Nichi Hodgson is a full-fledged “flag-waving” feminist in the U.K. (she writes for the New Statesman). Nevertheless Hodgson was willing to poke holes in several feminist myths we at IWF have been debunking for years. So thanks, Sister.

Hodgson did this in a piece pegged to International Women’s Day in the highly-recommended (by me, among many others) Standpoint magazine, the brainchild of talented journalist Daniel Johnson. A key issue is the gender wage gap. Feminists have long claimed that women make around 75 cents to the dollar on what men earn for the same or similar job. IWF and scholars such as Diana Furchtgott-Roth of the Hudson Institute have done a pretty convincing job of showing that this figure is bogus. Here is what Hodgson says:

Gender pay gap figures are thrown out faster than a stray male from a ladies’ changing room. But the gap is a false friend to feminist statistics. Economists such as the LSE’s Catherine Hakim distinguish between horizontal occupational segregation (whereby the sexes choose “different but equivalent” careers – eg women housekeepers vs. male carpenters) and vertical occupational segregation (where women choose jobs of a lower pay and status than those of men within the same industries – eg female secretaries vs. male managers). But feminist campaign groups and right-on governments rarely do. Which explains why so many men and women fail to get their heads round the boggling statistics proclaiming that women earn less than men. Women do earn less, overall. But 14 per cent of the gap (according to the Fawcett Society) can be attributed to the break in employment women take to care for family. Not necessarily because they are paid less for doing an equivalent, or even the same job, as men. And it’s this kind of unqualified clamour that only serves to undermine the real cases of discriminatory pay, which do exist, while causing everyone else to wonder whether female colleagues are automatically paid less than male.

What’s more, in her recent paper “Feminist Myths and Magic Medicine“, Hakim claims that the last Labour government’s work policies were in fact counterproductive for gender equality. Encouraging part-time work may have increased the number of women employed, but ultimately, it only depresses women’s long-term earning potential, as women take up lower-skilled, lower-paid positions, which outlaws them from the many professions in which long and dedicated hours are a prerequisite for success, and for which high salaries are the reward. At the same time, the burden on men to bread-win is only compounded. 

So if helping women to a work-life balance is currently still pricing them out of the competitive jobs market, how can we stop it from being a lacklustre compromise, the fatalistic result of choosing to have children? Nick Clegg’s recent proposal for increased paternity leave, a potential solution, was about as popular as the offer of a flaccid pig’s bladder. Which tells you a lot about how poorly part-time work is regarded by both men and business, and how resistant to change so many apparently accommodating fellows are when presented with hitherto “ladies only” options. The papers were awash with pointed examples of men who had jacked it all in to bring up baby, but the reality is that there is no househusband revolution on its way soon. Gender stereotypes aside, in the current economic climate, no one can afford it. Or at least, that’s the get-out-of-playpen card for countless reluctant fathers.

Hodgson, whose article includes a section on wrangling over who does housework, probably doesn’t share my free-market approach to this matter: let the government get out of the business of telling employers what to pay, and let everybody make her own choices.

But she does recognize something very important about the travails of the Western woman-they are comparatively light:

So while domestic burden may be at the root of the gender pay gap in Britain, it’s really a luxury to be able to wrangle over household chores. Which makes it worth considering for whom International Women’s Day is vitally important. All those females who will be subjected to culturally sanctioned rape within marriage today, to infibulation, to violent abuse. All those who will be deprived of education, healthcare, basic pay, or who will be simply treated as second best because of misfortune of birth. We, in the lucky West, owe it to them to refuse to be victims of feminism, or a latent sexism that is long overdue a push out of the double bed. A little duster redistribution is the least we can do.