• SynodOfDordt
    7
    The gender pay-gap is a contentious issue. But the source of the contention seems to centre around just one question, namely: “Does a gender pay-gap exist, or does it not?” But there is another question which receives far less attention, and yet is worthy of just as much consideration: “If there were a gender pay-gap, would it matter?” It seems to be taken as given, both by those who argue that the pay-gap exists and by those who argue that it does not, that such a pay-gap would be unjust, and that something would have to be done about it. It is almost axiomatic, in most people’s minds, that it would be an injustice, one to be solved by means of the law. The law would rectify the apparent injustice by compelling employers to furnish their employees with equal pay for equal work. I suggest that this is not the case. Rather, I propose that, even if a pay-gap exists, we should not consider it as a problem to be solved.

    Let us imagine a textbook case of pay-inequality. I am a man, and you are a woman. We are both equally qualified, equally experienced, equally fit; as equally valuable to an employer as one cares to stipulate. We both have an identical contract with our employer, whereby we do the very same kind of work, for the same number of hours, and we do our work equally well. We are equally productive. However, we differ in one respect, aside from our respective genders: I earn more than you do. You earn, say, £10 an hour, and I earn, say, £11 an hour.

    The question is, what should be done about it? It seems to me that, if you are seeking to “rectify” this inequality, then there really are only two ways of going about it. One option is to establish some rule, whereby no one may be paid more than the lowest-paid employee doing that same job. The other option is to establish a rule, whereby no one may be paid less than the highest-paid employee doing that same job. And that’s it. These are the only options, it seems to me. Where one employee is earning more than another, you may either bring the higher-paid employee down to equality, or bring the lower-paid employee up to equality. It is my argument that neither of these courses of action is particularly desirable, when all’s said and done.

    Let us apply the first option as a solution to the inequality case described above. If no one may be paid more than the lowest-paid employee, then I am not permitted to earn more than £10 an hour, when that is your wage. To rectify the inequality, then, my wage should be brought down from £11 an hour to £10. On the one hand, the inequality problem has been rectified. “Equal pay for equal work” has been achieved. And yet, has the situation improved? Your situation has not been improved, at least not in any material way. You may be happier with the fact that your colleague has now been brought down to your level, but your employment situation has not, in itself, been made any more attractive. My situation, obviously, has only worsened. The only person who profits from this “equalised” situation is our employer; that is, the very person who (one may say) is responsible for the unequal situation in the first place. He, the very source of the discrimination, now has more money in his pocket.

    Clearly, this is not exactly “progress”. Equality has been achieved, and yet no one who should be better off actually is better off, and the only person who is better off shouldn’t be. I don’t wish to harp on this point, but I think that this is an important observation: equality for its own sake, equality “come what may”, does not seem to be a desirable outcome. As Margaret Thatcher captured it, the moment you start talking about a “gap” in wealth, you are committed to saying that you would rather the poor be poorer, if only it meant that the rich were less rich. In keeping with Thatcher’s point, it seems to me that a situation wherein I earn £11 to your £10, for the very same work, is a preferable situation to one in which you bring me down to your level for no other reason than to achieve a parity in pay.

    But, these are not the only options available to us. There is the application of the second rule, described above, whereby no one may be paid less than the highest-paid employee. Application of this rule would bring your wage up, from £10 an hour to the £11 an hour which I receive. Comparatively, this seems a far better situation. You, the victim of the inequality, are materially better off, and our employer, the erstwhile perpetrator of the inequality, bears the cost of rectifying it. To be sure, this certainly seems to have more promise. But is it truly a just outcome?

    To answer this, we must consider why it is that you were earning only £10 an hour in the first place. The obvious answer, of course, is because this is the wage to which you contractually agreed. Moreover, it is reasonable to suppose that this wage is commensurate with what your labour is worth, commercially. One would think that, if your labour were worth more than you were being paid, you could barter up, threaten to find a job elsewhere, and, failing that, you might carry out your threat and do precisely that. And if you find yourself unable to do any of these things, then it may simply be the case that your labour really is worth £10 an hour after all. When I speak of the “worth” of your labour, I am of course assuming a market situation, wherein prices are determined by an equilibrium of supply and demand curves.

