Did Feminism pick the wrong target?

The first time I encountered “feminism” was due to activists at university. I learnt that women were oppressed and that there was a patriarchy that “rapes” women with their codices, no matter whether they were passed as law or upheld as mores. Any kind of social norm was seen as being disadvantageous for women, even when it benefited them. For instance, if you take a woman out on a date and buy her dinner it doesn’t matter that she got a free meal. No, what matters is that you objectified her and tried setting up an economic transaction that ultimately objectifies and disempowers women. Isn’t this completely obvious to anybody?

In short, I quickly realized that feminists didn’t quite live in reality. I also got the impression that instead of attempting to understand the big picture they were too focussed on particulars. If needed, they would just come up with ad hoc explanations that have an air of the desperate, at least if you’re versed in “tools of oppression” like mathematics or logic.

Let’s now talk about one of the big issues, and the misguided interpretation of feminists. We’ve been told that there is a patriarchy that subjugates women, while all men have it oh-so-good. Now, looking at my lot as a man, and at my friends, or at basically any guy I see, I don’t think that we all have such a great life. We all struggle to get by, and if not financially, then emotionally because a well-compensated job might undermine our emotional well-being. In short, we men make many sacrifices, and if there is a “gender pay gap”, it’s not because someone pays us 20 % more just because we’ve got a dick, but because there’s a sound reason to pay us a bit more money than someone else. In the end, it often boils down to skills and experience.

We men didn’t collude to keep women down. Ask any guy who busts his ass in college or on the job, and he’ll tell you that he makes sacrifices. Many of our choices were not due to some short-term gain, but in the hope of a potential long-term payoff. This might also explain why there aren’t so many men studying Communications. So, if you look at the “gender pay gap” from the angle of skills, it suddenly evaporates. This is not all, though. Somehow I get the idea that ideologues want the “gender pay gap” to disappear without women stepping up their game. This was certainly an impression I had when I skimmed a recent pamphlet of the European Union with the promising title, “Tackling the Gender Pay Gap in the European Union”[1], which seemed to neglect that some jobs are simply better paid because they require a certain education, or great devotion. However, they are just as open to women than men. Nursing is well-paid, and certainly a valid option for men. On the other hand, nothing keeps a woman from coding. The software came preinstalled on her shiny Apple MacBook Air already.

All this talk about the “gender pay gap” is a big fuss about nothing. The problem, instead, is due to income inequality, and the dramatic differences in social class they beget. If you’re from America, you’ve probably been told that you live in a “classless society”, and that everyone can make it if he just tries hard enough. This completely ignores the fact that in the US wealth is more unequally distributed than in many third world countries, with the top 1 % owning more than 1/3 of all wealth. 45 million people live in poverty. You could make an effort and look up pay scales, and you’ll find that for the most part income differences aren’t so dramatic. The poor are equally poor, the average well-off are averagely well-off, and the top-earners make top dollar. Everything changes once you have a look at the people who own all the land, and all the money, and hide their assets in an off-shore tax shelter.

When feminists now argue about the “gender pay gap” that doesn’t even exist I wonder why they just don’t reflect a little bit longer and ask themselves why society allows such an enormous agglomeration of wealth of just a few individuals. I don’t want to ramble about some social utopia, but when I think of the amount of money that was used to bail out the banks that caused the ongoing global recession I can only shake my head. If this is too far-fetched, then think about why it is that there is universal health care in Europe but not in the US. This is an example of everybody being better off in the end, and it’s also one of the reasons why pundits on American TV dislike Europe. Socialism for the rich is fine and dandy, but socialism for everybody is a big no-no.

If you don’t want to tackle big problems, you can of course set up Potemkin villages and harp on about the minor inequalities between men and women, while ignoring the dramatic inequalities between the few people at the very top and ordinary people. The distribution of wealth is a far greater problem than the alleged gender pay gap. With regards to the latter, though, it also seems that women want something for nothing. Instead of rewarding the engineer who put decades into his education, the goal is to equalize pay no matter what. Here’s a quote from the pamphlet of the European Union, which I mentioned above[1]:

Women and men carry out different jobs and often work in different sectors. In the health and social work sector alone, women make up 80 % of all workers. Sectors where women are in the majority have lower wages than those dominated by men.

But is the comparably lower pay in those sectors due to the work itself being compensated less than some other occupations, or due to most of the workers being women? After all, it’s not the case that a male nurse makes more than a female nurse just because of his sex. I’m quite certain that pay will be quite comparable. It’s simply questionable reasoning. Besides, I don’t think work in health care is so poorly paid, and if it is, by some standard, I’m sure it will be easy to find an occupation in which men dominate that is poorly paid as well, but never the topic of a glossy brochure.

Is the male nurse oppressed? Well, I don’t think so, and neither is the female nurse. You could only make the claim that the “system” oppresses both because they are both forced to work for a living. This would be an entirely different debate, though. However, even if you raised the income of the female nurse, and the male nurse, too, to the level of a well-compensated mechanical engineer. Sure, they would now be better off. You’d also change some incentive structures, which might lead to unintended consequences. The enormous difference between the super-rich and the common worker would be basically unchanged. This might be why there is no mainstream opposition to feminism. For the people who own the media, it’s a rather convenient ideology.

[1] http://ec.europa.eu/justice/gender-equality/files/gender_pay_gap/gpg_brochure_2013_final_en.pdf

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