The War on Women: (Part 2) Economic Empowerment
In the 2012 election, remember the statements by a Democratic consultant that Ann Romney “never worked a day in her life?” This denigration of the stay-at-home mom is the epitome of modern liberal feminist thought. Without realizing it, they expressed publicly a mindset more accepting at tony, liberal get-togethers in Manhattan, the Chicago North Shore and Hollywood. Yet, what can be more “feminist” than any woman making such a decision to stay at home and raise children? Isn’t this what feminism is all about in the first place- choice? To the modern liberal feminist, THEY decide the correct choices for all women and any woman who strays from their definition is somehow a sub-female and worthy of ridicule.
There is no need to get into the notion of traditional female and traditional male jobs because the lines have been so blurred over the years. Unfortunately when we are talking about economic opportunity, it affects both males and females. The sad fact is that many families today find themselves in the position of both parents having to work. Bad or not so good economic times affects both sexes.
The feminist will generally rail not so much against the glass ceiling any more, but more about the disparity in pay for comparable work. However, “comparable work” has always been a difficult concept in other contexts. What is more difficult and deserving of more pay- coal mining or watching the controls at a nuclear plant? When we are talking about the same job, but different sexes, then I believe most if not all conservatives believe that the female is entitled to the same going rate as the male. But, what if the male coal miner, for example, does a better job than the female coal miner by virtue of the presence of androgens and a larger, more muscular body build? Who, then, is entitled to higher pay?
The fact is that many feminists simply ignore the sometimes very significant biological differences between men and women. If this was Harvard, I would be run out for even uttering that fact. That is one of the funny things about feminism- the tendency to play ostrich and bury their head in the sand and ignore reality. There are very real differences between the sexes. Of course, there are always the exceptions and many of these differences can be overcome. But, denying that differences even exist is an alternate reality.
This is getting into the general area of sexism. There are the truly infantile feminists who believe that changing “history” to “herstory” will usher in a era of sexism-free Utopia. These are likely the former bra-burners whose breasts have seen better days. And yes- there is a difference… women have breasts and men (usually) don’t. Recently, that great beacon of “tolerance-” Belgium- enacted a law which makes sexist comments a crime punishable by a fine or up to one year in jail. These are the same people who insist that girls should join the Boy Scouts or any other fraternal organization. Let’s just dispense with these children and their “Mother Earth” patriarchal society bulls!@# lines.
In the area of economics, true sexism exists and should be eradicated where women are excluded from jobs or equal pay when there is simply no very good reason to do so. If the female factory can churn out the same number of widgets as the male factory worker, then they are entitled to the same pay. But, if the male- for whatever reason- turns out more, then he is entitled to a greater rate of pay and if the female’s production exceeds that of the male, then she should get the higher rate of pay. It is pretty simple and the discussion should end there.
But, the feminist goes further and insists on a female affirmative action program and we all know how well that worked out for the black community. My definition of affirmative action includes making a good faith effort to recruit, hire, retain and promote targeted populations. It does not mean giving one group an advantage over another by virtue of skin color, the language they speak, or the presence of a uterus. And, quite frankly, there is some tangential evidence that conservatives do a better job at decreasing the pay disparity between men and women. Obviously, based on 2010 figures, there is a disparity. The median male/female income nationwide is $8,100 per year and every state has a disparity with DC being the worst. After DC, the five worst offenders are all liberal strongholds- California, New York, Vermont, Delaware and Maryland. And the states with the lowest disparities? They are Arizona and North Carolina. In fact, the South and West (excluding the coasts) are the best areas and the Northeast and Upper Midwest being the worst offenders. And the reasons become obvious: the Northeast and Upper Midwest are bastions of unionization which are perhaps the most sexist and racist institutions when it comes to membership and employment.
However, the tide is naturally changing not because of the actions and policies of feminist groups, but because of simple demographics. More women than men are graduating from college today than ever in our past. This is not because federal laws have broken down any barriers, but a realization by colleges that to exclude females was counterproductive. As a result, Standard and Poors recently did a study which illustrated how female salaries increased 43% over a certain period while those of men decreased in the same period. In 2008 alone, female salaries increased 19% while those of men decreased 5%. Given the financial turmoil at the time, the reason is that the jobs held by females were insulated from the financial collapse to a greater degree.
