A University of Queensland bake sale held yesterday has resulted in a vocal backlash after the student union used discriminatory pricing in an attempt to highlight the alleged ‘gender pay gap.’
While those who identified as men were charged $1 for the baked goods, lower prices were set for women and those with particular racial backgrounds and certain sexual orientations.
Ironically, the student union’s bake sale which purported to raise awareness about discrimination in fact constituted discrimination itself under Queensland and Australian law, a point that was no doubt lost on the event organisers.
There are several problems with the University of Queensland bake sale and this kind of social action.
Firstly, the ‘gender pay gap’ issue is not as clear cut as the often touted slogan makes out. The alleged gender pay gap does not take into account the different preferences that people have and the choices which people make when it comes to things like paid employment.
Secondly, it fails to take regard of the fact that in certain instances, particularly when comparing men and women with uninterrupted careers in the 30s, women on average earn more than men. Is it then fair to give a woman who has a high income a discounted cup cake and make a man with a low income job pay the full price?
While the topic of the alleged gender pay gap has attracted considerable attention and activism, the same cannot be said when it comes to the issue of workplace deaths. Men constitute over 90 percent of workplace deaths, yet such an issue does not attract the same level of protest, and let’s be perfectly honest, care, from the community when it comes to urgent matters of inequality and discrimination.
Yet, the biggest problem is with the ideological thinking which underlies the University of Queensland bake sale. It is the kind of thinking that does not treat individuals with the respect which is due as a real person, but rather relegates and segregates people into groups in society much like apartheid and other discriminatory regimes have done in the past and as several still do at the present time. Far from overcoming discrimination, the bake sale’s discriminatory pricing and similar action only reinforces barriers between people and demands that people be treated differently, not on the basis of merit, but on the basis of gender, race or sexual orientation. Is that the kind of society we want to live in?