    Supposing that this is the case, the obvious question is: if you are earning £10 an hour because that is what you are worth (by market standards), and we are doing the same work and are equally productive, then why would I be earning £11 an hour? There are two possible reasons for this. One is simply that the market can only be so exacting when it comes to determining prices. It will not refine the price of a good or a service down to the nearest penny, and perhaps not even to the nearest pound sterling, so that £10 an hour and £11 an hour are both within the range of our market worth as workers. The second possibility is that I am simply being paid more than I am worth, where you are being paid merely what you are worth. It may even be the case that we are both being paid generously, relative to our market worth, only I am being paid slightly more generously. In either case, the problem is not that you are being paid less than what you are worth. Rather, the problem (if in fact it is one) is that I am being paid more than the bare minimum that I am worth.

    Is this an unjust state of affairs? I see no reason to think so. Supposing that you are being paid at least as much as you are worth, and perhaps more so (not to mention the amount to which you contractually agreed), I do not see how you might become the victim of an injustice if you should later discover that our employer has decided to engage in an arbitrary and unprofitable act of charity towards me, your colleague. We might imagine that you were only too delighted to accept the terms of your employment, that you considered yourself exceedingly blessed to have been employed under the terms which you managed to secure. And if, in due course, you discover that the terms that I managed to secure were still more generous, does this mean that you were unfairly treated? Surely not.

    If I am being paid more than I am worth – that is, more than my employer can reasonably get away with paying me – then anything that I am being paid above and beyond the minimum is, in effect, an act of charity on the part of my employer. As such, you have no more reason to complain about the present situation than does a charity, if it should discover that one of its benefactors has given even more generously to another charity. The British Heart Foundation is not a victim of anything, if I have given £1000 to it and £2000 to Save the Donkeys. I am not obligated to do either.

    There is one more variable to consider. I have been assuming that, in each case where there is an inequality in pay, the employee who is being paid less is still being paid at least as much as their labour is worth, on its own terms. I have been assuming that, in the illustration we have been using, the £10 an hour which you are earning really is commensurate, by market standards, to your productivity, and the extra pay which I receive is simply an arbitrary act of charity on the part of our employer. But what if this is not the case? What if, instead, you are being undervalued and underpaid, where I am receiving my fair due? Is this not an injustice?

    The hard-nosed capitalist in me is tempted to suggest that, even if this is the situation, personal responsibility should be taken for the fact that this inadequate wage is still the wage to which you contractually agreed. But let’s leave this aside. Granting that your earning an inadequate wage, where I am receiving my due, is an injustice, what is the nature of this injustice? It seems to me that the problem here is not a problem of inequality first and foremost. This may be seen clearly enough. We established earlier that rectifying a disparity in pay does not necessarily achieve a positive outcome. Indeed, to bring my adequate wage down to the level of your inadequate wage serves only to make the both of us underpaid. But we may go further still. Suppose that I, and all other employees, are made unemployed, so that you are the only employee left. Such would remove the inequality problem entirely. You now have no colleagues relative to whom you are unequal. And yet the principle problem – the fact that you are being underpaid – remains.

    Therefore, even granting that there is an injustice here, the injustice is not one of inequality first and foremost. The principle injustice is not the fact that you are being paid less than I, but the fact that you are being less than what you are worth in yourself. Supposing that this is rectified, that your wage is improved, by whatever means, so that your pay is brought up to what it should be, the inequality problem is solved incidentally. The gap between your inadequate wage and my adequate wage is closed, not by addressing the inequality directly, but by addressing the fact that you are not being paid as much as you can reasonably demand in the market, relative to the value of your labour. As such, even conceding the fact that the inequality here is indeed a problem, we may see that it is a problem in a secondary, incidental sense, and one that is solved by addressing the more pressing problem.

