5 Feminist Myths That Will Not Die

11 posts / 0 new
Last post
GloriaInTX's picture
Joined: 07/29/08
Posts: 4116
5 Feminist Myths That Will Not Die

Have you heard any of these statistics repeated? Do you think propaganda using false facts like these make it harder to address the real problems women face because resources may be directed to correct problems that don't really exist?

If we're genuinely committed to improving the circumstances of women, we need to get the facts straight

Much of what we hear about the plight of American women is false. Some faux facts have been repeated so often they are almost beyond the reach of critical analysis. Though they are baseless, these canards have become the foundation of Congressional debates, the inspiration for new legislation and the focus of college programs. Here are five of the most popular myths that should be rejected by all who are genuinely committed to improving the circumstances of women:

MYTH 1: Women are half the world?s population, working two-thirds of the world?s working hours, receiving 10% of the world?s income, owning less than 1% of the world?s property.

FACTS: This injustice confection is routinely quoted by advocacy groups, the World Bank, Oxfam and the United Nations. It is sheer fabrication. More than 15 years ago, Sussex University experts on gender and development Sally Baden and Anne Marie Goetz, repudiated the claim: ?The figure was made up by someone working at the UN because it seemed to her to represent the scale of gender-based inequality at the time.? But there is no evidence that it was ever accurate, and it certainly is not today.

Precise figures do not exist, but no serious economist believes women earn only 10% of the world?s income or own only 1% of property. As one critic noted in an excellent debunking in The Atlantic, ?U.S. women alone earn 5.4 percent of world income today.? Moreover, in African countries, where women have made far less progress than their Western and Asian counterparts, Yale economist Cheryl Doss found female land ownership ranged from 11% in Senegal to 54% in Rwanda and Burundi. Doss warns that ?using unsubstantiated statistics for advocacy is counterproductive.? Bad data not only undermine credibility, they obstruct progress by making it impossible to measure change.

MYTH 2: Between 100,000 and 300,000 girls are pressed into sexual slavery each year in the United States.

FACTS: This sensational claim is a favorite of politicians, celebrities and journalists. Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore turned it into a cause c?l?bre. Both conservatives and liberal reformers deploy it. Former President Jimmy Carter recently said that the sexual enslavement of girls in the U.S. today is worse than American slavery in the 19th century.

The source for the figure is a 2001 report on child sexual exploitation by University of Pennsylvania sociologists Richard Estes and Neil Alan Weiner. But their 100,000?300,000 estimate referred to children at risk for exploitation?not actual victims. When three reporters from the Village Voice questioned Estes on the number of children who are abducted and pressed into sexual slavery each year, he replied, ?We?re talking about a few hundred people.? And this number is likely to include a lot of boys: According to a 2008 census of underage prostitutes in New York City, nearly half turned out to be male. A few hundred children is still a few hundred too many, but they will not be helped by thousand-fold inflation of their numbers.

MYTH 3: In the United States, 22%?35% of women who visit hospital emergency rooms do so because of domestic violence.

FACTS: This claim has appeared in countless fact sheets, books and articles?for example, in the leading textbook on family violence, Domestic Violence Law, and in the Penguin Atlas of Women in the World. The Penguin Atlas uses the emergency room figure to justify placing the U.S. on par with Uganda and Haiti for intimate violence.

What is the provenance? The Atlas provides no primary source, but the editor of Domestic Violence Law cites a 1997 Justice Department study, as well as a 2009 post on the Centers for Disease Control website. But the Justice Department and the CDC are not referring to the 40 million women who annually visit emergency rooms, but to women, numbering about 550,000 annually, who come to emergency rooms ?for violence-related injuries.? Of these, approximately 37% were attacked by intimates. So, it?s not the case that 22%-35% of women who visit emergency rooms are there for domestic violence. The correct figure is less than half of 1%.

MYTH 4: One in five in college women will be sexually assaulted.

FACTS: This incendiary figure is everywhere in the media today. Journalists, senators and even President Obama cite it routinely. Can it be true that the American college campus is one of the most dangerous places on earth for women?

The one-in-five figure is based on the Campus Sexual Assault Study, commissioned by the National Institute of Justice and conducted from 2005 to 2007. Two prominent criminologists, Northeastern University?s James Alan Fox and Mount Holyoke College?s Richard Moran, have noted its weaknesses:

?The estimated 19% sexual assault rate among college women is based on a survey at two large four-year universities, which might not accurately reflect our nation?s colleges overall. In addition, the survey had a large non-response rate, with the clear possibility that those who had been victimized were more apt to have completed the questionnaire, resulting in an inflated prevalence figure.?

Fox and Moran also point out that the study used an overly broad definition of sexual assault. Respondents were counted as sexual assault victims if they had been subject to ?attempted forced kissing? or engaged in intimate encounters while intoxicated.

Defenders of the one-in-five figure will reply that the finding has been replicated by other studies. But these studies suffer from some or all of the same flaws. Campus sexual assault is a serious problem and will not be solved by statistical hijinks.

MYTH 5: Women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns?for doing the same work.

