Sunday’s Grammy Awards signal that the #MeToo movement is rolling toward the music industry. Artists carried white roses or pins in a show of solidarity for a movement which is exposing sexual harassment and sexual assault in every industry.
What’s emerging from Grammys, the Golden Globes, and the Oscars is that #MeToo will be a powerful force to bring down misconduct and wrongdoing against women. That's good. But sadly, we are also seeing it co-opted by some on the left to promote a narrative of rampant victimization and a progressive agenda.
One of the most talked about moments was an emotional performance by singer Kesha, who sang a song written in response to her allegations of sexual abuse against her producer. She was joined on stage by Cyndi Lauper, Rihanna, and others clad in white.
The opening speech to Kesha’s performance by the talented entertainer Janelle Monae was worrisome though:
To those who would dare try and silence us, we offer you two words: #TimesUp. We say Time's Up for pay inequality, discrimination, or harassment of any kind, and the abuse of power.
And just as we have the power to shape culture, we also have the power to undo the culture that does not serve us well. So, let's work together, women and men, as a united music industry committed to creating more safe work environments, equal pay, and access for all women.
Changing the culture to end sexual violence is absolutely needed, and these celebrities with influence and public platforms are right to call attention to it. But how does Monae go from sexual violence to equal pay?
Differences in earnings between men and women — which have a multitude of complicated causes, and are most often not primarily the result of employer discrimination — is a very different issue than sexual harassment and sexual assault.
Those focused on gender-based pay gaps often cite the Bureau of Labor Statistics data point that women earn 83 percent of what men earn and conclude that women are short-changed simply because they are women. Add a layer of race to those statistics, and women of color are led to believe that they are making 59 cents to 88 cents of what white men earn based on other measures.
However, the gender gap statistic is derived from a simple comparison of median weekly earnings by men and women in full-time jobs. It does not account for other factors that impact wages such as the number of hours worked. It turns out men in both part-time and full-time jobs work more hours each week. There are other facts as well such as seniority, education, industry, and experience that impact that wage difference.
The online compensation information company PayScale investigated the pay gap and found that it shrinks to nearly nothing when comparing men and women in the same job and with similar education and experience.
It's worth considering how we can make sure that young women are making career and education decisions that make the most sense for them, so that they are not inadvertently short-changing themselves by gravitating toward lower paying job sectors and failing to ask for raises.
Yet, that's a very different issue than the blue-collar worker who is being raped or sexually harassed by her boss.
Exposing the mistreatment of women has become a unifying opportunity in our society, because it’s not a political or ideological issue. It’s not about Republican versus Democrat or conservative versus liberal. It’s about right versus wrong. Bad actors have been outed from both sides of the aisle in entertainment, politics, business, and academia.
Efforts to co-opt this powerful movement for ideological purposes threatens that momentum. It would be disappointing if right-leaning and independent women, who don’t ascribe to the victimization narrative or support new regulations that are often championed as a way to close the wage gap, leave the conversation because of where the movement is being led – it's even worse if real victims feel their pain is being used for politics.
The Time’s Up initiative has some worthy goals. It has established a $14 million legal defense fund that blue-collar women can tap to pursue redress for sexual harassment in their workplaces. They are also trying to promote more women in their industry.
However, lumping equal pay statistics into the fight against sexual harassment and assault stretches the movement to include issues that should be addressed separately. We cannot allow #MeToo to become a partisan tool rather than a bipartisan platform for change.