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> Books > Reviews > Ceasefire!

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San Jose Mercury News (California)

Equal Rights for Both Sexes Should Be the Goal: Women Deserve Equity, Not Advantage

By Joanne Jacobs

LAST Thursday on "Equal Pay Day," San Jose organizers handed out cookies with a quarter cut out to symbolize their claim that women are cheated of 26 percent of their earnings by discrimination. According to the National Committee on Pay Equity, the average woman working full-time earns 74 percent of average male pay, and would have to work from Jan. 1, 1998 to April 8, 1999 to earn as much as the average man earned in 1998.

Do women earn 74 percent of a man's wages for the same jobs? Well, no. With the same education and experience and seniority? No.

To start with, the 74 percent already is out of date. By the end of 1998, women full-timers earned 77 percent of the median male wage, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While minorities earn less than whites, the male-female differences are nar-rower. Black women average 84 percent of black male pay; Hispanic women average 85 percent of Hispanic male wages.

In part, pay differences are "the legacy of the traditional roles that were the expected life path for most women until recently," writes Cathy Young in "Ceasefire," her new book. "In 1968, fewer than a third of teenage girls ex-pected to be in the workforce when they were 35. Today, the earningsof younger women, who are more likely to have trained for a profession in anticipation of working for most of their adult lives, are much closer to those of their male peers: 83 cents to a dollar for women in their late 20s and early 30s, and 94 cents for women under 25."

Women's choices also are a significant factor. Women are much more likely to reduce their work hours, switch to a job with flexible hours or take months or years off from their jobs, with long-term effects on their earnings. And, as mothers' income declines, their breadwinner husbands earn more to support the family.

Young cites a study that found single women with MBAs earned nearly the same as single male MBAs; women in childless dual-income marriages were behind by a 6 percent margin. The mothers "made 12 percent less than fathers in two-earner families and 29 percent less than sole-breadwinner fathers."

In another study based on federal data, single, childless women 27 to 33 years old earned 98 percent of male pay, only a crumb's worth of difference.

In the war between the sexes, Young is a pacifist. In the war of ideas, she's a sharpshooter.

"Ceasefire: Why Women and Men Must Join Forces To Achieve True Equality" takes aim at feminists who see women as the victims of male brutes and "difference feminists" who see women as nurturing Venutians. Then Young shoots down the arguments of back-to-the-kitchen conservatives, who think equal opportunity has made women miserable, and New Victorians, who exhort women to domesticate male sexuality.

Young grew up in the Soviet Union, so she knows about oppression. When she came to the U.S. in 1980, at the age of 17, she felt liberated. She still does.

Young calls herself a "dissident feminist." She challenges the orthodoxy on education, employment, divorce, health care, sexual harassment and violence against women, while warning that male rights groups are promoting equally bogus myths of male victimization.

It's not enough to be "for" women, Young says. Past oppression doesn't jus-tify advantaging women at the expense of men. Women should be for equity for everyone.

The various wings of modern feminism, she writes, "all reject the principle of equal treatment, either because equal standards are inherently 'male' or be-cause one cannot treat oppressor and oppressed as equals. All divide humanity along gender lines."

There's a wonderful chapter title: "Men are from Earth, Women are from Earth."

I share with Young a particular loathing for the idea that logic, science, individualism and ethics are masculine, while women are naturally warm, fuzzy and emotional. The "feminization of society" touted by difference feminists would be, Young sneers, "the replacement of rational discourse by emoting and psychobabble."

We're both linear thinkers, an allegedly male trait.

Women can't have it both ways, Young writes. "Women are the same as men or different, whichever suits them; sex stereotypes are endorsed if they're positive (e.g. that women are more nurturing than men) and denounced if they're negative (e.g., that women are less intelligent than men). Feminists who resent any suggestion that a mother belongs with her children often insist, when it comes to child custody that children belong with the mother. Feminists acutely sensitive to bias against women show little concern for bias against men."

The book concludes with a call to respect women as deserving of equal rights and capable of assuming equal responsibilities. And to treat men and women as human beings.

October 25, 2002

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