Thursday, August 08, 2013

Fox and Friends on Feminism As Unnecessary

In case you like a bitter laugh to complete your day:

In that video Stossel tells us that there is nothing that remains undone for feminism.  Indeed, the clip begins by showing girls playing princess, in a caring way, and boys turning triangles into guns to play war.

Now that we have shown clearly and decisively that the sexes ARE different, the rest of the piece argues why equality already exists.   And that we shouldn't try for it because the sexes ARE different.

We are fed a list of myths, some of which Stossel convincingly proves false by not having any economics training or any understanding about how labor markets work, some of which he proves false by determining that they are false based on the outcomes.  For an example of the latter, public schools discriminate against boys because fewer boys than girls go to college.  Yet a similar difference, women earning less, on average, is interpreted as not discriminatory at all.

In other words, different outcomes are sometimes quite fear and natural (women earning less) and sometimes discriminatory (boys not going to college as often).

Then there's the myth about Title IX.  Stossel argues that boys are keener to do college sports than girls and that this means we should abolish Title IX (which, by the way, bans sex discrimination in higher education in academics as well) but continue funding an activity which is not part of academics and only really liked by one gender.

As a conclusion, then, difference are natural when they seem to benefit men, unnatural when they seem to benefit women.  Got it?

I have written on much of Stossel's supposed myths list many times, on much higher level of analysis, so I won't repeat myself here.  But I'd like to pick just one of his comments for closer scrutiny:

Doocy and Stossel first attempted to tackle the gender pay gap. While admitting that it is true women are paid 77 cents for each dollar men make, Stossel claimed the discrepancy is because, "we don't work the same jobs." The reason, according to him, is that "women have their priorities in order. They often choose jobs that are less time-consuming, not so far away, and not as dangerous." He concluded that if a true pay gap existed, the market would have sorted it out.

On the market sorting the gap out:  He refers to one very simplistic economic theory there, and more realistic theories (which add uncertainty, lack of information, asymmetric information and possible co-worker and customer biases into the model as well as imperfect market conditions) do not prove that the market would have "sorted it out."  Note, also, that if markets sort stuff out so efficiently the collapse of the housing and financial markets should make Mr. Stossel eat his tie.

On women "choosing" jobs which are less time-consuming, not so far away, and not as dangerous:  First, this is not really "choice," in the sense of you choosing coffee and me choosing tea.  If women are responsible for childcare, laundry, cleaning and grocery shopping at home they will find working longer hours harder than otherwise completely identical men do.   Whether women tend to work closer to their homes is something I have never seen studied, but if that is the case the reason for it is also likely to be in the need to be able to pick up the kids from daycare and then get the food for the evening dinner and to pick up the dry-cleaning etc.

Also, the "choices" men and women make are not independent of each other.  A full-time breadwinner helps a stay-at-home spouse to stay at home, the latter helps the former to focus on career.  When both spouses work the division of household chores may not fall equally.  One solution to the disagreements this might cause is for the lower-paid spouse to cut back on her or his hours.

Second, dangerous jobs are not common enough to explain average earnings differences between men and women, and most of the highest-paying male-dominated jobs are not dangerous.  Some female-dominated jobs (prostitution) are very dangerous.

And how dangerous a job is often depends on one's gender.  Consider driving a taxi in a large urban area.  Women can do that job but are uncommon among taxi drivers.  I believe that this is mostly because a woman driving a taxicab late at night faces higher risks than a man.  Both can be robbed, mugged or killed but she can also be raped and abducted for that purpose, and she is much more likely to face sexual harassment from her customers.  In short, we need to view the concept of "danger" without gender-blinders on.

Third, studies do NOT show that once we DECIDE the gender differences in earning are just by choice, all differences vanish in a mildly sour-smelling puff of bad air.  The studies that come up with that conclusion do not control for all relevant variables, look at only some sub-groups, such as young adults and fail to deal with the problem that men and women being in different kinds of jobs, on average, does NOT PROVE that those different types of jobs were picked without any pressure or outside discrimination or the impact of traditional gender expectations and so on.  Indeed, the easiest way to discriminate against some member of a defined group is to keep that person in a job which cannot be easily compared with the jobs people of other groups hold.  For example, a bigot might not promote women or members of a minority etc, mostly because she or he truly believes that those workers are not as good or that they are more likely to quit or more likely to take time off.

It's much, much more complicated than Mr. Stossel wants us to believe.

It is still true that our job expectations are gendered.  Jobs which are coded as suitable for women tend to be lower-paying and sometimes (but not always or even usually) offer greater flexibility for childcare duties. 

There's a sense in which deciding on one's job on the basis of gendered expectations IS a choice.  If a young man believes or anticipates that he is going to be responsible for supporting a family financially one day, he is less likely to choose education which doesn't lead to well-paid jobs.  In reverse, if a young woman believes or anticipates that she is going to be responsible for all childcare one day, she might be less likely to choose education which leads to  well-paying but rigidly defined and time-intensive jobs.*  Once these early choices are made, they, in turn, will affect future choices.

I don't know.  I get hot-and-bothered on people telling untruths or telling their own opinions as truths.  Only us goddesses are allowed to do the latter and nobody is allowed to do the first.
*There are also obvious rewards for both of the traditional paths.  Having a home-team to take care of everything else is great for an ambitious and career-directed person, having a full-time source of funding is great if it allows for a less hectic space, more time with one's children and perhaps even time for doing something one wants to do but can't get paid for.  At the same time, the negative consequences of these choices are real and painful. My interest in this is ultimately linked to the question which roles have which societal consequences, how the society changes or adapts or does not, and what this all means in fields such as misogynistic views about women's abilities to lead, the dependence of women on possibly dysfunctional family setups and also what fathers lose when their traditional roles in the family are to be the wallet or the guy with the whip.