This week, I came across a video from the growing popular online YouTube show ‘BkChat LDN’. The Christmas special title was ‘If you earn more than me, you are going to disrespect me.’ This was from a male’s viewpoint, which believed that a woman earning more than a man is synonymous with disrespect and superiority. Watching that video, I could not help but think that these men saw women earning more than men as being a problem both because of issues regarding respect and authority.
Is this the case?
From my studies of ‘Sociology of Gender’ in my first year of university, I have two main insights surrounding this topic of discussion.
Firstly, the gender pay gap exists and is still very real. Women earn 18% less than men on average, and 40% of male managers are likely to be promoted than female managers. This ultimately highlights that despite the pay gap narrowing, the gap between the hourly pay of men and women has not closed in the past 20 years. The pay gap even widens for 20 years after the birth of a first child, creating further boundaries and challenges for working women. However, the United Kingdom has seen the gender pay gap for full time employees decrease to 9.4%, compared to 9.6% in the previous year. In the UK, between the ages of 22 and 29 years old women typically earn £1,111 more per year than their male counterparts.
Secondly, the gender pay gap reflects entrenched beliefs about males and females. Interestingly in the video, Lucas pointed out ‘the man needs to be more secure in himself if your woman is earning more than you’. This, to me, highlights that if the woman earns more in the relationship it can make the man feel insecure in his role as ‘breadwinner’. This alludes to the role of patriarchy in society, which is understood as the ‘dominance of men and the subordination of women’. Patriarchy serves to raise up and empower the man at the expense of the woman. In the workings of capitalism, patriarchy works through contracting women as a ‘reserve army of labour’ that can easily be shed of. By limiting the role of women to only a role of little significance, it is understandable that a man would be threatened by the ‘subordinate’ woman now possibly earning more than them. This fear is engineered by the man’s fear of a woman’s ‘disrespect’ towards them, as alluded to in the video. It is clear from this that a woman earning more than a man disrupts the existing and entrenched social and gender norms about males and females, which is both uncomfortable and disturbing to the man.
To conclude, this segment of BkChat presents the idea of a woman earning more than a man as something to be feared and concerned about. This, however, is on the part of the male and not the female. As Lucas stated ‘a man has to be secure to deal with it’. Currently, where gender norms are constantly being challenged, a man must be more open to this possible lifestyle. The purpose of this lifestyle is not to challenge the authority of a man, or to ‘disrespect’ the man, and it is not aimed to empower the woman at the expense of the man. The idea of a woman earning more than a man is simply part of the dynamics of a changing gender hierarchy in society that is free of rigid gender norms and expectations.