roughly 59% within the same ethnic group, meaning that white women would be likely to make 59% of what white men make, and Hispanic women would make 59% of what Hispanic men make (McInterff , 2015).   The rate at which women make money as they age compared to that of men might be attributed to the lack of advancement opportunities in a woman’s career. As men age, there is a social understanding that they gain wisdom whereas women are seen as less valuable and are therefore less likely to receive promotions (Innes, 2013).

A common response to the wage gap dispute is, “women take more time off for early child rearing”. This is in fact true, women tend to take more time off for maternity leave, and are more likely to take personal days off for their children then their male counterparts (McInterff, 2015). Although it’s shown that on average, the women of today have 1-2 children, meaning less than two years of maternity leave (McInterff, 2015). The average age at which women in Canada begin to have children is approximately 29 years old; if you look at the wage difference of men and women before the approximate age of childbearing years, there is still a gap of 10 to 20% (McInterff , 2015). This gap is between full-time working adults with no children and no maternity leaves.

Is the solution as simple as just raising women’s salaries? To truly resolve the issues underlying the gender age gap we must first address the racism, ageism and gender binaries that still exist in 2015.

Works Cited

Chamie, Joseph. “Women More Educated Than Men But Still Paid Less.” Women More Educated Than Men But Still Paid Less. Yale Global Online, 6 Mar. 2014. Web. 3 Apr. 2015.

Covert, Bryce, and Dylan Petrohilos. “The Gender Wage Gap Is A Chasm For Women Of Color, In One Chart.” ThinkProgress RSS. ThinkProgress, 18 Sept. 2014. Web. 3 Apr. 2015.

“Gender Equality Bake Sale Causes Stir at Utah High School.” Good4Utah. N.p., 17 Mar. 2015. Web. 3 Apr. 2015.

“Gender Wage Gap.” Ontario’s Pay Equality Commission. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 April 2015.

Hill, Catherine. “How Does Race Affect the Gender Wage Gap?” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 4 Apr. 2014. Web. 3 Apr. 2015.

Innes, Emma. “Wisdom Really Does Come with Age?” Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 25 Sept. 2013. Web. 3 Apr. 2015.

Matini, Maria-Teresa. “Colonialism and Slavery.” Queen’s University, Kingston. 2 April 2015. Tutorial.

McInterff, Kate. “All Your Wage Gap Questions Answered.” Behind the Numbers RSS. Behind the Numbers, 26 Feb. 2015. Web. 3 Apr. 2015.

Appropriation: Dehumanization and Violence

Upon reading the article “An Open Letter to Non-Natives in Headdresses” (Âpihtawikosisân, 2012), it becomes apparent that cultural appropriation is an issue that needs to be addressed. Though before we can reflect and self-analyze for appropriative behaviour, we need to understand what cultural appropriation is. Cultural appropriation is an extension of centuries of racism, genocide and oppression through which a superior culture marginalizes an inferior culture to exploit for their own benefit. This is usually through the means of taking religious, sacred and cultural symbols (GNDS Lecture, March 9, 2015).

The cultural appropriation of the Indigenous peoples of Canada has been an ongoing source of systemic colonialism and oppression that has directly led to the dehumanization of Native peoples and violence towards Aboriginal women.

The main argument for the innocence or nihility of cultural appropriation is rooted in the idea that all races are now equal and that racism no longer exists, which is very untrue. As of right now in Canada, there cannot be equal distribution and taking of cultural symbols and ideas because of the systemic racism still directed towards our Indigenous peoples. The appropriation of the Indigenous peoples is particularly disturbing due to the fact that during the initial colonization of the Native culture, the people were brutalized, ridiculed and persecuted for wearing or participating in the things that are now being appropriated from them (LaRocque, n.d.). When we appropriate the ceremonies, objects and traditions from the Indigenous culture, we remove and twist the original meanings. This twisting and contorting leads to a warped view of the culture with an ignorant interpretation of both the historical and current value placed into these objects. This reinforces and builds upon false stereotypical ideas and behaviours. When this happens, it creates a sort of mould that the culture has to fit into, and when they don’t fit into this shape they’re dehumanized, attacked and marginalized (“Cultural Appreciation or Cultural Appropriation?”, n.d.).

