Is Obama Condescending to Women?

Former CNN anchor Campbell Brown had an interesting op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times, where she criticized Obama for condescending to women voters in his attempt to gain their support:

It’s obvious why the president is doing a full-court press for the vote of college-educated women in particular. The Republican primaries probably did turn some women away. Rick Santorum did his party no favors when he spoke about women in combat[…]; when he described the birth of a child from rape as “a gift in a very broken way”; and how, if he was president, he would make the case for the damage caused by contraception.

But Mitt Romney will never be confused with Rick Santorum on these issues, and many women understand that. […] The struggling women in my life all laughed when I asked them if contraception or abortion rights would be a major factor in their decision about this election. For them, and for most other women, the economy overwhelms everything else.

Where Brown goes wrong, I think, is in assuming Republicans aren’t actually that serious about social issues. Her nod to Mitt Romney is meant to bolster the case that, in fact, Republicans are most concerned about the economy, and that’s how they can perform well with the majority of women who say the same.

But Brown’s view of the landscape is at odds with the facts. Republicans, at all levels of government, are peoccupied with efforts to restrict abortion rights and access to contraception. In Oklahoma last week, GOP Governor Mary Fallin signed a law that permits lawsuits against abortion providers—including those who proscribe medication—who do not follow the state’s informed-consent laws. Likewise, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has signed a law that excludes Planned Parenthood from state funding, and Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has signed a “conscience law” which allows pharamacists to refuse to provide drugs they believe might cause an abortion. On a different front, congressional Republicans have passed a version of the Violence Against Women Act that ends protections for immigrants.

Mitt Romney might not talk about his views on abortion and contraception, but he is only a stone's throw away from Rick Santorum on the issue. He supports a personhood amendment to the Constitution, which would define human personhood as starting from the moment fertilization; ending federal funding for Planned Parenthood; and hopes the Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade. President Romney would appoint anti-abortion judges to the federal judiciary, and in all likelihood oppose legislation like the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

Indeed, the core problem with Brown’s argument is that she imagines a neat division between economic and social issues where one doesn’t exist. Laws that limit reproductive health care have a direct effect on the economic lives of women. Without the ability to control and delay reproduction, it’s incredibly difficult for women to pursue education, develop careers, and carve out fulfilling, independent lives. A personhood amendment would result in an unprecedented attack on women’s privacy—everything from birth control to a miscarriage could potentially be illegal—and the absence of laws for fair pay would entrench the pay gap between men and women.

When Obama talks about the Republican record on social issues, he’s making an argument about economic opportunity as well, and my guess is that women—or at least, those who pay attention to these things—are well aware of that fact.

Comments

Re: "President Romney would ... in all likelihood oppose legislation like the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act."

Here's why:

The sole driving force behind the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the oft-proposed Paycheck Fairness Act is the belief that women earn 77 cents to men's dollar in the same jobs.

But contrary to what pay-equity advocates want us to believe, women's “77 cents to men's dollar” does NOT mean women are paid less than men in the same jobs. Nor does it mean that, even more incredibly in the vein of “men are stronger than women” (which means to many that every man is stronger than every woman), every woman earns 23% less than every man, perhaps leading some of the more benighted and the unthinking ideological to believe Diane Sawyer of ABC News earns less than the young man walking back and forth on the street wearing a “Pizzas $5” sign.

The figures are arrived at by comparing the sexes' median incomes: women's median is 77 percent of men's. In 2009, the median income of full-time, year-round workers was $47,127 for men, compared to $36,278 for women or 77 percent of men's median.

Median means 50% of workers earn above the figures and 50% below. That means that a lot of female workers in the higher ranges of women's median make more money than a lot of male workers in the lower ranges of men's median.

“Women's 77 cents to men's dollar” doesn't account for the number of hours worked each week, experience, seniority, training, education or even the job description itself. It compares all women to all men, not people in the same job with the same experience. So the salary of a 60-year-old male computer engineer with 30 years at his company is weighed against that of a young first-year female teacher. Also, men are much more likely than women to work two jobs; hence, often a man earning $50,000 from his two jobs is weighed against a women earning $25,000 from her one job, so that he appears to be unfairly earning twice as much as she.

