The Fear Girls

Category: Author: Edison

The Truth About The Gender Pay Gap

 By Edison Mellor-Goldman

The gender-pay-gap debate has been rocking the online newspapers and blogosphere in the past few months. I’ve become especially interested since the presidential debates; I had no idea why, on something seemingly so clear-cut, there was no consensus reached over what was actually going on. After some research, it’s became really clear why both sides are equally insistent the other is wrong. No matter of “fact checking” will really resolve the issue, because neither side is lying. It’s just a matter of which facts and statistics each side chooses to look at.
The liberal argument that I both hear and read the most is simply that women are being payed around .77 cents on the male dollar in this country. Although estimates of this number vary, this statistic seems to make a clear case that gender equality in the workplace is far from a done deal. The most common conservative argument is that a big chunk of this discrepancy can be explained away by the types of jobs generally held by women compared to men, and the difference in amount of hours worked. Interestingly, both arguments are valid, but there is an important nuance that neither side brings up: that both the “explained and “unexplained” elements of the pay gap are very important to look at.

It’s true that much of the gender pay gap can be explained by women working different jobs and fewer hours (more part-time and less full-time) than men. For example, in the field of medicine women with doctorates tend to work as pediatricians more often than cardiologists (who are higher paid). But is this the whole story? The Congressional Joint Economic Committee has found that there is an “unexplained” pay gap that still accounts for 5-7% of the difference across all jobs in America. This is after every other factor has been accounted for, including job differences and hour differences. Although the “explained” pay gap has dramatically decreased in this country in the past hundred years, there has consistently been a 5-7% disparity that cannot be explained by anything other than sexism in the job market.

    The liberal media might be misrepresenting its figures by simply saying that women make .77 cents on the male dollar. It might not be wrong, but it can be misleading; when the number is present by candidates or news outlets, it’s never presented with any disclaimer about the shortcomings of the statistic. In an Obama campaign ad, titled “The First Law”, the narrator says “Women [are] paid 77 cents on the dollar for the same work as men”, and it has been criticized for not being more clear about what that number actually means. Just as misleading is the conservative argument that the pay gap can be explained away, while they ignore the fact that just about every review by the Congressional Joint Economic committee over the years has an “unexplained” pay gap attributed to gender discrimination.

It seems both sides like to play with the numbers, but we shouldn’t forget that there is a big difference in the reasons that these two parties sensationalize the statistics. The democratic party is trying to draw attention to an issue of inequality, and highlight the fact that the battle isn’t won yet. The republican party is trying to shut its eyes, stick its head in the sand, and repeat the mantra that we are in a “post-gender inequality, post-racial” world. Acts like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act have been vehemently opposed by senate republicans, namely because they felt it would bring up unnecessary lawsuits for a problem that doesn’t exist. That act isn’t a matter of giving women an unfair advantage over men, it simply allows employees to file lawsuits past the typical 180-day statute of limitations if they notice a pay discrepancy. It’s not affirmative action for an entire gender, it’s the right to earn what your fellow worker is earning for the same job.

    Republicans will try to attack the fact that “77¢” is often used out of context, when even the “explained” pay gap indicates educational discrepancies and an unequal burden of motherhood and child raising. We should ask why, for example, there are differences in levels of education and why the burden of raising a child is still heavily on women. We should ask why the looming decision of motherhood makes it such that women disproportionately commit to more flexible careers that pay slightly less. Does the “explained” pay gap directly indicate workplace discrimination? Not necessarily. Is it important to look at when trying to figure out why there’s still gender inequality? Of course it is.
Whether one party or the other is misrepresenting statistics is not the issue, both parties are guilty on that count. I personally think it all comes down to this: republicans are using their arguments to smother equality for women and minorities, while they continue to champion the old “man works, women cooks” nuclear christian family archetype. Meanwhile, democrats are trying to accord women and men equal opportunity in the job market. One party wants to have a serious discussion on workplace equality, and the other party wants to pretend there’s nothing to fix. Politicians will be politicians and news outlets may have their biases, but it’s impossible to ignore what each party is trying to accomplish.

