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Exposing The Pink Collar Ghetto: When Women War Against Other Women

By       Message Jillian Barclay     Permalink
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The Equal Rights Amendment And How Women Fought Against It

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In 1982, when the Equal Rights Amendment failed because it was not ratified by enough states, the Pink Collar Ghetto became a permanent fixture, if not an integral part of the American landscape. Women themselves were largely responsible for the failure of the amendment and should be held accountable for attempts to circumvent other advances fought for and achieved by women. It is a war perpetrated by women against other women and the war is fought daily in several arenas. Economically, socially and even on a cultural level, women either consciously or through ignorance help to perpetuate the less than equal status of women in this country.

One of the most prominent and successful female opponents of the Equal Rights Amendment was and still is, conservative Phyllis Schlafly. She travelled the country, speaking against the amendment that would have guaranteed the equality of women under the law. Her arguments were many and varied, but her main points of attack boiled down to the following major points:

-                  The ERA would lead to homosexual marriages

-                  The ERA would force women into combat

-                  The ERA would lead to taxpayer-funded abortions

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-                  The ERA would require uni-sex bathrooms

-                  The ERA would eliminate widows' benefits under Social Security

Schlafly's woman-backed and largely woman-funded campaign was successful. Her work led to conservative and religious women's groups nationwide denouncing the efforts of 'radical feminists', portraying the National Organization of Women (NOW) as women who hated family, religion and everything that was wholesome in America. Schlafly's group successfully depicted the proposed amendment as anti-family and feminists as radical man-haters. The passage of the ERA would have, Schlafly insisted, forced the complete loss of dignity for full-time homemakers. Feminist became a four-letter word and to this day still carries a negative connotation in many circles. Support for passage of the amendment dried up. While this was not the birth of the Pink Collar Ghetto, it was certainly the moment in time that set barriers to advancement in stone. It was an example of women warring against other women.

The Pink Collar Ghetto and the Economic Reality of Inequality

For almost forty years, feminists have talked about The Pink Collar Ghetto in relation to the economic inequity between men and women. That ghetto is alive and well today, thanks largely to the efforts and assistance of women, and most women don't even realize that their own actions help to keep all women trapped within the ghetto. In spite of laws passed to guarantee equal pay, women in 2011 still make on average only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. Even in the more highly educated careers such as physicians, the Census Bureau finds that for every dollar made by a male physician, only 66 cents is earned by their female counterparts. While there are more females working in supervisory positions than ever before, those female supervisors seem to hold women to different standards than their male peers.

The reality is that women are tougher on other women. Some situations seem almost universal and while tough to document because they are masked and hidden, have been observed and witnessed by millions of women in the workforce:

                 1) Women in a position to hire discriminate against women who either appear to be pregnant, are pregnant or might get pregnant. They will hire someone less qualified rather than hire a pregnant woman or even a woman who sounds like she might get pregnant. Sometimes questions asked during the interview process lead managers to conclude that candidates are more interested in family than career. Those candidates are often dismissed.   Certainly, these hiring managers will not admit to discriminating. They will swear that there was another reason for the denial of employment, thus hiding the discrimination. They know that their actions are illegal. Regardless of opinion about the benefits or disadvantages of hiring a pregnant woman or even a woman who considers her family number one on her list of priorities, the bottom line is that it is illegal to deny a job to a pregnant woman simply because she is pregnant.

                2) Women in a supervisory capacity will rarely hire a candidate that is more qualified or more knowledgeable than they themselves are. Superior knowledge is perceived to be a threat to the personal job security of numerous female managers. It is the rare supervisor who believes a team member with superior knowledge is an advantage.

                 3) Mentoring - real mentoring- is a rare commodity. Instead of sharing key secrets and occupational know how, women who are in the position to share knowledge often keep their secrets. Again, they justify their actions by hanging on to the belief that if someone else becomes just as capable as they are, their own positions will be at risk. They will not be perceived as valuable or necessary to the corporation if their employees are just as talented as they are. Their own job security may become compromised.

                 4) Female colleagues often conspire against their peers. Outwardly, they portray themselves as supportive and part of a well-oiled team, but more often than not in most female-dominated industries, Sally the Saboteur is always present. Appearances can be deceiving. Many times "more than helpful Sally' is out to steal ideas and claim them as her own, or even worse, blatantly sabotage another's work.

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I am an 'older' progressive; a holdover from the hippie generation. I have raised 3 children, am a proud grandmother, and an outspoken political junkie. I have worked in the healthcare field for 30 years, both for insurance companies and for the (more...)
 

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