Opinion: Breadwinning perpetuates misogyny


Anna Wilkinson

The idea of breadwinners is normally associated with men holding up their households.

Society isn’t built for women to be breadwinners.

A breadwinner is a colloquial term for the primary or sole income earner in a household. Most women will never take on this role, since society doesn’t allow them to succeed shackle-free; they constantly face harassment, judgment, and assault.

I started thinking about this after talking to a few girls in my history class. Since seniors are doing career research projects, we were told to look into every career’s detail. This meant looking at the salary, advancement opportunities, and education level, among other factors. In doing this project, many people, including myself, grew anxious over the amount of money we would potentially be making.

One day, while we were working on the project in class, I overheard someone say that they would have to marry rich. Although they likely said this from a comedic standpoint, I thought about how many young women have this mindset. Over the past month, I have heard statements with similar sentiments echo throughout my classes.

As someone who wants to go into a creative art job, I know I will likely make a minuscule amount of money compared to some of my peers. When I was researching my career, I talked to some of my classmates who were in the same boat as me. As we discussed how little money we will make, many of us said that we would never be breadwinners. All of us were women.

As I thought about this conversation throughout the day, I tried to understand why so many of us have this mindset. I went through a lot of different reasons and landed on a few.

First, we have grown up seeing this attitude reflected by popular media. In most TV shows and movies I watched as a child, the wife worked at home while the husband brought home all the money. Although there has been an increase of powerful, wealthy women in entertainment, women are still often portrayed as lesser than men. There are plenty of films and TV shows that exemplify this struggle for women to become breadwinners. For example, “The Assistant,” “Handmaid’s Tale,” “Promising Young Woman,” and “Dickinson” all demonstrate how society is stacked up against women at its core.

I am not saying there aren’t any women out there who are considered breadwinners, but I am saying that most of them probably face sexism every day for being high achievers. Research throughout the centuries has shown that women make less money than men.  Pew Research Center recently published a study showing that the gender pay gap remained steady in 2020, with women making 84% of what men earned.

Some people, of course, will argue that if a woman is the only person in the household working, she is automatically a breadwinner. While this is true, the whole point is that society isn’t built around the idea that women can be breadwinners, making the concept inherently sexist. If one knows anything about history, they would know that women’s contributions to society weren’t even considered until the 1960s when they could have more jobs and educational opportunities.

Society itself is built to help men succeed. If you read any old philosophy excerpts, the audience or person is always addressed with he/him pronouns. Although this isn’t directly contributing to the lack of female breadwinners, it shows that women aren’t seen as people at the core of humanity but as sidepieces to men’s achievements.

When I typed “breadwinners” into Google, there was an auto-fill suggesting “breadwinners men.” As I scrolled through images and articles, there was a wide variety in what I saw. Some showed men being under extreme stress because they are the only form of income a house receives. Some talked about how women should start getting higher-paid jobs, but others contradict this by showing images of women helping in the kitchen or getting kids ready for school. This correlation between breadwinners and men is not on accident; it occurs because women were never meant to own this title.

Because of its ties to society’s practice of diminishing women, the concept of breadwinning cannot be separated from the misogyny it perpetuates.