    We have considered several variations of one very straightforward situation of pay-inequality. We first considered a case in which I, a man, earn more than you, a woman, but without specifying the reason or circumstances which brought this about, and without addressing the question of whether either or both of us are being paid what we are worth in ourselves. To this situation, we applied a rule which rectified the inequality by bringing me down to your level. We saw that this is not an effective means of achieving equality, for it leaves us with a worse situation in the final analysis. We then considered an alternative strategy, in which your wage is brought up to match mine. To this end, we assumed that your wage was adequate and that mine was more than adequate. In such a state of affairs, I suggested that this does not make you the victim of an injustice, any more than one charity is the victim of an injustice for being given a smaller donation than some other charity. Finally, we considered the same state of affairs again, only with the stipulation that you are being underpaid for the work that you do. Here, I concede, there is a problem of inequality. However, I argued that it was a less pressing problem than the fact that you were being paid an inadequate wage for your labour, and that, if this problem were rectified, then the inequality problem would be dealt with incidentally.

    I submit that the gender pay-gap, even if it exists, is either (a) not a problem in any sense, or (b) a problem in an incidental sense, that may be resolved by addressing a yet more pressing problem related to inadequate pay. Therefore, we should not consider the gender pay-gap as a problem to be solved in any sense.
  • BlueBanana
    920
    I submit that the gender pay-gap, even if it exists, is either (a) not a problem in any sense, or (b) a problem in an incidental sense, that may be resolved by addressing a yet more pressing problem related to inadequate pay. Therefore, we should not consider the gender pay-gap as a problem to be solved in any sense.SynodOfDordt

    First of all the (b) is the case, which is a statistically verifiable fact. In that the women are on average paid less than men the problem is, of course, that the women are paid too little - something which you used quite a bit of text to state (which is not a problem as much as it is rather amusing). The problem is caused by inequality, which is a problem in itself, although not in this context, where it merely causes the problem.

    But second, you've at least partly misunderstood the pay-gap. It's also, you see, a fact that pay-gap is almost non-existent when experience, career, profession, work-quality, etc. are considered. The issue is the culture and the gender roles defined by it that push men and women to different careers with different wages (maybe coincidentally, perhaps because the patriarchal society prefers the male-dominated careers). For example, teachers, most of whom are female, are underpaid considering the importance and influence of their jobs.
  • BlueBanana
    920
    The leftist stance said in my previous comment stated, I also like Jordan Peterson's stance on the glass ceiling and why there are so much more men on the top of all the careers: getting to the top in anything takes an insane amount of work and dedication, and should generally not be done because that doesn't lead to happy and balanced life. It just happens to be (maybe because of evolution, maybe because of the sociocultural gender roles) that the people insane enough to do that, arguably a poor, choice are usually men. Although these kinds of people are often seen as successful, from normal people's point of view those people are the ones that have made the poor choices in their life, although the normal people don't realize that. So instead of complaining that all the politicians and CEOs are men, we should realize that no average person actually wants to be in that position.
  • Maw
    2.5k
    No, that the gender-pay gap does exist is not contentious. It's more or less accepted that it does. What is controversial is why the gender-pay gap exist. Is it because simply because women freely choose less lucrative careers? Or is it because of sexism within higher paying industries (e.g. STEM) and "boy's club" mentality? Is it because women naturally tend to sacrifice careers over family? Or is it because there is societal pressure for women to choose the latter over the former?

    As with most sociological issues, the problem is multi-variant, but, undeniably I think, sexism plays a prominent role.
  • Saphsin
    334
    Yes, this is a pretty good primer on the subject and explanation:

    https://www.epi.org/publication/what-is-the-gender-pay-gap-and-is-it-real/
  • Michael
    9.6k


    Your arguments ignore the central issue, which is that I was offered a contract with a lower wage because I'm a woman. Discrimination based on sex is illegal and unethical. Illegal and unethical practices ought be abolished and, where possible, rectified.

