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February 28, 2013

Well Played, Sir

Ace dares to question conventional wisdom:

I clearly remember listening to (not participating in) a conversation between two low-information female friends of mine in which they both declared themselves "feminist." I got no sense from either of them that they had much of a sense of what "feminism" was apart from three notions:

1. Women are equal to men; and
2. Women's values and beliefs are just as important as men's; and
3. Women have, or ought to have, ambitions equal to men.

Now, it seems to me likely that a great number of low-information female voters probably believe that's about the extent of what "feminism" is, and that anyone calling himself, or herself, a "non-feminist" is against such things.

Which of course we're not; virtually nobody is.

Exactly. This is precisely what a fair number of conservative women (Joy McCann is notable among them) have been arguing for quite some time: if you want to communicate with people, you have to find some common linguistic ground. Demanding that your audience accept a different (or worse, cherry picked) definition of feminism than the one they subscribe to as a precondition to discussion pretty much guarantees that there will be no discussion. Going on to tell them that they don't know what groups they claim to belong to are all about is about as good a way to close minds as we can imagine. Which may, actually, be the point of these tactics (though I'd like to believe conservatives aren't that short sighted).

Sarah Palin understood this. She openly called herself a feminist. The horrified objections of many male conservatives, who nearly fell over themselves trying to convince Governor Palin that she reeeeeally didn't know what she was talking about (or that she should accept their definitions), managed to irritate even women like myself who don't particularly identify with feminists/feminism except in the vague general sense Ace describes.

The notion that only people outside a movement are allowed to define that movement's beliefs seems perverse at best. Conservatives would never accept the cartoonish and pejorative definitions of conservatism advanced by most progressives. Nor would we agree to a definition of conservatism that seeks to define the entire movement by its most extreme voices. So why on earth would anyone expect women who already consider themselves feminists to meekly accept the characterizations of someone who not only doesn't share their beliefs, but actively loathes them? In politics, allowing your opponents to define you is generally considered to be "Not a Good Thing".

This part of Ace's post is spot on:

Second, it might be salutary to "take the world back," as they say. Given that most conservative women believe these things -- I don't detect a lot of "deference to men" among my conservative sistren (I'm just making up words left and right now) -- maybe conservative women (and men, for that matter) should just say we're "feminists," at least as most people actually understand the word to mean.

I mean, the low-information female voters I mentioned did not talk about "free birth control" or "The Patriarchy" or even "The Conversation about Puffy Faces." All that baggage -- which is really just Marxism For Girls Who Aren't Good At Math (TM) -- is part of what the left knows as feminism, and what the left calls feminism, but they're the only ones seeking to expressly define it.

Bingo. To quote Joy, maybe it's time we staked out a reasonable middle ground that actually includes the core tenets of conservatism:

There is a sensible middle ground here for conservatives—one in which we regard third-wave feminists as having pointed out that women are equal to men in the sight of God, and worthy of equal wages for equal work for equal numbers of years—[emphasis added] and yet free to stay at home and share our passion, talent, and brainpower with our kids, if we and our spouses so choose.

We can do that while rejecting the sexually abusive elements of the 1970s, and the bland “ideal” of a unisex world. We can also point out that there are real trade-offs to making motherhood a “second career,” and sometimes American women have erred on the side of postponing motherhood too long: getting married before 30 makes sense for many couples, and in a lot of instances it’s worth making real sacrifices for. So is having one person take the lead on many parenthood decisions.

At the same time, biology isn’t destiny.

The GOP is not the party of rigid sex roles. The GOP is the “come as you are party”: we believe that individuals and families can make these decisions for themselves. We love women who work in the home, and those who work outside the home; we want to keep families’ tax burdens low so that they can make parenting and housework determinations for themselves. We love science. We love rational atheists, and people of faith. We love free markets.

That is conservative.

Well, that's is what we thought conservatism was all about. Full marks to Monsieur O'Spades for addressing an unpopular but (in our not so humble opinion, important) idea.

Posted by Cassandra at February 28, 2013 07:07 AM

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Comments

Brava! (I only have a second but I was so, so glad to see this post.)

Posted by: Elise at February 28, 2013 12:09 PM

I've considered myself a feminist for my entire life, and I'll keep on doing it no matter what weirdness some "feminists" get up to.

I'm always sorry to see anti-feminism on conservative sites. At Maggie's Farm today, one of the (normally sensible) posters unthinkingly went off on the high unemployment rate and the problem with women taking jobs that rightfully belonged to men. Feh. If that's conservatism, they can keep it.

Posted by: Texan99 at February 28, 2013 12:43 PM

This (at the end of Ace's post) made me laugh out loud:

Funny Because It's True: I did notice I was being a little bossypants to women in a post about embracing feminism. Rolondo noticed too, and linked this Onion article -- Man Finally Put In Charge of Struggling Feminist Movement.

Well it's about damn time. We've had a lot of foolishness and twaddle until now. Now it's time to get serious about it.

The only criticism I might have had of Ace's title is that he could have just said "conservatives" vice "conservative women". But since he bravely stepped up in the body of his post, that didn't occur to me at the time. In all fairness, a number of conservative women have been making this argument for years but I think this is the first time I've seen a man make it. Though I may well have simply missed something.

Too many male conservatives have a nasty tendency to completely flip out every time someone says the word, "feminism". Before you know it, the conversation has devolved into talk of cankles and PMS. The emoting, while sometimes highly entertaining, is not exactly a credibility enhancer for the conservative world view.

