Neil Patrick Harris mocked the, shall we say, non-diversity of the Oscars lineup, but more clamorously received in the political theater of the moment was Patricia Arquette’s summons to get with the equal-pay-for-women cause. Which you might have assumed had slipped from causiness after 52 years of effort in Washington, D.C., to eradicate the imputed pay gap.
Not so. Because, look, “inequality” continues to vex and disgrace the progressive ideal of an America where variations among citizens, as to income, looks, tastes, intelligence and the like, are the result of nefarious Old Guard plots.
The Equal Pay Act of 1963, by Ms. Arquette’s reckoning, seems not to have worked out; nor anything meant since then to “equalize” men and women — the civil rights laws, the Lilly Leadbetter Fair Pay Act, the National Equal Pay Task Force, etc. One federal action after another — and still the pay gap persists! The usual reproach along this line is that full-time women workers take home only 77 percent of the bacon carried off by their male counterparts.
Really? What a mandate, if so, for the government to swoop down out of the hills upon employers large and small, classify all jobs, fix the pay rate for each one according to a chart prepared by Patricia Arquette, and then relax with a nice scotch — Mr. Jefferson’s vision in the Declaration of Independence thoroughly vindicated.
You could get the impression Ms. Arquette worked in Birdman — where Michael Keaton levitates in his jockey shorts — rather than in a feet-on-the-ground picture such as Boyhood. Christina Hoff Sommers of the American Enterprise Institute long ago demolished the 77-percent-gap narrative in the following terms:
The gap is simply the difference between the average earnings of all men and women working full time. It does not account for differences in occupations, positions, education, job tenure or hours worked per week. When such relevant factors are considered, the wage gap narrows to the point of vanishing.
Which isn’t even to mention, says Ms. Hoff Sommers, “critical variables” such as the choices women make. Maybe women don’t go into petroleum engineering because the idea of raising children or entering fields such as early childhood education and psychology somehow appeals to them more than it does to males.
Individual choice, I offer parenthetically, is not a concept beloved of progressive liberals, with their tightly woven theories as to what people should want, as opposed to what they do want: an indication, in progressive mythology, of social coercion. Ms. Hoff Sommers ripostes: “American women are among the best informed and most self-determining human beings in the world. To say that they are manipulated into their life choices by forces beyond their control is divorced from reality and demeaning, to boot.”
But attention-grabbing, it must be admitted. Out of her seat at the Oscar ceremony surged Meryl Streep to acclaim Ms. Arquette’s call to arms (raising the question whether Ms. Streep, who’s been around for 40 years, out-earns Emma Stone or Reese Witherspoon, not to mention Patricia Arquette; and, if so, what should be done about it).
The Academy’s politics are notoriously progressive, as everyone alive is aware. Nobody gave American Sniper an Iraqi Christian’s chance of landing the award for best picture. Many remember Marlon Brando’s no-show four decades ago, meant to underscore concern for Indians by sending the Apache actress Sacheen Littlefeather to reject the Academy’s desire to reward his Godfather performance.
Brando in those times, Arquette and Streep in these! So it goes. Alas.
It may be you were moved by Arquette’s added trumpet flourish in favor of “ecological sanitation in the developing world.” My own move, at ceremony’s end, was toward the remote control. I called up and watched my Turner Classic Movies recording of You Can’t Take It With You, winner of the 1938 award for Best Picture. Lionel Barrymore; James Stewart; Jean Arthur; Edward Arnold; Donald Meek: not a finger wagged by one of them in the face of a nation hopeful of finding joy, and some measure of truth, when the house lights went down.
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