It doesn’t require a poll to reveal that Americans are angry. But a recent NBC News/Esquire “rage survey” found that Americans are fuming more than they were a year ago, that women are generally more irate than men, and that white women are the most ticked off. Why is this? And what is everyone so riled up about?
Daily rage plus empathy. The survey asked 3,000 people what issues in the news make them most angry and how many a times a day they get mad. Interestingly, women were more likely than men to get upset about injustice done to others. It seems women can connect their own oppression to that of other beleaguered groups, giving them a higher level of empathy. Women as a whole were slightly more outraged (77 percent) than men (72 percent) about cops killing unarmed Black men. They were more upset than men about billionaires buying the 2016 elections. But they were less angry than men about gay marriage (18 percent compared to 27 percent of men). Most everyone conceded that people of color, women and queers have a right to be angry about the treatment they endure, but fewer whites say they themselves are fired up about it.
White Americans tend to be incensed due to dashed hopes of economic security. Blacks report being less angry about this issue, perhaps because it’s old news that the system is stacked against them. Their views are rooted in generations of discrimination and abuse: three out of four Blacks believe police killings are part of a pattern, while a majority of whites persist in thinking that these murders are isolated incidents.
Double and triple oppression. Forty-eight percent of women are mad at the way they’re treated. According to the Pew Research Center, mothers spend nearly twice the time as fathers doing unpaid domestic work each week. In The Managed Heart, sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild points out that women face the additional burden of “emotional labor.” Female workers make up the majority of flight attendants, teachers, restaurant and hotel workers, providers of childcare and elder assistance — all jobs where they are required to place others’ wellbeing ahead of their own. They are still the ones most likely at work to make coffee, take notes, clean up, arrange travel, and buy birthday cakes. Call it “office housework” or “women’s invisible labor.” Later they come home for their “second shift” as wives and mothers, unpaid cleaners and cooks.
Racism plays a part, too. As Soraya Chemaly, Director of the Women’s Media Center Speech Project, points out, “Professional Black and Hispanic women, subjected to a sort of double jeopardy in corporate situations, report being regularly mistaken for cleaning ladies and janitors.” Women of color — who are more frequently single heads of household — are also more likely to be unemployed, underemployed in part-time jobs, and channeled into low-paid service jobs where they are denied paid sick time and paid maternity leave.
The outrage felt by women of color is clearly illustrated in the streets, where their irreplaceable leadership is visible in community protests against police murder, poverty, environmental racism, and workplace injustice.
Persistent economic inequality. The battle for equal pay has been another dream deferred for generations of women. Promises to end wage discrimination from politicians and presidents have made virtually no difference. Since the 1950s, the pay gap has been narrowed by less than half a penny a year! The Economic Policy Institute reports that white women now earn 81.8 cents for every dollar earned by white male workers. Black women earn 65.1 percent as much, and Latinas earns 58.9 percent as much.
The Ohio NOW Education and Legal Fund states “there is not a single profession where women earn as much as men.” The only exception is women who are unionized. They earn about $11,000 more annually than their non-unionized counterparts. Sisters, take note!
California and Minnesota have recently passed legislation “guaranteeing” equal pay, but there’s no reason to believe this pledge will be met. The federal Paycheck Fairness Act has languished on lawmakers’ desks since 1997.
A treacherous economy. Thanks to Wall Street and Washington chicanery the U.S. is still in the throes of the worst financial crisis since 1929. Millions of jobs and pensions have been lost, and there are ongoing foreclosures and evictions. The result has been an explosion of poverty and homelessness. The Black population has lost half its wealth. When asked who was to blame for the widening gap between the rich and everyone else, many participants in the Esquire survey showed a sophisticated understanding in assigning responsibility to Wall Street banks (18 percent) and “capitalism in general” (17 percent).
According to the survey, the people most disillusioned and uncertain about the future are those between the ages of 45 and 64. As they look toward retirement, they see Social Security and Medicare under constant threat. This year, thanks to a dastardly accounting trick, seniors and the disabled were bamboozled out of a cost of living adjustment.
Anger into activism! Women are angry. Some turn misguidedly toward Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton, but this female representative of ruling-class privilege and imperialism will not do much for her sisters, even though she faces her own misogynist hurdles.
Without a federal Equal Rights Amendment, a reborn movement for affirmative action, and strong unions, gender and race inequality will grow. As long as capitalism stands, disparity will persist. What is certain is that women and men of all races must work and fight together for fair wages, comparable worth and a socialist feminist society where the words “equal,” “unequal,” and “division” need only be applied to mathematics.
Bay Area feminist Andrea Weever is a contributor to The American National Biography. Send feedback to MildredPierced55@gmail.com.