Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) (R) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) walk away after a news conference on the Paycheck Fairness Act, at the US Capitol, on Sept. 10, 2014 in Washington, DC.
Mark Wilson/Getty

Watching the pay-equity debate go over the cliff

With heated political debates over the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (which passed) and the Paycheck Fairness Act (which didn’t), the issue of equal pay for equal work has been the focus of considerable attention in recent years. Some on the right, however, still seem unsure how best to discuss it.
The Huffington Post, for example, flagged a Fox News segment, where Gavin McInnes, a co-founder of Vice Media who left the company in 2007, offered his own unique take on the gender pay gap.
“Women do earn less in American because they choose to,” he said. “They would rather go to their daughter’s piano recital than stay all night at work, working on a proposal, so they end up earning less. They’re less ambitious.” […]
“This is sort of God’s way – this is nature’s way – of saying women should be at home with the kids,” he said. “They’re happier there.”
McInnes, who did not appear to be kidding, soon told the woman seated near him, “You would be much happier at home with a husband and children.”
When it comes to conservatives dismissing the issue of pay equity, these on-air comments will no doubt be put to good use by Democrats the next time the Paycheck Fairness Act comes up. Indeed, it’s easy to imagine conservative policymakers being asked whether or not they agree with McInnes’ ridiculous rhetoric.
But the substantive point is that the right, whether its misogyny is brazen or not, still can’t speak coherently to the underlying question.
For McInnes, women receive unequal pay because of some combination of divine intervention and women lacking ambition. For the executive director of the Texas Republican Party, women in the workforce would be better compensated if they became “better negotiators.”
Fox News’ Martha MacCallum dismissed the issue altogether last year, declaring, “Many women get paid exactly what they’re worth.”
Among elected officials, Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) argued a while back that it’s “condescending” towards women to even try to prevent wage discrimination. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), meanwhile, has expressed concern about what the Paycheck Fairness Act would do for men.
When Republican officials ponder why Democrats tend to fare better among women voters, I hope they’ll keep reports like these in mind.