by Kristina Vakhman
To Dr. Stephanie Luce, the harsh reality of being a woman in the workplace hit when she began her first job as a softball umpire.
“I started talking to the other umpires, who were all boys, and realized they were all getting paid more than me,” Luce said to the crowd of Central Connecticut State University students and faculty attending the “Women and Work in the Age of Trump” lecture, where she was the keynote speaker.
“It was my first exposure to the fact that, maybe, the world wasn’t so fair,” said Luce.
Taking matters into her own hands, Luce “wrote a letter of protest to the league,” stating her case on why she deserved equal pay. The reply she received was less than satisfactory.
“Their response was, ‘Oh, Stephanie, we thought you were a nice girl. We didn’t know you would cause trouble.’ I learned then that the world was not necessarily fair and that you couldn’t necessarily play by the rules to get fairness,” said Luce.
Though she ended up not getting a fair wage as an umpire, Luce entered the realm of fighting for equal rights for women in the job market.
As a professor of labor studies in the Joseph S. Murphy Institute at the City University of New York, Luce is familiar with the technicalities of why women — primarily minority and non-college educated women — are incessantly repressed in the workforce.
In her lecture, Luce went over the factors in detail, relaying to her audience that backlash towards the feminist movement, a misconstrued definition of liberal feminism and misconceptions on gender roles have all contributed to this oppression, especially in President Donald Trump’s administration.
Luce called the backlash “extremely intense” in its current state under Trump’s presidency, with employers, politicians and those feeling threatened by feminism trying to dismantle the rights women demanded in marches all across the country.
On the topic of liberal feminism, Luce cited its gains, such as the idea of fighting for individualistic rights, and its faults — for example, how it “lumps all women into one category,” which tends to marginalize privileged women. On gender roles, she reminded listeners that gender issues do not only apply to women, for men can experience them as well, providing a situation with construction workers as an example.
“As more women came into the field and their masculinity felt threatened, many men began rejecting using the safety equipment that they had won the right to on the job as a way to defend their masculinity in the workplace,” said Luce.
Luce dove into the complications of capitalism, describing how, while the dependency on it “expands people’s rights to enter” the job market, it creates a system of “winners and losers” that has led to the division between “99 percent and the 1 percent.”
She provided potential solutions to these issues. Pushing the notion of stepping back from a system that propagates problems, Luce called for “a more inclusive, solidaristic form of feminism” and a system that “maximizes human potential and human growth” rather than profit.
“The goal work might be care-work and the sustainability of human life on the planet rather than saying that the pursuit of profit is the main goal of human society,” said Luce. “We should think of how work is integrated into that; we’re working to become better people, to become better contributors to creating a society and caring for one another, and that means looking beyond what work is in the workplace. We need to think of work in this holistic way.”
Luce added that labor unions are an excellent method to reaching that new perspective, as these numerous “collective movements” not only focus on the problems in their workplace, but also on how these problems affect those outside of their work environment — nursing unions fighting for environmental protection, as “caring for the planet is another way to care for patients,” being just one instance.
Under the Trump presidency, Luce emphasized that this alternative approach is incredibly important and now, more than ever, everyone must come together to fight for their rights.
“I think this is a moment in the world that, twenty or thirty years in the future, we’re going to look back at and talk about,” Luce said in an interview after the event. “Everyone needs to be out there and optimistic that we can go the more productive route. The route that saves the planet — that saves humanity.”
The lecture left many, both female and male, enlightened and encouraged. Mark Mancini, a senior studying elementary education, felt that he had come to better grasp what he called “the struggles that people are going through” after attending Luce’s talk.
“My professor essentially gives us the idea that, as white males, we have no real understanding of the troubles that [women and minorities] go through. I think the best way to actually understand or, at least, come to a point where I can at least understand where people are coming from is to learn what’s pushing them down,” said Mancini.
Journalism major Tychell Pinckney-Nickson felt more comfortable about going into a profession where diversity is, unfortunately, not so easy to come by.
“I can definitely bring some color,” said Pinckney-Nickson. “My experience is, as an African-American, I can spread a message to other aspiring journalists who are also African American, like young girls who probably feel a bit insecure about going into that field because they are African-American.”