Inequality In The Work Week

Sometimes it’s difficult to see inequality. Particularly when it’s the structural kind. (Previously discussed in You might be acting like a bigot – and never mean to, The Cowardly Way To Address Racism (and other bigotry), and Structures of Power (Vignette Six).

There’s another example that really brings home how we can be surrounded by a pervasive structural system and rarely actually think about it.

It’s the classism of the work week.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m fantastically thankful for the progressives and unions that changed working conditions in the United States and got us the 40-hour work week. At the same time, it still solidified and institutionalized structural discrimination based on class.

This is most evident with things like appointments and activities around children. [1] It’s still difficult to get doctor appointments outside of “normal business hours”. For many people, they still have to use vacation or sick time to see a doctor (even for a checkup or preventative care). Even more have to weigh the benefits of going to see a physician against simply not getting paid for that time. PTO/PTA activities are even worse, largely because it also inherits the sexism from before women started becoming part of the workforce.

And so we end up with a system where those who are upper class, where a single income is (somehow) enough to support the family, are more and better able to take care of themselves and participate in society.

It’s important to emphasize that this isn’t on purpose. This isn’t an intended effect – it’s just an outcome from the way the system is set up. Once you stop and examine it, once you stop and see the structural inequality in our daily life, it’s obvious.

But until then, you’re a fish who doesn’t think of water as being wet.

And that’s the way structural inequality works.

Featured Photo by Johann Walter Bantz on Unsplash