Sunday, 9 March 2014

Comment #23: -- Feminist Bakesales And Income Inequality

Date Started: 3/3/14                     Date Completed: 8/3/14                     Date First Published: 8/3/14

"Feminist bakesale for equality. 75c for women, $1 for men"

This was read out, as a joke, on The News Quiz, a couple of fridays ago, in their comic-correspondence closer.

I thought "Oh, yeah - typical feminists - misunderstanding equality" and also that it was quite funny, so i wanted to find a source.

I found this: Facebook link 1

But i also found this: Not-Facebook link 2

It turns out that the offer wasn't quite as guilelessly moronic as it first seemed. It was in fact.... guilefully slightly-below-par.

"“Generally, women make about 75-77 percent of what men make in the workforce,” Natalie Abell, an Amnesty International member, said. In order to represent this statistic, men paid $1 for a cupcake while women paid a reduced 75 cents."
"During the sale, a group of men walked by the stand and yelled, “You’re making it worse.” “We’re making it obvious,” Abell replied."

Nope - they were making it worse - by inciting sexist division through propaganda. How's it propaganda, and not awareness? Because it's wrong!

I wish to defend Amnesty International, however - they are a great organisation, doing important things - but this claim is one that keeps coming back, again and again and again. Note: being a member of AI does not mean they were presenting official AI views!

The difference in income is certainly a real thing - i am not arguing with that - but there is no consideration made, by any real feminist, for the causes of the income gap. Once again, the Ocean Dilemma rears its head, but this time into a melee of hysterically sexist slagging matches.

{By "real feminist" i mean someone partisan to 'the feminine' (females) - prejudiced in favour of women - not someone who doesn't know the word 'egalitarian', doesn't know what 'egalitarian' means, or thinks 'egalitarian' means the same as 'feminist'. Egalitarians, such as myself, strive for equality, real feminists strive only to replace pre-existing masculist sexism with their own.}

Chapter 1

The causes for the income gap are known - they have been investigated, and were put to sleep (I wish!) four years ago. In the USA and UK, sexist prejudice is not the major driving factor behind the income differential. The sectors of our economies that exhibit horrendous sexism are actually quite small, economically speaking, and so do not show up in economy-wide statistics such as the ones referenced in the 75c / $1 claim.

I want to stress this, now -- sexism is still a problem, and i am committed to challenging it and making it forgettable history, but when it comes to income gaps, it is mostly limited to pokey niches of the economy - religious organisations, investment banks, political parties. They are all manned by relatively small populations. What are the real reasons for the economy-wide income gap?

Well, when the factor of part-time work is taken into account, and when the factors of promotion are taken into account, the income gap subsides into statistical insignificance. That means it would be dishonest to assuredly state that it is a thing.

The reason for this, is that women are much more likely to work part-time (likely related to socialising and childraising), and are less likely (maybe for sexist reasons but it would be presumptuous to say so) to pursue and achieve 'promotions', which would lead to higher incomes.

All of this should be seen in the context of the possibility of family-making. Whether reproduction actually happens, a wealth-providing career is often turned down in the interests of keeping options open.

Only women with endless energy, no intent to 'have a family', or terrible foresight, would embark upon a career that gave a huge financial return but left little time/energy for looking after kids. Surely everybody knows that it's "the greatest challenge of your life... but the most rewarding"? It's the greatest challenge because it's knackering!

Regardless of how rewarding it is in anyone's particular case, the fact remains that many people will find it infeasible to family-raise as well as hold a full-time career down (certainly in their younger years). There is an increasing trend, in the most-developed countries, for women to delay family-bearing so that they have already developed a career when they go on maternity leave. Also, various 'professional' industries - Law and Accountancy, for example - have made changes to conventional practice, in order to accommodate women who wish to 'do the family thing'.

When BBC Radio 4's Statistics programme - More Or Less - investigated the "23% less than men" claim, as iterated by Harriet Harman back in 2010, they found that the figure did not take difference in employment types into account.

But they also didn't take into account that the source figures were median averages, which ignore the tiny minority of top-end income differences - those earning millions, basically. This could have pulled the difference down a bit.

