Many of us saw the fliers posted around campus informing us that feminism isn't so bad after all, that it's simply "the theory of the social, political and economic equality of the sexes." How could an intelligent person disagree with that?
The problem with feminist theory lies with what kind of equality feminists are demanding. Women already have equal rights in this country. They enjoy all the same protections and liberties as men. What feminists demand now is equal results. Case in point: correcting the pay gap.
Feminists love to proclaim that women make only 76 cents for every dollar a man makes. These unequal results, they argue, are proof-positive of widespread gender discrimination. What they don't tell you is that, amazingly, this figure isn't adjusted for hours worked. The pay gap gets a lot smaller when you account for the fact that women work about only 85 percent as many hours as men and are responsible for only 10 percent of all overtime worked.
Women also choose lower-paying professions. Educated women are far more likely than educated men to go into service fields such as teaching and social working-admirable professions but ones that don't pay nearly as well as careers in business. Men sacrifice much as well. Whether it's plumbing toilets, cleaning up sewers or picking up garbage, men tend to do all the dirty work in society. Naturally, the pay for these professions is given a boost because few people are willing to do them.
Men do the lion's share of the hazardous work, as well. From construction to late-night road repairs to policing the streets, the male work force puts itself in much more danger. Of all work-related deaths in a given year, about 95 percent are men. These high-strain and high-risk jobs pay better than careers requiring similar education but with fewer hazards.
There are still more factors to explain the pay gap-women are less likely to ask for a raise than men, women entered the work force more recently and are less credentialed, women are less likely to work night shifts, many women take off several years after having a child and so on-but the point is that the pay gap has virtually nothing to do with gender discrimination. Sorry, feminists. Hate to break this good news to you.
One way in which feminists try to remedy the disparity is to legally mandate paid leave for female employees who give birth, even if a company is struggling to stay afloat. Such laws provide powerful incentives for bosses-male or female-not to hire women to begin with. Of course, it's easy to support such legislation until you end up getting laid off because your boss was losing too much money by paying absent employees.
Also of grave concern is the legislation feminists want to pass in an effort to equalize pay. Such legislation would in effect make it possible for any employee who doesn't get a raise and happens to be a woman to bring her boss into court. What feminists don't realize is that bosses simply want to run a successful business. They will reward and promote whichever employees are doing the best job. If John sells more than Jill, he gets promoted; if Jill sells more than John, she gets promoted. That is the simple beauty of the free market. If you don't believe me, just ask any business owner.
It's vital to keep in mind what it would actually mean for women if we were to close the pay gap. For many, it would mean giving up a noble career in social working or putting in 50- and 60-hour work weeks and not being able to spend time with the family. It would mean trading in jobs like housekeeping for night shifts doing road repairs; it would mean giving up the joy of being home during your child's first years of life.
I know I don't want society to follow that path. Men and women are in many ways the same, but they're also innately and magnificently different. It's these differences that make the opposite sex so wonderful, so compelling, so attractive. The truth is, even in modern-day America, there is a place for gender roles. I simply wouldn't feel comfortable hiring a full-time male babysitter or driving down the street and seeing a group of women carrying heavy steel pillars to a construction site. I can't stomach the idea of, say, having a wife who worked as a prison guard getting abused and threatened all day long. Feminists would say this outlook makes me a chauvinist. But they'd be wrong. It's not chauvinism. It's chivalry.
Stephen Miller is a Trinity junior. His column runs every other Tuesday.