Weaponized Gratitude is a Tool of Patriarchy

Becky Mollenkamp
5 min readMay 23

By Becky Mollenkamp, PCC

My first “real” job after college was at the Carmel Pine Cone (cute name, right?), a very small newspaper in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.

I was hired as one of three reporters at a salary of $13,000. In today’s dollars, that would be about $21,000 — in a town where the median home price is $1.4 million.

Three weeks after starting the job, the other reporters were fired and my male boss told me I’d now be doing all the work—without a raise.

I’m not sure how my 21-year-old self had such gumption, but I quit on the spot. I told him that it simply wasn’t fair or right.

His response? “You should be grateful to have this job. If you think you’ll find a better job, then you need to find a new industry.”

Within a few months, I landed a job at a daily newspaper making 40% more in another beautiful California town where the median home price was one-third of Carmel’s.

Most importantly, my new boss respected me and never once told me to be grateful.

I bet you have a story that’s similar. Or many of them. Stories of getting less than you deserve, while being told to feel grateful for getting anything at all.

Patriarchy has historically done this to women, Black people and other people of color, LGBTQ folks, people with disabilities — any non-cis, non-white man.

Weaponizing gratitude is a clever way to maintain control. Make the person who’s getting the short end of the stick feel bad for not being grateful that they’re getting some stick.

Be grateful you have a job, even if you make 80 cents on the dollar compared to men, or 62 cents if you’re a Black woman or 54 cents if you are a Hispanic or Latina woman. Even though people with disabilities are still twice as likely to be unemployed, compared to those without a disability.

Be grateful that you make up nearly half of the workforce, while 83% of sexual harassment charges are filed by women and only 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women.

Be grateful for time with your children — or that you can have children — even though you are expected to be the default parent and you get no meaningful time off to raise them or support in their ongoing care.

Be grateful you can vote, even though women represent only 24% of members of

Becky Mollenkamp

Accountability coach for feminist founders.