SCOUR the BBC news archives for ‘gender pay gap’ and you will find hundreds of articles, TV and radio mentions from the last few years. Last year was the pinnacle of the media’s obsession, due to the introduction of mandatory pay reporting for companies with more than 250 staff. The surge is highlighted by Google Trends data – a website by Google which analyses the popularity of top Google searches (see below for the popularity of ‘gender pay gap’).
Yet with all this reporting, why is it that the majority of Brits do not really understand what the gender pay gap is? And why are the media so obsessed? Why do they persist in calling it a ‘gender’ pay gap, when it is well known to be a ‘mother’ pay gap?
First, it’s very rare to see an article which defines the gender pay gap in the opening paragraphs, if at all. Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that according to a late-2018 YouGov poll, only 30 per cent of Britons could accurately define the gender pay gap. And those most likely to have fallen prey to the poor reporting? Women. Seventy per cent chose the wrong definition – same job, different pay. The abnegation of media responsibility is startling to the point that one is led to suspect corrupt motives.
The ideological distortion on gender pay is a spectrum which runs from complete distortion to innocuous BBC vox pops, asking ‘What do women think?’. Given the aforementioned YouGov data, perhaps it would have been advisable to see if these women could define the pay gap accurately first? Or perhaps the BBC reporter just got lucky and managed to find none of the women in that 70 per cent bracket.
Where the BBC distorts by subtle omission, other outlets pour fuel on to the flames hoping to stoke feelings of injustice without any explanatory framework. Take a typical BuzzFeed piece: ‘These Are The 12 Men Who Are Paid More Than The Highest Paid Woman’ (referring to BBC presenters) One need not recapitulate the rebuttals. The fact that online journalism’s reliance on virality coincides with a reliance on incomplete narratives is well documented, but that doesn’t explain which narratives are selectively snipped.
Perhaps part of the liberal media’s obsession can be explained by their university indoctrination. Eight in ten British university lecturers hold Left-wing views, and the proportion is even higher in the social sciences and humanities. Meanwhile 54 per cent of leading print journalists went to Oxbridge. What do they learn in those formative years studying in ideological echo chambers such as Cambridge, which bans the likes of Professor Jordan Peterson from visiting?
One of the perennial features of Left-wing theory is the patronising propensity to insist on the impossibility of making completely free choices. This, as far as I can tell, derives from the Marxist theory of false consciousness. The proposition is a truism: we are entangled in webs of ideology and purposeful obfuscation by the bourgeois instruments of the state, namely institutions such as the law and the media. The postmodernists took this further, seeing only power relations – for them, even our language was infected. It wasn’t possible to speak of pure justice, let alone attain it, because it was all a bourgeois construct, a fabrication. Our idea of justice was conceived within capitalist relations after all, and so the justice we pursue will only perpetuate the capitalist superstructure. Ironically, this sounds a lot like those who see economics as the key measure of gender equality, but we’ll leave that aside.
Where would such a worldview leave the individual? Quite clearly, not free. Certainly not the possessor of any freedom worth having (hence revolution). This is the conceptual edifice which buttresses the rabid liberal obsession with the gender pay gap. I am not suggesting that mainstream journalists are all raving neo-Marxists, simply that their worldview is a distilled version, a subset of the same overarching beliefs. Put simply, if you see the world through a prism of manipulation and internalised misogyny, what is the likelihood of seeing a woman’s choice to start a family as free one?
I struggle to believe the fact that the gender wage gap is a mother wage gap has escaped the attention of most professional journalists, who one would hope looked at the data before writing about it. Consciously or not, perhaps it’s the case that they view motherhood, part-time work and less dangerous work as coerced choices, neatly wrapped under the umbrella of patriarchy. And so obviously one must seek economic justice.
The trickle-down effect is that gender pay becomes yet another politically correct dogma. One will hear loaded questions at the water cooler: ‘Should a woman’s career suffer for having children?’ Few will address the more difficult side of the equation: should a woman’s career (or anybody else’s for that matter) suffer for not having children? As Caroline ffiske noted in TCW, if the gender pay gap is ‘caused by women choosing to spend time at home with their children, then it will be solved by women choosing to spend less time at home with their children’. Either that, or initiatives such as equal and enforced paternity leave. But it’s rare to see such questions considered or such proposals endorsed. One need not wonder why.
The scepticism of the liberal Left regarding societal coercion has traditionally been a good barometer, a check on power. They would look at the inequality generated by the market as well as the unjust reasoning behind it. Now it seems they see any inequality as inherently unjust.
The evolutionary behavioural scientist Gad Saad theorises that some could be suffering from Munchausen Syndrome by proxy, whereby a caring figure, usually a mother, seeks to draw resources (social and/or capital) by fabricating ailments in the person under their care.
If the activists, journalists, and commentators were honestly in the game of advancing the experience and outcome of those they advocate for, they would be welcoming of the data that might explain (and describe) their disadvantage. Having shown themselves not to be interested in the causes and therefore possible solutions to the identified issue, they reveal their motives.
The irony is that the real ideological manipulation is the liberal-feminist consensus which finds its apotheosis in today’s sacrosanct identity politics. It is in the omission of the genuinely interesting, but politically incorrect, social science questions, such as the sharp decline of female happiness since the 1970s and the corollary observation that housewives seem to be amongst the happiest people in society. Inconvenient truths. But dismissing the life choices of others has always been a surefire way to validate one’s own.