Strategically ignoring this over the decades has been less than productive:

No law yet has closed the gender wage gap — not the 1963 Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, not Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, not the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, not the 1991 amendments to Title VII, not affirmative action (which has benefited mostly white women, the group most vocal about the wage gap - http://tinyurl.com/74cooen), not diversity, not the countless state and local laws and regulations, not the horde of overseers at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and not the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.... Nor will a "paycheck fairness" law work.

That's because women's pay-equity advocates, who always insist one more law is needed, continue to overlook the effects of female AND male behavior:

Despite the 40-year-old demand for women's equal pay, millions of wives still choose to have no pay at all. In fact, according to Dr. Scott Haltzman, author of "The Secrets of Happily Married Women," stay-at-home wives, including the childless who represent an estimated 10 percent, constitute a growing niche. "In the past few years,” he says in a CNN report at http://tinyurl.com/6reowj, “many women who are well educated and trained for career tracks have decided instead to stay at home.” (“Census Bureau data show that 5.6 million mothers stayed home with their children in 2005, about 1.2 million more than did so a decade earlier....” at http://tinyurl.com/qqkaka. If indeed more women are staying at home, perhaps it's because feminists and the media have told women for years that female workers are paid less than men in the same jobs — so why bother working if they're going to be penalized and humiliated for being a woman. Yet, if "greedy, profit-obsessed" employers could get away with paying women less than men for the same work, they would not hire a man – ever.)

As full-time mothers or homemakers, stay-at-home wives earn zero. How can they afford to do this while in many cases living in luxury? Because they're supported by their husband, an “employer” who pays them to stay at home.

The implication of this is probably obvious to 10-year-olds but seems incomprehensible to or is ignored by feminists and the liberal media: If millions of wives are able to accept NO wages, millions of other wives, whose husbands' incomes range from moderate to high, are able to:

-accept low wages
-refuse overtime and promotions
-choose jobs based on interest first, wages second — the reverse of what men tend to do
-take more unpaid days off
-avoid uncomfortable wage-bargaining (http://tinyurl.com/3a5nlay)
-work part-time instead of full-time (“According to a 2009 UK study for the Centre for Policy Studies, only 12 percent of the 4,690 women surveyed wanted to work full time”: http://bit.ly/ihc0tl See also an Australian report at http://tinyurl.com/862kzes)

All of which LOWER WOMEN'S AVERAGE AND MEDIAN PAY.

Women are able to make these choices because they are supported — or anticipate being supported — by a husband who must earn more than if he'd chosen never to marry. (Still, even many men who shun marriage, unlike their female counterparts, feel their self worth is tied to their net worth.) This is how MEN help create the wage gap: as a group they pass up jobs that interest them for ones that pay well. If the roles were reversed so that men raised the children and women raised the income, men would average lower pay than women.

Points to ponder:

Why would "greedy, profit-obsessed" employers, many of whom hire cheap illegal aliens, pay men more than women for the same work? If employers could get away with paying women less than men for the same work, they would not hire one man, ever.

The power in money is not in earning it (there is only responsibility, sweat, and stress in earning money). The power in money is in SPENDING it. And, Warren Farrell says in “The Myth of Male Power” at http://www.warrenfarrell.org/TheBook/index.html, "Women control consumer spending by a wide margin in virtually every consumer category." (Women's control over spending, adds Farrell, gives women control over TV programs.)

“There were fewer cases charging sex-based wage discrimination last year than the year before the [Ledbetter law] was signed, and the wage gap was wider in 2010 than it was in 2007.” -BusinessWeek, May 13, 2012, http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-05-13/obama-pitches-equal-pay-to-win-women-even-as-charges-drop

Excerpted from "Will the Ledbetter Act Help Women?" at http://malemattersusa.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/will-the-ledbetter-fair-pay-act-help-women/

RE: Male Matters:

Regardless of whether the Ledbetter Act helps women, I think we can all agree that it won't hurt women. For those of us who find your statistics implausible (women choose jobs based on interest and not on wages? Where is that study?) or find the conflation of the role of husband and employer problematic, the Lilly Ledbetter Act represents a way to ensure equal rights for women. And while you may disagree about our reasons to support it, there aren't many good reasons to oppose it.

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