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Medicine statistics:

http://www.theheart.org/article/929075.do

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/119/5/1000.full

http://www.medscape.com/features/slideshow/compensation/2012/public

“Explained” and “Unexplained” wage gap references:

http://www.jec.senate.gov/public/?a=Files.Serve&File_id=9118a9ef-0771-4777-9c1f-8232fe70a45c

http://www.nber.org/papers/w5664.pdf?new_window=1

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Male%E2%80%93female_income_disparity_in_the_United_States

Obama ad, and context:

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2012/jun/21/barack-obama/barack-obama-ad-says-women-are-paid-77-cents-dolla/

Opinionated Women

By Edison Mellor-Goldman

Why talk about politics? A lot of people choose not to go there with boyfriends or girlfriends because they see it as a way to generate unnecessary divisions and start arguments. It’s much the same way with music or sports, which are both integral to many peoples’ lives. It would be a catastrophe to find out your significant other strongly disagrees with you on something that’s such a huge part of who you are, right? You wouldn’t take your hot date to the abandoned minefield if you could go to Pinkberry instead, so why wouldn’t you also skirt dangerous conversation topics in favor of something pleasanter – for her sake?

For me, there’s something scarier than finding out that your girl is a Celtics fan, and that’s finding out that she doesn’t know why. Scarier than discovering the one you care for has always loved Nickelback is learning that she never really gave a thought to music, and scarier than learning your girlfriend is a diehard NRA member is her saying “Oh, let’s not talk about gun control laws, that stuff’s sooo boring”. That’s why the political questions (or anything important really) can be monumental for me to broach with a girl I don’t know too well; I’m not worried that a disagreement will drive a wedge between us, I just fear that she might not have an opinion on anything.

Do ladies believe that the sexiest “mojo” one can have is not fire or ice, but the lukewarm water in the middle? Or are they just playing it safe, hedging their bets so as not to cause any sort of confrontation? A woman who shows a lack of interest in a pivotal conversation point could be trying to hide her lack of depth – or subtly trying to steer the conversation elsewhere to pre-empt a possible disagreement that has been foreseen by soothsayers, ala Minority Report. As awesome as a pre-emptive de-argumentation unit of beautiful women sounds, I think the answer might be simpler: Women are convinced men don’t like opinionated women.

One could say “Gee, wonder what gave them that impression?” if one was an idiot. Or, one could bring to mind how, even in this modern age when a lot of women are told to be empowered, women aren’t taught that having their own thoughts and beliefs is the only real way to get there. Has anybody ever heard of a lady who became a “strong, independent woman” by just willing it to be so? It takes the conviction that can only come from trusting in your own perspectives and angles on life.
There’s another perk, too — opinions are sexy. There, you’ve heard it from a man.  I’m not emasculated when I talk to a woman who seems more informed about a certain issue, because I know I have thoughts on other topics that will similarly broaden her horizons. Any man who is that easily emasculated is probably not a good emotional investment. Relationships should be about growth, and we grow when faced with adversity and different perspectives. Couples and friends stagnate when any disagreement on something becomes all about asserting dominance rather than learning. So if that’s a problem you find yourself with, you probably shouldn’t be dating him anyways. There are few things sexier than a woman who knows what she’s talking about and isn’t afraid to say it when the point gets raised, and a disagreement between two reasonable people shouldn’t be a relationship end-all.
For the record, I’m dating a Celtics fan and things are going quite well.

Notes from a Rabid Observer

 By Edison Mellor-Goldman

In case you hadn’t heard, there’s still a word on the streets that systematically nullifies the opinions of everybody it is applied to. The world at large still uses an adjective that means “your voice is coming from a particular place, and is therefore unimportant.” What’s worse is that it’s politically correct to use it, and toss it about as if it’s just any other descriptor and doesn’t speak lengths about the validity of one’s beliefs. The term is derived from the agitation and paranoia in a person infected with rabies, and the etymological origin of the word isn’t so distant that it has taken on a drastically different meaning since. The adjective “rabid” is one of the biggest inhibitors of legitimate discourse that isn’t an enormous faux pas.

To say that somebody is “rabid” is to delegate them to the fringes of any ideology, when most reasonable people take what they like from various schools of thought. A “rabid” lefty is a tree-hugging face-painting vaccine-fearing CEO-hating idiot who is so entrenched in his beliefs that he refuses to acknowledge that not everybody wants to live in a hippie commune. A “rabid” righty is a pauper-hating money-grubbing gun-wielding Hummer driver who is more in love with the theory of social darwinism than with his fellow human beings. We live in a world of social and political binaries, seemingly because it’s easier to formulate a counter-argument when every alternative perspective can all be forced into one single cohesive “opinion.” I know that most women have become aware that when a guy labels them “hormonal” it basically means “you’re not arguing from a rational place, and therefore I don’t need to accept your conclusion.” It’s invalidating. But the thing is, people are wising up about how invalidating it is. Your douchebag ex-boyfriend may have used that angle whenever he was losing an argument, but you rarely see thoughtful individuals tossing that term around in serious social discourse. “Rabid,” however, can be used to invalidate anybody, and is still used in just about any arena. It might be difficult to frame a pro-life argument against an educated woman who is pro-choice, but it’s easy to assume victory when you can label her a “rabid feminist.” This is hardly a novel observation, but I would like to point out that, of all invalidating phrases, “rabid” has survived for a fair amount of time in our dialogue.

