Equal Pay for Equal Work: RADICAL

I spent this week deep in red country, and listened to a lot of Christian radio (what. It was either that or Justin Bieber, and I just couldn’t). It made me think a lot about spin, and how the language that each side uses affects the credibility as well as the emotions that any particular issue raises. My dad talked about how with radio, there was broadcasting, but the Internet has turned it into narrowcasting, with everybody only listening to/reading what they already believe. My goal is to have a more fair and balanced (GET IT?) look at the news, and try to understand all sides before jumping to conclusions.

“Republicans have a war on women!” Democrats shout. “Democrats are socialists!” Republicans shoot back. Democrats love killing babies! Republicans hate minorities! It never ends, even when looking at the same issue.

So when I heard about yesterday’s Democrat-led legislation to close the wage gap, and the fact that the GOP filibustered it, I thought, “I need to look at this more closely.” Surely my people are spinning it and the other side has an explanation. And they do! I will say, right here and now, that the war on women is a myth.

There cannot be a war if the attacking side does not register the enemy. There cannot even be a stealth attack if the other side does not register the enemy. The Republicans aren’t lying when they say there is no war on women, because they actually believe that women deserve to be treated differently, and worse, than men. It’s not that they hate women. It’s that they think women are cute little itty bitty people, almost human-like in their actions, who are so endearing when they are angry! Look at their sweet widdle fists in the air.

Lily Ledbetter
Lily Ledbetter is angry. As am I. Image via

The bill: “The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., would require employers to prove that differences in pay are based on qualifications, education and other ‘bona fides’ not related to gender. It also would prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who ask about, discuss or disclose wages in response to a complaint or investigation. And it would make employers who violate sex discrimination laws liable for compensatory or punitive damages. Under the bill, the federal government would be exempt from punitive damages.”

Here’s what I found when I looked for the Republicans’ side of things.

First up: this is such a burden. “We already have on the books the Equal Pay Act, the Civil Rights Act and the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which I did support,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) told a few reporters in the Capitol. “And I believe that they provide adequate protections. I think this bill would result in excessive litigation that would impose a real burden, particularly on small businesses. So I think existing laws are adequate.”

Thanks, Susan (and please get a different name. I don’t like sharing it with you). What you mean when you say “adequate protections” is that the $.77 on the dollar that women make is a-okay. 77% is equal enough! OH WAIT THAT’S NOT WHAT EQUAL MEANS. Okay, fine. Some people say $.91 on the dollar if you control for life choices, and I even heard on Marketplace that there are figures as high as $.95. THAT IS STILL NOT WHAT EQUAL MEANS. So no, Susan, that’s not adequate. And the bill might indeed place a burden on small businesses, but only the ones who are paying women less money simply because they are women. This is a very, very clear issue of right and wrong. And you don’t side with the person who is in the wrong just because you think they are burdened.

Next: this is not a real issue. It’s just the Democrats trying to get the woman vote. “It’s pure election-year politics,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). “This bill reads more to me like some sort of a welfare plan for trial lawyers.”

It’s pure election-year politics, that’s right. If you’re not one of the 40% of wives who are the primary breadwinner, or the 31 million households with women as their heads. Screw you, Marco. No, seriously. Screw you. My household is run by a woman, and while I’m sure everybody would be happy if we would focus on jobs instead of the fact that we are 23% poorer than similar households with men as breadwinners, no, we wouldn’t be happy. This is what I mean about there being no war on women: to so many people, it’s just a non-issue. How can this be a non-issue?

To continue on that line of thinking: “We don’t think America suffers from a lack of litigation,” [Mitch] McConnell said. “We have a jobless problem. We have a debt problem. We have a deficit problem. We got a lot of problems. Not enough lawsuits is not one of them.” And “On the heels of last week’s dismal jobs report, the last thing we should be doing is putting more job-killing burdens on small businesses and employers,” [Scott Brown] said.

Fine. You can believe that we have a lot of problems. But this is a problem. This is a problem. This is a problem that I deal with directly, that my daughter will deal with directly, and that matters. It’s not just a silly woman thing.

There can be no war on women by the Republicans when Republicans fail to notice that women even exist.

And finally, what made me lose my shit: “The pay gap is troubling if it is attributable to discrimination,” said Collins, a moderate Republican. “In other cases it may be due to personal decisions that women make to leave the workforce to raise children for a number of years and then to return to the workforce, for example. So I don’t think you can assume discrimination.”

Nothing that I have found, no matter how you slice it, says that women are receiving equal pay. None. Control for whatever factor you want. So, Susan. Figure out how studies work and stop making assumptions.

But even if she were right, this kind of thinking is awful. I didn’t choose to be the only person in my family who was biologically capable of carrying a child. I didn’t choose to put my life on hold for 9 months and have to scramble to get my dissertation research figured out on a vastly different timeline than originally intended because it seemed noble. I didn’t choose to get ripped open from one hole to the next and take several weeks to recover to the point where I could even sit down because my womanly sensibilities thought it would be awesome. The GOP party line says, actually, that choices are not possible, that pregnancy results in childbirth 100% of the time, and last I checked, nobody was writing bestsellers pressuring dads to stay at home. There is no such thing as the “daddy wars.

The United States needs the next generation as human capital, and women are making the majority of the sacrifices for that to happen. We treat motherhood like it is something that lazy jerks do who don’t want to come to work, and say things like “motherhood is a personal decision” that should result in lower pay for the same job. No. Motherhood is a sacrifice, one that is incredibly important to the future of this country, and to justify the discrimination against women because they raise the next generation is nothing short of disgusting.

I was hoping that what I would find, when I went looking for justification for blocking this bill, was something that would make sense. That the bill would maybe include some technicalities that were not discussed by the Democrats, that there was actually something terrible in there. What I found, instead, was that the GOP lawmakers think that it would burden companies (who discriminate against women), that the laws on the books are adequate (even though equality is not reached), that things are just fine the way they are. Which brings me back to the war on women. It’s not a war. It’s a dismissal. The fact that Republican lawmakers seriously do not see it as an attack on women is, ironically enough, proof that it’s actually much worse.

By Susan

I am old and wise. Perhaps more old than wise, but once you're old, you don't give a shit about details anymore.

24 replies on “Equal Pay for Equal Work: RADICAL”

I read a piece the other day on yahoo, talking about how men were re-entering the workforce in “pink-collar jobs” (a term which I loathe) as teachers, nurses, day care staff, administrative, etc. The article pointed out the differences in salary and kept asking then profiled men how it felt to be making less, being in a “woman’s job”, and so on. Other than being insulting, the article did redeem itself to say that even in these often low paying, pink collar positions, most men still make significantly more than their counterparts. Its something thats going off the idea that all women make 77 cent to a white man’s dollar , where as black women make 62 cents, and hispanic women make 54 cents.

Am I surprised by this move by the GOP? No. Does it make me any less mad? No. However, I do feel what has been lacking in coverage for the most part, specifically also in “feminist” discussions, the way that equal pay has usually been discussed in an office/corporate setting, where the folks who would benefit the most from discussion,coverage, and legal protection are working class women. If anyone has seen more pieces out there that cover this,

But lets get down to it. At the end of the day, even though women are more than half the population and do about 2/3 of the work, we still get about 10% of the total income and only own 1% of property. All this tells me, is that even the most privileged and powerful women are still jokes, and those who aren’t so privileged and powerful,  are a poorer, more despised joke. No one really wins.


I totally agree that the conversation is usually focused on white-collar jobs, and not enough attention is paid to working-class statistics. I do know from my extensive retail history that although most PT employees are paid the same regardless of gender, experience, or anything else, management still has a significant wage gap. One HR rep I encountered told me it was because men are better negotiators. Fuuuuuuuuck that. People are more likely to give men what they ask for is my theory. I negotiate like a cold-hearted mofo, and could still pick out when someone was trying to screw me over, salary-wise.

The negotiation trap is the worst.  If I don’t negotiate, I should learn to be more like a man, and if I negotiate, I’m entitled. When I found out they were paying the intern at my last gig more than me, I nearly shot through the roof and learned my lesson the hard, which is, know your worth.  Thank god my boss now has been through the same sort of horsenanny, but I wont ver go into another job situation where I won’t be taken seriously as far as money goes. I’m worth it to be hired? Then I’m worth it to be paid.

While I agree with almost everything you’ve stated, I do have to disagree on one point. Motherhood is a choice. It is a personal decision. Does the way that the U.S. handles maternity and its associated issues suck? Yes. Is it unfair for everyone involved, including those who leave the workforce to have children, and those who continue working and don’t have children, or those who do have children but stay in the workforce? Absolutely. But motherhood is a choice, and it’s not just mothers who are experiencing the wage gap. It’s women. Even ones without children.

Yes, you have a really good point there.  I guess I mean that if the family chooses to have a child, then there isn’t an option for the man to carry the kid.  But it’s seen as a choice that the mother makes to leave the work place and whatever, when – if the family wants a bio kid, that’s the only option.

But you are right about the childless, for sure.  I just – it makes me really, really angry that the thought is “well, it can be explained by women leaving work to take care of kids, and if you control for that, it would be even.”  Because it isn’t true, but even if it were true, it’s not like those women are off on a vacation.

I feel like it’s even worse when it’s explained by that logic, because if you do control for that, it’s STILL not even. I’m a control data point! I never left the workforce! Never will! And things are still not equal, even for me and my fellow childless data points. We’re still being fucked over, even with the “leaving the workforce” logic, which DOESN’T APPLY to us.

