Can These Monkeys Solve the Gender Pay Gap?


So, some people did an experiment with some monkeys. This gets important for feminism later on. First the researchers let the monkeys hang out for a while and become monkey-friends. Then they put two monkeys in cages, side by side, and they had the monkeys perform a simple task (hand a pebble to a researcher) in exchange for a little reward (either a piece of cucumber or a grape). When both monkeys received a piece of cucumber, no big. Here’s your pebble, thank you for the snack. But when one monkey received a piece of cucumber and the other monkey received a grape, cucumber monkey was like “FUCK YOUR CUCUMBER, BRO! THIS IS BULLSHIT!!!” This relates to feminism because fuck your gender gap, bro. This is bullshit.

In a great essay at, Kasey Edwards uses the monkey experiment to illuminate her experiences with wage discrimination. Edwards describes her crestfallen realization, at a new job, that she was earning a full $20k less than her be-penised predecessor. At the time, she says, she took the pay gap as a confirmation of her self-doubts and went along with it, feeling “lucky that my company was being ‘nice’ to me, especially since I was, well, a girl.”

Very early in life I had internalised the message that boys were better than girls. Boys got more attention and had more fun while girls sat on the sidelines applauding and hoping to be noticed. I accepted this inequality as a fact of life because I had learned that boys were witty, extroverted, entitled and allowed to eat the extra piece of cake.
If I hadn’t been socialised to be a handmaiden of the patriarchy – a collaborator in my own oppression – perhaps I would have responded differently to the twenty grand I missed out on because I didn’t have a penis.

UUUUUUUGH. I AM SO JEALOUS OF MONKEYS RIGHT NOW. (Also, you need to watch the monkey video. Actual lolz, monkey.) That monkey would never collaborate in its own oppression. That monkey knew that if its monkey-friend got a grape for doing the stupid pebble trick, it deserved a grape too. It’s only fair. No question. Now, obviously I don’t think that wage discrimination is women’s fault for not being plucky enough. But I certainly find myself caught in situations where I don’t demand any grapes and I say thank you for cucumbers—because as much as I believe that we live in a biased world, it’s easy to assume that in this case I just don’t deserve grapes. I’m the exception. I’m probably just less good at my job than all neighboring penises.

In case there’s any confusion, the gender wage gap is real. I know it’s puzzling for a lot of people, because you don’t discriminate against women and your boss is a woman and you personally know a guy who makes $6.25 an hour at Jimmy John’s despite having a penis, but the fact is that, in general, women make significantly less money than men for doing the exact same work. Full stop. It is documented. Even when you adjust for variables like education and tenure and maternity leave, women still make less. And, barring dark sorcery and/or ancient aliens (ugh, SO MUCH ANCIENT MEDDLING), there is simply nothing with which we can logically fill that gap but good old-fashioned discrimination. However subconsciously, people think women are kinda dumb. But women don’t have to think that too, do we? Can’t we at least try to demand grapes, even if it’s frightening and ultimately gets us nowhere?

Here’s Edwards again:

I’m not suggesting I should have walked into my boss’s office and hurled my lunch at him. A little more impulse control than the primate is probably best. But I could have done with some of that monkey’s unfailing self-belief and refusal to accept the scraps out of life.

Monkeys! So confident! I am a monkey now. Fuck your cucumber.

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