Women view that exactly the same way men view women who go into full on freakout mode every time a man says something sexist. Which is not surprising, since radical feminism *is* pretty sexist and it's hard to see much daylight between man-hating feminists and woman hating... umm... conservatives. Think about that juxtaposition, because it lies at the heart of a lot of our problems with *cough* certain demographics.

I've done my share of feminism-bashing but I try to tailor my objections narrowly and not paint every feminist (including equity feminists or folks like Palin, which whom I have few substantive quarrels) with the same broad brush, pun fully intended :p

One of the reasons I enjoy Ace's writing, even when I disagree with him, is that he's not afraid to stake out unpopular positions. We're all looking for a way forward that doesn't result in even more marginalization, mockery, and demonization than conservatism is already experiencing.

No one should be surrendering their principles, but refusing to recognize the common ground that does exist (because histrionics aside, I really do think most conservative men don't genuinely view women as inferior beings) strikes me as incredibly foolish. That's what politics is all about -- coalitions around common ground.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 28, 2013 12:59 PM

At Maggie's Farm today, one of the (normally sensible) posters unthinkingly went off on the high unemployment rate and the problem with women taking jobs that rightfully belonged to men. Feh. If that's conservatism, they can keep it.

Maggie's used to be a daily read for me, but life is too short to spend reading things that make me feel deeply embarrassed to be a conservative. In the end, I just went elsewhere.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 28, 2013 01:01 PM

I've considered myself a feminist for my entire life, and I'll keep on doing it no matter what weirdness some "feminists" get up to.

Funny, I feel exactly the same way about conservatism :p

*running away*

Posted by: Princess Leia in a Cheese Danish Bikini at February 28, 2013 01:04 PM

And now MF has up a new post about the travails of men on feminized campuses. Somehow I imagine men will deal with the stupefying horror of confronting gender stereotyping and power imbalances, at least as well as women have had to do for -- well, forever. It's not that hard. Even girls can do it.

Posted by: Texan99 at February 28, 2013 03:17 PM

Somehow I imagine men will deal with the stupefying horror of confronting gender stereotyping and power imbalances, at least as well as women have had to do for -- well, forever. It's not that hard. Even girls can do it.

OK, that made me laugh out loud :p That happens to be what the "big post" I'm writing is about, albeit at a higher level and with actual studies as opposed to misleading sound bytes plucked out of context that imply the study found something that its own authors never said.

Who knew that masculinity was so fragile a commodity? I'm just not buying it.

None of the men I know in real life talk that way (thank God). I wonder if this is something that only manifests itself on the Internet? It's as if they can't help clutching at every single moronic argument made by radical feminists and Occupy types (and rightly mocked by conservatives) for decades.

OMG!!!! Disparate impact rules!!!!

Unfairness!!!! If group X isn't represented in population Y at EXACTLY the same ratio as X's share of the overall population, then INJUSTICE_ELEVENTY !!!!!!!11!!

If Group X doesn't choose option Y with exactly the same frequency that Group W does, DISCRIMINATION! WE NEED LARGE, EXPENSIVE GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS AND QUOTAS, STAT! TITLE IX (nevermind that these people have been bashing Title IX for years... FAIRNESS!

*sigh*

Does it never occur to some of these folks that they are using arguments they formally claimed had no merit? What changed, other than whose ox is being gored?

Posted by: Cassandra at February 28, 2013 03:41 PM

One more thing (because this sort of nonsense really, really frosts my cornflakes):

What are they implying about men and boys? That they really can't hack it? That half the human race has lost the ability to adapt and overcome?

Do we really want to make that argument?

Again, I am not buying it. I have total faith in men. They are a tough and smart bunch, online silliness like this notwithstanding. The idea that we develop the best aspects of human nature by making excuses for nonperformance and unacceptable behavior, or by crying racism/sexism/misogyny/misandry at even the slightest perceived setback or slight just offends the hell out of me.

I am literally astounded that more men aren't deeply offended by this tripe. Maybe they just ignore it because it's so bizarre, but I have always been annoyed when feminists tried to argue that I was a helpless creature who needed special treatment to do even ordinary things. It's really an insulting argument.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 28, 2013 03:48 PM

"...really, really frosts my cornflakes."

Yanno, you can buy those in the store now.

Posted by: Snarkammando at February 28, 2013 04:37 PM

Unpatriotically, I have outsourced both the frosting of my personal cornflakes AND the harshing of my mellow to the Internet.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 28, 2013 06:10 PM

Thank you, Ma'am.

Posted by: Joy McCann at February 28, 2013 07:26 PM

"...harshing of my mellow..."

As long as it's not the harshing of your mallow....otherwise, you'd have s'more s'plainin' to do.

Posted by: Snarkammando at February 28, 2013 11:15 PM

Thank heavens for my wife. She doesn't cotton to any of these new fangled notions. She expects me to earn the money so she can invest it.

Wait a minute, she's an investment banker type.

Honey, can I be a kept man?

Marital bliss, pooling assets, responsibilities, abilities, and the work load. Camp rules.

Posted by: Allen at March 1, 2013 03:47 AM

I do occasionally wonder if some of this turnabout is MEANT to look ridiculous, like a variation on the old Alinsky tactic of holding one's opponents strictly to their own standards so you can paint them as hypocrites when they don't measure up. By making the same sort of demands their opponents have made in the past, and being denied, they demonstrate that equality was never their opponents' true goal. Or am I attributing too much strategic thinking on their part?