One of the most pressing concerns in Canada right now for Indigenous peoples also happens to be some of the most evident aftermath of cultural appropriation and colonization. Looking at this with an intersectional point-of-view, Indigenous women are arguably the most affected, with them being 4.6% of the Canadian population and yet they constitute 16% of female homicides and 11.3% of missing women (Powers, 2014). As mentioned previously, the appropriation of a culture leads to a misunderstanding of it, and when humans don’t understand something, we become violent and aggressive. Media portrayal of the Indigenous women of Canada (as we’ve seen in recent fashion trends, Disney films and even logos/labels (“Common Portrayals of Aboriginal Women”, n.d.)) leads to a fetishized view where these women are seen more as objects than as people. They’re seen as wild objects to be taken and civilized like pets. This dehumanization through appropriation manifests itself in all of the aforementioned statistics.

So, how can we appreciate a culture without appropriating? Since appropriation is such a large tool for colonization and the dehumanization of a culture, we can instead show our love in different ways than simply taking what we want; as said by Cornel West, “Justice is what love looks like in public”; or to perhaps apply a derivative of this quote into the context of cultural appropriation: to bring justice to our country in the name of the Indigenous, we need to show our love in a more sensitive fashion. If you love the beauty of Indigenous culture it’s certainly ok to show that love, just educate yourself first. It’s also ok to appreciate their art and fashion by purchasing Indigenous made items, just so long as it isn’t for exploitative purposes (Âpihtawikosisân, 2012). To show your appreciation and admiration for the Indigenous culture in an appropriate manor is to take one step closer to bringing justice to the systemic racism and colonialism that trails behind cultural appropriation.

The appropriation of the Aboriginal culture in Canada has long been the agent of dehumanization of the culture and its women, feeding colonialism. It perpetuates stereotypes and creates ideas of the culture that are far from the truth, leading to great misunderstanding and violence towards the culture. This aggression and violence has shown itself in very real forms both in the past and the present, and one of the ways we can prevent it from reaching the future is to stop appropriating and start appreciating.


Âpihtawikosisân (2012). “An Open Letter to Non-Natives in Headdresses”. âpihtawikosisân: Law, language, life: A Plains Cree speaking Métis woman in Montreal. Retrieved March 6, 2015 from <http://apihtawikosisan.com/hall-of-shame/an-open-letter-to-non-natives-in-headdresses/

“Common Portrays of Aboriginal Women”. (n.d.). Media Smarts. Retrieved March 6, 2015 from <http://mediasmarts.ca/diversity-media/aboriginal-people/common-portrayals-aboriginal-people&gt;

“Cultural Appreciation or Cultural Appropriation?” (n.d.). Retrieved March 6, 2015 from <http://zinelibrary.info/files/culturalappropriationread.pdf&gt;

LaRocque, Emma. (n.d.). “Colonization and Racism”. Aboriginal Perspectives. Retrieved March 6, 2015 from <http://www3.nfb.ca/enclasse/doclens/visau/index.php?mode=theme&language=english&theme=30662&film=16933&excerpt=612109&submode=about&expmode=2&gt;

Powers, Elaine. “Health 101 Intro”. Queen’s University. Kingston, ON. September 8, 2014. HLTH101 Lecture.

Tolmie, Jane. “Cultural Appropriation.” Queen’s University. Kingston, ON. 5 March 2015. GNDS125 Lecture.

Tolmie, Jane. “Entertainment.” Queen’s University. Kingston, ON. 12 January 2015. GNDS125 Lecture.


The Circle (2014)


Directed by: Stefan Haupt

A review by: chagheill101

An intriguing mixture of both classic narrative and documentary, The Circle recounts the true story of Ernst Ostertag (Matthias Hungerbühler) and Robi Rapp (Sven Schelker) in 1958 Zurich, Switzerland. Ernst, a soon to be teacher, falls deeply in love with Robi, a well-known transvestite entertainer, and becomes a subscriber to an empowering, homoerotic magazine. The magazine, titled ‘The Circle’, soon consumes Ernst with his dedication as he experiences the slow demise of its publication. This film depicts the victories and the backsets of the homosexual community at this time in history. With the current day, real-life protagonists commenting on their journey, The Circle clearly demonstrates the oppression and triumphs of homosexuals’ rights in Zurich.