    Although there may be problems regarding how to go about rectifying existing contracts – do we raise women's wages, lower men's wages, or both? – at the very least it should be ensured that in the future the sex of the applicant does not determine the wage they're offered.
  • Michael
    9.6k
    I do not see how you might become the victim of an injustice if you should later discover that our employer has decided to engage in an arbitrary and unprofitable act of charity towards me, your colleague.SynodOfDordt

    This is a red herring. In the case of there being a gender pay gap, the decision to pay me less (or you more) isn't arbitrary. The decision was made on the basis of our sex. It isn't just a case of one person who happens to be a man being paid more than another person who happens to be a woman but a case of women systematically being paid less than men (all other things being equal, as your own argument assumes). That's an injustice.
  • SynodOfDordt
    7
    Thank you, everyone, for your responses. They are helpful, and allow me to clarify a number of issues. I should point out, first of all, that I have not made (and, for the purposes of this thread, do not intend to make) any judgement about whether or not a gender pay-gap exists. Nor do I make a judgement about why it exists. Also, I am happy to concede that an employer who decides upon how much money he is prepared to pay his or her employees based solely on their gender is unethical and sexist. My thesis, for which I have argued not insubstantially, is that we should not consider it a problem to be solved by the political process; that is, by law. I have made no argument concerning the reasons or explanation for the unequal situation, nor what kind of personal value judgement we might make about it. That is for all of us to decide for ourselves.

    First of all the (b) is the case, which is a statistically verifiable fact. In that the women are on average paid less than men the problem is, of course, that the women are paid too little - something which you used quite a bit of text to state (which is not a problem as much as it is rather amusing). The problem is caused by inequality, which is a problem in itself, although not in this context, where it merely causes the problem.BlueBanana

    This is not quite true, in that I did not assert that women are, in fact, paid less than they should be, nor that this is the chief cause of the pay-gap, should it exist (I did not deny any of this, either). Rather, my argument was entirely hypothetical: if there is a case of pay-inequality, and this inequality is due to one of the employees being payed less they are worth, then the fact of inequality is entirely a secondary issue, one that is resolved incidentally by tackling the more pressing problem of inadequate pay. If we are on the same page here (as we seem to be, in your acknowledgement of (b)), then all well and good.

    But second, you've at least partly misunderstood the pay-gap. It's also, you see, a fact that pay-gap is almost non-existent when experience, career, profession, work-quality, etc. are considered. The issue is the culture and the gender roles defined by it that push men and women to different careers with different wages (maybe coincidentally, perhaps because the patriarchal society prefers the male-dominated careers). For example, teachers, most of whom are female, are underpaid considering the importance and influence of their jobs.BlueBanana

    If I understand your point here, then you seem to be suggesting that, in effect, there is no pay gap once we start comparing like with like. After this, though, I don’t exactly take your point. You seem to be suggesting that society “pushes” men and women to pursue different careers. This may or may not be the case; it may, after all, be the case that men and women are wired differently, and have different preferences. But supposing it is the case, I don’t see what impact this has on the argument I presented. My thesis was that the fact of pay-inequality, where it obtains, is either a non-issue or a secondary issue, depending on the circumstances. Perhaps teachers are underpaid, and perhaps most teachers are women. But the two may well be accidental. If you are making an argument here, I don’t exactly see what it is.

    No, that the gender-pay gap does exist is not contentious. It's more or less accepted that it does. What is controversial is why the gender-pay gap exist. Is it because simply because women freely choose less lucrative careers? Or is it because of sexism within higher paying industries (e.g. STEM) and "boy's club" mentality? Is it because women naturally tend to sacrifice careers over family? Or is it because there is societal pressure for women to choose the latter over the former?Maw

    This is true only in the narrow sense that men working full time earn more than women working full time, on average. When I suggest that the existence of the gender pay-gap is disputed, I intend this merely in the sense that Blue Banana suggested above: that the the gender pay-gap does not exist in any significant sense; that is, when like is compared with like. But as I have explained, my original post purposefully ignores the factual question of whether or not this is the case. The question I have explored is one that is entirely hypothetical.

    Your arguments ignore the central issue, which is that I was offered a contract with a lower wage because I'm a woman.Michael

    I ignored the question of sexist employers for the simple reason that it is irrelevant to the philosophical substance of the argument I presented. I presented three variations of the one thought experiment, which, I believe, collectively covered every permutation of events as regards pay-disparity situations. In each case, you may insert the additional stipulation that the reason for the disparity in the first place was due to a sexist prejudice on the part of the employer, but it does not make any philosophical difference to the argument.