Posted by: Matt at March 1, 2013 08:23 AM

Thank heavens for my wife. She doesn't cotton to any of these new fangled notions. She expects me to earn the money so she can invest it.

I've often wondered (especially during weeks like this one) whether I would want to be a SAHW?

If we lived in a huge McMansion like the Romneys' or a farm or a ranch, simply running the household would be enough to keep me busy. During the years when I was home with the kids, they kept me busy but I also did a lot of volunteer work.

Every now and then I think about quitting and staying home. I've been kind of surprised that the spousal unit isn't as keen on this as he used to be. It's nice having the money to be able to hop on a plane at the last minute and fly to see the kids, or take trips. On the otter heiny, I now have less time in which to spend what I earn ;p

If I were to stay home now, I couldn't imagine not working at least part time unless I had a bunch of volunteer work to do.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 1, 2013 08:28 AM

Not that I disagree with anything said so far (either in the post or comments), but there was this:

TITLE IX (nevermind that these people have been bashing Title IX for years... FAIRNESS!

I will say, at least for my part, there IS a certain amount of glee in hoisting the "Fairness Brigade" in their own petard when the very rules and quotas they implemented bite them on the tush. So don't discount that factor either.

Posted by: MikeD at March 1, 2013 08:42 AM

I stay home now, don't do too much volunteer work, and my only urge toward occasional work involves fantasies about how to spend the extra money. My life is as full as I could ever hope it to be. I've never understood how retired people could get bored. There's not enough time in the day. I reach every evening amazed that another whole day has gone by. I could fill years with the things I haven't found time to get to.

It's true that I'm introverted and make most of my fun solo, but there are infinite outlets for communal contact as well, quite apart from working. And they don't require spending much money, either.

Posted by: Texan99 at March 1, 2013 08:53 AM

I will say, at least for my part, there IS a certain amount of glee in hoisting the "Fairness Brigade" in their own petard when the very rules and quotas they implemented bite them on the tush. So don't discount that factor either.

Oh, absolutely! I do that all the time here at VC. But there's a big difference in my mind between pointing out the Left's inconsistencies and hypocrisies and genuinely adopting their arguments (which I've seen done far too many times for my sanity).

It's OK to say, for instance, "Lefties demanded X in the same situation, but that was the wrong answer because...".

What drives me up a tree is when I see righty pundits saying (with seemingly ZERO awareness of their own hypocrisy), "Hmmmm.... maybe we need to do that thing that I've been railing against for ages, now that it's my bacon on the fire."

At worst, it's blatantly hypocritical. At best, it's incompetent messaging that fails to get the real point across (these policies are wrong no matter whose ox is being gored, and I'm only suggesting this to point up the absurdity of policy X). And as if the incompetence weren't bad enough, it makes it way too easy for the Left to jump in and say the right is hypocritical.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 1, 2013 09:39 AM

Tex, I suspect that if I hadn't stayed home with the kids for 20+ years, I might feel just the same. There are a lot of things I did as a SAHM that I'm tired of, though. Sort of, "been there, done that".

I look forward to retiring one day, but to me working is still fairly new and is a wonderful luxury after so many years when I was busy, happy, and fulfilled but often felt like my brain was underused.

But I agree - there's a real mix of considerations that won't be the same for everyone. I appreciate a well run home, and that's something we've lost with women entering the workplace.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 1, 2013 09:41 AM

At worst, it's blatantly hypocritical. At best, it's incompetent messaging that fails to get the real point across (these policies are wrong no matter whose ox is being gored, and I'm only suggesting this to point up the absurdity of policy X). And as if the incompetence weren't bad enough, it makes it way too easy for the Left to jump in and say the right is hypocritical.

Oh, fine, take the mickey out of me. I know, I don't like it either, and I spend a lot of my time chiding my friends both on the left AND right about how their position, if reversed would tick them off, so quit it already. The real answer on the Title IX nonsense is to say, "Well... now that the shoe's on the other foot, you see why we railed against this in the first place. So now let's scrap it and get our collective heads out of our fourth point of contact."

I appreciate a well run home, and that's something we've lost with women entering the workplace.

I used to think I'd enjoy being a house husband. Until I was out of work for nine months. Admittedly, I hate cleaning anyways, but it was far too much work for my taste.

Posted by: MikeD at March 1, 2013 03:16 PM

What I didn't like about housework is the repetitive nature - you can never rest for a moment with a sense of accomplishment and think, "Well, that's done" because 5 minutes later some family member messes it up or tramps dirt all over your clean floor.

And while you're cleaning, the lawn is growing and weeds are springing up in the flowerbeds and the daylillies need to be deadheaded... AGAIN! I still love my garden, but I love it even more now that someone else mows the lawn :p

The lack of resolution is frustrating. I think that's one reason (other than poverty) that I did refinishing and reupholstery - those were projects I could finish and then enjoy the result of my hard work for a time.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 1, 2013 03:53 PM

My wife retired two years ago, after I got her to agree that enough was enough. After the financial meltdown her hours were crazy at the bank, and it was ruining our home life. The darn money wasn't worth that kind of life.

I just retired six months ago and I don't miss a darn thing about my work. Heck, we're more busy now then before with one crucial difference; everything we do is entirely by our own choice.

Posted by: Allen at March 1, 2013 07:22 PM

I would like more time for family stuff and traveling.

But we married so young that we couldn't save as much as a lot of couples do. We did save, but we just didn't have as much money to put away, especially once the boys started school and we had to shell out for better schools (I've never regretted that expense).