I do think that it’s a tricky situation, though, because when one woman does leave the workforce for a number of years to have and raise children, should she reenter the workforce at the same level as another woman who has been working the whole time? I’m not saying that motherhood isn’t work, at all; I’m saying that when one person leaves a field for a time and another stays in it, continuing to utilize the applicable skills, build connections, and keep up with trends, innovations, and changes within the field, is there even a way to handle these two people equitably? Because one side will invariably feel fucked over. I can pretty much guarantee that.

Right.  I guess – the way I see it is that somebody with equal experience and equal education should be paid equally.  And definitely not if somebody’s out of the workforce for several years to raise children they should get more than people who never left, but that also can’t be used to explain why they should get less for somebody who has the same experience and education and skills.

And increase the ability for men to leave for a few years, so that there is more of a choice, if that makes any sense.

But you are absolutely right – childless women get fucked over even more.  I lose the chance to see things rationally when somebody pats me on the head and says “oh, but it was your life choices,” like I wouldn’t have done it another way if I could have.

when one woman does leave the workforce for a number of years to have and raise children, should she reenter the workforce at the same level as another woman who has been working the whole time?

PoM – Absolutely not!   I say this as a stay at home mom who chose to leave a good career to raise my kids (5 years so far), but plans to return to work in a few years.  I also say this as a former Human Resources Analyst.  If someone takes years off of a job for any other pursuit, s/he should not expect to return to the level s/he would be at if s/he had stayed in that field.  For one thing, there is a deficit of years of work experience and seniority.  For another, every field has advances in information, changes and new technologies.  The learning curve alone would justify paying a returning worker less than someone who is already “up to speed”.  Once the returning worker has overcome the learning curve, then s/he should be paid the same as anyone with the same collective years of experience.

But, Susan, I understand where you are coming from!  I used to see women routinely discriminated against because they “took time off” to have a baby – not raise, just the birth and recovery. The company I used to work for would use guilt and subtle coercion to get pregnant women to stay at work past 38 weeks.  There was also an unofficial, but very actively practiced policy of discrimination against pregnant women, mothers with small children and  women “of child bearing age”.  Most recruiters and hiring managers I worked with would not even interview female applicants in their late 20’s to mid 30’s for senior management and executive positions.  Cause even if they didn’t have kids yet, they could still get knocked up!


I always worry when I ask these sorts of questions if my viewpoint makes me kind of complicit in the issue. Because I really don’t think that someone who has left the workforce for years should reenter it on par with someone who didn’t. For whatever reasons. And, as Susan said, parenthood is a sacrifice. So is it fair to say that one of the things sacrificed is position in the workplace?

I feel like there’s no good answer to this.

The sad thing is, even women who never want to have kids are paid lower wages because everyone assumes that they’ll change their minds at some point. You can’t tell when hiring someone whether she’s gonna want time off for babymaking, so better play it safe and pay her less because you might at some point need to give her maternity leave. Assholes.

Motherhood is a choice. It is a personal decision

Not always, unfortunately. Given the current reproductive rights landscape in the US, it would hard to argue that every woman who gives birth decided, fully and freely, to get pregnant and become a mother.

I do agree with you about the larger point – that the pay gap is not just due to mothers taking time off to have babies and look after them, but affects women as a group.

I can’t with the women who support the Republican party. I don’t know how they justify defending the patriarchy to themselves. It’s not like the old boys club will ever allow them to be one of the boys, and yet, every time, they vote with the boys.

For shame Olympia Snowe, here  I was sad that she was leaving Congress. Shame on you female GOP senators.

I saw a headline – I think on – yesterday and I laughed, because it was so accurate. A paraphrase: “Romney and the Republicans fail realise women’s issues are economic issues”.

Because: duh. What you’re paid? What you have to pay for birth control and healthcare? That’s all in &%^ing US dollars!!

I’m severely disappointed in her.

ETA: As a Mainer, I wrote her a letter!

Sen. Collins –

I’m incredibly disappointed in you, your vote against the Paycheck Fairness Act, and the comments you made to reporters saying “We already have on the books the Equal Pay Act, the Civil Rights Act and the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which I did support, and I believe that they provide adequate protections. I think this bill would result in excessive litigation that would impose a real burden, particularly on small businesses. So I think existing laws are adequate.”

In case you haven’t noticed, women still make 77 cents to a man’s dollar. By saying that the protections in place – which make that wage gap possible – are “adequate”, you’re essentially saying that you’re fine with women being paid less than men. If these provisions were truly adequate, we wouldn’t have a wage gap in the first place.

Shame on you, Sen. Collins. I thought you had our backs, as workers, as women, and as citizens. I guess I was wrong. I know how I’m voting next election – for someone who believes that I should earn as much as my brother for doing the same job. That person, clearly, is not you.

[my name and address]

OH SWEET!  Jim Risch is on the list?!  I owe him an angry letter and now I can make it a twofer!

Call me Mr. Bells in your computer-generated letter, patronizingly dismiss my request to reconsider your viewpoint on the DREAM act AND vote against equal pay?!  My typewriter is gonna be a-tapping!  Roll on 5 o’clock!

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