    Discrimination based on sex is illegal and unethical. Illegal and unethical practices ought be abolished and, where possible, rectified.Michael

    There are two issues here: illegality and unethical-ness(?). It seems to me that the illegality argument is entirely question-begging. I am sure that I do not need to point out that not everything that is illegal necessarily should be, and that not everything that should be illegal actually is. So to say, as you do, that “Illegal … practices ought to be abolished” is not necessarily the case, unless one has already assumed that the law is correct to punish employers who discriminate on the basis of gender. But this is the very question that is being disputed. This argument is only convincing to one who already accepts that the law should punish employers who discriminate in this way. Hence, question-begging.

    The ethical question is trickier: I have conceded that discrimination on the basis of gender, at least when it comes to pay, in unethical. But it is not at all clear that this entails any kind of coercive or prohibitive involvement on the part of the law. Consider, by analogy, the vote. The vote is an extremely important right indeed. And, in an ideal world, everyone would exercise their respective vote in a responsible way; voting for candidates, for example, on the basis of political principles, and so on. But there is nothing preventing someone from voting for someone purely on the basis of their gender, or say, refusing to vote for someone purely because of the colour of their skin. I do not condone this, nor, I am sure, would you. But to suggest that they be prevented from doing so – by, perhaps, monitoring people’s personal reasons for voting as they do and then taking the vote away from people who do so for unethical reasons – is a frightening notion indeed. What it means to have freedom in some aspect of life, is that, sooner or later, certain people will exercise this freedom in a way that you deem unpalatable. Freedom of speech would be another premier example of this very idea. In short, this is the price we pay for freedom. To suggest that one should be “free from discrimination” is therefore much too simplistic. By extension, if, in general, I am free to hire whomever I wish, according to whatever contractual terms the two of us can voluntarily agree, then it does not follow axiomatically that any discrimination upon which I act when exercising such freedom should be regulated by force of law (which is just what the legal requirement of “equal pay for equal work” demands).

    Although there may be problems regarding how to go about rectifying existing contracts – do we raise women's wages, lower men's wages, or both? – at the very least it should be ensured that in the future the sex of the applicant does not determine the wage they're offered.Michael

    With respect, it precisely this view – we may call it the naïve view – which I have argued against. By “naïve”, I am referring to the view that, if we have a situation in which there is a woman who is earning less than a man, when they have an (otherwise) identical employment situation, then this is a problem to be solved, an inequality to be equalised, come what may. In other words, all one ever need know in order to recognise that an injustice has taken place is that some man is earning more than some woman, for the same work, and perhaps also on the assumption that they are working for the same employer. I understand the intuition – really, I do – but the intuition is mistaken, and it is mistaken for the reasons I have presented at length. This is the very reason that I wrote this piece.

    This is a red herring. In the case of there being a gender pay gap, the decision to pay me less (or you more) isn't arbitrary. The decision was made on the basis of our sex. It isn't just a case of one person who happens to be a man being paid more than another person who happens to be a woman but a case of women systematically being paid less than men (all other things being equal, as your own argument assumes). That's an injustice.Michael

    This is something I should clarify. When I say “arbitrary”, I mean arbitrary from a commercial point of view. I don’t mean to suggest that there is no gender-based discrimination taking place. Whether one is a man or woman does not, I am sure we can agree, have any bearing (necessarily) on one’s productivity. As such, when an employer discriminates on the basis of such a characteristic, it is “arbitrary” in the sense that they are making their commercial decisions on the basis of considerations that are commercially irrelevant. Moreover, in the excerpt of mine which you quoted, it was stipulated that you, the hypothetical woman, are being paid a perfectly fair and adequate wage, and that I, the hypothetical man, am being paid an overly generous wage. My argument was that, if such is the case, then you are no victim, any more than a relatively less patronised charity is a victim because its benefactor has patronised another charity to a greater degree. Against this, you insist that an injustice exists merely because of the inequality, regardless of whatever other considerations are at play. But this is not to engage with my argument at all. It is simply to ignore it.
  • Michael
    9.6k
    I ignored the question of sexist employers for the simple reason that it is irrelevant to the philosophical substance of the argument I presented. I presented three variations of the one thought experiment, which, I believe, collectively covered every permutation of events as regards pay-disparity situations. In each case, you may insert the additional stipulation that the reason for the disparity in the first place was due to a sexist prejudice on the part of the employer, but it does not make any philosophical difference to the argument.SynodOfDordt

