Mind The Gap

My Instagram feed is an interesting place. Art projects, DIY videos, memes, and political posts scatter my “explore” page, and I love the mix of creative, innovative, funny, serious, and thought-provoking content that I see every day (probably too many times a day). I also love sharing posts that are most striking to me with my friends. I send memes to people I know will appreciate humor, art posts to people I know are artistic, and word-play to those I know most appreciate puns and literary cleverness. But I send posts about social justice and politics to all of my friends, because it’s important to me to foster a dialogue about current events and political values with all the people I hold dear.

I know that with every conversation I have with my friends, I will walk away with a stronger, more nuanced point of view, and hopefully they will too. When engaging in respectful discourse, my ideas become bigger, and my ignorance fades. Because of these numerous past dialogues, I have come to expect that every conversation I initiate with friends will be respectful and nurture growth. If I try to start a dialogue with one of my friends and they don’t show interest or respect, I am taken aback.

This past weekend, I was on a USY retreat, and during my free time I was hanging out with my roommates. Two of them were old friends, one of them I had been friendly with in the past, and one I had only met the day before. It was an interesting mix of new and old—getting to know new people and spending time with long-time friends. I was sitting on my bed scrolling through my Instagram, as per usual, when I came across a post that showed how many cents women of different races earn to a white man’s dollar. I thought that this was interesting and disturbing, and would be appropriate to share with these friends. I hoped that we might have an interesting discussion that would help me get to know my roommates better and develop my ideas.

“Hey, listen to this...” I recited the statistics and got about halfway through when one of my newer friends cut me off. “Why are you telling us this?” she asked, with a hint of disinterest and disgust in her voice.

To be honest, I was caught off guard by this response. No one before had ever replied with this level of disinterest when had I tried to share information I considered important. It was totally new territory; I would have to forge my way to a dialogue instead of one occurring naturally.

Another friend jumped in: “Ava, you can’t believe everything you read online. That information probably isn’t true. The wage gap isn’t only because women are being paid less than men for the same jobs, it’s because they don’t have the same jobs.”

This confused me; I never said that the gender wage gap was solely applied to the same positions between men and women, and yet she seemed to take a condescending tone. I tried to explain to her that while the gap in professional opportunities for men and women is prevalent, in some cases women in the same positions as men are certainly paid less.

“Take directors or actors for example. Female directors and actors are paid less than male directors and actors for the same work…” but she persisted steadily with her view that I was being unreasonable. This was nothing like what I had experienced before. I felt that my friends weren’t respecting my perspective, and honestly, that I wasn’t respecting their opinions. There was no growth in this conversation, so I let it drop. I was mad, but I needed to take some time to gather my thoughts and also learn more before I approached these friends again to have a more productive discourse about the wage gap.

I stopped talking for a few minutes and looked up wage gap statistics, verifying the truth of the information in the Instagram post. Perhaps out of indignation, I couldn’t help sharing that the post’s statistics had, in fact, been correct.

“Are we still talking about this?” my friend asked, with an annoyed laugh.

“Yes!” I tried to explain why talking about it was important to me, but I became flustered and she still didn’t understand my perspective. My other friend left the room, saying “Whatever, I don’t care. It doesn’t affect me.”

I felt the blood rush to my head. The conversation was clearly over, and at that point I felt that none of us had grown from it. I couldn’t understand how people, especially female friends my age, could so blatantly disregard an important issue that affects everyone.

Looking back on the experience, I see that I did grow. In the past, my friends’ responses reinforced my own views, while this conversation introduced me to new perspectives. The conversation made me inspect my views on the topic more closely and educate myself about the facts rather than rely on my impressions of the issue.

I learned not only about the wage gap, but the gap that I might feel between myself and people whose views differed from mine. In this particular conversation, I did not overcome this gap, but in the future I hope to maintain my convictions while bridging distance with knowledge, respect, and connection.

This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.

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Awesome work Av!! I feel honored to be among your social justice post receivers!

Excellent!

How to cite this page

Berkwits, Ava. "Mind The Gap." 17 December 2018. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on July 20, 2019) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/mind-gap>.

Photograph of the words, "Mind the Gap" written on a subway platform. Courtesy of Alvaro Millan (Flickr).

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