FACTS: No matter how many times this wage gap claim is decisively refuted by economists, it always comes back. The bottom line: the 23-cent gender pay gap is simply the difference between the average earnings of all men and women working full-time. It does not account for differences in occupations, positions, education, job tenure or hours worked per week. When such relevant factors are considered, the wage gap narrows to the point of vanishing.

Wage gap activists say women with identical backgrounds and jobs as men still earn less. But they always fail to take into account critical variables. Activist groups like the National Organization for Women have a fallback position: that women?s education and career choices are not truly free?they are driven by powerful sexist stereotypes. In this view, women?s tendency to retreat from the workplace to raise children or to enter fields like early childhood education and psychology, rather than better paying professions like petroleum engineering, is evidence of continued social coercion. Here is the problem: American women are among the best informed and most self-determining human beings in the world. To say that they are manipulated into their life choices by forces beyond their control is divorced from reality and demeaning, to boot.

Why do these reckless claims have so much appeal and staying power? For one thing, there is a lot of statistical illiteracy among journalists, feminist academics and political leaders. There is also an admirable human tendency to be protective of women?stories of female exploitation are readily believed, and vocal skeptics risk appearing indifferent to women?s suffering. Finally, armies of advocates depend on ?killer stats? to galvanize their cause. But killer stats obliterate distinctions between more and less serious problems and send scarce resources in the wrong directions. They also promote bigotry. The idea that American men are annually enslaving more than 100,000 girls, sending millions of women to emergency rooms, sustaining a rape culture and cheating women out of their rightful salary creates rancor in true believers and disdain in those who would otherwise be sympathetic allies.

My advice to women?s advocates: Take back the truth.

KimPossible's picture
Joined: 05/24/06
Posts: 3312

I don't have much to comment on the article as a whole. My general comment would be that this are 5 highly specific facts that they are trying to debunk but I don't really know what the significance of that is. Is it to say that there are no sexist issues? Just that these 5 issues are misrepresented? Doesn't really seem to matter...especially if there is truth behind them and the numbers are just wrong.

NOT saying we shouldn't know the real number...we definitely should. But what is the actual point or purpose in the way its presented here I wonder.

In regards to the last one though.

ACTS: No matter how many times this wage gap claim is decisively refuted by economists, it always comes back. The bottom line: the 23-cent gender pay gap is simply the difference between the average earnings of all men and women working full-time. It does not account for differences in occupations, positions, education, job tenure or hours worked per week. When such relevant factors are considered, the wage gap narrows to the point of vanishing.

Ummm, WHY are men in higher earning occupations. WHY are men in higher earning positions. WHY are men receiving more valuable education and staying in their jobs longer? Thats kind of the whole point!

GloriaInTX's picture
Joined: 07/29/08
Posts: 4116

"KimPossible" wrote:

Ummm, WHY are men in higher earning occupations. WHY are men in higher earning positions. WHY are men receiving more valuable education and staying in their jobs longer? Thats kind of the whole point!

Most of the time I think this is by choice, not because they don't have the opportunity. Less women choose to stay in those types of positions and sacrifice the time with their families.

Spacers's picture
Joined: 12/29/03
Posts: 4100

I've never heard any of these before. I guess I'm reading the wrong feminist propaganda. :rolleyes:

mom3girls's picture
Joined: 01/09/07
Posts: 1535

I think if we can start looking at the facts of some of these issues, real facts not statistics that are skewed by whichever group puts them out, then we can figure out real solutions for some of the inequality issues that do still exist.

I heard on the radio the other day (NPR) that some people put out that 35-38% of all ER visits for woman come from abuse by their intimate partners. But the expert was disputing this fact, that the real number was 1%. If this expert was correct then we need to see the real numbers. Other wise I believe we are very much fighting a pretend battle, while real battles are not getting the attention they need

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
Posts: 6560

In my family I stay home with my kids while my husband works out of the home. I know not everyone does it this way, but certainly several do. Any statistics about how many more men are in professional positions have to take into consideration that at this point of time this is the more common way people choose to do things. I am sure there are times when woman are passed over because they are woman. I believe most often though, there are less woman in those positions because there are less woman that want them.

Joined: 03/08/03
Posts: 3187

"AlyssaEimers" wrote:

In my family I stay home with my kids while my husband works out of the home. I know not everyone does it this way, but certainly several do. Any statistics about how many more men are in professional positions have to take into consideration that at this point of time this is the more common way people choose to do things. I am sure there are times when woman are passed over because they are woman. I believe most often though, there are less woman in those positions because there are less woman that want them.

I'm not sure what you're basing that on.

Women are often not considered for or excluded from those jobs, often because the assumption their bosses make -- both male and female -- is that they'll be less focused on the job and more focused on what's going on at home. Even when they don't do it consciously, it's there as an undercurrent and it affects decisions.

I've seen men decide that a woman wasn't committed professionally because she was also into fashion and wore a lot of really nice clothes -- not expensive, but trendy and fashionable, so they assumed she was shallow. And the person I'm talking about is really bright and very driven.

