Camille Reyes

There is No Wage Gap? Think Again, Ms. Summers.

In Culture, Policy on February 3, 2014 at 1:00 pm
My friend Deirdre Dougherty wrote a wicked (side note: when did I move to Boston?) response to a shameful article in the Daily Beast.  In fact, it was such a skilled (and sarcastic) take down of the author’s argument that I asked if she would like to guest post it here at gorditamedia.  She said no.  Kidding.  Feel free to comment; I’m sure Dee will appreciate any engagement on the subject.


(Guest Post by Deirdre Dougherty)

I have many things to say about this piece of shit article and apologize in advance to my family for swearing. I rarely ever post comments this long or this political.


1. While I can buy that the “77 cents” rhetoric might be an exaggerated way of simplifying and drawing attention the issue of pay inequity, there is a wage gap. Apparently, people believe that this is the result of a choice, or of a difference in hard wiring. The post says: “There is clearly a wage gap, but differences in the life choices of men and women… make it difficult to make simple comparisons.” Choices? Really? Interesting. At first glance, “choice” seems like it’s a great leveler and strikingly allows us to avoid a discussion of more complex structural issues. Choices are tricky things though; depending on the different kinds of privilege one might happen to have, choices have different effects and are made within different constraints. Way to individualize responsibility and thus leave sexism unquestioned. Thanks.


2. The author’s conversation about the “10 most remunerative majors” as a basis for her argument is sickening. Instead of looking at college majors and seeing which majors attract women and which attract men and linking that to a larger bullshit idea of women “choosing” to pick majors that result in lower-paying jobs, why don’t we question why certain professions are accorded respect and compensation in the first place? Isn’t it interesting that the professions that men tend to be drawn to are the most well-paid? Could this not be symptomatic of a larger, historically constituted structural inequality where occupations are gendered and historically “feminine” occupations are undervalued in a world that has (arbitrarily) accepted western ideas of science and progress and empiricism above all else?


3. “Have these groups noticed that American women are now among the most educated, autonomous, opportunity-rich women in history?” Interesting. “American” women, you say? While the author wanted to disaggregate the fuck out of the statistics about “77 cents,” claiming that the wage gap statistics were unfair because they compared women’s and men’s salaries across all occupations, it’s super interesting that “American” women emerge as a monolithic category. Do poor women enjoy the same “autonomous, opportunity-rich” experience as the author does?


4. “To say that these women remain helplessly in thrall to sexist stereotypes, and manipulated into life choices by forces beyond their control, is divorced from reality—and demeaning to boot. If a woman wants to be a teacher rather than a miner, or a veterinarian rather than a petroleum engineer, more power to her.” Clearly, you’ve not read anything about the k-12 education system and how tracking, microgressions, and other subtle systemic phenomena direct women in certain ways. Again, I guess it’s all about “choice.” I guess this is “America” and we can do anything we really “choose” to do.


5. But wait: “The White House should stop using women’s choices to construct a false claim about social inequality that is poisoning our gender debates.” Yes. Choices are totally made outside of structures of inequality. Thanks, author. I forgot that.

  1. Wrong just so wrong.

    1)”77 cents” is not an exaggeration. It’s so over blown as to be a fabrication. The actual pay gap is in the 3-7 cent range, not 23 cents.

    2)You’ve got this backwards. We don’t value “Men’s Work” higher than “Women’s Work”. Men pursue the highest paying work, women pursue safe work that allows for work/life balance. Pursing higher pay results in higher pay!!!!

    3)American women today have more opportunity than any other women in history. Poor women today have less opportunity than rich women today. Poor women today have dramatically more opportunity than poor women 100 years ago did.

    4)Clearly, you’ve not realized the k-12 education system and tracking, microgressions, and other subtle systemic phenomena direct M E N in certain ways. These “choices” affect men and women equally. Continuing the the Women Women and only Women approach to solving the problems won’t work.

    5)Choices are not made outside the structures of inequality. The Feminist narrative parroted by the White House constructs a false claim about what these structures of inequality are.

    • 1. We agree. The number is exaggerated.

      2. That high-paying jobs are generally held by men doesn’t mean that men are naturally attracted to higher-paying work. And, I don’t know if women are alone in their pursuit of work that allows for a work/life balance. I was calling into question the assumptions that undergird what type of work is paid more. While we consider it “common sense” that engineers should make more, that is a social fact that has been constructed. We attribute more value to certain forms of labor.

      3. If we look at things in a totally comparative sense, things are always better than they might have been in the past and are always better than they are somewhere else. I refuse to accept that that means that ALL American women enjoy the same freedoms and privileges.

      4. You’re right about how boys are affected as well, but I suppose we probably disagree about how they are affected and whose fault it might be. Michael Kimmel does a great deal of interesting work on how BOTH girls and boys suffer in school from the effects of patriarchy. My point was more in response to the author’s idea that the playing field was open for girls to enter into whatever they wanted to study, a move that then implies that if they choose not to it is due to some inborn characteristic or personal failing.

      5. I don’t understand. Feminism is mostly about deconstructing meta-narratives. So there’s not really one “Feminist” narrative and the White House certainly doesn’t support women the way that it should. Feminism is also, not just about women.

      I think we probably disagree with each other but, in the words of The Dude “Yeah, well, that’s just like your opinion, man.”

      • 2) Questioning why we value Engineers more than Educators is a valid question. But that is the question. Engineers Vs Educators, not Men Vs Women. It is not a question of gender. Also, none of this is inborn or biological. It’s trained. Males are trained to be protector/provider, and that means pursuing higher wages even if it literally cost life or limb. But this pursuit of higher wages does mean men achieve higher wages.

        3) Simply not true. The BabyBoomer Generation is dramatically better off than any generation before OR AFTER. Things are getting worse, not better on the economic front.

        4) I’m sure we disagree on how they are affected and who’s at fault. There is no “The Patriarchy”. There are outdated dogmatic regressive harmful hurtful and repressive gender stereotypes for both males and females. Neither is Oppressed.

        5) There are many false claims about the reality of gender inequality. The reality is outdated dogmatic regressive harmful hurtful and repressive gender stereotypes for both males and females. There is no oppression or patriarchy or privilege or any of the other feminist constructs that have been informing and shaping public policy and perception for the last 50 years. Also, Check your dictionary. Feminism is the Advocacy of women’s rights, so yea it is just about women.

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