After the financial meltdown her hours were crazy at the bank, and it was ruining our home life. The darn money wasn't worth that kind of life.

I worry a bit about that with my youngest son. He's in mortgage banking (risk stuff) and every time the administration comes down on them like a ton of bricks, it's insane hours and tons of pressure. I can't see him doing that once they have kids, but that's his decision, not mine. It helps that my DIL has her degree and can contribute. I hope they'll have a more balanced life, but I'm pretty sure whatever shakes out, they'll be happy and make it work.

We're going to sock away money for a few more years. Then, hopefully we can retire to a state that doesn't tax his military retirement (if we even *have* a military retirement). I'm no longer counting on that. If we actually get to collect it, it will be gravy.

And buy some land to leave to my progeny somewhere beautiful and unspoiled, if I can swing it.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 1, 2013 08:13 PM

No income tax in Texas.

Posted by: Texan99 at March 2, 2013 10:48 AM

There is a sensible middle ground here for conservatives—one in which we regard third-wave feminists as having pointed out that women are equal to men in the sight of God, and worthy of equal wages for equal work for equal numbers of years—[emphasis added] and yet free to stay at home and share our passion, talent, and brainpower with our kids, if we and our spouses so choose.

One suggestion, if I may. Build into this the idea that mean should be free to make those same choices or, better yet, that couples should be free to make those choices. The emphasis in much of feminism is on women (duh) but decisions about when to have children, who takes the lead, and so on, are couple's choices. It seems to me that this is really the "come as you are" approach - combined with the admonition to government, politicians, and lecturers without portfolio to stay out of my bedroom, my kitchen, and my nursery.

Posted by: Elise at March 2, 2013 11:23 AM

If you do that, Elise, you'll lose all the content from the dictum. This dictum is structured so that it is being grounded by the men. Equal pay, etc., means 'equal to men's pay,' etc. They are the anchor in this formula.

I'll try to write about all this on Monday. I haven't been ignoring it, I just haven't had time to deal with it with the seriousness it deserves.

Posted by: Grim at March 3, 2013 01:09 AM

One suggestion, if I may. Build into this the idea that men should be free to make those same choices or, better yet, that couples should be free to make those choices. The emphasis in much of feminism is on women (duh) but decisions about when to have children, who takes the lead, and so on, are couple's choices.

Couldn't agree more, Elise. As for the pay thing, I wish the Republicans would just take that one head-on (argue that when you control for hours worked, career choices, willingness to negotiate, etc., there is no pay gap). Most voters don't understand that the so-called gender pay gap is a gap between the median pay of unlike samples - it's NOT an apples to apples comparison of a man and a woman doing the same work.

As for the dictum being grounded by men, that's only the case some of the time (pay for instance) because median pay for men is higher. You don't see women clamoring for the government to enforce equal outcomes in college admissions or graduation b/c there, men aren't ahead of women :p

I wholeheartedly agree with Elise that the best tack for Republicans would be, "BOTH men and women should be treated fairly under the law"... and then they should gently note feminism's emphasis on women and radical feminism's neglect of equity for men in areas where they still face what feminism deems discriminatory treatment (but only when these things happen to women). We don't have to adopt an "everything should be equal" mantra. Calmly pointing out a few glaring inconsistencies in radical feminism's equality battle cry ought to help people understand that true equality with men isn't what some feminists are truly after, because true equality would mean women would have to give up some of their 'feminine privilege'.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 3, 2013 06:24 AM

I don't understand the concept of grounding the standards in men. For me the whole point is to address men and women as individuals and pay (or evaluate them) accordingly.

I've been in the workforce for forty years, but I've never worked anywhere that applied different payscales to men and women. I've never attended a school that graded their work according to their sex. Are there still inequities in society generally? I'd say "obviously," but they're rarely embedded in the law these days, and they're steadily changing.

On the other hand, it was disappointing to engage in a discussion the other day on another site about the recent uptick in female unemployment (after a long period in which male unemployment was higher), and to encounter tiresome comments arguing that most of the work women had been doing wasn't "real" work, so it wasn't surprising that the jobs were disappearing. A fine example of conservatives being clods, rooting for the "man" team.

Posted by: Texan99 at March 3, 2013 10:11 AM

FWIW, I don't think the standards are grounded in "men" at all. They're grounded in inequality (often illusory inequality) and the totally bogus notion that government should be trying to make outcomes equal. As I observed, you won't see radical feminists complaining about inequality when women are ahead of men. Suddenly (it's a miracle!!!!), inequality is not offensive to them because their "team" is winning.

But I do have to say that all this caterwauling about inequality (now that men are not achieving outcomes in exact parity to their proportion of the population) strikes me as downright farcical coming from conservatives. We're becoming just as bad as the feminists - too many of us are making disparate impact arguments after having rejected the disparate impact theory of discrimination against women. If it was bad theory then, it's still bad theory.

And if it wasn't completely bad theory then, conservatives should admit that they were wrong back then before they go on to recommend legal remedies they held to be destructive and immoral... before they became "useful".

I wonder how these "gentlemen" would have reacted if their own arguments had been advanced to them as an explanation of why male unemployment was higher at the beginning of the recession?

MISANDRY!!! :)

Posted by: Cassandra at March 3, 2013 10:42 AM

...true equality with men isn't what some feminists are truly after, because true equality would mean women would have to give up some of their 'feminine privilege'.

