The feminist complaint festival
Apr 25, 2006
by Carrie Lukas
April is a beautiful month in Washington DC: blooming trees line the streets, gardens erupt with colorful tulips, and people open windows to welcome the warm air. It's a season for optimism. Unless, of course, you are a part of the liberal feminist movement. For the feminists, April is a season for complaining.
Martha Burk, President of the National Council of Women's Organizations, began the month celebrating her own spring tradition--protesting the PGA Masters' tournament in Augusta, Georgia. This year's protest was tame in comparison to her past media-hyped events. She published the obligatory op-ed and press release denouncing Augusta National Gulf Club's male-only membership policy and threatening companies (like Exxon) that support the tournament. Fans cheering Phil Mickelson's victory were none the wiser.
But the real feminist complaint festival begins on Tuesday April 25th. To feminists, it's Equal Pay Day, a pseudo-holiday when National Organization for Women and National Council of Women's Organizations lament the disparity between men's and women's wages. Feminists groups claim that the first four months of the year were spent making up for last year's gap. On April 25, women have finally earned as much as men in 2005.
There's one problem with Equal Pay Day--the premise is bogus. Department of Labor data confirms that the median wage of a full-time working woman is three-quarters of that of a full-time working man, but like too many statistics, this fact ignores more than it reveals. This data doesn't account for relevant factors such as occupation, experience and educational attainment.
Feminists may not like it, but the evidence shows that women's choices--not discrimination--cause wage gap. Warren Farrell -- a former board member of the National Organization for Women's New York chapter -- identifies 25 decisions that individuals make when choosing jobs in his book, Why Men Earn More. Women, he finds, are much more likely to make decisions that increase their quality of life, but decrease their pay.
Most people understand that many women often take time out of the workforce to care for family members, particularly young children. Even women who work full-time log fewer hours in the office on average than full-time working men. It is common sense that a worker who remains employed continually is going to make more than someone who drops out of the workforce for several years.
Working less is just one of the decisions women make that results in less take-home pay. Women also avoid dangerous jobs (more than nine in ten occupational deaths occur among men) and jobs that place them outdoors in the elements. Women are less willing than men to move for a job or travel frequently. Dr. Farrell's book provides a roadmap for how individual women can increase their earnings, by making different choices, including working more hours in the office, assuming more risks or relocating for a job.
It's important for women to recognize these tradeoffs. Women who hear the feminists' rhetoric on Equal Pay Day may feel exploited. But before embracing the victim myth, they should consider how their choices have affected their careers. Most women will find that their decisions have been made based on many factors. Women care about financial compensation. But they also consider the number of hours in the office, whether the work is personally fulfilling, and the convenience of the workplace.
Men place a higher priority on pay than women when assessing a job. Why do feminist join men in fixating on this one aspect of work life? Why should we assume that men have the right priorities? Instead of urging women to act more like men, feminist ought to celebrate the choices that women make, including the choice to forgo income in favor of more time with family or jobs that are personally rewarding.
I'm partially to blame for the income gap. I've chosen a less-lucrative career that allows me to work from home while I care for my infant daughter. But you won't see that in the statistics: when feminists look at the data, I'm simply a full-time worker who is not making as much as she could. I'm not a victim. I'm just someone who has made choices that make the most sense for my personal situation. And unlike the feminists, I'm not complaining.
Carrie Lukas is the director of policy at the Independent Women's Forum, a Townhall.com partner organization, and the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex, and Feminism.