By RA Monaco
Women “make exactly what they’re worth…and don’t want to be…given a little special handout to make sure they’re OK” claimed Martha MacCallum host of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom following the president’s State of the Union address.
Not to be out done, Daily Caller editor-in-chief, Tucker Carlson, offered up this pearl saying, “Women make more than men if you adjust for the time they take off for childbearing…voluntarily.” Clearly, Mr. Carlson hadn’t concerned himself with analysis of the numbers reported by Forbes.
Stepping up for late night comedy and speaking for the party that frequently laments its devotion to “family values” former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee jumped up to say—wait for it—“Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or reproductive system without the help of the government.”
Insulted, why? You just can’t make this stuff up and the corners of my mouth rise in the passing thought that the president was merely chumming-the-water for late night comedians. Oh, don’t forget, Huckabee’s party opposes equal pay legislation too—Mike isn’t there a bridge in Arkansas that you could shut down?
Contributing sarcastically on CNN’s “State of the Union” show, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul said, “The whole thing of the ‘war on women,’ I sort of laughingly say, ‘Yeah, there might have been – but the women are winning it…’I think women are doing very well, and I’m proud of how far we’ve come.”
So, just how far have we come and should America really be proud?
Consider the Founding Fathers and the mythology that persists around what really happened in colonial America seems the logical point for comparison.
Were the Founding Fathers really wise and just men trying to achieve equality and balance for people, including women? Doubtful, unless the balance was one that kept the dominant forces of their time in place. Certainly they did not want equal balance between slaves and masters, property holders and propertyless, Indians and white.
Most telling about the founding of America is the invisibility of women at its inception. They weren’t mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, they were absent in the Constitution and completely invisible in the new political democracy—America.
Influenced by Christian teachings, all women during the colonial period were burdened by the ideas carried over from England. A woman’s legal situation was described by the words of Julia Spruill, “The husband’s control over the wife’s person extended to the right of giving her chastisement…But he was not entitled to inflict permanent injury or death on his wife…”
As for property: “Besides absolute possession of his wife’s personal property and a life estate in her lands, the husband took any other income that might be hers. He collected wages earned by her labor…. Naturally it followed that the proceeds of the joint labor by husband and wife belonged to the husband.”
The biological uniqueness and physical characteristics of a woman, it seems, became a convenience for men like the “Founding Fathers” who could use, exploit, and cherish someone who was at the same time servant, sex mate, companion, and bearer-teacher-warden of his children. So intimate was the oppression of women that it remains entrenched in American society.
Consider how useful it is for societies based on private property and competition as in early America—where monogamous families became practical units for work and socialization—to find a celebrated status and patronize women.
As industrial life began to pull women outside the home, pressure built to keep women home where they could be more easily controlled. The outside world created fears and tensions in the dominant male world which brought about ideological controls to replace loosening family controls. The idea of “the woman’s place” was promulgated by men and accepted by many women.
Yet, because of that intimacy and long-term connection with children, the patronization of women in some ways created feelings of equality masking the reality that today some women like MacCallum choose to ignore or even promote.
On Sunday, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) offered an odd view on women’s paycheck fairness and equity laws suggesting on Meet the Press that federal legislation on workplace equity is condescending to women who are well-qualified for the workplace.
After she asserted that companies — and her own Republican Party — had to do a better job of incorporating females into the workplace former White House adviser David Axelrod asked Blackburn whether paycheck fairness laws would bolster women’s chances of achieving success. She responded by saying that Washington should stay out of the matter.
Blackburn has historically opposed legislation that protects women’s rights — usually under the guise that such laws hurt businesses, affects too many groups or is a congressional overreach.
According to the National Women’s Law Center, the majority of America’s full-time working women are still being paid 77 cents for every dollar that a man makes — a paltry 18-cent increase over what women were making in 1970. That disparity, says the Law Center, translates into $10,622 less per median-income woman every year to say nothing of the revenue loss in government taxes.
While some of the gender pay gap might be explained by the varying types of jobs and industries women and men are working in, the current disparity shows that those choices are often constrained—and that even when at its narrowest, the gap between earnings has far-reaching implications according to a Forbes analysis.
Economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis surveyed economic literature and concluded that “research suggests that the actual gender wage gap (when female workers are compared with male workers who have similar characteristics) is much lower than the raw wage gap.” They cited one survey, prepared for the Labor Department, which concluded that when such differences are accounted for, much of the hourly wage gap dwindled, to about 5 cents on the dollar.
Beyond paycheck fairness, the National Women’s Law Center recently filed sex discrimination complaints against four of the country’s largest insurance companies – Genworth Financial, John Hancock, Transamerica and Mutual of Omaha – in response to their recently-announced practice to begin “gender rating” long-term care insurance policies, or charging women more than men for the same coverage simply because they are women.
Those complaints are believed to be the first to challenge gender rating in long-term care insurance under the provision of the Affordable Care Act that prohibits sex discrimination in health care insurance under the provision of the Affordable Care Act that prohibits sex discrimination in health care.
Should the aim of government be simply to maintain order and referee between the commercial interests of these supposed equal opponents?
On the other hand, should the government have some special interest in maintaining a certain kind of order, a certain distribution of power and wealth, a distribution where government officials are not neutral referees but advocates?
The insensitive sarcasm of Sen. Paul shows just how out of touch he actually is on the battle front for equal pay—particularly with women in cities, African-American women, low-income earners, single women and women without a college degree.
Also, the gender gap between earnings is clearly at odds with “family values” which too often is lamented with insincerity. In terms of gender equality American women are no longer invisible and Paul’s mocking of the “war on women” seems like a kick in the tiger’s rear—now he’ll be dealing with their teeth—proof positive of how far as a society we have yet to come.