Furthermore, a great deal in pay disparity can explained by natural occupational segregation and traditional female jobs have traditionally paid less. Again, one has to look at the comparable worth of these jobs. For example, is the male executive making a multi-billion dollar transaction worthy of more pay than the female secretary typing up the paperwork for that transaction? To the conservative, if the roles were reversed, obviously the female executive should receive the higher rate of pay also. There is also a study which shows that a female who moves from an sexually integrated occupation to a traditionally female occupation can expect a 7% decrease in pay. Left out of the equation, however, is the fact that the traditionally female occupation often offers greater flexibility in scheduling and hours of work.
Looking at a variety of studies, one is left with the impression that no one knows what they are talking about and their explanations are then left to their political viewpoint. But the most important question is left unanswered- are the pay disparities the result of blatant discrimination against females, or is it just a natural by-product of the free market system as concerns jobs and pay? Since younger females entering the workforce have a smaller gap and, in some cases,no gap at all, one would have to conclude that blatant discrimination is not the primary determining factor although it is likely that some cases of discrimination exist, but not to the degree that liberal feminists insist where there is a patriarchal bogey-man behind every tree and in every Human Resources Department. As more women receive a college education and enter those fields traditionally considered “male,” the barriers are slowly being broken down. For example, the greatest disparities in pay are in the fields of medicine, financial management, and business specialists. Yet without any affirmative action programs, the ranks of female doctors,financial managers and business specialists are increasing yearly.
Your average feminist likes to characterize the problem as follows: your average woman makes 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. This is patently false. Perhaps in an overall sense, this has some truth behind it, but so-called “pink collar” jobs have always had a lower rate of pay. For example, at one time the field of surgery was dominated by males and the field of secretary was dominated by females. Of course, the job of a surgeon deserves a greater rate of pay than that of secretary. But, when work experience, level of education and choice of occupation are equal, that 77 cents on every dollar is considerably higher at 98 cents.
In effect, the difference between the liberal and the conservative are best demonstrated in this area. The conservative realizes that changes beneficial to all women in the workforce are occurring naturally and that although not perfect, we are on a trajectory towards natural perfection. To the liberal, it is the role of government to interfere in this natural reordering of things and pass legislation like the Paycheck Fairness Act which sounds great, but will benefit not women, but trial lawyers. As it stands now, a male and a female are in a two-person department. The male has been there 10 years and makes $20 per hour while the recently hired female doing roughly the same job is making $12 per hour. Under the PFA, the employer would be under an obligation to possibly provide extensive training to the female to make up for that 10-year work history discrepancy. This is the government stepping in and micromanaging business and hiring practices. Generally speaking, if you have to put a happy sounding title on a law, chances are that law sucks and has serious unintended consequences (see: Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Violence Against Women Act, DISCLOSE Act, etc.).
There is one final point to make in this area and that is Social Security reform. Liberal and way too many Republicans are opposed to even the partial privatization of the system. Even if safeguards are built into the system, they are rejected. As it stands, retirement benefits are based upon one’s work history. Because women have larger and more numerous gaps in their work history because they often drop out of the workforce for prolonged periods of time to have children and raise families, their retirement benefits take a hit. That can be overcome by allowing working women to, in effect, join the investing class through voluntary or even partial privatization. Perhaps if the proposals are phrased in these terms, two birds could be killed with one stone: truly meaningful entitlement reform and the GOP winning back some female voters.
In the end, no conservative that I know believes that females should be paid less than a man for comparable worth. Conversely, unlike the liberal, they also know that a lot of the pay disparity is based upon a history that is gradually changing to the advantage of women. Furthermore, unlike the liberal feminist, the conservative realizes that true economic empowerment involves choice- choice in what profession they choose, who they work for, or whether they decide not to enter the workforce altogether. The conservative does not denigrate the female soldier or coal miner or construction worker. Can the liberal feminist say the same about the woman who decides to stay home and raise a family?