Friday, November 14, 2008

A Post-Feminist Generation Takes the "Gender Gap" Facts Well

I have been teaching Warren Farrell's Why Men Earn More this week. He debunks the myth that women earn less than men because of discrimination. He concludes, in fact, that "while men still earn more for different work, women now earn more for the same work." The book is written as a self-help book for women. He shows 25 things that lead to higher pay that men are more likely to do, that women could do. He also notes the main reason for the gender gap in pay is that women are more likely to choose family and a more balanced life than working for more pay, whereas men are more likely to support their families by working for that higher pay.

My students, to their great credit, took this study calmly, assessing his empirical support. I mentioned that when and where I went to college -- I am Swarthmore '82 -- there would have been protests for even raising the idea that the gender pay gap has more to do with women's choices than men's oppressiveness. They were puzzled by the idea of protests against ideas, and one bravely asked why anyone would do that.

It is somewhat like the generational differences in reading the meaning of the presidential election. The network we were watching had the Baby Boomer commentators talk at length about the racial significance of Obama's victory. They then asked one of the 30-something experts, who said, somewhat diffidently, that to people of his generation, Senator Obama was primarily a leader, to be measured against other leaders, rather than a symbol in a giant racial drama.

The low-drama, fact-based reaction of my post-feminist students, women and men, to the realities of sex and gender differences is a heartening measure of progress.


Anonymous said...

I am in this class, and though I am a woman, haven't felt any discrimination due to my gender. I feel that Farrell's "genetic celebrity" point about the perks that women get just for being even mildly attractive (coupled with the fact that I have not been paid less for any of the few jobs that I have had) makes me one of those who wonder why people would be so quick to protest this book's ideas.

I defititely enjoyed the book though & look forward to the paper (as much as one can look forward to a paper)

peterpeter said...

How does the current generation of Swathmore students respond to that book?

Gruntled said...

I doubt that Why Men Earn More or its cousins are taught at Swarthmore, but I may be being unfair. I will inquire.