inequality

Banned Essay: You’re Probably a Pheminist

The following essay was written by Le Moyne Peace and Global Studies/Political Science double major Kailey McDonald. She submitted it to the Le Moyne student newspaper, The Dolphin, and the student run paper refused to print it. So, I’m sharing it here.

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You’re probably a Pheminist

By Kailey McDonald ‘15

GUEST WRITER

“I support equality and everything, but I’m not a Feminist because…” WAIT. Stop right there. You actually are a feminist. I understand the confusion, though. Feminism has a lot of reincarnations, and the most well known is the man-hating, bra-burning warrior queen. To be fair, that Feminist is still pretty darn badass.

It takes an incredible amount of courage to speak out against the mainstream the way our foremothers did, and some pretty hefty ovaries to burn a 50 dollar bra [the sheer amount of cereal and PB&J that money could’ve bought is staggering]. But I’m a feminist, and I love men. I love my bras. I don’t feel any particular desire to burn them either.

So what does it mean to be a feminist?

The answer is pretty complicated. There are different types of feminism, and people wield their feminism in many different ways. But my feminism is about gender justice for every type of human, and plain old justice in general.

Maybe this is the fourth-wave of feminism, this “I’m not a feminist, I’m an equalist” rhetoric popular amongst the youngin’s these days [but let’s stick with the term feminist, I’d like to honor our foremothers’ courage with their coined term].  We’re moving away from the exclusive women-only feminist model popular in the 70s towards something new, something that has a place for every person burning for gender justice.

Millennial feminism can’t and won’t hate men, because it’s not [millennial] feminism if it’s exclusive. We cannot ignore the feminists that do not fit the middle-to-upper class white cis-women mold, the way they were excluded from the movement in the past. We cannot exclude anyone, because it’s not justice if it’s not for all.  This is my feminism, and my pledge.

We will not skinny-shame, fat-shame or slut-shame. We will not tell you that you cannot be a stay-at-home mother or father. We will not tell you that you can’t wear makeup, or must work full-time, or any of the other things you think feminism will tell you.

What feminism will tell you is that you alone can make the decisions that regard your future, your education, your body, your clothes, your makeup, your sexuality and all of the other decisions we make in our lives, whether you are a man, a woman, or identify as neither. These are basic rights that belong inherently to every human being, and I am here as a feminist to fight for them.

Chances are you want to support human rights for everyone. You like the idea of justice for all, and maybe you don’t know what gender justice is but it sounds pretty damn awesome. Chances are, you are a feminist. And there’s nothing negative or shameful about it! Let’s celebrate our feminism! I say we all get loud and proud. Let’s  make Le Moyne the cultural center of a movement. Let’s reclaim feminism, and make it the feminism we want it to be. If you’re “not a feminist, but…,” why don’t you join me, and take all of those absolutely dreadful things you hate about “feminism” and throw them out the window. Ixnay on the bra-burning for now [though I repeat, pretty bad ass]. Let’s brand it as something all Dolphins stand for. Let’s make feminism ours.

Let’s stand up as ‘Phins for Pheminism.

NCAA football coach salaries in context

A year or so ago, I posted about how hard it is for me to enjoy football these days. Part of my argument was Urban Meyer’s $4 million a year salary from The Ohio State University. It’s obscene for an institution of higher ed to make its football coach the highest paid state employee. Urban Meyer isn’t the only case of a very highly paid football coach, of course. The Deadspin infographic linked to above, constant news about rising college costs and student debt, as well as news about stagnant middle and working class wages made me wonder how college football coach salaries compare to typical salaries and costs of middle and working class life.

So, here’s what I did. I found the salaries of the top 10 highest paid college football coaches, and used collegeboard.org to get tuition and financial aid data for the top 10 schools (I had to use collegedata.com for the University of Louisville). Then I used Current Population Survey data from the Census Bureau’s American Fact Finder to find median household income estimates for the cities the universities are located in, and I found the Economic Policy Institute’s Basic Family Budget estimate for each location (I had to use Oklahoma City for the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State).

With these data I estimated 4 ratios. I calculated the ratio of ‘coach’s salary to tuition’ (in state for the 9 public schools on the list), the ratio of ‘coach’s salary to average financial aid award,’ ‘coach’s salary to median household income,’ and ‘coach’s salary to basic family budget.

