A new round in the fight between corporations and women

The New York Times editorial on the disappointing hold up in congressional efforts to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act rightly calls out senators for putting corporate interests above those of female employees, who remain underpaid and sidelined in the workplace.  Distracting discussions about the so-called “Opt Out Revolution” and the “post-feminist” age aside , the fundamental fact remains that women and corporations have always been at odds.  It’s a little noticed fact that corporations had legal personhood in the US and beyond far before women.  Although historians disagree on the exact origin of the idea of “corporate personhood,” it was a concept undeniably familiar to Roman and mediaval jurists (including Pope Innocent IV, who is sometimes called the father of the modern corporation).  Corporations were allowed to contract, to sue and be sued in their name, and to own property, while women were still under coverture well into the 19th century.

The history of corporate personhood may not  immediately seem like the cause of the lingering 77 cents on the dollar reality for working women; however, it speaks to the overall willingness for courts and politicians to recognize equal citizenship rights for corporations (Citizens United being the best, recent example), while ignoring the blatant unfairness and inequality faced by women.  Given the historical development of legal personhood, it should surprise no one that corporate interests continue to precede and dominate the interests of women.

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  • No legislation yet has closed the gender wage gap — not the 1963 Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, not Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, not the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, not the 1991 amendments to Title VII, not affirmative action, not diversity, not the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, not the countless state and local laws and regulations, not the horde of overseers at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission….. Nor would the Paycheck Fairness Act work.

    That’s because pay-equity advocates, at no small financial cost to taxpayers and the economy, continue to overlook the effects of this female AND male behavior:

    Despite the 40-year-old demand for women’s equal pay, millions of wives still choose to have no pay at all. In fact, according to Dr. Scott Haltzman, author of “The Secrets of Happily Married Women,” stay-at-home wives, including the childless who represent an estimated 10 percent, constitute a growing niche. “In the past few years,” he says in a CNN report at http://tinyurl.com/6reowj, “many women who are well educated and trained for career tracks have decided instead to stay at home.” (“Census Bureau data show that 5.6 million mothers stayed home with their children in 2005, about 1.2 million more than did so a decade earlier….” at http://tinyurl.com/qqkaka. If more women are staying at home, perhaps it’s because feminists and the media have told women for years that female workers are paid less than men in the same jobs — so why bother working if they’re going to be penalized and humiliated for being a woman.)

    As full-time mothers or homemakers, stay-at-home wives earn zero. How can they afford to do this while in many cases living in luxury? Because they’re supported by their husband.

    Both feminists and the media miss ignore what this obviously implies: If millions of wives are able to accept no wages and live as well as their husbands, millions of other wives are able to accept low wages, refuse overtime and promotions, work part-time instead of full-time (“According to a 2009 UK study by Cristina Odone for the Centre for Policy Studies, only 12 per cent of the 4,690 women surveyed wanted to work full time.” http://bit.ly/ihc0tl), take more unpaid days off, avoid uncomfortable wage-bargaining (http://tinyurl.com/45ecy7p) — all of which lower women’s average pay. They are able to do this because they are supported by a husband who must earn more than if he’d chosen never to marry. (Still, even many men who shun marriage, unlike women, feel their self worth is tied to their net worth.) This is how MEN help create the wage gap. If the roles were reversed so that men raised the children and women raised the income, men would average lower pay than women.

    See “A Response to the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act” at http://tinyurl.com/pvbrcu

    By the way, the next Equal Occupational Fatality Day is in 2020. The year 2020 is how far into the future women will have to work to experience the same number of work-related deaths that men experienced in 2009 alone. See http://blog.american.com/?p=30031