When they interviewed Claudia Goldin of Harvard University, they found that in her study group, the difference in income was 25% down to sector entered, 30% down to hours worked, and 30% down to job interruptions - childcare, for example. (She didn't say what the other 15% was attributed to)

She noted that, in the "financial sectors" the penalties for such breaks are huge - and these are the sectors that lift the median income up - suggesting why 25% decided not to enter them in the first place.

We should not ignore the fact that men and women might simply have different demands of life. Maybe to them, money is less important, than it is to men. If that's the case, then surely there is a motive for us to pity men, as well as women!

But anyway, let's get back to the bakesale...

What should they really have been selling, if they'd wanted to present a valid metaphor for income inequality? They should have been selling some women cupcakes in chunks, to represent part-time employment, and men cupcakes with varying amounts of decoration, to represent promotions.

But apart from in certain niches of our economies, when it comes to income, men and women are playing the same game, to the same rules, and getting different results because of the way they play it.

Maybe it would be more practical to present a different pradigm...

Chapter 2

There is a real scandal behind all of this. It's not sexism, but it is real... i'm going to make up a word here... 'careerism'.

Why is that women work jobs that get paid less? Because men in those same jobs get paid less. But why does anyone in that job get paid less?

Across the board, economy-wide, there are stratae of careers. You can be the world's greatest cleaner, but at the same company, the world's worst manager will still get paid more than you. Maybe twice as much.
{Note that women are more likely to be cleaners, and men are more likely to be managers, providing an illusion of sexist wage imbalance}

Let's imagine an ideal world:
If that cleaner goes home with the same number of hours worked, the same number of calories burned, and the same amount of cortisol in their blood, from the stress of the job, will they get paid the same amount? And do you think it's fair that they should/shouldn't?


The chances are, you'll think it's perfectly fine - perfectly 'normal' - that their career is automatically less 'deserving' of financial reward, than the 'suit' as they are sometimes derogatorily known, who works upstairs. And so will most other people.

In fact, this feeds back into why 'promotion' often means moving into management - management pays better, and promotion is presumed to necessarily mean more money. Not nicer conditions, friendlier peers, or a nicer room? No - more money.

There is circular logic in thinking that management deserves more money, because people get promoted into it, and promoted people should be paid more, so management deserves more money, because people get promoted into it, and promoted people should be paid more. Circular logic is right because circular logic is right because circular logic is right...

Even incredibly smart people, like surgeons, intuit that doing a tough job renders them deserving of a hefty pay packet. £30,000 enough? No. £70,000 enough? No. £100,000 enough? Getting there.

Well, you might think they're 'worth it' too - they live on the coal face, saving people's lives, working 16-hour shifts - of course they're deserving of such a huge amount of money!

But really, what does it achieve? Does it mean they get more 'chattels', as solicitors call it, ready for when they die? Does it mean they get more holidays - more vacations away from having to do that thing that made them so deserving of high wages in the first place?

This system of giving more money to people who do great things, seems to encourage us all to do great things, but as little of it as we can afford, in funding relaxation time in somewhere like Far North Queensland, overlooking the Great Barrier Reef!
{Other fantastic holiday resorts are available}

Does this system even work, at encouraging people to do their jobs well? SDT (self-determination theory) says no: financial reward only correlates with productivity, when it comes clearly correlated with results; for example with builders, plumbers, etc. Do the job, get the money - a clear financial incentive, for all of their brain to see.

Most jobs are not immediately rewarded, and so there is a disconnect between the receipt of money and the motivation to receive it. Could it be that we make surgeons less committed, by paying them more? It's not as if they really truly need the money - there are just as many hours in a day for them as for the rest of us - we only think they're worth it because of this funny idea of 'deserving' something.

{And also because we rest on money as a metric for social value. This is why the rich sneer at the poor, the employed sneer at the unemployed, and religious organisations with dogmas that explicitly reject the pursuit of money are willing to hoard huge amounts of it... A vague feeling of personal validation}

I put it to everyone who's bothered to read down this far, that a better world, with a better system, and lower income inequality, must reject this ideology of 'careerism'.

So what should the feminist egalitarian bakesale do with their cupcake prices?

They should sell most of them at 60 -90 cents, with some sold at $5, $10 or $20 for the tiny minority of immense-wealth holders who have the fortune to be incredibly rich despite the universal maximum of 24 hours a day to do their work in.

They should also sprinkle extra decoration on the more expensive cupcakes, to represent non-monetary perks like company cars, etc.

