In this era, at this moment, things are pretty fucked. Not like Thomas Jefferson era fucked, but pretty fucked. Like differently fucked. Allow me to mansplain.
Women are paid less than men in virtually every industry, across the board, even industries where they dominate such as the field of veterinary medicine. 55% of all veterinarians are female, and they are paid far less than their male counterparts for equal work.
Now let me get intersectional here. Drunkenly intersectional. Veterinary medicine is also the “whitest” profession in the U.S., with 97.3 percent of veterinarians being white. Not even the type of white where you are like “white-hispanic” or ambigious, just straight up white. Like pasty, crusty, white people.
So we have two questions we need to ask ourselves. Why does gender inequality persist to this extent? Why do professions that are increasingly accessible to women, still remain inaccessible to people of color?
Answering these without invoking historical materialism rife with economic reductionism and eurocentrism has proven fruitless. So lets use all those things that spellcheck still doesn’t recognize as real!
Historical materialism first! What’s historical materialism? Imagine if history wasn’t a bunch of random events, but there were historical causes for current issues. And maybe those issues need a systemic analysis of their causes in order to fully resolve them. Then you would be thinking along the lines of a handsome bearded marxist known as Karl Marx, who famously claimed that he was “not a marxist.” He clearly was. He was the first of many. And he was pretty good at it.
So what is the historical cause, and how might it be resolved? Lets start with women’s inequality. Marx and Engels laid out a pretty compelling economic explanation of why women have their current economic status. It started with how industrialization came about. Engels proposed that during the hunting and gathering phase of human evolution, men assumed the role of hunting just because gathering was pretty boring. Also, human babies are the shittiest about being left on their own. They just lay there dying. They need milk and such for a good long while.
As this became replaced by agriculture, men had an economic privilege because they could owned animals, while owning carrots and sticks and stuff was weak as fuck. So women remained tasked with raising the next generation of humans. And as property became a thing, they became deprived of, and in many cases even deemed as, property. In other cultures that devalued property and had collective ownership, including some native american tribes, this gender inequality did not exist.
But what about race? Are you really asking that question? Dude, seriously, just google Trayvon Martin & Emmett Till. I’ll do it for you. Just click here.
So why do women have access to so many things that women of color are deprived of? And why does economic inequality persist today in the absence of hunting and gathering? Well, there are some reasons for that as well. The first wave of feminism was predominantly wealthy white women. They wanted the right to vote, but they thought this would be more difficult if they joined forces with the civil rights movement of the day, which was less popular with those in power. Susan B. Anthony, even though she was against slavery, opposed the 15th amendment, and campaigned with outspoken racists like Stanton, who called black people Sambos.
“I will cut off this right arm of mine before I will ever work or demand the ballot for the Negro and not the woman,”
-Susan B. Anthony
This put white women first, and caused a chasm between the two movements, in a classic divide and conquer move that ensures white men’s status. Rich, crusty white men, riddled with phlebitis.
The second wave of feminism came in the 60s and was largely separatist. Angela Davis was a seminal part of this movement, and wrote a marxist analysis of the roots and continued oppression of women of color “Women, Race and Class”. She used some economic reductionism to argue that a solution could be found by paying women for their unpaid labor in the household.
But modern marxist feminists in the third wave have put forward a different social theory. Social reproduction theory argues that women’s continued oppression will never resolve as long as the burden for raising children is placed solely on their shoulders. As capitalism expands and tries to find new sources of profit, it seeks to externalize as many costs as possible. Until relatively recently, industries were expected to pay a large amount of tax, so that we could take care of the next generation of young people. The understanding was that these people would be used by the industry to generate more profit. But recently this cost has been shifted onto women. The cost of raising the next generation of workers is put on parents, and even the education to train them for their prospective jobs is externalized. Entitled companies expect trained, grown individuals to be delivered to them without paying for any aspect of the process. The cost is placed solely on females.
Women are no longer concretely constrained, but their inequality will never be resolved in a neoliberal economy. Without full access to abortion, reproductive care, full paid maternity leave, and federally funded day care facilities, there will never be full equality. And female veterinarians will never earn the same as their male counterparts.
The reason that people of color are underrepresented in veterinary medicine shares similar economic roots. Their continued disenfranchisement at every level is built on a history of racial oppression, which has led to the current economic inequality we see between races today. As schools in poor neighborhoods are being closed, and people of color reside in poor neighborhoods for historically obvious reasons, it is no wonder that their representation in the sciences is low, especially in a profession such as veterinary medicine which does not offer any promise of social mobility due to low average salaries and high amounts of debt.
So there is common cause for both of these issues to be taken on in concert, but there is still much disagreement on the goal. It is much easier to reduce both problems to ignorant racism and sexism, which can seem unrelated, but they are symptoms of something deeper. If veterinarians actually want to diversify their profession and decrease the gender wage gap, they need to take on broader issues of systemic social inequality. But that might be hard.
Consider this issue mansplained.
This post written under the influence of Delta Porter by a middle class cis gendered white male who has never had to worry about much and has a degree in sociology for some reason.