You may have heard Obama’s latest action to ensure “equal pay” for women. Don’t worry; this executive order isn’t going to have much impact, good or bad, on the actual lives of workers, and only federal contractors will be affected at all. Even the devotedly left-leaning (sometimes –lunging) NPR reports Obama’s foray into “equal pay” as more political than economic:
So even Democrats know that Democrats aren’t really trying to help women so much as make good political use of them. Aw snap. I just killed this article.
Okay, let’s start over. Let’s suppose that Democrats do sincerely want to help women achieve their goals in life. The first thing to do would be to find out what those goals are. What do women want?
Maggie Gallagher reports:
“‘Married mothers who are able to cut back at work to accommodate their family’s needs tend to be happier,’ Professor Brad Wilcox
said in an analysis of an earlier Pew report. ‘The news cycle is stuck in a lean-in loop but new data shows mothers report more happiness when they can lean homeward.’”
The free decision many women make to “lean homeward” has two effects: 1) Women get what they want, and 2) They accept fewer hours and take long breaks from their careers to care for new children, resulting in a lower income than they’d have if they opted for a childless (or child-light) professional life.
Thomas Sowell riffs on this theme at National Review, chiding liberals for
“Women, like so many other groups, seem not to be dedicated to fulfilling the prevailing fetish among the intelligentsia that every demographic group should be equally represented in all sorts of places.
“Women have their own agendas, and if these agendas do not usually include computer engineering, what is to be done? Draft women into engineering schools to satisfy the preconceptions of our self-anointed saviors? Or will a propaganda campaign be sufficient to satisfy those who think that they should be making other people’s choices for them?"
It’s important to remember that among those women who have a family and stay at home, there presumably exists a cooperative relationship between a woman and a man. Her priority over earning money is caring for her children. His priority is to earn enough money that his wife can live in financial peace. While this may not be the only paradigm, it’s a rough descriptor of the ideal situation surrounding a woman who, like many others, decides to “lean homeward.”
In fact, it would be interesting to find out just how many happy, functioning, cooperative families could be found among the unhappy statistical “proof” of unequal pay. What’s missing from the narrative of the “gender gap” in pay is precisely that element of cooperation between a man and a woman. If advocates of “equal pay” are sincerely trying to help women, they need to go back to the drawing board. As currently constituted, their agenda grants to men the core assumption on which male-chauvinism operated in the offices of the 1950’s: That men and women are in competition, and where one prevails the other must always be oppressed.
Stephen Herreid is currently a Fellow at the John Jay Institute (Philadelphia) and the arts editor for Humane Pursuits. He has been a Contributing Editor to The Intercollegiate Review Online and has contributed several chapters to the latest edition of ISI’s Choosing the Right College.