I’m sure you’re wondering why, nine days into a 22-day series of blogs about attempting veganism (as Beyoncé and her trainer Marco Borges—among many others—have urged us to do), you’re looking at a perfectly seared, medium-rare steak. Did I break from the plan last night in a fit of bloodlust and stuff my face with the flesh of some poor, unsuspecting, carbon-emitting bovine?
Frankly, I wish I had...since the first thing on my mind when I awoke this morning wasn’t coffee, eggs, or even bacon, but a juicy steak—a clear sign I may be low on iron, according to experts (fun fact: in preparation for this challenge, I actually gave up meat about a month ago, to “ease into” eating vegan). But according to a 2018 study [h/t Quartz], there may be an even deeper reason I’m craving steak this morning—which also happens to mark Black Women’s Equal Pay Day 2019.
It’s called “status anxiety.” As the report noted:
In human evolutionary history, likely attributed to its rarity and its difficulty in preparation, meat was consumed to become stronger and healthier, giving man the better opportunity to survive harsh and tough physical conditions…That meat-eating provided strength also meant that it conferred social benefits as well in that those who were able to eat meat were conferred by others status by those who were not able to eat it.
I bet you didn’t see that twist coming in a food diary, but now that I have your attention: Aug. 22, 2019, is the date symbolizing when working black women “catch up” with their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts—meaning we have to work a full seven months and three weeks longer to equal the 2018 salaries of white men in the same roles. It’s a $.39 pay gap that costs us nearly one million dollars over our lifetimes and means we’d have to work well into our 80s to break even—and black women who work in our nation’s capital until they’re nearly 100, reports HuffPost.
And perhaps the saddest part to contemplate (even as I consider the fact that it’ll be another two weeks before I can have the steak I’m desperately craving): Despite increased awareness of the gender pay gap, we actually seem to be moving backward. This year, Black Women’s Equal Pay Day is over two weeks later than it was in 2018.
Why? There are myriad reasons; including current politics, a lack of progressive policies, and the continued neglect of corporations to consider intersectionality even as they work to advance women in the workplace (“women” becoming the default for “white women”). But at the heart of the matter is a fundamental devaluing of black women’s labor and contributions—and black women aren’t even faring the worst. Native American women won’t reach their Equal Pay Day until September 23, and Latinas will have to work almost an additional year to make what non-Hispanic white men make; their Equal Pay Day is November 20.
And yet, as indicated by a recent McKinsey & Co. and Lean In study [h/t Law.com], black women’s conundrum is unique. We come only a few percentage points below Asian women as the most ambitious demographic—and are the most educated, outpacing all other ethnic groups and genders. So, why are we so rarely leveraged and rewarded as the assets we are? At the rate we’re going, black women will not reach pay equity for another century, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (pdf).
So yeah, while my food anxiety has been a consistent theme of this challenge, it’s safe to say my status anxiety is equally justifiable; especially given the fact that even when talking about food, gender dynamics inevitably come into play, as Quartz notes:
As for my iron deficiency, I can take a supplement for that—but what do I need to eat to get equal pay?