On Today’s Class

I just wanted to expand on a couple of issues raised in class today.

First: Someone mentioned the income disparity between women and men. This is a fallacy of the highest order perpetuated for reasons self-serving to today’s feminists.

Let’s just say for the sake of argument that there are two generic recent graduates of Ohio State, one male, one female. They took the same classes, got the same grades, and graduated with the same degree. They apply for similar jobs and are hired at the same rate. All other variables being equal, they will make about the same amount over their lifetimes.

Still, though, there is an income disparity in favour of the generic male that is more than statistically significant. He will make more money over his lifetime according to the statistics. I think 33% more was mentioned. Well, that’s true, but with a major caveat.

The income disparity arises in the statistics when women who leave the work force to raise children are still included in the wages/lifetime calculus. In other words; women who are not seeking or available for wage earning are still included in the larger group of female wage earners. Of course the statistics are going to be skewed if our generic female graduate takes several years off to raise children. DUH. (That is not to say that raising kids is not work–VERY HARD WORK, indeed, and often thankless, so thank you moms. It’s just not wage earning work.)

If the group of women that are not seeking work and raising children are excluded from the calculus, the wages/lifetime disparity drops to about 1%; i.e., barely statistically significant. That then can be eliminated when the fact that women often seek jobs in the voluntary or public sector where wages are just plain lower than in the more competitive private sector.

Second: East vs. West in regard to women’s rights. I will frame this argument in a way that is topical and maybe easier, then, to understand.

The current state of politics in the US is fractious, toxic and not all that productive. The recent debate over the debt-ceiling is a good example. Not only was it totally fubar, but the rhetoric got pretty heated from both sides (I can’t wait to revisit it after the super committee makes its decisions–yay). Enter Barack Obama and his claim that “both sides are as much to blame” in the ruination of the US’s fiscal situation. Obviously this is not true, and without getting into the specifics, I think it is pretty clear that one side owns the greater share of the blame for creating the situation.

But he is playing the part of the conciliator. He was saying that blame ought to be shared equally so as to spare the other side the embarrassment of admitting they were wrong. It is an expedient, and probably moved the situation in the direction away from the disaster it could have been. So, hooray for conciliation.

I, however, am not above assigning blame where blame is due.

To relate it to our discussion about East v. West and women’s rights: I think everyone shared in the opinion that both East and West share equally in mistreatment of women.

Certainly if we were to take the last 2000 years and hold an imaginary graph of East and West women’s rights side by side, for nearly 2000 years they would be equal. In the interest of not unduly embarrassing either side, we say that both sides are equally deplorable.

I agree, but with a major caveat.

The above would be true if we ignore the last 50 years of Western history. By any metric of freedom: income; voting rights; abortion rights; agency; clothing choices; driving rights; etc., we can say with confidence that the West has by far outpaced the East in terms of women’s rights.

I also do not think that it is Orientalist to say so.

We also said that there are debates over in the East among Easterners about the same issues, and that it was ok for them to be self-critical because they are not thinking through an Orientalist lens, but for a Westerner to be critical is somehow negative and wrong. I think the criticism is right and valid in this case, and there is evidence to back up the argument. For the sake of women everywhere, it ought to be pointed out publicly.

So, that was probably offensive on many levels. Just to clarify, I am being intentionally provocative.

I would really like to hear your reactions and comments.


4 thoughts on “On Today’s Class

  1. Thanks for this post. Since it came up: I don’t think anything here is offensive in the sense that the post is not disrespectful to anyone.

    I’m also curious about the responses. The first part is a straight-up argument about statistics. The second has fewer stats, but rests on a generalization about “West” and “East.” Questioning such generalizations while paying attention to real differences was precisely the reason for today’s class.

    So: what kinds of research questions should we ask to investigate global differences in women’s rights and situations?

  2. Interesting. You do make a good point. However when I looked at a few pages they described without variables of women who don’t work and such nature, however i will do a bit more research until i find something conclusive. With your second point I do agree with you.

  3. I think the second part of the article is sort of to general when you say East vs. West because the Eastern countries always differ in their human rights as well as women’s rights and the same goes for the Western countries.

  4. As to the percentages and whatnot written on the chalkboard last week or two weeks ago regarding maternity leave, my only reply is; infant mortality rates. People can look this concept up for themselves and how it applies to the countries that were written on the board.

    I’ve been holding off on this reply since that class so as to not cause a series of discussions that ratchet up in intensity.

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