Flip that around, and it applies to the arguments you just described - those folks aren't interested in equality. They're interested in "their side" winning.

And I want "our side" to include both men and women, not pit us against each other.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 3, 2013 10:44 AM

I don't understand the concept of grounding the standards in men.

FWIW, I don't think the standards are grounded in "men" at all.

I understand that you wouldn't want to do that. I just mean that you've structured a standard that does in fact ground itself that way. Thus, women are to have (economic) equality plus freedom (to stay home); but what it means to have economic equality is grounded. You can test it by looking at what men have now, and you can measure progress by whether women have more year-by-year (up to parity).

If you move to the standard Elise is proposing, you've got a standard that is fully circular. You would lose your content about what economic conditions ought to look like. You'd have a simple, formal standard: but it would be satisfied just as well if men became poorer every year (indeed, it is formal enough that its form would be satisfied if both men and women were reduced to slavery).

What I think you really want is a standard that captures not just equality, but some sort of independence as well. What you're looking for in the economic sphere is a power for the individual to live free on his or her own labor. That's what you need to ground.

Posted by: Grim at March 3, 2013 11:39 AM

I'm not following your argument, Grim, and will look forward to seeing your post on it. Part of the problem may be that my idea that these are couples' choices referred to the points in Joy's argument regarding when to have children, who takes the lead, and so on, not to equal pay for equal work.

After thinking about this for a while, I've decided that I like Ace's formulation and dislike a chunk of Joy's. Ace's is simple and clean and non-directive. Joy's is also until this:

We [conservatives] can also point out that there are real trade-offs to making motherhood a “second career,” and sometimes American women have erred on the side of postponing motherhood too long: getting married before 30 makes sense for many couples, and in a lot of instances it’s worth making real sacrifices for. So is having one person take the lead on many parenthood decisions.

I don't think conservatives should be pointing out any of that in a political arena. It's not the business of government or a politician or a political pundit or someone plumping for a political party to tell women that - or men. I like Joy saying:

we want to keep families’ tax burdens low so that they can make parenting and housework determinations for themselves

but I dislike the nudge, nudge of what she wants conservatives to point out - which, for me, walks a little too close to an implication that some determinations will be correct and others will not.

I think when I get around to starting the New Federalist Party, my slogan in going to be, "Almost everything is none of my business".

Posted by: Elise at March 3, 2013 02:57 PM

I just mean that you've structured a standard that does in fact ground itself that way. Thus, women are to have (economic) equality plus freedom (to stay home); but what it means to have economic equality is grounded. You can test it by looking at what men have now, and you can measure progress by whether women have more year-by-year (up to parity).

Sorry, but this doesn't follow logically. You get to exactly the same place if you say, "On average, people who work the same hours, do the same job, have the same qualifications should be paid equally."

This is really kind of a stupid formula anyway, because it's impossible to tease out all of those influences and account for the way they combine and (in some cases) even cancel each other out. But it's OK as a statement of general principle intended more to counter the perception that Rethugs don't care about fairness than as a working plan for managing things conservatives don't think government ought to have a hand in.

What damages Republicans more often than anything else is not so much their opposition to stupid laws like the Lily Ledbetter act, but the over the top arguments they throw out whilst voicing their opposition. They end up sounding "anti-woman" instead of sounding "anti-this_solution".

What I think you really want is a standard that captures not just equality, but some sort of independence as well. What you're looking for in the economic sphere is a power for the individual to live free on his or her own labor. That's what you need to ground.

That's not really what I want, though. No one can "give" me independence - that's a decision I have to make for myself. If I want economic independence, I need to make decisions that further that goal, not look to government or anyone else to "give" it to me. If I do that, I'm dependent :p

Joy's comment was (I think) meant as a suggestion on how to rebut feminist dogma.

On Elise's point, I'm not sure I see Ace's suggestion as any less directive than Joy's. It's just less specific. Both are saying, "You should do/say X."

Posted by: Cassandra at March 4, 2013 07:00 AM

You get to exactly the same place if you say, "On average, people who work the same hours, do the same job, have the same qualifications should be paid equally."

You do get to the same place as Elise's formula, but not to the original formula. It's the logical form I'm after here. You're making it circular, which unties it from practical reality.

Let's say the average wage of men is $5/hour per year of experience. (This is obviously not the case, but a comparison to real wages in all the various industries is not feasible.) Now you say you want women to be paid equally to men. That means you have a practical standard: women should be paid $5/hour per year of experience. That's what men are paid, so equality for women means that standard.

But if you say instead that 'all people' should be paid the same, it no longer matters what the rate is. It could be $0/hour, as long as it's the same.

If equality is all that matters, that might work, but that's not what feminism is really after from the marketplace. The interest has been about women being free and independent beings, not merely equal (as for example, equal in slavery).

Now it isn't necessary to tie this to men's wages as the standard, and I can't imagine any of you want to take men as the standard for ideological reasons. But you need to introduce a standard if you're going to move to pure circularity on equality, because you'll have lost the standard you had.

Posted by: Grim at March 4, 2013 10:16 AM

Per Grim:Thus, women are to have (economic) equality plus freedom (to stay home); but what it means to have economic equality is grounded. You can test it by looking at what men have now, and you can measure progress by whether women have more year-by-year (up to parity).

***

But if you say instead that 'all people' should be paid the same, it no longer matters what the rate is. It could be $0/hour, as long as it's the same. . . . If equality is all that matters, that might work, but that's not what feminism is really after from the marketplace. The interest has been about women being free and independent beings, not merely equal (as for example, equal in slavery).

