The wage gap is a myth!
Women don’t earn less than men!
The 77-cents-on-the-dollar stat is bullshit!
Thus begin countless posts, articles, comments, editorials and even infographics (some of which are illustrated here for your vomit-inducing enjoyment) that talk about the wage gap – written by people I might start referring to as “Wage Gap Mythers”. I’ve literally lost count of the number of times I’ve read this sort of thing in the last few months. Seemingly endless pages are devoted to dispelling the idea that women earn less than men. Every time someone brings up the wage gap, the Mythers drop by. They’ve been shared across Facebook groups, wikis, websites and comment sections so frequently that I really just want to get a stock response written down to them – it saves time.
The grand irony of all these Myther posts, though, is that while their titles and thesis statements say things like “the wage gap is a myth”, what they then go on to do is to demonstrate the exact opposite. It’s almost creationist-like thinking: start with the conclusion, and shoehorn that conclusion into any and all facts you can find. Even if the facts outright contradict the conclusion or the logic developing those facts doesn’t support it. I’ll demonstrate how this works by breaking the “myth” argument down into a little step-by-step:
- State that women don’t earn less than men (or don’t earn 3/4 of their average earnings) – this is our generic Wage Gap Myther thesis statement
- State that this is because women do different jobs and have different commitments and so can’t earn as much as men and generally demonstrate numerous reasons why women actually earn less than men
- Absolutely ignore that Point 2 directly contradicts Point 1
If there’s time, the next point is to conclude that the real “wage gap” is only a few percent once you’ve taken all the reasons stated in Point 2 into account. Which is like saying “well, if you take into account the slant and the wobbliness, this floor is perfectly flat”. Or “once you’ve subtracted all the people living there, the population of London is actually zero”. Or “once you’ve taken into account all the people in indentured servitude against their will, slavery doesn’t exist”. You get the picture – “if you ignore the potential sources of sexism, sexism doesn’t exist!”, which I think is the most concise summary of the Myther position possible.
I don’t know how best to summarise the problems with the Wage Gap Myth argument in a way that will get through to Mythers. Because if Mythers are united by one thing it’s the fact they’ve been tricked into thinking they’ve done something highly clever; they’ve delved into the data, they’ve reached their own conclusions, and everyone thinks that when you reveal something as a “myth” it must be a really skeptical, rational and intelligent thing to do… but they haven’t. No data that you can find actually dispels the notion that women, on average, earn less than men – often very significantly. About 20% less in the United Kingdom, about 23% in the United States (a place still stubbornly opposed to any sort of Equal Pay Act) and 16% across the European Union on average, with a massive variance across member states. The studies are there, the statistics are there, they’re not going away. The Myther thesis statement is just plain and simply wrong.
So what does that leave you with if you’re a Myther and want to write something on the subject of a wage gap? Well, you can quibble that “on average” needs to be given context, because those statistics are over an entire population of men and women, and you can mention all the reasons that women earn less than men, and, well… that’s about it. Unless you’re a complete fucking idiot in which case you might say “well, this man earns less than this woman therefore…” but the less said about people who try that one the better.
So I’ll summarise why the Wage Gap Myth argument is bullshit, as best as possible in big letters and short words:
FINDING EXCUSES FOR SOMETHING IS NOT THE SAME AS PROVING IT DOESN’T EXIST
In fact, let’s just underscore the irony of these responses one more time: their premise is “the wage gap doesn’t exist” and “women don’t earn less than men” but because that’s a fact that simply is, these “myth” posts have to explicitly acknowledge the existence of a wage gap and then find excuses for it. The Myther argument is nothing but excuses: excuses that simply wouldn’t exist and wouldn’t need to be found if the wage gap was actually mythical.
Did I mention this is creationist-level logic, here? What part of “the wage gap is a myth” and “women don’t earn less than men” is supported by making excuses for the very existence of such a fact?
But anyway, let’s assume a hypothetical Myther accepts this, and they then accept that they are, in actual fact, just making excuses… sorry, finding reasons… for the gap. After all, women do, statistically speaking, do different jobs to men. They do, statistically speaking, take care of children more frequently. They do, really they do, take on more part-time and lower paid work. So yes, you’re right – whether you’re an MRA, a politician, some random blogger who thinks they’re smarter because they’ve stumbled upon this startling revelation – there are reasons women, on average, earn less than men.
My laconic response to that? “Congratulations! Have a fucking prize!”
(Does the sarcasm come across in text, I’m never sure…)
Do you genuinely think this is news to people?
Do you really think that this somehow isn’t the point social progressives and feminists have been making for years?
Do you actually think that, somehow, this is an okay situation to be in?
Are you waiting for me to declare “Oh how wrong I’ve been! Women aren’t treated like shit in the world! They’re just… erm… treated like… shit! But that’s fine, there are Reasons!”
Let’s use the word “predicated” in a sentence: the Myther argument is predicated on a straw man interpretation that people complaining about the wage gap are under the impression that women get paid ~20% less for the exact same work. This isn’t true at all. Which you’d know if the average Myther had ever bothered reading anything written by a Social Justice Warrior Enthusiast any time in the last few decades. But I really don’t think the average Myther or MRAsshole or MGTOWer would ever be caught dead doing such a thing.
The Reasons behind the wage gap really isn’t news to anyone. No one who has ploughed any thought into the existence of the wage gap needs to be informed of these reasons. Yes, women earn less because they work different hours at different pay rates because of various reasons. Thank you very much Captain Fucking Obvious. The difference between the progressive opinion and the “we more smarter than you because wage gap be myth” position is that we took it a little further – we asked one more “why?”
Why do women work these lower paid jobs? Could it be that society rail-roads us into particular careers? Could it be that men are told they should do one thing and women another?
Why do women disproportionately do more child-care than men? Surely, if we’re such an equal society that the wage gap is a “myth”, then this shouldn’t be an issue, right? Last I checked, it took two people to make a baby (this may be news to people with the emotional and intellectual maturity of the average Men’s Rights Activist, of course) and so why wouldn’t the responsibility be split nearly 50:50? Surely there should be nothing to take into account from this if there wasn’t a social discrepancy, right?
Or let’s take a more insidious twist on that first “why” – Why do we pay less for jobs that women do? Put another way: do we force women into lower paying jobs, or do we devalue jobs done by women? That dichotomy is the driving force that explains the existence of a wage gap – a fact that “Wage Gap Mythers” very explicitly admit to in their quest to find excuses – and neither option looks like it could let society off the hook.
The answers to those additional “why?” questions aren’t straightforward, nor are they easy to admit to, and certainly outside the scope of this post. But we try. We at least give it a shot, which is certainly an improvement on an argument that stops two logical steps previously and assumes the opposite conclusion.
And this is without getting into the research that demonstrates – in both controlled and real-world environments – that women tend to get offered lower starting salaries for identical qualifications (something replicated with ethnicity, and it gets worse there), get rejected at a higher rate and let’s not get started on the attitudes that they can and do face at work. None of that even comes close to supporting the Myther position.
In many respects, Mythers have their facts absolutely straight. They’ve thought about how society affects women and minorities, how it affects their eduction, their lifestyles, and leads to the fact they earn far less than their more privileged counterparts. It’s just fundamentally annoying that they’re so blinded by the presumed “myth” conclusion that they can’t see what these facts are outright screaming in their face.
You may now commence your incessant adolescent whining in the comments.