The Spectacle Blog

Miss USA and Hysteria Over the Gender Pay Gap

By on 6.24.13 | 6:00PM

By now, most Americans have probably seen the clip from Sunday night’s “Miss USA” pageant, in which Miss Utah struggles through the most painfully incoherent and intensely awkward answer to a judge’s question we’ve seen since Miss South Carolina’s ultimate fail on Miss Teen USA.

Those who haven't can watch here, at their own risk:

What stood out to me even more than Miss Utah’s answer, however, was the incredibly loaded question from the judge, Nene Leakes:

A recent report shows that in 40% of American families with children, women are the primary earners, yet they continue to earn less than men. What does this say about society?

The report in question was done by the Pew Research Center, and did not even weigh in on the comparative pay scales between men and women. Leakes obviously invoked the “gender pay-gap” theory to grind her own ax, and set up a question with an utterly false premise: the idea that women make less than men when performing equal work.

Leakes could desperately use a reality check, because the gender pay-gap has been proven to be a myth many times in the last several years. More women are graduating from college than men, and are entering the workforce making just as much as their male counterparts, but then drop out due to life choices, according to a Pay Scale study released in May. An in-depth study done by the U.S. Department of Labor in 2009 found: “The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers.”

Rather than acknowledge new statistics and accept that time has brought change and improvement, there remain those who refuse to put away the victim card. The myth-pushing progressives and social-justice crowd seem to prefer dragging the national discourse through the mud of supposedly rampant discrimination, hatred, and human failure to the point that we can never applaud America’s achievements or congratulate Americans on doing so many things right. Furthermore, propagating politically correct myths blinds us to the other potential problems that truly need to be addressed. “Exhibit A” is our pageant judge’s interpretation of the Pew Research study.

Our progressive friends see the report and notice that 40% of households have a female breadwinner, and they applaud this. But they do not notice the part of the report revealing that roughly two-thirds of those households are led by single moms, who are struggling with a $23,000 median income -- hardly above the poverty line -- and children to support.

As Sherlock Holmes would say to his trusted but less-brilliant sidekick, “My dear Watson, you see, but you do not observe.”

Even worse, among never-married mothers the median income is $17,400. The poverty line for a parent with one child is $15,504; with one parent and two children, $18,123. Instead of just celebrating the breadwinner statistic, shouldn't progressives be acknowledging these numbers as well?

On the other hand, in the 5.1 million households where the mother is married and is also the breadwinner, her median income is $80,000.

If this says nothing else, it’s that we should applaud the family system because it clearly works, for women as well as their families. The married women in the study who pursued work and rose to become the primary earner in the family clearly benefited from having a spouse to lean on, and the additional income doesn’t hurt a family’s stability either. But these married women, whose success stories include high levels of education as well as income, make up only a third of the female breadwinners being glorified by the progressive agenda. The rest are all single moms, with much lower levels of both education and income, which sadly puts them as well as their children in an extremely difficult hole.

With all this in mind, here is what Miss Utah should have said:

1. The gender pay-gap is a myth that has been exposed by numerous studies in recent years that show that women make less as a whole because of the aggregate choices they make in regard to career fields, time, and social—rather than financial—benefit.

2. “What this says about society” is that the family is falling apart, -- single moms represent 25 percent of households today, contrasted with 7 percent in 1960 -- and no one wins in that situation: not the single moms and dads who struggle to find the time to be a parent as well as a provider, and not the children who lack the balance and stability of a two-parent home.

3. The Pew Research study does show with stark clarity that marriage is a huge benefit in the lives of women, as demonstrated by the drastic gaps in education and income between married women and single women. Therefore, to care about women’s education and career possibilities is to care about the success of the family and marriage in America.

Maybe someday we’ll be gifted with a Miss USA contestant who is capable and willing to speak truth to power. Until then, we can look forward to more pageant judges doing what they do best: desperately attempting to peddle their poorly constructed political and social insights to anybody with so little discernment, and such an excess of time on their hands, that they care about what pageant judges have to say about the world.

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