12 Ways to Shut Down People Who Oppose Equal Pay for Equal Work

April 14th 2015

I read a bunch of stuff, and asked around, and here are some of the most common reasons why some people oppose the idea of making it illegal to pay men and women differently for the same exact jobs.


Argument #1: There are already equal pay laws on the books. The Civil Rights Act and the Equal Pay Act provide enough protection.

The existing laws haven't ended gender wage discrimination, but they have helped (alongside societal changes). In the past 50 years, the wage gap has narrowed by 17 percentage points. Women earned about 59.8 percent of men’s pay in 1963. Today, they earn about 77 percent.

The Paycheck Fairness Act, which has failed to pass twice, would be the third law protecting Americans from gender based wage disparities. It would expand upon existing laws, by requiring employers to prove that pay discrepancies among employees are not based on gender. If passed, the law would also make it illegal to retaliate against employees for discussing pay, which would help workers negotiate for fair salaries. Industries with wage transparency have narrower gender wage gaps.

Those are good things, but certainly not comprehensive. One can easily imagine that after passing this law, there would be a push to pass a FOURTH law requiring companies to prove that wage discrepancies are not based on race, then one to make sure they aren't based on height, or weight, and so on and so on.

If keeping the number of laws low is a concern, maybe we should be properly enforcing the ones already on the books, instead of passing new ones? But also, why are we trying to keep down the number of laws? To save money on the paper we print the laws on? Can't we just save laws to the cloud? It's 2015!

Argument #2: Men get paid more because they work in fields with higher salaries.

Ok, sure, but like, why? Why do the fields that men work in tend to pay more? One argument is that those fields require more training. Like the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), which pay well because they require years of difficult schooling. However, the reason STEM fields are packed with dudes is that women get discouraged out of them at every stage of that training. Also, other fields that require similar amounts of training, but attract a lot of women workers (like academia) do not pay as well.

Argument #3: If women want to earn more, they should quit and go get better paying jobs.

A lot of women work in industries that pay less. There is very little job mobility in today's economy. For every one available job, there are at least three unemployed people looking."Get a different job" is simply not a workable solution to pay inequity.

Industries associated with women being lower paid doesn't wholly account for the wage gap anyway. In almost every occupation, women earn less than men for the same work, including low-wage industries and industries traditionally dominated by women. For example, women make up nearly 90 percent of the nursing workforce, and they collect $1,086 in median weekly earnings. Male nurses take home an extra $150 each week.

Lady nurses are getting a pretty crap deal. Literally, since they have to change bed pans. But so are teachers, child care workers, social workers, and women in all the "lady-like" industries. Come to think of it, all of those jobs include a high probability of having to see poop. We gotta start paying these people more.

By the way, wage inequity also exists in industries where workers are paid buttloads. Charlize Theron recently fought to get $10 million dollars added to her salary for the movie "The Huntsman" so that it would be equal to the salary given her male costar, Chris Hemsworth.

Argument #4: Women take time off from work to have and take care of children. They get paid less because they are less committed to their jobs than men are.

This argument is the most common and the most offensive. It is equally as offensive to assume that women are distracted from their jobs by their children, as it is to assume that men neglect their children to focus solely on work.

Also, if children are what makes people good or bad at their jobs, Charlize Theron should have been paid three times as much as Chris Hemsworth because she only has one child to distract her from good acting, while he has three.

The idea that child-rearing lowers the amount of money women earn over the course of their careers is based on the old workforce. Women used to leave the workforce for 18 years to raise kids and would re-enter at a disadvantage. In today's economy, everyone switches jobs more often, women take less time off to give birth, way fewer women quit work to become stay-at-home moms, and men and women share child rearing duties more. These changes mean that we can't explain away the wage gap for all women by pointing at the tiny percentage of women who leave the workforce for long stretches to become stay at home mommy bloggers.

Argument #5: Men need to make more money to support their families. Women are not primary wage earners.

My time machine works! We in 1955, bitches! Excuse me while I go buy a bunch of those bras that make your boobs look like giant bullets. While I'm gone, please put this argument down for a nap. It is old and tired.

Whether or not someone is the primary wage earner in their household is none of their boss' business. Many women are single mothers, the primary wage earner in two income households, or the only wage earner in two parent households where the father stays home with the children.