Though primarily a love story, this film expanded to elaborate on larger, external pressures of being a homosexual at this time in history. In a world of compulsory heterosexuality (GNDS125 Lecture, January 26, 2015), where the accepted norm was for people to be attracted to those of the opposite sex, the viewer is shown the illegalization of homosexual activity in Zurich. Haupt was successful in manifesting a recreation of the events in such a way that the viewer was compelled to empathize for the protagonists, making this film extremely powerful for any audience regardless of their personal sexualities. The portrayal of Robi obliterated any ideas of gender polarization (GNDS125 Lecture, January 22, 2015), (the idea or presumption that males and females are complete opposites and have no similar qualities) through his moonlighting career as a cabaret singer, commanding his own sexuality and stereotypical feminine qualities.

An interestingly accurate aspect of this film was the Queer-cripping (GNDS125 Lecture, February 2, 2015) of the Head Master, Max (Peter Jecklin). Queer-cripping is the idea that people who are homosexual are seen as less able, and less qualified than those who are “normal” or heterosexual. Upon his outing and suicide to his peers and coworkers, a sort of callous response is shown. Immediate judgments of his position at the school were thrown, and the staff unanimously indicated a disapproval of his contributions, all because of his sexual orientation. This darker portion of the film illustrates the stigma (GNDS125 Lecture, February 2, 2015), the mark of disgust and disgrace associated with homosexual people in the 1950’s to 1960’s, some of which we still see in today’s society; again proving how relevant this story is even in 2015.

Rape culture and sexual violence play heavy roles throughout the retelling, the murder of two homosexual members of ‘The Circle’ kick-start the public’s distaste in the previously accepted culture. A male prostitute in Zurich during the year 1960 had been paid for sexual activities, and then beat the men who had purchased the sexual services with a broken glass bottle. This portion of the film was the most compelling and relevant to the film’s overall importance. When the prostitute was taken to court for the two murders, they were ruled not guilty, solely because the jury had been told that the murderer was corrupted by the gay men, and seduced by the devil into doing evil things. In essence, this film captures the classic prejudice towards the homosexual minority, notably similar to the tale of prejudice towards Tom Robinson in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird (Lee, 1960). Both Tom Robinson and the murdered homosexual men were associated with a discriminated minority, and were blamed for crimes they did not commit, only because of their race/sexuality. Along with the lack of prosecution of the guilty, extreme police brutality towards the homosexual community was shown continuing on into the late 1960’s accompanied by out-bursting riots.

In 2015, this film is applicable in almost every way. With rape culture and sexual violence still proceeding as a major issue all over the world, as well as prejudice towards the homosexual community. This film acts as educational and informative, while still providing an entertaining 102 minutes. Haupt takes the audience by surprise and gives a contrasting yet consistent view of the oppression, although the reoccurring flash-forwards to the present day Robi and Ernst act as a block, preventing the film from reaching its full potential to keep the viewer locked into a tensile plot.

The only true downside to this film is its androcentric (GNDS125 Lecture, January 26, 2015) plot. The entirety of this film focuses on the male homosexual experience of the oppression, with minimal to no female inclusion. With this being the only non-progressive aspect, this movie is near perfect in establishing and demonstrating the early homophobia in twentieth century Europe.

The Reelout Film Festival itself was yet another bonus to the viewing of this piece. With a welcoming atmosphere, and an audience of every demographic, it was clear that this relatively low-key event was successful in screening LGBTQ friendly films. The festival was complete with local filmmakers’ work, as well as local sexual health workers and enthusiasts to discuss their thoughts and feelings about The Circle. The environment was conducive to understanding and respectful of the history behind the film, which was well received by all in the audience. Overall, this festival was a positive experience, and definitely a must-attend to all in the future.

Works Cited

Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. New York: HarperCollins, 1960. Print.

The Circle. Dir. Stefan Haupt. 2014. Film.

Tolmie, Jane. “Ads, Images, Visual Culture.” Queen’s University. Kingston, ON. 26
January 2015. GNDS125 Lecture.

Tolmie, Jane. “Agency, Coincidence, Choice.” Queen’s University. Kingston, ON. 2
February 2015. GNDS125 Lecture.

Tolmie, Jane. “Gender Socialization.” Queen’s University. Kingston, ON. 22 January 2015. GNDS125 Lecture.