Slumlord argues that prior to modern feminism what we had was affirmative action for men:
The thing is when you take the shackles away from some women they actually outperform men (in certain areas) and many of you simply can’t accept this fact blaming it on Feminist mind control, whatever. The cognitive neuroscientist have a name for this type of error; Magical thinking.
The traditional way of dealing with this natural superiority was to put disabilities on women while privileging men. When my parents came to Australia, my mother worked in a Tannery for half the wages of the man working next to her. (Brad A. Natural justice? Wondering why the feminists get an ear amongst otherwise normal women.) Turning the clock back will simply reset things to the preconditions that allowed feminism to thrive. So it’s not gonna work.
I’ve addressed a similar argument of his about feminism “unshackling women” previously, but his specific claim around legal discrimination by sex in wages had me curious what I could find on this. Slumlord is referring to Australia with regard to his mother’s experience, but since I’m in the US and we are discussing the West in general I looked for information on the US. Infoplease explains that until 1963 it was legal in the US to discriminate based on sex when it came to job positions and wages:
Help wanted—Separate and Unequal
Until the early 1960s, newspapers published separate job listings for men and women. Jobs were categorized according to sex, with the higher level jobs listed almost exclusively under “Help Wanted—Male.” In some cases the ads ran identical jobs under male and female listings—but with separate pay scales. Separate, of course, meant unequal: between 1950 and 1960, women with full time jobs earned on average between 59–64 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earned in the same job.
It wasn’t until the passage of the Equal Pay Act on June 10, 1963 (effective June 11, 1964) that it became illegal to pay women lower rates for the same job strictly on the basis of their sex. Demonstrable differences in seniority, merit, the quality or quantity of work, or other considerations might merit different pay, but gender could no longer be viewed as a drawback on one’s resumé.
This change in the law was then followed up by further actions by the legislature and the courts:
The Courts Nix the “Going Market Rate” for Women
The act was gradually expanded over the next decade to include a larger segment of the workforce, and between June 1964 and Jan. 1971 back wages totaling more than $26 million were paid to 71,000 women.
This explains the source of the belief that women were systematically paid less for the same value of work as men under the evil patriarchy, or as Slumlord likes to say, before we “unshackled women”. But as we know, even today after decades of social engineering and ever expanding affirmative action programs for women (including it would seem in the near future the Army Rangers), women still earn less than men. This raises the question; how much of the previous difference was due to legal discrimination against women, and how much was due to women being paid less because of their different choices and productivity?
Infoplease tells us in The Wage Gap that in 1963 women earned 58 cents for every dollar earned by men. What effect did the Equal Pay Act have on women’s wages after the law went into effect in 1964 and the and the courts took aggressive action through 1971? Infoplease provides a timeline in The Wage Gap, by Gender and Race
Note that in 1975 after infoplease tells us that legal discrimination by sex was entirely abolished, the ratio of women’s earnings compared to men actually declined by half a penny to 57.5. By 1980, a full 16 years after the law took effect and more than ten years after the courts had taken aggressive action, White women still earned only 58.9 cents for every dollar earned by men. 16 years after the law passed, White women’s relative wages were less than a penny greater than under the bad old days of legal wage discrimination. Granted these aren’t apples to apples numbers, because the 1963 figure is for all women compared to all men. However, there is no reason to believe that White women were more discriminated against because of their sex than women of other races were. We can double check this as well by comparing the all races figure Infoplease gives for 2013 with the one for White women:
At the time of the EPA’s passage, women earned just 58 cents for every dollar earned by men. By 2013, that rate had increased to 78 cents.
Note that the 2013 ratio for all races (78) is the same ratio for White women in the chart above.
This early period after the change in the law matters because we know that aside from employers potentially helping men at the expense of women, women’s choices play a huge role in the differences in earnings. Women choose easier lower paying majors in school, and they tend to choose lower paying lower stress and less dangerous jobs than men. They also tend to take time off to have and raise children, lowering their peak earnings compared to men. If women were truly “shackled” under the old system, we would expect an improvement to closely follow the change in the law and actions by the courts. Likewise, changes due to affirmative action for women and changing priorities of women as feminists have radically reordered our culture would be expected to show up later. As you can see, the big changes in women’s earnings relative to men came not immediately following the change in the law, and not even in the 16 years following the change. The big changes we have seen have occurred after 1980.
Australians may well have shackled their women, and if so I would welcome Slumlord or anyone else to present data on this. But for the US at least, the idea that prior to the law changing in 1964 men received affirmative action in wages is to borrow a phrase, magical thinking.
Edit: Fixed the chart to reflect the uneven time intervals of the data set.