As you can see, these coaches are well paid by any of these measures. It turns out that Urban Meyer (who really turned me off of football when he got his contract) isn’t the worst offender. I mean, you’d think Mack Brown might win something given his wonderful rewards. That’s the way it works, right? These 10 highest paid coaches make anywhere from 69 times (TCU’s Gary Patterson) to 164 times (Alabama’s Nick Saban) median household income in their communities, and from 95 to 597 times their institution’s tuition and fees (Patterson and Saban again). Obviously I could look into this for more than the top 10, but the top 25 highest paid coaches all make at least $2.5 million a year so I wouldn’t expect it to be much different. Some of these top 25, for example, are in small, relatively downtrodden Midwest towns with relatively low costs of living and low pay. Their ratios might be more extreme.

Here is the table of raw data:

Coach School Location Salary Tuition & Fees Avg Fin Aid Median HH Income EPI BFB
Nick Saban University of Alabama* Tuscaloosa, AL $5,650,000.00 $9,450.00 $11,479.00 $34,359.00 $61,004.00
Mack Brown University of Texas* Austin, TX $5,400,000.00 $9,790.00 $13,669.00 $52,453.00 $66,970.00
Bob Stoops University of Oklahoma* Norman,OK $4,600,000.00 $8,915.00 $11,837.00 $46,595.00 $58,852.00
Urban Meyer Ohio State* Columbus, OH $4,300,000.00 $10,037.00 $12,201.00 $43,348.00 $62,104.00
Les Miles LSU* Baton Rouge, LA $4,300,000.00 $7,880.00 $12,600.00 $37,381.00 $57,160.00
Kirk Ferentz University of Iowa* Iowa City, IA $3,900,000.00 $8,061.00 $12,603.00 $41,956.00 $66,677.00
Charlie Strong University of Louisville* Louisville, KY $3,700,000.00 $9,750.00 $11,720.00 $43,680.00 $61,630.00
Steve Spurrier University of South Carolina* Columbia, SC $3,600,000.00 $10,816.00 $12,340.00 $38,995.00 $59,431.00
Gary Patterson TCU Fort Worth, TX $3,500,000.00 $36,590.00 $21,669.00 $50,456.00 $64,587.00
Mike Gundy Oklahoma State* Stillwater, OK $3,300,000.00 $7,442.00 $12,558.00 $30,133.00 $58,852.00

Here is the table of ratios I calculated:

Coach School Location Salary/Tuition Salary/Fin Aid Salary/Med Inc Salary/BFB
Nick Saban University of Alabama* Tuscaloosa, AL 597.88 492.20 164.44 92.62
Mack Brown University of Texas* Austin, TX 551.58 395.05 102.95 80.63
Bob Stoops University of Oklahoma* Norman,OK 515.98 388.61 98.72 78.16
Urban Meyer Ohio State* Columbus, OH 428.41 352.43 99.20 69.24
Les Miles LSU* Baton Rouge, LA 545.69 341.27 115.03 75.23
Kirk Ferentz University of Iowa* Iowa City, IA 483.81 309.45 92.95 58.49
Charlie Strong University of Louisville* Louisville, KY 379.49 315.70 84.71 60.04
Steve Spurrier University of South Carolina* Columbia, SC 332.84 291.73 92.32 60.57
Gary Patterson TCU Fort Worth, TX 95.65 161.52 69.37 54.19
Mike Gundy Oklahoma State* Stillwater, OK 443.43 262.78 109.51 56.07

Any civil comments, concerns, or criticisms?

Thinking about faculty salaries

The ASA released its 2012-2013 Faculty Salary Brief for Sociology and other Social Science Disciplines. It reports that the average salary for sociology faculty is $75,580. Full professors make, on average, $95,052, associates earn $70,431, and assistants $58,779. The analysis reports recent trends, small differences between public and private schools, and some inequality across Economics, Political Science, Anthropology, and Sociology.

I never know what to make of reports like this. What jumps out to me the most is how much more, on average, Economics professors make than the other disciplines studied. I don’t care so much that ‘it’s more,’ but rather that it points to what I think is an important issue in faculty pay that we don’t talk about very much (at least not in my faculty circles) which is the inequality in faculty pay within institutions. I understand the argument that some folks make about some disciplines having opportunities to make more money in other types of work, so the school has to play in that market (i.e. I’m not going to be opening a corner sociology store any time soon). I guess that’s fine as far as it goes, but once someone has chosen (yes, ‘chosen’ is a tricky word) to work in higher ed, and at a particular institution, shouldn’t that matter? We are compensated in other ways (time, autonomy, status, etc.), and we all pretty much get those regardless of our discipline. So, aren’t we all pretty much doing the same job at the same place? To what extent can differences that are so stable by discipline be justified?