    It does make a difference. The ethical concern isn't simply with paying one person more than another for the same job but with paying one person more than another for the same job because of their sex. It's the sexual discrimination that's the injustice, not the inequality as such, which is why your argument is a red herring.
  • SynodOfDordt
    7
    It does make a difference. The ethical concern isn't simply with paying one person more than another for the same job but with paying one person more than another for the same job because of their sex. It's the sexual discrimination that's the injustice, not the inequality, which is why your argument is a red herring.Michael

    But this is nothing that I have not already dealt with, both in my original post and in my response.

    I concede that the kind of sexual discrimination that you describe is unethical. That is not in dispute. My thesis concerns what, if anything, should be done about it. I have argued that nothing should be done about it by force of law. You are free to disagree with this, of course, but it would be helpful for the purposes of the thread if you would do so by argument rather than by assertion. When your posts are shorter than the excerpt of mine which you are quoting, there is not much of philosophical substance with which to engage.

    Let's get practical, by returning to a specific example. In the first example I presented, equality was achieved by lowering my wage to equal yours. In so doing, this created a situation which was, on the whole, worse. Therefore, achieving equality by any means necessary is not desirable. That is the argument. Now suppose that, in addition to the terms of this thought experiment, we make the additional stipulation that the employer is sexist, and that it is his prejudice which is responsible for the disparity in the first place. Is this ethically significant? Sure. But the conclusion remains unaltered. It is still the case that reducing my wage to equal yours generates a negative net effect. I can give similar explanations for each of the other thought experiments I provided in my original post.

    What you need to do here, it seems, is to take one of my thought experiments, and modify it with the stipulation that the employer in question is acting out of a sexist impulse. Then you must show that this alters the conclusion, and explain how it does so. Until you do this, we are only ever going to be gainsaying one another in an automatic way. "Employers shouldn't be allowed to get away with this", "Yes they should", "No they shouldn't", etc. etc.

    You can insist until you are blue in the face that unequal situations in pay that are due to sexual discrimination should not be allowed to take place, and each time you do so, I will redirect you to the argument I have presented in which I demonstrate the mistake of that intuition. It is no serious objection to an argument merely to assert that its conclusion is false.
  • BlueBanana
    920
    then the fact of inequality is entirely a secondary issue, one that is resolved incidentally by tackling the more pressing problem of inadequate pay.SynodOfDordt

    I agree in principle but the choice of words seems perplexing. How can the cause of something be secondary to that something it causes?
  • SynodOfDordt
    7
    I agree in principle but the choice of words seems perplexing. How can the cause of something be secondary to that something it causes?BlueBanana

    Well, I did not make any statement about the causal relationship between the fact of inadequate pay and the fact of pay inequality. But, supposing that that causal relationship is as you describe, I use the word "secondary" in the sense of importance. My reasoning for this I laid out here:

    Granting that your earning an inadequate wage, where I am receiving my due, is an injustice, what is the nature of this injustice? It seems to me that the problem here is not a problem of inequality first and foremost. This may be seen clearly enough. We established earlier that rectifying a disparity in pay does not necessarily achieve a positive outcome. Indeed, to bring my adequate wage down to the level of your inadequate wage serves only to make the both of us underpaid. But we may go further still. Suppose that I, and all other employees, are made unemployed, so that you are the only employee left. Such would remove the inequality problem entirely. You now have no colleagues relative to whom you are unequal. And yet the principle problem – the fact that you are being underpaid – remains.

