May 22 2012
Yesterday 24 GOP female lawmakers announced the creation of a new Women’s Policy Committee. They released this video to emphasize that they bring a diversity of backgrounds and experiences to their roles as lawmakers as well as a united front to push back against the War on Women rhetoric.
Of course in response to the formation of this group, the liberal organization ThinkProgress released this article suggesting that a review of these lawmakers’ legislative records reveals that Republican women are, in fact, “against equality for women.”
Nothing could be father from the truth. What’s clear is that ThinkProgress has a distorted view of what equality really means – especially when we’re talking about the workplace. TP highlights, of course, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act:
- Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act: Of the 15 Republican Congresswomen who were in the House at the time, all 15 voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, a law that helps women hold accountable employers who discriminate in the pay practices based on gender.
- Paycheck Fairness Act Act: 13 of those 15 also voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would update the 1963 Equal Pay Act by closing many of its loopholes and strengthening incentives to prevent pay discrimination.
All I can say is thank goodness all these lawmakers – women like Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), and Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-NY) – all voted against this legislation because laws like these don’t actually “protect” women (from an apparently terribly hostile work environment). Rather they expand the definition of discrimination, increase litigation, and ultimately make it much more expensive to hire women.
These kinds of workplace regulations are premised on the notion that society remains antagonistic to women: that women are frequently discriminated against, paid less, and fired more easily than men. It removes all “agency” (to borrow a word from my feminist sisters) from women and devalues the role that “choice” (an otherwise very important part of the female condition) plays in a woman’s life.
What’s most insulting about legislation like Lilly Ledbetter and the PFA – and groups like ThinkProgress – is that they act under the assumption that women are in constant need of protection from government. (See The Life of Julia.) They ignore the fact that women are an extremely important part of the workforce and that most employers want to find ways to accommodate them. As women outpace men educationally, have broken into nearly every professional field, and are the leading consumers of everything from groceries to cars, businesses recognize that women are a vital part – and 50% -- of the workforce.
Legislation like this, however, just makes it more unlikely that businesses will be able to compensate based on merit, provide flexible work environments, and accommodate the work-life needs of both women and men.