This week feminists are celebrating (or more accurately, bemoaning) a fake holiday they’ve dubbed “Equal Pay Day.” It’s a fake holiday because it’s based on a bad interpretation of the wage gap statistic, the statistic that shows men earn more money than women on average.

Of course it’s true that men earn more money: The wage gap shows the current wage disparity to be 82 cents on the dollar, based on average weekly earnings. But importantly, the raw wage gap is not a measure of discrimination against women because it’s not a measure of “equal pay for equal work;” it fails to account for many factors that affect pay, including profession, experience, hours and work conditions.

When economists do attempt to correct for these variables, the wage gap shrinks significantly. In some analyses, it disappears or even reverses, showing that women earn more than men. This doesn’t excuse cases where discrimination sadly still exists, but women should be encouraged that, by and large, the wage gap is driven by individual factors that reflect the different preferences of women and men.

Women and men — especially as mothers and fathers — play different roles in their families. Of course this is a broad-brush statement, but the wage gap itself paints with a broad brush, reflecting only averages and not the wide diversity of American families and workers.

Women, on the whole, are simply more likely to work in lower-paying professions, to value workplace flexibility, to clock fewer hours, and to avoid dangerous or uncomfortable workplace conditions. For all of these reasons, men, on the whole, earn more.

We shouldn’t pretend that working mothers are slaves to a sexist society where they are brainwashed into taking on the lion’s share of childcare or housekeeping tasks (thereby limiting their ability to “lean in” at work). To make this assumption would be an insult to women and their agency. Rather, women, just like men, make conscious trade-offs based on their own preferences and what they believe is best for their families.

There’s nothing wrong with these choices. It is wrong, however, to mislead women and girls into believing that wage discrimination is commonplace and there’s nothing they can do about it. This victim mentality is disempowering and ultimately does more harm than good.

“Equal Pay Day” is the perfect example of this. The fake holiday suggests that sex-based wage discrimination runs rampant. If women and girls believe that, we may be more likely to accept mistreatment in the rare occasions where it does take place.

Remember, no one believed the boy who cried wolf when it really mattered. Feminists, and anyone who claims to speak up for women, should take care to be specific and concrete in fighting sexism or discrimination, rather than misrepresenting it as ubiquitous.

Instead of suggesting to women and girls that there’s nothing they can do to earn a fair wage, wouldn’t it be much more productive to have a frank discussion about the choices that women and girls have when it comes to education, training, work, and family? Our earnings are in our hands, and it’s OK to choose our own priorities in life. Not only is such an attitude a better reflection of reality, but it has got to be associated with a higher level of happiness. No one wants to be a helpless victim.

And in the instance that women are victimized, the law is firmly on our side: Sex-based wage discrimination has been illegal since 1963. Of course, sexism is still a problem, and there will always be employers who wrongfully take advantage of workers of all types. But, for the most part, American women are treated fairly and enjoy legal protection from discrimination.

Because of all this, every day in the United States is truly “Equal Pay Day.” We don’t need to pause in April to acknowledge a government wage statistic that is devoid of any real meaning. American women can simply continue working hard alongside men, providing for ourselves and our families, and standing up for what we deserve … just like we do everyday.