I also can’t help but notice that those are pretty good salaries, relative to many salaries. These kinds of reports should be delivered, I’ve always thought, along with some data on U.S. median household income and income distribution. Are sociologists paid less than faculty in other disciplines? Yes, many are. Are sociologists and other faculty paid less than similarly educated professionals? Yes, many are. What do faculty salaries look like relative to administrator salaries? Are faculty, on average, paid well relative to the U.S. income distribution? Yes, many are. It seems to me that reports of salaries must always be interpreted relative to inequality within the profession, and in the economy as a whole. This approach, I’d argue, allows us to take seriously other work related issues like inequality in faculty job access (adjuncts, tenure track lines, professors of practice), job stability (who gets tenure?), and pay by gender, race, age, etc. Further, it allows us to think about how our economy as a whole values the work we do, as well as how it values other kinds of work. I think those are more interesting and important questions.

What do you think?

Baseball Salaries and Inequality

Are professional athletes paid too much? It’s pretty common to claim that’s the case, and here is a fairly standard example of the claim from Edward McClelland in today’s Slate. However, maybe the athletes aren’t overpaid, but are rather paid fairly relative to the wealth their labor helps produce for others. Here’s a good example of this argument from baseball writer Craig Calcaterra, which was a direct response to the ‘overpaid’ Slate essay. This is a fun debate to explore in discussions of social inequality. When I teach social inequality, I use this debate to focus in on how we, as a society, determine the value of work. Do we let the free market sort it out and trust that those getting paid the most are most deserving according to its logic? The classic functionalist explanation of economic inequality is that those who get paid the most must be doing the most important things. So, high pay indicates high social value. This explanation has been rightly debunked because it’s easy to point out many inefficiencies and counter examples that demonstrate that our meritocracy doesn’t really work very well. Calcaterra rightly points out these critiques when he writes:

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Working on a Holiday: Honoring Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream?

Holidays might be used as an indicator of those ideals a country values above all others. For example, in the U.S. we have 10 federal holidays, including Independence Day, Memorial Day, and Veterans Day. Those holidays, as I understand them, are set apart from typical days to honor the foundational American value of freedom, and those who established and defend that freedom. Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday, as well as Inauguration Day. Martin Luther King Jr. certainly fought for freedom, and not just for African Americans, but for all Americans whose lives were burdened not only by racism, but also by poverty and voicelessness. MLK’s vision of America requires not only racial equality, but also economic fairness. Inauguration Day is a day we celebrate the functioning of our political system. It’s a day that we observe a peaceful transition of power, the voice of the voters, and perhaps think about unity with those whom we disagree with politically. It makes good sense to me that these should be federal holidays. We should set this day aside and honor these values. It’s not an ordinary day.

Regardless, many people I know are at work. In fact, when I look at that list of federal holidays, I can’t help but notice that a lot of people have to work many or most of those days. But, it’s not all of us who have to work most of those days. In fact, it’s the working poor who have to work most, really all, of those days. The waitresses serving breakfast to the hung-over on New Year’s Day, those working the Memorial Day sales at the mall (all those days have sales by now, right?), or the hotel staff cleaning your sheets and towels when you’re off to visit family on Thanksgiving. As I write this on MLK Day, neighbors on my block are rushing to get their trash to the curb for pick-up I’m sure they expected would be delayed, but isn’t. Some won’t get the trash out because they are at work. In fact, many people who are solidly in the middle class work many of those days, and certainly on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Teachers are teaching, lawyers are lawyering, and the pharmacist was there to fill my prescription this morning. It’s a holiday, we all know it, but almost everybody is working. You can’t help but wonder what values our actions represent.

When MLK Day was proposed as a federal holiday, shortly after his assassination, it was not widely supported. Senator Jesse Helms famously argued that he wasn’t worthy of such an honor, and was in fact a dangerous, communist radical. It took until 1983, 15 years after his death, for the day to become a national holiday. It wasn’t until 1986 that the holiday was first observed, and not until 2000 that it was officially observed in all 50 states. When President Reagan reluctantly signed the bill in 1983, he did so despite his own concerns about what it would cost in economic productivity (I take him at his word). But, like so many of the holidays, almost everybody is working today. So, maybe it’s not costing that much? If one celebrates Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of American society free of racism and poverty, and guided by a sense of economic justice, then one must do so with a keen awareness that there is much work to be done. The poor celebrate the day at their less-than living-wage jobs, and most of the middle class is at work producing for the corporate powers that be. For many, it’s only a day off of work if they spend one of their limited personal or vacation days. Our calandars and speeches give honor to the dreams of MLK, but our actions seem to speak to a different set of economic values.

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Yes, I’ve got the day off. Le Moyne’s spring semester starts tomorrow. A few years ago I taught on Veterans Day, November 11th. The class before, a student and veteran of the war in Iraq approached me in shock that classes would be held on Veteran’s Day. I told him he was welcome to honor the day and miss lecture, but that we would be in class according to college policy.