The NFL has come under severe scrutiny for its handling of domestic violence during the last few months. Rodger Goodell has admitted to fumbling the Ray Rice case, has admitted that the NFL has a problem with abusing women, and he has committed himself to finding a solution.
There are many reasons to be cynical about Goodell. Maybe the only reason he’s attempting to implement changes is because of public pressure, the loss of public sponsorship, and the fact that his job is on the line. But at least Goodell cares enough about something that he will implement changes to in the NFL that will hopefully lead toward better treatment of women.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case with the U.S. Senate.
The Senate Republicans recently rejected a bill proposed by Senate Democrats aiming to reconcile the pay disparity between men and women. Census data shows that in the United States “women who are employed full time, year round in the United States are paid, on average, 78 cents for every dollar paid to men.” That pay disparity is affecting 15.2 million households that are headed by women and it’s affecting nearly every household supported by a working woman.
The bill is called “The Paycheck Fairness Act.” My Facebook feed was inundated with images and commentary lambasting Senate Republicans for rejecting the bill.
Really?!? I thought. Surely, there must be a good reason for Senate Republicans to reject this bill. After all, realizing that women get paid 78 cents per every dollar a man makes and doing nothing about it would be economic violence against women. They must have a good reason!
So, I went looking for their reasons. The four women in the Republican senate gave various justifications for rejecting the bill. Sen. Kelly Ayotte claimed the bill would “prohibit merit-based pay.” Apparently, women across the country lack the male “qualities” that would merit them equal pay.
Sen. Susan Collins argues that the 1963 Equal Pay Act is good enough. To her credit, in 1963 women were paid on average just 59 cents for every dollar a man made. That the average has gone up around 20 cents in 50 years is good, but not nearly good enough. More work needs to be done. Collins also argues that women are not paid less because of discrimination but because they are … WOMEN! She claims that the wage disparity “may be due to personal decisions that women make to leave the workforce to raise children for a number of years and then return to the workforce.” This excuse smacks of the demeaning of women by certain women who are, by law, guaranteed to make the same amount as their male colleagues — $174,000 per year.
Sen. John McCain said that we have more important things to do than worry about the pay disparity between women and men. After all, “Here we have international crisis, with the defense authorization bill out there, and we refuse to take it up. We continue to take up issue that he (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid) thinks may help them in November. And we’ve got the world in turmoil.”
Another justification that Republicans provided for voting down the bill is that it would hurt businesses, even though the bill included assistance to small businesses needing help to implement the new procedures. And others claimed the Democrats were just playing politics.
Notice that none of these justifications claim that the problem doesn’t exist. That’s because the problem is undeniable. Women are treated as second-class citizens not just by the NFL, but by our whole culture. Women and families are suffering in turmoil because of unjust pay practices.
Unlike the NFL, the Republican Senate just doesn’t care enough to make changes.
The Republican Senate deserves its fair share of blame, but so do we. A cynical view of the NFL claims that it is making changes solely because of public pressure. And good for us for putting pressure on the NFL to stop demeaning women as second-class citizens.
But where’s the public pressure on the Republican Senators? Where’s the public outcry against economic violence committed against women? Maybe the Republican Senators don’t care enough to change the fact that a woman is worth about 78 percent of what a man is worth because we don’t care enough.
Ironically, many Senate Republicans like to extoll the virtues of the Bible. If they are annoyed by Senate Democrats for “playing politics,” they should also be annoyed by the Bible. Thousands of years before our modern concern for equality, the Bible claimed that women and men are both equally created in the image of God. Both women and men are infused with ultimate worth. The same image of God resides in women and in men equally.
That message of equality between the genders was as radical when it was written 2,500 years ago as it is today. But clearly the Bible isn’t enough. The only way to stop the demeaning of women throughout American culture is to create sustained public pressure on organizations like the NFL and Senate Republicans to end all forms of systemic violence against women, including economic violence.
That will only happen if we care enough.
Adam Ericksen blogs at the Raven Foundation, where he uses mimetic theory to provide social commentary on religion, politics, and pop culture. Follow Adam on Twitter @adamericksen.
Image: U.S. Capitol Building, Orhan Cam / Shutterstock.com