Per Texan99: I don't think I'm with you here. From the point of view of feminism, I really don't care whether the pay of all people is increasing or decreasing, likewise their absolute level of independence or freedom. I just think workers should be paid according to their work rather than their gender. So if "feminism" is about making women's absolute position closer to some historic ideal position of men, then I'm not about "feminism." Quite separately, I have views about what economic systems are likely to make all workers either more prosperous or more independent, but they are not grounded in feminism -- though naturally they're consistent with it.

Posted by: Texan99 at March 4, 2013 11:54 AM

As I recall, Alabama, New York, and Pennsylvania are some of the states which don't tax government pensions. (Of course, there area a handful of states that don't have any income tax for anyone, but they have other ways of raising revenue.)

If you can stand the heat, Alabama has some real nice homes for sale at very reasonable prices around the Huntsville area. (Redstone Arsenal for commissary and PX (BX for Army and AF types) privileges. NASA for a supply of middle-class residents, and U of A at Huntsville for theatre & arts. I would really like to move there, but I still can't stand the heat & humidity--did enough of that in Beaufort, Jacksonville, and Thailand. I think I'd even have trouble in Quantico at this point in time. So I'm still stuck in Upstate New York, where the property taxes ($1K/mo.) are almost as much as the mortgage.

Posted by: Rex at March 4, 2013 12:45 PM

On Elise's point, I'm not sure I see Ace's suggestion as any less directive than Joy's. It's just less specific. Both are saying, "You should do/say X."

Both are saying to conservatives "you should do/say X". But only Joy is saying to women "there are downsides to your decisions".

On a personal level, I perceive that as borderline patronizing: I can see for myself what costs are involved in the decisions I make. On a political level, I think it undercuts the plan to make Republicans sound less "anti-woman". It sounds - or can be made to sound - like Republicans are advocating stay-at-home momism, early marriage and child-bearing, women sacrificing for their families, and dumping responsibility for children on mom. And then we're back where we started.

To echo and extend Cassandra's comment about "the over the top arguments they [Republicans] throw out whilst voicing their opposition" perhaps the problem is not what Republicans start out saying but that they don't see when it would be to their advantage to stop talking.

Posted by: Elise at March 4, 2013 12:50 PM

I really don't care whether the pay of all people is increasing or decreasing, likewise their absolute level of independence or freedom. I just think workers should be paid according to their work rather than their gender. So if "feminism" is about making women's absolute position closer to some historic ideal position of men, then I'm not about "feminism."

Exactly. You said it better than I did.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 4, 2013 03:15 PM

If you can stand the heat, Alabama has some real nice homes for sale at very reasonable prices around the Huntsville area. (Redstone Arsenal for commissary and PX (BX for Army and AF types) privileges. NASA for a supply of middle-class residents, and U of A at Huntsville for theatre & arts. I would really like to move there, but I still can't stand the heat & humidity--did enough of that in Beaufort, Jacksonville, and Thailand. I think I'd even have trouble in Quantico at this point in time. So I'm still stuck in Upstate New York, where the property taxes ($1K/mo.) are almost as much as the mortgage.

I was born in the Philippines, so the heat doesn't bother me much. The cold is what I can't stand!

Sadly, I am married to The Human Polar Bear so moving too far down South may be a problem. I love the South and love the cost of living and the culture. I will say that Beaufort (SC) was trying - we lived on the intercoastal waterway and I loved the view, but the sand fleas are awful.

We lived in Mississippi and Pensacola early on, but haven't been back there for any period of time lately.

My dream home would be in the Sierras in Cali - it's dry and sunny most of the time and so beautiful. But tough to afford and too far from family.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 4, 2013 03:21 PM

On a personal level, I perceive that as borderline patronizing: I can see for myself what costs are involved in the decisions I make. On a political level, I think it undercuts the plan to make Republicans sound less "anti-woman". It sounds - or can be made to sound - like Republicans are advocating stay-at-home momism, early marriage and child-bearing, women sacrificing for their families, and dumping responsibility for children on mom. And then we're back where we started.

You may be right Elise, but the Left tries to pretend there aren't (or shouldn't be) tradeoffs and moreover, that it's somehow government's job to prevent women from facing the natural consequences of their own decisions. To me, this is beyond perverse.

I'm OK with conservatives saying, "Look, families should make their own decisions here - we should trust them to intelligently weight the benefits against the costs and we don't think it's the place of government to protect citizens of either sex from their own freely made decisions". Yes, its' a fine line, but one I am not sure we should duck.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 4, 2013 03:24 PM

"weigh" :)

Posted by: Cassandra at March 4, 2013 03:25 PM

But if you say instead that 'all people' should be paid the same, it no longer matters what the rate is. It could be $0/hour, as long as it's the same.

I don't think I've ever heard a feminist (even the radical ones) specify a dollar amount. The argument has always been that women are being paid less because they're women. Personally, I don't buy that, but that's another issue.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 4, 2013 03:26 PM

I'm OK with conservatives saying, "Look, families should make their own decisions here - we should trust them to intelligently weight the benefits against the costs and we don't think it's the place of government to protect citizens of either sex from their own freely made decisions". Yes, its' a fine line, but one I am not sure we should duck.

I'm OK with that formulation, also - seems to me to sum up conservatism (at least the kind I like) very nicely and I agree we shouldn't duck it. The problem, though, is that examples always seem to talk about women. Maybe that's because the Left has positioned itself as the protector of women rather than men but it makes for a situation in which Republicans can easily end up with egg on their faces.

