Manly McMoustache clears up the “myth” of unequal pay

John Stossel, he of the price-gouging defense, has generously cleared up the “myth” that women earn less than men for doing the same work.

There's this myth that women earn 78.5 cents for every buck a man makes for the same job, but if that were true, think about it, employers would hire only women. And, all the employers that hired men would go out of business because they'd be paying their workforce too much. The truth is, men are more willing to take lousy jobs, work longer, be away from our families. Women make good choices for their families and happiness, they live the best life, and that's why they earn less.
Yeah, think about it. If that were true, employers would hire only women. See, here’s the problem with that claim: A big part of the reason that women make less than men for doing the same work (which they do; it’s no myth) is the collection of assumptions about women made by employers—she’ll just work until she gets married; she’ll just work until she gets pregnant; she won’t work as hard or as many hours as a man—all rooted in a nifty bias called sexism that might preclude certain employers from hiring women no matter how little they were able to pay them.

And let’s think about the “truth” that men are more willing to “take lousy jobs” than women are. The practice of women holding jobs that men don’t typically take is so widespread that it has its own name—pink collar. Some of the jobs considered “pink collar” aren’t intrinsically lousy, like nursing or secretarial work, but have a rather lousy history of becoming pink collar because women were subtly or overtly pushed disproportionately into the fields, discouraged from pursuing the better-paying, higher-prestige, typically “male” counterpart positions like doctors or white collar management. Teaching, another pink collar job, is also not intrinsically lousy, but continues to this day to suffer from chronic underpayment. Hospitality servers, childcare providers, eldercare providers, and most service industry jobs are considered pink collar jobs, although there are many men in those fields, because the positions are disproportionately filled by women. Personally, I couldn’t conceive of a lousier job than feeding, bathing, and wiping the asses of the senile, severely disabled children, or otherwise infirm. That’s not to say such a job isn’t extremely honorable and so very necessary, but I don’t remotely have the temperament for it. Not many people do, and those who dedicate their lives to it are woefully underpaid—and mostly female. It’s safe to assume, I think, that both men and women take lots of “lousy” jobs.

And now let’s think about the “truth” that women aren’t willing to work longer, be away from their families, instead choosing to “make good choices for their families and happiness” and “live the best life.” Let’s just get out of the way right now that stats on working women disprove that assertion, to which anecdotally any one of us can attest, knowing, as we all surely do, plenty of career-minded women who work long hours, or mothers who have to spend long hours at a job just to put food on the table, regularly struggling to balance work and home life. Beyond that is the curious reluctance on Stossel’s part to consider the possibility that women typically end up being the ones to sacrifice career for family because someone’s got to, and it makes the most sense that the lower-income worker be the one to do so. Perhaps if women were guaranteed equal pay for equal work, we would see more families in which the dad was the primary caregiver, left work for baseball games and sick days and doctor’s appointments. I’ve worked with men, whose wives were making the same or more than they were, who did fill this role. And I’ve known men who would prefer that role (and whose wives would prefer them to take that role), if only it didn’t make more financial sense for the roles to be reversed. Of course, I wouldn’t expect Stossel to know any men like this. I’m sure in his world, where unequal pay is just a myth, men like that simply don’t exist.

Hmm. Well. Looks like maybe that myth hasn’t quite been shattered after all—at least not in the real world in which the rest of us live. What a surprise that Stossel was just talking out his ass once again.

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