On this Valentine’s Day with great signs of affection, red roses and confectionary delights, many will declare their love to another. But what if lovers could do something more meaningful beyond the time-honored champagne and strawberries? Like admitting that the biggest misdeed in being partners in crime is that few couples are truly treated as equals and promising to correct that?
This idea occurred to me after reading Charles M. Blow’s article in The New York Times, ‘Williams,’ the Princess and the Wage Gap. Blow shares how his daughter at the age of seven declared, “I’m a princess, and princesses don’t touch doorknobs.”
His prompt reply: “I turned in my seat and explained to her that, yes, I did call her my princess, and although I loved her dearly, I would not pamper her. I told her that her value and worth were not in what men would do for her, but in what she could do for herself. I told her that in our family, as in life, she would have to be self-sufficient and self-reliant, and that included deigning to touch doorknobs…”
Blow continues with how important it was for him to pop this princess complex, but admitted no matter how much love, education and autonomy he instilled in her, it might not be enough. The pervasive wage gap would always be there, despite his best efforts to raise a successful daughter.
He cites various studies, and attributes the source of the problem with classic gender bias and gender differences in salary negotiation. I propose that Blow’s story offers more wage gap explanation than he realizes.
That princess complex is built on the reverence of chivalry. Blow was right to see a huge red flag. Chivalry is the notion that men should take care of and worship women. What most people don’t know about chivalry is that its clinical term is benevolent sexism. The scariest part of it is that it’s statistically shown that women, even independent women, who believe in its ideology, eventually become more and more financially dependent on men. It also defines specific roles based on sex: men are the breadwinners, protectors and providers; women are the subordinates, the receivers…the pampered princesses.
Blow may have squashed that princess complex, but as he mentioned, she picked up that princess pea from somewhere. Is it really hard to imagine why the wage gap exists in this day in age? After all, there are probably more girls in the world who had the fathers, unlike Blow, that indulged in the princess fantasy.
It is extremely difficult to understand how our personal moments interacting with young girls and women can also have a truly profound impact on the wage gap, even if it’s in a childhood moment like playing princess. The truth is, it’s not so innocent.
Valentine’s Day should also be reexamined. For many, it is still a chivalrous holiday where men to go lengths with chocolate and Teddy Bears and women only mildly return the favor. On a day that is about honoring your better half, shouldn’t it be more of a two-way street?
I totally agree with Blow that, “I don’t see this as a women’s issue, but a societal issue and a moral one. This is not an issue for men to observe from a distance, because we are integral parts of it. First, there is little distance to be had: We all have mothers, and many of us have sisters, wives or daughters. Second, lower pay for women is only apparent in its relation to higher pay for men. So men are woven through the fabric of this issue.”
Admitting that sometimes even well intentioned personal moments can lead our loved ones towards invisible obstacles is probably the most romantic and important thing one can do this Valentine’s. Truly loving someone includes admitting faults and selflessly sacrificing hedonistic moments for the benefit of others. So, this Valentine’s Day, in order to eradicate the wage gap, assume the position of the humble lover, who can admit like Blow, “ I love you, but I will not pamper you.”