Posted by: Elise at March 4, 2013 04:02 PM

I have great sympathy with conservatives when they push back against a particular kind of feminism by lauding the choice of some couples to adopt traditional roles, and when they refuse to subsidize the choice of women who act like victims when they bear children without first lining up some reasonable means of support, whether traditional or otherwise.

I part company when the conversation starts to sound more like "we need to get back to the days when all women automatically made the choice to adopt traditional roles and kept quiet about it." Even if they're not overtly pushing for legislation to enlist the power of the state in enforcing this approach, or complaining that women are taking "men's jobs" from them, I can't trust them as political allies any further. A candidate who talks that way can't get my financial support or my vote. Call me a CINO!

I used to apply a fairly reliable rule of thumb, back in the 70s and early 80s, which was that it was a little dangerous to put my professional wellbeing in the hands of a man with a stay-at-home wife. Of course there were exceptions, but back then you were very lucky if such a man was able to see you as a human worker in his employ rather than as an exotic escaped zoo animal inexplicably intruding into his workplace.

These days, people have been exposed to so many different domestic arrangements that you can be less suspicious, no matter how they arrange things in their own homes. Nevertheless, in the workplace, I'm always alert to clues about how a man speaks of the women who are important to him. Is it "I'm a lucky man, because my wife is beautiful" or "I appreciate how my wife makes a home for me and our kids"? Is it "I think my wife's work is awfully interesting" or "I sometimes hold the household together while my wife travels to Thailand on business" or "Here's a painting that's especially dear to me because my wife painted it"? Is it "My wife, she's always taking on some self-fulfillment project that costs me a fortune" or "She can't put away the credit card"?

Posted by: Texan99 at March 4, 2013 05:25 PM

...the Left has positioned itself as the protector of women rather than men

I think that's broadly (pun fully intended) true, but then I think the Right often comes across as the would-be protector of men. Look at all the histrionics about the victims of "feminized" this, that, and the other thing. I don't recall anyone on the Right showing any sympathy or concern when the Left (or feminists) complained that the world was too "masculinized" and girls/women were suffering!!11!. I certainly wasn't sympathetic to that argument. I thought it was kind of pathetic because I was confident women would work things out eventually. We're not helpless victims - we're part of a society made of people with competing interests and part of that is figuring out what you're willing to fight for and where it makes sense to compromise.

Too many of us can't quite limit ourselves to the equity argument or the rule of law argument - the conservative argument. No, it has to be about helpless men being victimized by evil sluts and ho's and every other bad name we can think of. That tack comes across (at least to me) as every bit as objectionable as the goofy feminist cant about the patriarchy (those big *brutes*!).

There's a perfectly legitimate argument to be made about a lot of the Left's policies, but we don't make it on the merits. Instead, we resort to "my team/your team" nonsense and then wonder why the Right comes across as anti-woman?

Well, it's the very same reason as the Left often comes across as rabidly anti-male - they can't help making the argument personal.

I sit there, listening (while actually agreeing with my "side's" ostensible goals for what I am beginning to believe are very different reasons) and don't really get why either side went there in the first place. Are we really that bad at making fairly simple arguments?

Or is there just something in the human psyche that really wants it to be more about loyalty and group identity than principle and integrity? I am a woman, but my "group" is not women - it's my family, friends, neighbors, co-workers (both male and female). My town, or my state, or even my country. My sons and my husband, whom I love more than life itself.

I have more in common with many men than I do with a lot of women I've met. It's not sex that defines me as a person, but my character, my thoughts, my habits, my values. Being a woman is just a part of who and what I am. It's an important part, but certainly not THE important part.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 4, 2013 08:44 PM

I really don't care whether the pay of all people is increasing or decreasing, likewise their absolute level of independence or freedom.

Is that so? I would think this is the thing that really matters. It does nothing for women to 'let them work' if their work produces nothing of dignity or independence. On the other hand, if work means that you have an alternative to being 'taken care of' by someone else, then you have the ability to set your own rules in a way that you wouldn't have before.

That's the thing that I would think we (any of us) want out of the market. I don't give a damn about work, myself -- I have other things I'd rather do, like philosophy. Some people find work worth doing on their own terms, though: it gives purpose to their lives.

But the one thing that we all seem to want is a measure of independence. The reason to engage in the market is ultimately because it helps us live life on our terms, and not as forced upon us by nature or by others with more strength or wealth. Insofar as feminism engages with theories about how the market should work -- insofar as it talks about equality in terms of pay, for example, but not only here -- it ought to wrestle with these questions. These are questions that really matter.

Posted by: Grim at March 4, 2013 11:41 PM

I would think this is the thing that really matters. It does nothing for women to 'let them work' if their work produces nothing of dignity or independence. On the other hand, if work means that you have an alternative to being 'taken care of' by someone else, then you have the ability to set your own rules in a way that you wouldn't have before.

The problem, here, is that "what you would like to think" matters is not necessarily "what matters to me".

I have worked for as little as a dollar an hour, not once but several times. I had both dignity and relative independence (I would argue that no married person is completely independent). My husband would have had to hire someone to watch our children and clean his house if I had decided to leave for some reason. Even though I wasn't making any money for most of our marriage, he was hardly "independent" of me - in fact, he depended on me a great deal. He couldn't even deploy without me. Who would have taken care of the kids?

