Friday, May 09, 2008

Women don't work hard enough

Gender issues can be difficult for men to talk about with women. You could say it's a minefield but only if you're talking about a minefield that probably won't kill you but stands a really good chance of setting off an explosion at the level of your balls that will almost certainly shred them. As most men see some value in their balls, this is territory in which sensible men tread very carefully, if at all.

In Australia, studies have shown that on average, women earn about 15% less than men (which is to say, for every $1.00 a man earns, a woman will earn 85c). There are a lot of things that contribute to this, not all of which involve an evil plot by men to steal from hard working women. For a man to have a conversation with a woman about this is the equivalent of holding a grenade with the pin pulled. Staying alive depends on being fast enough to get the pin back in before the inevitable explosion.

Of course, with some men the intention is to lob a whole bunch of hand grenades and then laugh at the carnage. Somewhere between "You're so right, I wish I was a woman so that I had more empathy for all that is good in the world - I am so ashamed at being part of the phallocentric patriarchy," and "Shut up bitch and get me another beer," there is some rational territory for discussion. But it's a brave man who enters there.

This week there was a panel discussion on the topic of gender-based pay inequity at the National Press Club in Australia. Several prominent women including the federal Minister for the Status of Women were on the panel. As was one man, a social researcher (whatever that is) from the University of Melbourne, Professor Mark Wooden. I imagine the audience was heavily dominated by women as well.

(Side note: with a name like Wooden, do you think he's a really boring speaker?)

So where would the professor sit? Was he going to surrender his balls, focus on protecting them from shrapnel or swing them around in the breeze and see if there were any takers? Judge for yourself.

The summary of Professor Wooden's position is "women don't work hard enough". He said high achievers in all walks of life put in long hours of work and many women simply weren't willing to put in the same hours as men. One report described the response as "gasps from the mostly female audience." I bet. And there was probably the sound of sharpening knives as well. Not to mention a bit of walnutting* from the Prof.

Another panellist, federal minister Tanya Plibersek, (unsurprisingly) disagreed. She raised the extremely valid point that the notion of needing to work until all hours should be challenged. I personally think it's bullshit and refuse to do it. Which probably explains the fact I'm not CEO of anything. Along with the fact I never went to a private school. And I refuse to suck the boss' cock. And the crack addiction.

For the record, I don't think Professor Wooden is completely right. But he isn't completely wrong either. Only a tiny minority of the overall workforce rise through the ranks of management. If men are more prone to do stupid, life-destroying things to get there, is it any wonder they dominate the field? I don't think women (or any minority) are done any favours when they are given a benefit "just because they're a woman". But anyone who says there aren't situations where an equally or better qualified minority loses out to a white male whose sole advantage is being a white male is either deluding themselves or simply lying.

If he made his rather contentious statements just to stir up shit then he's a bit of a dick. But if his intention was to get people to face some unfortunate truths, then good on him. Maybe the reason some women don't get as far as some men is they just don't want it enough. I certainly know I don't want to give up my free time just to get more money in the bank.

He did seem to get a bit silly in the discussion. He was quoted as saying:

"The only way we can achieve this is if we have lots of role reversals, lots of men behaving like women and lots of women behaving like men."

"I don't think women in Australia want that, I don't think that women anywhere in the world want that."

I've never liked arguments that seem to be based on the idea that there's only one way for men to act and one way for women to act. And I'm not sure what qualifies Professor Wooden to say what women want. Speaking from experience, if you have one woman in your life it's hard enough to know what she's thinking, no matter how much time you spend with her. Speaking for all the women in the world is a little bit audacious.

But his "careful what you wish for" tone did remind me of my college days. There was certainly a very strong feminist culture there, right down to a hardcore group who fit right in with the "all men are rapists" stereotype.

A fellow alumnus, Sue Ann Post (self described as "Australia’s favourite six foot, lesbian, ex-Mormon, diabetic, comedian and writer") described them in a recent performance as feminazis. So there you go, Rush Limbaugh isn't the only person who uses that term.

Mind you, at the other end of the spectrum was an appalling boofhead culture that dominated the social scene which was basically run by rugby players. I enjoyed the company of most of the feminists but I fucking hated the rugby players.

Quite a few impressionable young women were cultivated into a reasonable approximation of man hating lesbians while they were there. The trouble is, a lot of them realised after college that they actually wanted to be with a man and even have a family with a man. And all that time spent man hating put them in a bad place. Most men really don't like being treated as if there's something intrinsically wrong with them simply because they're men.

And the ones who do knuckle under to this treatment are usually really bad in bed.

So ladies, when you look at inequality in pay rates and management positions, it's well worth asking yourself: "Is that what I really want?"

*WALNUTTING: To understand this term, you need to know two things. (1) What men's testicles look like and (2) The fact that, under certain circumstances, men's testicles will retract and appear to shrink. Men's balls look a bit like walnuts. Round and wrinkly. When it is cold or when a man feels threatened his balls will retract. Which makes them really look like walnuts. Hence, I wouldn't be surprised if Professor Wooden suffered some walnutting while making his speech to a group of women.

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