Today is Equal Pay Day. Just in case you’ve missed the explanation for this little “holiday,” let me catch you up. April 17th is the day that denotes how much longer an average woman would have to work to earn the same as an average man in 2011. We would need a full three and a half months to make up the pay that we lose due to unfair wages and gender discrimination.
Since it’s creation in 1996, Equal Pay Day has been used to educate women about the pay gap and what they can do to close it. It’s also a used as an opportunity to support professional women all over the country.
This year, coverage of the equality-driven holiday hasn’t been centered on negotiation techniques for business women asking for raises. It’s not about industries with the most egregious pay disparity or the current political attacks on the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which allows women to sue for gender discrimination over pay differences. No, this year’s Equal Pay Day press has been focused on an attractive young actor and an internet meme.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Ryan Gosling. And I think that The Daily Muse‘s use of his ubiquitous meme was pretty genius. I got a chuckle out of it. We here at The Grindstone agreed that it made us like the socially conscious actor even more, and who knew that was possible?
But as the day wore on, and I noticed how many websites were covering the internet meme as opposed to the issues, it made me wonder if a hot male spokesperson was really what Equal Pay Day needed. Did we really need to make a day about a serious issue into another Twitter trend and captioning contest?
Pay disparity is a serious issue and it’s one that many people believe doesn’t effect us anymore. A Republican Senate candidate in Michigan, Pete Hoekstra, recently called the laws that protect equal pay for equal work a “nuisance.” Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, whose famous for stripping unions of their rights, recently repealed his state’s equal pay law. This is obviously still an issue that our country needs to be having serious discussions about.
And instead, we’re all giggling over the guy who should have been the hottest man alive this year.
Obviously, there is still intelligent conversation happening about Equal Pay Day. For one, David Futrelle does an awesome job at Time Business of debunking those equal pay myths. The President himself put out something about the importance of equal pay and ending gender discrimination.
But next year, maybe we could celebrate with a little more discussion and a little less hot male celebrities. I just think they distract from the message. At the very least, use Rachel Maddow’s “Hey Girl” meme. At least we know that she’ll be talking about equal pay for equal work on her show tonight.