For me, the reason to engage in the market was to earn enough money to do things I would not otherwise be able to do. I'm not saying your questions don't matter to anyone, but that they don't matter to *everyone*.

I make very few decisions using comparisons to what others make/do/have. The wage at which I am willing to work depends on a number of factors - how much I enjoy the work (I am willing to do volunteer work for free, though I could undoubtedly get hired by a nonprofit and get paid to do the same things). The cost of living. My tastes (I may be content with a small apartment and few possessions or may not be happy unless I own my own home and have a big savings account and enough money to take trips). Even my husband's salary comes into it - if he died tomorrow, the first thing I'd do is ask for a raise in my current job or find one that paid more.

The idea that "allowing" women to work for lower wages than a man doing the same work somehow deprives us of both dignity and independence makes no sense. There is an inherent dignity in work that does not depend on the wage, and any money makes one more independent than no money.

It's just not an all or nothing proposition.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 5, 2013 06:44 AM

...the one thing that we all seem to want is a measure of independence

But that measure varies with the individual. If I were single, I'd be more independent but independence does not equal happiness.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 5, 2013 06:50 AM

Grim, I think you missed the context: "From the point of view of feminism, I really don't care whether the pay of all people is increasing or decreasing, likewise their absolute level of independence or freedom. I just think workers should be paid according to their work rather than their gender. . . . Quite separately, I have views about what economic systems are likely to make all workers either more prosperous or more independent, but they are not grounded in feminism -- though naturally they're consistent with it."

Posted by: Texan99 at March 5, 2013 11:48 AM

The problem, here, is that "what you would like to think" matters is not necessarily "what matters to me".

It wasn't what I would like to think, but what I would think. What you're talking about is uneconomic -- entering the market where and because it pleases you, and not because you have to do so. There's nothing wrong with that, but you're pushing the dignity and independence that arises from work off stage.

What has dignity here is freedom, here your freedom to choose what you do with your time. But that freedom exists because someone in your family (you or your husband) is earning a wage that can sustain the family. If that went away, we wouldn't say your condition had improved: we would say that it had worsened.

So I continue to maintain that we need a grounding in the real conditions of the world, and not just a circular standard. Somehow we have to get to the place where you are free to spend your time as you are free to spend your money: i.e., as you choose.

Posted by: Grim at March 5, 2013 12:44 PM

What you're talking about is uneconomic -- entering the market where and because it pleases you, and not because you have to do so. There's nothing wrong with that, but you're pushing the dignity and independence that arises from work off stage.

No, I'm not. If I were single, I'd still have a wide range of living options (including working for far below what the federal government considers a living wage). I know, because we were well below the federal poverty level for a family of 3 for the first few years we were married and we were nothing even close to being "poor".

All the things I'm talking about ARE grounded in the real world - they're grounded in my realistic balancing of wants vs. needs.

Somehow we have to get to the place where you are free to spend your time as you are free to spend your money: i.e., as you choose.

I'm already free to do these things. I just have to accept the consequences of my decisions. I already pointed out (which you seem to have ignored) that if my husband died, I'd almost certainly ask for a raise.

I could live well on what I make now, even without his income but my standard of living would be reduced. So I'd have to rebalance: what's important to me?

Well, visiting my sons and their wives and my grandsons is important to me. Having a big enough home that they can all stay with me at Christmas is important to me.

I have also "had" to work (and most of that occurred before I had my college degree) so I'm hardly a stranger to necessity :p When I needed to, I moved to another state and got a job.

Balance, again. I still wasn't independent, and I still had dignity. I don't need anyone to give me independence - that's a natural consequence of my own decisions. I will say that the laws I grew up with made being independent harder. Having to worry about our JOINT bank account being seized if my husband died suddenly even though my pay was going into it isn't a good thing. Yet it's many of those laws that conservatives spend a lot of time complaining about. Not sure what to make of that, except that it's the same idiocy that results in calls to repeal the 19th amendment.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 5, 2013 12:56 PM

Those laws sound like bad laws -- it's difficult to imagine how you could structure property seizures of the sort you describe in such a way as to justify them.

Now, I'm not sure what you mean when you say both that you weren't independent, and you didn't need anyone to give you independence because it was a natural consequence of your actions. I think you mean something like 'I wasn't fully independent because one of my exercises of independence was to surrender my independence in preference to marriage.'

Perhaps we need a new word to make the distinction? Marrying does mean surrendering independence, but it is an exercise of self-determination! So we might say that you weren't independent, but you were self-determined? If so, that's right for me too: I have independently self-determined that I don't wish to be fully independent. I want my wife.

Posted by: Grim at March 5, 2013 01:13 PM

Marrying does mean surrendering independence, but it is an exercise of self-determination! So we might say that you weren't independent, but you were self-determined? If so, that's right for me too: I have independently self-determined that I don't wish to be fully independent. I want my wife.

Exactly :) You've just created a partnership, not a sole proprietorship (a fact that seems to escape a whole lot of folks who seem to think they should get the benefits of marriage without all the pesky 'having to work together or own property jointly' stuff).

The reason I'm being such a mean spirited poopy head about this distinction is because I do think it's critically important to point out that independence isn't always the goal (even of feminism, really).

I think that - in my estimation at least - the right goal of feminism should be that the default is that the law shouldn't treat me differently just because I'm a woman. Exceptions should be possible, but I really don't see all that many cases where they're actually necessary. Doesn't mean there can be no exceptions, just that when there are, you have to justify them explicitly.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 5, 2013 02:14 PM

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