At my granddaughter, Heidi’s, fifth grade graduation, every student came to the microphone on stage and stated his or her life goal. Not surprisingly, about half of the boys wanted to be pro athletes. Only one girl had that goal, though—she wanted to play in the WNBA. Most girls wanted to be teachers, social workers, nurses, “traditional” female occupations. A few wanted to be doctors, lawyers, businesswomen.
Heidi wants to be a psychological operations systems analyst at the Pentagon. How and why she came to this unusual life goal is a whole other story. Not to mention whether she will rethink it when she finds out what the Pentagon really is.
Anyway. Listening to the kids’ goals, I thought about how girls are more practical than boys—even at that age. More grounded. Boys develop more slowly, we always say. Clearly, most of these fifth grade boys weren’t up to thinking about life goals in a very realistic way.
Later, though, I remembered a front page article I read a few weeks ago in the Indianapolis Star, comparing the top NBA player’s salary with the top WNBA player’s salary.
Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics makes $20,000,000; Tamika Catchings of the Indiana Fever makes the top $105,500 (the league maximum.)
I was shocked. I thought I’d misread it. But, no.
It wasn’t that I was surprised to see a substantial difference in the salaries. It’s ridiculous what male pro athletes are paid in this country. What surprised me was that the top WNBA salary was about what a well educated “regular” person might hope to make.
Not the least of the effect of these ridiculous salaries for pro sports stars is the way they shape the life goals of American boys. The fantasy of a pro sports career persists into high school and beyond for many of them, despite the odds against even the best players of getting that far—which can keep them from thinking about the future in a realistic way.
But pondering the girls' goals, it occurred to me that maybe it’s not that girls don’t dream of being pro athletes because they’re more practical, more mature, but because there’s so little glory or money in pro sports for women.
Which could be a good or bad thing, depending upon how you look at it. But no matter how you look at it, it isn’t fair.
Which leads me to the second, considerably less significant but nonetheless extremely annoying unfairness in the world of men and women I encountered this week.
I love men’s shirts and when my favorite store, J.Jill, put their cotton “boyfriend shirts” on sale, I bought some. Very cool. I decided to treat myself and take the cleaners with my husband’s shirts when they were ready to be laundered.
When I picked them up, the receipt for his shirts said $2.25 per shirt; the receipt for mine said, “dry clean” $6.25 per shirt.
I said to the desk clerk, “These shirts were supposed to be laundered, not dry cleaned.”
She said, “They were laundered. But we charge the dry cleaning price for women’s shirts.”
“Why?” I asked. “They’re cotton shirts, exactly like my husband’s.”
“Some women’s shirts don’t fit on the machine right,” she said. “They take more time.”
“Three times as much time?” I asked.
“That’s our policy,” she said.
Of course, the policy wasn’t her fault. She was the messenger. She worked all day in that hot, humid, smelly place, breathing in who-knows-what-kind-of-fumes all day.
So I just took my shirts and left. But I was furious.
They get us coming and going, I thought—in the kind of leap my wacky mind all too often makes. Crappy WNBA salaries, plus we have to pay more to get our shirts laundered because the freaking ironing machines are made for men.
We’ve come a long way, baby.