Every single working day of the year, American women pay a 22.6 percent gender tax on their income. By gender tax, I mean a negative transfer imposed upon women’s wages which reduces the wealth they control and increases the amount of time they work. Feminists know the gender tax as the pay gap (in 2010, the median full-time, year-round woman earned $10,784 less than her male counterpart) as well as Equal Pay Day (to earn his income of $47,715, she had to work until April 17, 2011—an extra 15 weeks on the job). If we already have names for this, why must we insist on calling it a gender tax?
First, taxes resonate in our current political climate, pay gaps do not. Today’s popular and Congressional discourse is silent on pay discrimination but can’t say enough about anti-tax pledges, tax shelters in the Cayman islands, Tax Freedom Day, “tax the rich” campaigns, corporate tax debates, and the list goes on.
But second, and far more important, recognizing something as a tax highlights that money and/or labor is actually transferred from one person to another. Women’s missing incomes do not vanish into thin air. Those dollars flow steadily and systematically into the hands of men. As we approach November’s elections and the debates heat up over taxes, let us expand our focus beyond income, wealth, and corporate tax rates and take the time to add up the gender taxes women pay the taxman and carefully examine the suboptimal ways men put those taxes to use.
To be fair, as we begin to measure these taxes we must note that the gender tax has decreased in recent decades. In 1970, wage-working women in America did not catch up to men’s earnings until September 11, 1971—requiring 36 extra weeks of work to reach parity. Yet, despite the real progress since then, women today still incur an enormous burden. In 2010, the more than 40 million full-time, year-round women on payroll paid more than $460 billion in gender taxes.
Make no mistake: this is the feminization of poverty. This is the war on women.
Originally published by: The Feminist Wire, May 3, 2012