The Spectacle Blog

Ladies: You Can’t Have It All

By on 4.9.14 | 5:07PM

In a low-blow attempt to make Republicans look like evil, money-hungry white guys who don’t care about women, Democrats recently introduced equal-pay legislation for the third time since 2010.

Unsurprisingly, Republicans voted no:

Republicans said the bill would make it hard for companies to award merit pay or offer flexible work hours in exchange for lower pay and expose employers to costly, frivolous lawsuits.

Ignoring the tired debate over whether Republicans hate women, let’s ask the relevant question: Do women really make less than men?

The 23 percent pay gap myth was already busted. Megan McArdle argued today that if you compare apples to apples—a man and a woman of the same age who work the same number of hours in the same profession with the same educational status—the gap shrinks to 5 percent.

So yes, women make 95 cents for every dollar a man makes, and perhaps that’s worth discussing. However, the substance of McArdle’s argument was that this discrepancy is partially subconscious and wholly unfixable via government intervention:

The part of pay disparity driven by sexism is so small that it will be very difficult to detect in any given case, or even in aggregate. The sexism that drives it probably mostly operates below the conscious level, in men and women who know that they don’t like hard-charging, opinionated women, but don’t recognize that this is partly because they’re women…

To the extent that it’s needed, the remaining work to be done on the pay gap has to be done in places where the government, or indeed any explicit policy, has difficulty going: inside families, or the subconscious recesses of our minds.

So if the pay gap is that small, what’s the feminist motivation behind this kind of legislation? Well, they want everything.

Women today want to work over forty hours a week at a fantastic job, have a vivacious social life, and be a stellar mom and wife. They think that’s the way things work in the “man-o-sphere” and so they should have it too.

What modern feminists forget is that men can’t have it all either. How many sad movies have you seen about work-a-holic dads who are never around for their kids? How many marriages break up because husbands spend too much time at the bar or the office? How many men have turned down raises and promotions because family came first? I know my dad has, and he’s certainly not the only one.

The thing is, you can’t have it all. You can’t be everything you want. And that’s not a gender problem, it’s a human problem.

So yes, that 5 percent discrepancy hurts. But this idea that free child care and flexible hours will somehow help women do everything they ever wanted is sheer nonsense. Even if women got paid exactly the same as men, they still couldn’t do it all. They would have to sacrifice somewhere.

Why?

Because kids still need parents, partners still like seeing each other, and for goodness sake, the dishes won’t clean themselves. 

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