Plus, they should reserve a tiny proportion of smaller cupcakes, to be sold at 5 cents each. Some of these should have jelly beans on. The jelly beans represent medicine pills, and the small size of cupcakes represent the economic contributions of unemployed and pensioned people, through non-paying work, volunteering, etc.

This would represent the diversity of income that is earned by people in the so-called 'developed' world, today. I hope you agree that it is a far better representation of the outrageous income inequality that affects both sexes alike.

Chapter 3

In practice, a rejection of careerism, and an idealised situation of income equality, would be best enforced by an over-arching, and thereby incredibly powerful, State, which would pay everyone the same, regardless of career, and regarding only need. Whether a married 60-year-old man, or a single teenage mother, they would get as much as they needed.

This has been a past pipe-dream of my own, which i now regard as fanciful, due to the impracticality of keeping such a State free from corruption. Also, the only States in which people have attempted it, in living memory, have been Communist ones, that abused the wealth and power as soon as they gained it - not a socialist ideology at all, but a right-wing, solipsist, capitalist one! Good luck convincing modern generations to go along with that, past-Tap!

But the point remains - careerism means people get paid different amounts, despite being equally valid members of organisations - and it is this that causes the income gap between men and women.

Therein lies the true scandal - not economic sexism, but economic careerism. It imposes socioeconomic inequality and exacerbates segregation, and as New Scientist reported two years ago, social stability, life expectancy, and health.

The jargon of motivational speakers is full of buzzphrases about teamwork. Everyone in the entire world surely knows "there's no 'i' in team". (There are, however, the letters of "me")

But is that particular motivator taken to heart? If we're all part of a team, and "united we stand, divided we fall" then surely all of Finance, HR, Sales, or whatever department, should get somewhere around the same basic wage?

And considering that they all work in the same company, and the fact that the whole company is necessary for it to function, why is the concept of 'team' not considered cross-departmentally? Why is there a differential across departments, as well as within them?

Just as with authoritarian hierarchies - whether patriarchal, matriarchal, or thearchal - the problem of rule-setters making their own rules has given us a situation which is incredibly difficult to resolve.

Patriarchs, matriarchs and thearchs are unlikely to be willing to give away the pleasures that they have grown familiar with. In practice, we see that this is true - such individuals are very sparsely distributed. It takes great strength of intellect and emotion to deliberately leave yourself and your peers worse off, to benefit people you've never met, on principle!

In patriarchies, the patriarchs are unwilling to concede that the way they've been doing things for decades has actually been wrong; and in careerarchies (another new word, i know!) the wage-setters are unwilling to concede that their current wages are more than they deserve.
{People actually increase their expenditures to as income does, so they will also have a motive to keep wages high enough that they can, for example, pay off a massive mortgage on their £350,000 house. It's like dining out, to make the most of a one-size-too-big dress!}

This is the challenge to getting such rules changed. Top-down control, which could be lost to a less-compassionate successor, would be the only way to make fast revolutionary changes. Every generation will want to not feel hard-done-by, seeing their predecessors minted, while they themselves languish with an 'average' wage. They will all resist such a trend. Consequently, such changes toward equality must, necessarily, be slow.

{Slow change is only absolutely necessary if top-down changes are not made and maintained for, i estimate, two decades or so, as people acclimatise. It's already known that when companies in an industry advertise to compete with their peers, they will collectively lobby against restrictions on advertising, because they fear change itself, and their market-share to be effected. But they will accept the changes once in place, because they know everybody else faces the same.
The tobacco industry has already done exactly this, when tobacco advertising has been restricted. In the absence of advertising-related competition, they saved huge amounts of money, because they weren't spending it on adverts! This scenario translates to domestic upheaval too. Remember that everyone wants to 'keep up with the Joneses' - they compare themselves with their peers - if everyone goes down the same number of levels, then the competition is still on, and no-one feels exceptionally miffed.}

So is that the message we have to remember: "we're in it for the long haul"? Well, unfortunately, we are. Social changes can often be slow - too slow to perceive in a single generation - but still as real as anything. As long as we aim in the right direction, we will achieve greater equality. Impatience can only add turbulence to our efforts, and slow our progress.

If i ruled the world, this would be fixed and settled in those two decades. But i don't. And neither do you. So we must go the slow route, and have patience.

Now... who feels like nomming on a cupcake?.

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