Fifty years after President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, women still earn only 77 cents on a male worker's dollar. Meanwhile, a recent Pew survey showed that a record 40 percent of women (both married and single mothers) are the primary breadwinners in families with children under 18.
Guess which trend has caused the most outrage?
The half-century anniversary of the Equal Pay Act brought the usual official response – remarks by (mostly female) members of Congress and a short address by President Obama with the obligatory lament about women's lack of parity with their male colleagues. But there is no serious effort to make changes, not even amending the current law to protect people from retaliation for sharing salary information with co-workers.
The report on female breadwinners, however, provoked a backlash that is just stunning in its brazen sexism. The 40 percent number was reviled by conservative commentators as an assault on the family and a dangerous disruption of the natural order of things.
For some of us, the question was – why only 40 percent? Why aren't women closer to men when it comes to having the bigger salary? But for folks like Erick Erickson and Lou Dobbs, the minority of women serving as primary breadwinners in their families is an abomination. Said Erickson on Dobbs' program on the Fox Business Network:
When you look at biology, look at the natural world, the roles of a male and female in society, and the other animals, the male typically is the dominant role. The female, it's not antithesis, or it's not competing, it's a complimentary role. We as people in a smart society have lost the ability to have complimentary relationships in nuclear families, and it's tearing us apart.
In other words: we don't want to actually be forced to compete with women in the workplace, so we'll just get rid of them by convincing them it's unnatural for them to operate in our world.
Setting aside the pathetic, desperate assignation of some sort of "science" to male domination, the idea is just laughable from a political perspective. It's amazing that there are still forces out there who believe that equality and opportunity were just silly fads that the ladies experimented with for awhile, something women would ultimately reject like those ridiculously oversized shoulder pads in jackets. That is simply not who and what America (and most of the rest of the world) is anymore. Women work at jobs, own businesses, run for office, use birth control and serve in the military. That train has left the station.
And anyone running for office needs to get on board or risk losing female voters. And that's one area where men surely do not dominate: according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, 10 million more women than men turned out to vote in the 2008 elections, and women have boasted higher turnout rates than men in every election since 1980. The paychecks may still be unequal. But at the ballot box, women have the power.