    Therefore, even granting that there is an injustice here, the injustice is not one of inequality first and foremost. The principle injustice is not the fact that you are being paid less than I, but the fact that you are being less than what you are worth in yourself. Supposing that this is rectified, that your wage is improved, by whatever means, so that your pay is brought up to what it should be, the inequality problem is solved incidentally. The gap between your inadequate wage and my adequate wage is closed, not by addressing the inequality directly, but by addressing the fact that you are not being paid as much as you can reasonably demand in the market, relative to the value of your labour. As such, even conceding the fact that the inequality here is indeed a problem, we may see that it is a problem in a secondary, incidental sense, and one that is solved by addressing the more pressing problem.
    SynodOfDordt

    But if this is still unclear, consider an analogy. Suppose that there is a serial murderer, who kills women exclusively. And suppose that his killing of women is clearly motivated by a deep-seated misogyny. His very existence is therefore a threat to women, a problem for women, a "women's issue". There is therefore a problem of misogyny here. This man is motivated by misogyny to kill as he does. But, there is another problem here, and that is simply the problem of murder. Murders are taking place, and this is a problem in itself, regardless of the gender-bias according to which the murders take place. Is the misogyny a problem? Certainly, I do not deny it. But it is a secondary problem, in terms of importance.

    Here's why. Suppose that we re-wind, and imagine that this murderer does not have a gender-bias at all. He is not driven by misogyny to kill women exclusively, but he kills men and women in equal measure. If such is the case, there is no longer a "women's issue" to speak of, any more than it would be a "left-handed issue" or a "brunette issue" if some of the victims just happened to be left-handed or brunettes. And yet, the far more pressing problem, the fact that people are being murdered, remains. Relative to the first example, the misogyny problem no longer exists. But there is still a murderer at large, and this, it seems to me, is of far greater importance than the question of whether he is motivated by a particular bias.

    Moreover, going back to the case of the misogynistic killer, supposing he were caught and incarcerated so that he could kill no longer, it seems reasonable to say that he is to be found guilty or murder, not of specifically misogynistic murder. If you prevent this man from killing any more people in general, then you have also prevented him from killing women specifically. Therefore, the specifically misogynistic tendency of his killings is "secondary", in the sense that the killing of women is prevented incidentally, by preventing him from killing anyone else at all.
  • Michael
    9.6k
    Let's get practical, by returning to a specific example. In the first example I presented, equality was achieved by lowering my wage to equal yours. In so doing, this created a situation which was, on the whole, worse. Therefore, achieving equality by any means necessary is not desirable. That is the argument. Now suppose that, in addition to the terms of this thought experiment, we make the additional stipulation that the employer is sexist, and that it is his prejudice which is responsible for the disparity in the first place. Is this ethically significant? Sure. But the conclusion remains unaltered. It is still the case that reducing my wage to equal yours generates a negative net effect. I can give similar explanations for each of the other thought experiments I provided in my original post.

    What you need to do here, it seems, is to take one of my thought experiments, and modify it with the stipulation that the employer in question is acting out of a sexist impulse. Then you must show that this alters the conclusion, and explain how it does so.
    SynodOfDordt

    In my first post I admitted that how to go about rectifying – if possible – existing contracts is a quandary.

    My point was that at the very least we should ensure that the sex of the applicant does not determine the wage offered in future contracts, because sexual discrimination is unethical (and illegal). Arguing that there is a "negative net effect" in reducing men's existing wages to match women's existing wages is irrelevant to this point.

    In my second post my point was that sexual discrimination is an injustice, and so if I am currently being paid less than you because I'm a woman and you're a man then I'm a victim of sexual discrimination, and so a victim of injustice.

    I have argued that nothing should be done about it by force of law.

    You might have argued that nothing should be done about existing contracts by force of law, but I don't think you've argued that nothing should be done about future contracts by force of law. Should it be legal for employers to engage in sexual discrimination when deciding what contract to offer a future applicant, or should sex be a protected class?
  • BlueBanana
    920
    Well, I did not make any statement about the causal relationship between the fact of inadequate pay and the fact of pay inequality. But, supposing that that causal relationship is as you describe, I use the word "secondary" in the sense of importance.SynodOfDordt

    It's not just a causal relationship: the problem at hand is a direct manifestation of the inequality.

    In your example of the serial killer, it's relevant what's really causing the murders, what is the driving force within the murderer. If it's the murderousness of the murderer, I agree that the inequality and misogyny are secondary problems. If the cause of the murders is, however, the misogyny of the murderer, or even the unequal nature of the culture that created the person, the murders are a manifestation of the problem, not a separate problem. In that case, the misogyny is a bigger problem because it in a way contains the murders.
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