Men make judgements about women based on all kinds of things that don't apply to other men.

KimPossible's picture
Joined: 05/24/06
Posts: 3312

"GloriaInTX" wrote:

Most of the time I think this is by choice, not because they don't have the opportunity. Less women choose to stay in those types of positions and sacrifice the time with their families.

Oh i definitely think some of it can be attributed to choice. But choice is a blanket term that could easily be examined in its own right, and I wouldn't be surprised if some of the things that lead women to choose to stay home are also some of the things that prevent them from succeeding and excelling in the work force. Its all inter-twined.

KimPossible's picture
Joined: 05/24/06
Posts: 3312

"freddieflounder101" wrote:

I'm not sure what you're basing that on.

Women are often not considered for or excluded from those jobs, often because the assumption their bosses make -- both male and female -- is that they'll be less focused on the job and more focused on what's going on at home. Even when they don't do it consciously, it's there as an undercurrent and it affects decisions.

I've seen men decide that a woman wasn't committed professionally because she was also into fashion and wore a lot of really nice clothes -- not expensive, but trendy and fashionable, so they assumed she was shallow. And the person I'm talking about is really bright and very driven.

Men make judgements about women based on all kinds of things that don't apply to other men.

Yeah, the whole workforce thing can't be boiled down to 'women just choose to not work'....its so much more complicated than that.

Both this notion of choice AND everything else unrelated to choice.

KimPossible's picture
Joined: 05/24/06
Posts: 3312

I want to explain further why i have an issue with dismissing things because 'women choose'.

I'll use my own life experience as the model. First I will start with the fact that overall I'm pretty happy with my role as parent and with my husbands role. Because of that, i don't push hard to change it. It works, we're good, kids are good and we are happy people.

BUT, somewhere along the way and I don't know how or why it happened, it has fallen mostly to me to manage the kids day to day. I'm the one who rearranges my schedule most often in order to do kid related stuff. DH will sometimes take time out of his schedule to bring one to a dr. appointment, or a very quick pick up and drop off. But other than that....those duties fall to me.

I'm very frequently rearranging my schedule, take this time off, or that time off....often at feasible times but mildly inconvenient to work. Etc.

No doubt, managing my kids lives has indeed impacted my own career. Would I say I was 'forced' to do it this way? No....i'd probably use the word choose. But it leads me to ask why its often the woman who is left making that decision. I think more often than not its the default expectation that women have to make this decision, not men.

And often i don't think its highly deliberate, like you sit down and discuss it and make a mutual decision. I think often the chips just fall that way...if you were to ask a lot of working mom's they would probably not look back and think of a specific day when they decided they were going to make that sacrifice as oppose to dad..."it just happened"

While I'm happy with things the way they are, i think i would have been happy if the roles were reversed too. Where I could have concentrated more on my career and DH did more of the compromising in order to get the kids where they have to be. But for some reason...that just didn't happen, nor was it in question. It was just like the default expectation would be I would do it and it would take lengthy discussion and who knows what to have arranged it the other way. I think there are a lot of women who feel the way I do. Sure they are happy with the way things are, and would use the word 'choice' to describe how they got to where they are today....but that choice has a lot of underlying influences. I don't think there was ever a 50/50 chance that mom OR dad would pick up that role in most families.

Spacers's picture
Joined: 12/29/03
Posts: 4100

ITA with Laurie that men (and maybe even women) in supervisory roles make lots of assumptions about women just because we're women. I had a restaurant manager who refused to schedule a woman bartender to close on Friday or Saturday nights because he thought it was too late for a woman to be getting off work with a pocketful of cash. (He was finally over-ruled when someone took the issue to the district level.) I was once asked in a job interview if I planned to have children in the next 2-3 years; nevermind that that's an illegal question to ask, it was asked nonetheless, and I don't think they would ask that question of a man. I had an employer once who asked me to clean the bathroom before a client came over because he forgot to have his housekeeper do it; I was his bookkeeper and office manager! Do you think he'd have dared ask a man in that position to do that? I refused and he later apologized for asking, but still....

And one thing that always bothers me with the whole "gender pay gap" thing is that most of those studies only look at income and quantifiable benefits. I am choosing to work for a lower base pay than I could make elsewhere in exchange for a more flexible work schedule, and an excellent health plan. You can quantify some things, like paid time off and overtime paid out, but not others. If I had the same insurance coverage when Tiven was born that I had at my first "real job" after graduating, I'd still be paying her medical bills or I'd have had to declare bankruptcy, but the only part of insurance coverage that is quantified in compensation studies is the premium amount. And the question the other day about the longer work week? I laughed at that. I work my 40 hours and I'm out the door and I don't check email and I don't have a cell phone that I feel obligated to answer in my time off. My work is project-based so sometimes I do end up needing to put in extra hours to finish something on time, but I can always do that at home after the kids are asleep and then I take the overtime off on Friday afternoons during soccer season. You can't put a value on that kind of flexibility to compare my job to another so it ends up looking like I make less when, in reality, I'm pretty happy with my overall package.