Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Earn less to land a husband?

By Peggy Drexler
updated 12:16 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
The names Betty, Gloria and Shirley probably come to mind when most think of feminists, but there's a whole group of young women -- and men -- who are working toward equality. Here is a short list -- who would you add? Tweet us <a href='https://twitter.com/cnnliving' target='_blank'>@CNNLiving</a> with #fem2.<!-- -->
</br><!-- -->
</br>Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani student and education activist, who gained international attention after she<a href='http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/11/world/europe/nobel-peace-prize-speculation-malala/'> was shot in 2012 by Taliban gunmen</a>. "I want to become a prime minister of Pakistan," she said, saying it could make her "the doctor of the whole country." The names Betty, Gloria and Shirley probably come to mind when most think of feminists, but there's a whole group of young women -- and men -- who are working toward equality. Here is a short list -- who would you add? Tweet us @CNNLiving with #fem2.

Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani student and education activist, who gained international attention after she was shot in 2012 by Taliban gunmen. "I want to become a prime minister of Pakistan," she said, saying it could make her "the doctor of the whole country."
HIDE CAPTION
Young feminists
Young feminists
Young feminists
Young feminists
Young feminists
Young feminists
Young feminists
Young feminists
Young feminists
Young feminists
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly says equal pay is bad for women
  • Peggy Drexler: Her case that equal pay hurts women's odds of marrying is flawed
  • Drexler says reducing financial independence for women doesn't empower them
  • We need to reduce gender-based salary discrimination, Drexler says

Editor's note: Peggy Drexler is the author of "Our Fathers, Ourselves: Daughters, Fathers, and the Changing American Family" and "Raising Boys Without Men." She is an assistant professor of psychology at Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University and a former gender scholar at Stanford University. Join her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @drpeggydrexler. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- Despite the fact that Republicans recently voted down the Paycheck Fairness Act (for the third time), no one dares to argue in favor of gender-based salary discrimination.

No one, that is, except for "pro-family" activist Phyllis Schlafly, who has made a long career of telling women their place is in the home. In case you're not familiar with Schlafly, she's a veteran right-wing activist and founder 44 years ago of the Eagle Forum, a conservative interest group that, among other things, opposes abortion, vaccines and working mothers.

On Tuesday in the Christian Post, Schlafly declared that equal pay is bad, widening the wage gap is good and that the entire institution of marriage depends on men continuing to earn more than women.

Peggy Drexler
Peggy Drexler

Providing women with equal pay for equal work, she wrote, would lower their chances of finding a "suitable mate," since, as Schlafly argues, women prefer to marry men who earn more than they do while men prefer to marry women who earn less.

But do they? Or is it that neither gender has had very many choices to the contrary?

Talking about the salary gap between partners is the least romantic thing in marriages. But the truth is that women have long married men who earned more than they did for one main reason: Men have long earned more than women.

It's not about desire. It's about numbers. Schlafly says that "men don't have the same preference for a higher-earning mate." Maybe that's because until very recently, the chances that men meet higher-earning women were pretty rare. They still are.

Schlafly doesn't stop there, though.

She argues that beyond the case for "saving marriage," women don't actually deserve equal pay because they "work fewer hours per day, per week, per year." While men work more than women in paid work, women work more than men if you account for unpaid work.

She goes on saying that women "place a much higher value on pleasant working conditions: a clean, comfortable, air-conditioned office with congenial co-workers" -- as if A/C and friends to eat lunch with were not things that men like as well.

She also ignores the reality that professional men and women do not receive equal treatment or consideration in the workplace. Women earn less than men -- about 84 cents to men's dollar.

Although Schlafly proposes that the best way to empower women is to make job prospects better for men, that only works -- if it works at all -- for women who are able, or want, to marry.

What about the rest of them? What about other choices?

Simply put, even if every American man and woman wanted to marry, there are more women than men. Schlafly's math doesn't add up.

She also says, "Suppose the pay gap between men and women were magically eliminated. If that happened, simple arithmetic suggests that half of women would be unable to find what they regard as a suitable mate." That is, the more men that out-earn women, the more men there are from which those women might choose.

Reducing opportunity and financial independence for women does not empower them. In fact, the result is quite the opposite.

Of course, Schlafly's latest manifesto isn't about making logical arguments. She has long been known for courting controversy with her anti-feminism, anti-liberalism, anti-equal rights advocacy -- it's no surprise that she'd latch onto equal pay to further her own platform.

The truth is that a more likely deterrent to marriage is the higher tax burdens that married couples face. Under current tax codes, two-wage earning couples face higher taxes if they marry. This might be tolerable for middle class couples but is less so for those who earn less.

Economically speaking, there's greater incentive for young couples of modest means to forgo marriage entirely in favor of what Schlafly might regard as (gasp!) living in sin.

Schlafly's message is immensely disempowering for women, but what else would we come to expect from a woman who has made a career of telling women that their place is at home?

Perhaps more importantly, Schlafly's just got the whole "what women want" thing all wrong. Studies show that women are increasingly marrying men who are less educated and who earn less, too.

Could it be that these women are just taking what they can get? Or could it be that there's a new norm in town?

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 1:33 AM EST, Thu December 25, 2014
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
updated 6:12 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
updated 8:36 AM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
updated 2:14 PM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
updated 10:35 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
updated 7:57 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
updated 11:29 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
updated 4:15 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
updated 1:11 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
updated 1:08 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
updated 1:53 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
updated 3:19 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
updated 5:39 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
updated 12:09 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
updated 2:51 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
updated 4:13 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
updated 7:55 AM EST, Wed December 10, 2014
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
updated 12:34 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
updated 8:42 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
updated 12:40 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT