Thursday, April 04, 2019

The Equal Pay Day 2019. Where Echidne Dons Her Economist's Hat And Fixes Mistakes in Beliefs

 The Equal Pay Day 2019 was last Tuesday, the 2nd of April.  It's a day created to remind us how much longer women, on average, must work to earn the same amount men, on average, earned during the previous year.  So last Tuesday was roughly the day when women, on average,  would have caught up to men, on average, in total pay for 2018.

The coverage of the day in social media reveals a great lack of information about the economics of the gender gap in wages.  I saw many false interpretations of what it might mean, and I didn't really see economists chiming in to correct false interpretations.  So I'm going to pick two examples, one from roughly each side of the political aisle, to highlight a few of the central problems.

First example: Everything is Discrimination

This example is picked from what I'd call the left side of the political aisle.  Let's begin by looking at one tweet, picked not for being especially off (many were much more so), but because it highlights a couple of central misunderstandings:

The picture in that tweet is fine.  It says nothing that isn't true, on average, though keep in mind that it compares the earnings of various groups of women to the earnings of white men, not to the earnings of, say,  Asian-American men or African-American men.  Had we used some other comparison group, the percentage deficits in the earnings would have changed (1).

But the written information in that tweet has two errors (or one error and one unrelated comment, depending on one's interpretation).

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Agnes Varda, RIP

Agnes Varda has died at the age of ninety:

Agnès Varda, a groundbreaking French filmmaker who was closely associated with the New Wave — although her reimagining of filmmaking conventions actually predated the work of Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut and others identified with that movement — died on Friday morning at her home in Paris. She was 90.

Her movie Vagabond sometimes still haunts my dreams.  Another reviewer of her work agrees:

That year, one of her most critically and commercially successful films, “Vagabond,” about a dangerously unsettled woman, was released in the United States. I distinctly remember being freaked out by “Vagabond,” which opens on the corpse of Mona (a blazing Sandrine Bonnaire), a drifter who freezes to death in a country ditch. Raw, opaque yet also deeply moving, the film tracks her as she wanders from place to place, person to person, alone and finally unknowable. She’s a startlingly uncommon cinematic creation, partly because she is a woman who says no, including to other people.
Varda said she didn’t know why Mona repeatedly said no, a refusal that ends in death. I see “Vagabond,” in part, as a tough, unsentimental exploration about the limits of radical independence for women, which is perhaps what gives it the autobiographical aspect that runs through her movies.
That whole review is well worth reading, including this little snippet which, to me, speaks of the odd and possibly unintended way women so often end up erased when later history is written:

In the early 1980s, she spoke about being omitted from history books and from special issues of Cahiers du Cinéma dedicated to French cinema. “I was just plain forgotten,” she said. She kept going even if, as she admitted in 1986, with each film she had “to fight like a tiger.”
Such potential erasure is particularly troubling in the field of film directing where women are so very rare.  This post is my tiny contribution to fighting it!

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

The Sultan of Brunei And Stoning of Adulterers. A Feminist Reminder.

The Sultan of Brunei, with age, seems to have become more and more religiously fanatic and rigid.  He is an autocrat in Brunei, an oil-rich country of roughly 450,000 people on the island of Borneo.  Sixty-seven percent of Brunei's citizens are Muslims*, and in 2013 the Sultan announced that the laws of the country would be made to comply with the sharia.

He introduced the changes in the law gradually from 2014 onward, until from the early April of 2019  the most stringent hudud punishments  are to be applied:

Traditional Islamic jurisprudence divides crimes into offenses against God and those against man. The former are seen to violate God's hudud or "boundaries", and they are associated with punishments specified in the Quran and in some cases inferred from hadith.[4][5] The offenses incurring hudud punishments are zina (unlawful sexual intercourse such as fornication), unfounded accusations of zina,[6][7] drinking alcohol, highway robbery, and some forms of theft.[8][9] Jurists have differed as to whether apostasy from Islam and rebellion against a lawful Islamic ruler are hudud crimes.[4][10]
Hudud punishments range from public lashing to publicly stoning to death, amputation of hands and crucifixion.[11] Hudud crimes cannot be pardoned by the victim or by the state, and the punishments must be carried out in public.[12]

The linked Wiki article goes on to mention that the most extreme punishments were rarely implemented in the past, but that the recent Islamic revival has

...brought along calls by Islamist movements for full implementation of sharia.[14][16] Reinstatement of hudud punishments has had particular symbolic importance for these groups because of their Quranic origin, and their advocates have often disregarded the stringent traditional restrictions on their application.[14]

Thus, at least on paper**, the death sentence (by stoning, at least in some cases) will be applied to adultery, sodomy and rape.

Western official reactions have been condemning.  A quick search of the topic "Brunei" today tells me that most media headlines*** on this most recent expansion of sharia-based laws focus on its impact on gays and Lesbians.  And the LGBT individuals in Brunei are, indeed, under a very great threat.

But the law also prescribes a death sentence by stoning for adultery, whether between heterosexuals or not, and this is a greater threat for women than for men:

Campaigners say women are more likely to be convicted of adultery than men because discriminatory laws and customs penalise women more than men for sexual relations outside marriage.
If a man is unhappy with his wife he can – depending on the country – divorce, take other wives or marry another woman temporarily. A woman has few options. She can only divorce in certain circumstances and risks losing custody of her children.

Few Muslim countries agree with the Sultan of Brunei on the use of stoning and amputation as legal punishments.

But family laws governing marriage, divorce and child custody are based on Islamic sharia in several Muslim-majority countries, and in many of those women's testimony in the family courts is worth one half of men's testimony.  In general, women are at a disadvantage when laws are based on sharia, just as women would be at a disadvantage if US laws were based on literal interpretations of the Old Testament. 

* Thirteen percent are Buddhists, ten percent Christian and the rest belong to indigenous religions or others not specifically mentioned.

It seems that the hudud sentences will not be applied to non-Muslims.  Apostasy, however, also now carries a possible death sentence.  This means that Muslims cannot avoid the reach of the hudud laws for adultery and sodomy by converting out of Islam.

** Some experts believe that the law might not be implemented very often:

Whether the law going into effect on April 3 means that people will actually be stoned to death might be another matter.
“It is highly questionable whether the draconian laws will be implemented. Brunei has had a de facto ban on capital punishment and Brunei does care about its international image,” Harding wrote.
“However, even just having these laws on the books will not help its global image, in addition to being morally abysmal,” he added.

*** Examples:

Brunei's new anti-gay law goes into effect this week. Here's how the world is reacting

Brunei's crackdown on homosexuality: Why Kingdom is implementing draconian Sharia law

Students target Sultan of Brunei over homosexuality law

Mike Pompeo and Trump Administration ‘Concerned’ About Brunei’s Law to Stone LGBT People to Death

OUTRAGEOUS: Brunei On the Verge of Implementing Laws Punishing LGBTQ People With Torture and Death