Equal Pay Pandering
Bad ideas never die, especially in Washington. Case in point: Last Tuesday, a group of Congresswomen and Senators gathered to call once again for passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which they claimed would help “strengthen and enforce” the Equal Pay Act of 1963. In fact, as IWF has noted on many occasions, the Paycheck Fairness Act, whose main sponsor is Senator Tom Daschle, would do something different: it would lay the groundwork for the return of an idea thoroughly discredited in the 1980s, namely comparable worth — the practice of having the government determine wage scales for male and female-dominated professions (with the intent of artificially inflating wages in female-dominated fields).

The new comparable worth campaign now enjoys the high-profile services of New York’s junior senator, Hillary Clinton, who used Tuesday’s press conference to argue vociferously and incorrectly that “equal pay doesn’t exist for women and families in the 21st century,” and that “jobs held predominantly by women are consistently shortchanged and undervalued in pay compared to jobs primarily held by men.”

Hillary was joined as well by the National Women’s Law Center, an advocacy group that frequently files lawsuits on behalf of feminist causes. The group praised the proposed Paycheck Fairness Act for allowing “employees to file class action lawsuits to recover both compensatory and punitive damages,” a boon for women in their line of work, clearly — but not necessarily for the rest of us.

Now that Daschle is Senate majority leader, and the bill has been sent to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (chaired by Senator Kennedy), the drumbeat on comparable worth will only intensify. Stay tuned.

IWF Campus Ad Continues to Raise Feminist Hackles
In their weekly “feminist news” dispatch, the Feminist Majority Foundation (www.feminist.org) attacks IWF’s efforts to take back the campus, specifically our recent advertisement describing the “Ten Most Common Feminist Myths” promoted on college campuses. Describing IWF as an organization founded by “the wives of prominent right-wing politicians” and bent on thwarting “feminist student activism on college campuses nationwide,” the Feminist Majority’s hyperventilations are notable mainly for their failure to rebut any of the factual statements listed in IWF’s advertisement.

Hostile Hallways or Bad Social Science?
Speaking of hyperventilations, on June 6, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) released an updated version of its “Hostile Hallways” report on sexual harassment in schools. The new report, Hostile Hallways: Bullying, Teasing, and Sexual Harassment in School, surveyed 2,064 students and found that “four of five students — boys and girls — report that they have experienced some type of sexual harassment in school.” These figures suggest an epidemic of harassment in the nation’s schools, and leads one to wonder whether the AAUW isn’t simply labeling normal (if slightly offensive) behavior “harassment.”

“Mommy Wars,” Marriage, and Latchkey Kids
Writing in the June issue of Policy Review, Mary Eberstadt questions the public’s lack of attention to the effects of latchkey lifestyles on children and considers the future of “Home-Alone America.” “Of all the explosive subjects in America today,” Eberstadt writes, “none is as cordoned off and surrounded by rhetorical landmines, as the question of whether and just how much children need their parents — especially their mothers.” She concludes that “the connection between empty homes on today’s scale and childhood problems on today’s scale cannot possibly be dismissed as coincidence.”

In the Washington Monthly, Stephanie Mencimer claims that American women have mounted a “Baby Boycott,” since 40 percent of them “are sharply curtailing or abandoning motherhood altogether.” The culprit? An “institutionalized sexism” that has led to a workplace mired in a Leave-It-to-Beaver mindset about working parents. “Considering the obstacles that working mothers face,” Mencimer writes, “it’s no wonder so many women decide to keep their day jobs and just get a cat.” Unfortunately, Mencimer never tallies the economic costs of her proposed solutions paid maternity leave, part-time jobs with full-time benefits, and subsidized child-care centers, to name but a few.

Denouncing Dewey
In the issue dated June 8, the Chronicle of Higher Education‘s Scott McLemee reports on the phallocentrism of the Dewey decimal library catalog system. Having been forced to memorize the entire Dewey decimal system by the totalitarian librarian at my elementary school, I’ve no particular love for the thing. However, to read that Hope A. Olson, an associate professor in the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Alberta, is building a career by ferreting out “phallocentrism in Dewey’s famous decimals,” was too much for me. Her essay denouncing such “entrenched masculinist tendencies” in card cataloguing appeared (not surprisingly) in the women’s studies journal Signs. One feels some sympathy for the dear, eccentric, and long-dead Dewey, whom I doubt had “implicitly violent” motives in mind when he constructed his decimal system.