The scariest part about “rabid” is that the people who are labeled as such often don’t realize the implications. If you were to search “Rabid Republican” online, the first site on the google radar will be the “Rabid Republican Blog”, which is a community for those proud to be republican. “Why, yes, I am very opinionated and strong-minded,” somebody who has just been labeled a “rabid feminist” might think to themselves–but that’s not exactly what the label is driving at. It’s one thing to say that you have very strong and steadfast opinions, it’s another thing to say that your opinions are steadfast because of your inability to consider reason from dissenting points of view due to an overwhelming bias. What’s dangerous about the phrase “rabid” is that a lot of recipients don’t realize what they’ve been hit with until too late. They were too busy feeling flattered that somebody would consider them so passionate that they didn’t realize “passionate” was the last thing they wanted to be considered if their opinion were to be taken seriously. I think that’s why the label has stuck around to such a degree, because people don’t immediately strike it down whenever it’s brought up. But the next time you’re debating immigration reform and somebody disagrees with you, do you really want to be told, “Oh, you’re just on your ‘immigration-period’”?

Why The “Beast” Will Never Be Tamed

  By Edison Mellor-Goldman

The idea of something powerful at your command is an attractive concept, as can be observed in children playing with Pokémon or in adults playing with firearms. More specifically, the idea of a person by your side who has potential to defend you (or at least carries some air of authority or strength) is a sexy concept for a lot of women. There’s something primal about the urge to feel safe and protected by a significant other. Hence the “Taming of the Beast” phenomenon that is so prevalent in pop culture and is a core aspect of any romance plot nowadays.

There are many facets of the Twilight novels that seem to be carefully psychologically constructed to appeal to girls. Obviously, the ladies will swoon for an attractive man who is devoted and swears literally undying love. But much more importantly, Edward was a vampire, a deadly weapon that was only loyal to the main character Bella, even if he had the capacity to kill anything that moved. Jacob was a werewolf completely devoted to her as well, although he could take down an adult stag for a snack. The appeal to this core desire is something I can trace back to watching Disney’s Beauty and the Beast; the beast was a thug, a big hairy brute, who could exude testosterone even while saying something as innocuous as “Will you join me for dinner?” What led Belle on in her attempts to humanize him was that within that hulking exterior there was a shred of empathy and kindness. Oh, but the kindness was reserved for her, of course. None was wasted on his dining staff, or Belle’s dad for that matter. Yes, he did change towards the end into her Prince Charming, but is that supposed to make Belle feel vindicated for all the times he was an ass to her?

We all know girls who have dated certain gents because they were attracted to his “bad boy” attributes. Some will even admit to it, and whenever I talk to one of them the first thing they say is, “Well yes, he is a bit of a dick. But he’s really nice to me!” Maybe this is a very primal part of women’s psyches evolutionarily speaking, a part of our “reptile brain” as a species. I also think that it’s time for all of us to move on now that we are aware of this phenomenon; many guys aren’t getting the full picture when they see a desirable woman walking hand in hand with the kind of guy whom you might expect to shoulder you off the sidewalk and grunt, “ ‘Scuse me, bro.” When a male like the aforementioned specimen is a dick to those around him, other guys don’t make the distinction of “Oh I get it, he’s only nice to her, that’s how the sexy mojo works!” Guys assume that not only is it okay to be rude and macho all the time, but ladies like it when you’re a little sharp with them. The problem is that taming a man’s inner beast for oneself (also known as being “pussy whipped”) is very desirable from a woman’s perspective but is seen as the most emasculating thing in the world from the male cultural perspective. As long as we don’t see eye-to-eye on that crucial fact, we’ll have a world full of women who wonder why their “bad boy” isn’t being their own personal Prince Charming, and a world full of men who think that being a bit of an ass is a desirable quality.

The image of an “ideal” man or woman is never simply a construct of the opposite sex, to be used as a tool to control that other gender to its own ends. There’s no mass collusion going on here, neither gender is to blame for this; but now that it is acknowledged as a problem, we’re responsible for creating a culture that better reflects us as thoughtful individuals. As a male, I can be the change I want to see by refusing to submit to the idiocy of the whole “Taming of the Beast” phenomenon, since I’ve observed the vast disconnect between what men and women want from it. As a woman, you can also be the change by dating guys who are nice to people in general, not just those whom you expect to make an exception for you.