Argument #6: An equal pay law would result in excessive lawsuits. Women would constantly be suing sexist bosses for equal pay. Misogynist business owners are only going to hire women as long as they can pay them less, anyway.

There is little evidence to suggest that misogynists hire women because they get a kick out of being legally allowed to pay them less. However, if mandating equal pay lead to misogynists not hiring women, those employers would then be breaking the law under the Civil Rights Act, and getting sued anyway.

Argument #7: Making equal pay mandatory would eliminate merit-based pay. If employers are forced to pay men and women the same, they will stop giving people raises for exceptional work.

Assuming that pay equity would end merit-based pay assumes that only men earn raises based on merit. Which is pretty much assuming that women are worse at stuff. Which is pretty much sexism. Thanks for playing.

The law only requires companies to prove that discrepancies aren't based on gender. Which means companies who pay some people more based on demonstrable merit would not be breaking the law.

Argument #8: Men get paid more because they are better at their jobs.

No one needs to be told how dumb this argument is, but here's an example anyway:

Let's pretend that Academy Awards are an objective way to measure actor job performance. Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence have been nominated for five and three Oscars respectively (JLaw's won one) and were each paid 7 percent of the back-end profits of "American Hustle." While Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, and Christian Bale have been nominated for three, two, and zero Oscars and were each paid nine percent. And at the time of the "American Hustle" negotiations, Jennifer Lawrence was arguably one of the hottest actors in Hollywood due to the immense popularity of "The Hunger Games".

These women are not paid less because they are worse at acting.

Argument #9: Laws that protect pay equity for women are unfair to men.

Hahahaha. STFU. That's just like saying that racial equality is unfair to white people. #DumbAF.

Argument #10: The wage gap doesn't exist. Women and men get paid the same already. Politicians created this fake issue to get women to vote for them.

All politicians ever do is try to get people to vote for them. They don't even get dressed in the morning without thinking about which tiny flag pin voters will like more. Does that mean it's possible that politicians have been lying to us about pay gap?

Not really, especially since economists and academics agree. When researchers in government, economics, and academia are all reaching that 77 percent pay gap number, its probably pretty accurate.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, puts women working full-time in the US. at about 77 cents for every dollar men earn. When economists who disagree with the 77% statistic control for the ways that they believe women contribute to the gap, such as college major, job industry, and education level, there is still a wage gap of about seven cents. That suggests gender discrimination.

Even opponents of equal pay who say the gap is a result of women's behaviors and choices, and adjust the number thusly, still end up with a small gap that can only be explained by bias. We can debate the size of the issue but, it is real. The pin flag wearers are not making it up.

Argument #11: Making it illegal to pay women less makes them feel like victims who need special help from the government. And that makes women sad.

Whatever. I'll take my delicate hurt lady feelings all the way to the bank to deposit my equal paycheck, thank you.

Helping a group that it is being discriminated against does not imply that they are weak. It says that they are being discriminated against and that the government cares about discrimination.

Argument #12: Women make less money because they don't stand up for themselves. Men make more money because they ask for it.

This argument comes up a lot. Jenji Kohan (creator of Weeds and Orange is the New Black) said publicly that she makes less money than male showrunners because she is a woman. Matthew Weiner (the creator of Mad Men) then said that Kohan makes less because she didn't "fight for it."

Obviously some women speak up and demand higher pay, and some men don't. Jenji Kohan is a very successful woman in a male-dominated industry. She's probably a fighter. But given how much our society socializes girls to be kind, sweet, and quiet, it isn't illogical to assume that some women are paid less partly because they haven't asked for more.

Of course, women are probably also being offered less money than men in the first place, which is what the new law is attempting to address. You can only negotiate up so far from your initial offer, and sexism can play a role in negotiations. And in order to negotiate, men and women need to know how much other people in similar positions are being paid.

If the law never passes, women may not be able to completely close the pay gap just by asking. But, they may be able to narrow it by being open and honest with coworkers about how much money everyone is making and not being afraid to ask for more money if they do discover that they are being paid less than a male coworker.

So ladies, speak up! Tell your boss and your Representative that you deserve equal pay. More money for shoes and chocolate, amiright?!

Or you can follow Sarah Silverman's lead and take matters into your own hands another way:

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