Writer claims women 'choose' to be paid less and miss out on promotions
Reactionaries should always beware of criticising ‘mind-bending Leftism (aka political correctness)’, as does Melanie Phillips in today’s Times, for its ability to make day night and night day.
In a stunning case of doublethink all of her own, the World Turned Upside Down author asserts that denouncing the huge difference (19.1 percent) between what men and women are paid in Britain as a ‘scandal’ is in fact a form of sexism.
Phillips writes that women are being paid less on average than men, and miss out on promotions, because they ‘choose’ to focus on motherhood instead.
She adds that calling the gap a ‘scandal’, as David Cameron did recently, assumes that women have no agency and is therefore sexist.
While acknowledging the pay gap, and the fact that ‘women are less likely to work in high-paid careers or industries and are also less likely to move up the promotional ladder’, she writes:
“The mistake is to assume that these factors are driven by discrimination or endemic disadvantages. Some undoubtedly are, but in the main they are driven by women’s own choices.”
This ‘choice’ argument on women’s equality is slightly better than saying women are somehow ‘too stupid’ to earn more or have careers, but not by much. It simply exchanges ignorant contempt for condescension.
Phillips goes on:
“Many of these [choices] are dictated by the trying dilemmas of having to juggle work with childcare or looking after aged parents.
It’s little use saying men should play an equal role in family duties; they won’t, not least because women are generally reluctant to yield their priority as carers within the family.”
Without meaning to, the author draws attention to the matter of just how free these ‘choices’ really are in a society where women are burdened with ‘family duties’, (caring for both the young and the old, apparently), while men often decline to pull their weight in the home.
She grants the right of men to ‘choose’ a career over childcare, even blaming this on women for their ‘reluctance to yield’ their traditional role.
And anyway, women prefer to raise families than progress at work:
“The priority they [women] afford family life also reduces their desire for promotion or high-powered careers.”
Isn’t it interesting how few men ‘choose’ to pursue full or part time fatherhood over work and a career?
Then, as a cherry on top, we have this hilariously overwrought passage (a hallmark of her style):
“In claiming that the gender pay gap was a ‘scandal’, Mr Cameron implied that women were the hapless victims of discrimination and other strategic disadvantages.
This suggests that women are incapable of independent choices, and thus inescapably inferior; indeed, not fully human. In other words, far from advancing women’s interests, this outdated stereotype of female helplessness perpetrates the deepest inequality that there is.”
Phew. That’s quite a brisk gallop from ‘victims’ to ‘not fully human’.
In reality, the pressures, miserly support and chronic lack of choices affecting women is no outdated stereotype.
Dressing up inequality as an expression of liberty and trashing critics of the status quo as bigots is far worse than ‘mind-bending’.
Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter
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