In the midst of all the furor about ERA, true to their historic family position, men have been taking a lot of guff from a lot of people two should know better.
Especially in this matter of equal pay.
Before we turn upside down the whole social structure of the country in an effort to right some alleged wrongs of the past we ought at least to read a bit of past history. Why this disparity of pay between men and women?
In time past the male often received higher pay not because he was necessarily smarter than the woman doing the same work (often he wasn't) but because he had the final responsibility of providing for his wife and children. This obligation had been laid on him by community and family standards as well as by law. Rightly or wrongly, it was expected that he would work and pay the bills.
He assumed liability before over he was married when the "father of the bride" asked him the pointed question: "How are you going to support her?"
Until recently, the woman had her obvious place in the family economy which, after marriage anyway, was likely to keep her out of the job market. If the woman did work and the male counterpart in the office was paid more for quite the same work, it was frequently based in reality outside the arena of superior skills. Its foundation was the politely ignored fact that he was trying to earn enough to support a growing family. And this was often the ground of his request for a salary increase. And a respectable ground it them was.
The man had not only the work of providing food, clothing and shelter for his family. He had also the formidable business of earning enough so he could save for the years when he could no longer work but still had to meet the financial needs of his wife and himself in retirement. The effort to equal this ultimate obligation led to some pretty rugged competition between men on every level of employment.It remains to be seen whether women will be any more considerate than men when they face similar issues.
From personal knowledge and experience I know that during the Great Depression working married women were often encouraged to surrender their jobs so that the man down the street could have a job in order to support his family. In the present disarray of the American economy we ought not be surprised if such pressures again assert themselves in various ways. I imagine that it will be a long time before men lay aside all sense of obligation to their family. It is a built-in fact of man's life.
In the cold reality of married life, it is again being proved that never was it true that "two can live as cheap as one." But the answer is no longer in the husband finding ways to increase his income. Husband and wife both go off to work to make ends meet.
But for most men, plain men of moderate abilities, the father's first question uneasily persists: "How are you going to provide for her?"
And his answer to that question frequently throws him into overt actions which seem to contradict his highest sense of fairness toward womankind.
In following his own career and in attempting to acquit himself laudably before what he conceives to be his family obligations he is as much a victim of past social and economic realities as the woman.