“It is a Motherhood Penalty”

Look no further for more cut-rate journalism promulgating the same misleading narrative of pay gap[1] inequality between the sexes than to Vox’s episode on the issue in the Netflix series, Explained.

“Explained” is a rather generous term. Vox has no truck couching its liberal views in the parlance of objectivity as it does in this episode, which bestows viewers with the verbal hand-wringings of a selective group of females pandering to Vox’s biased position. Whatever that may be, anyhow.

And therein is the problem with an 18-minute segment on a rather critical issue that, unfortunately, is not addressed critically. We are graced with a lengthy history of sex discrimination in the 20-century American workplace whose origins, we come to find out later, begin in the home, specifically marked by the dynamic between the male and female relationship. The juxtaposition of archived footage from the early half-century’s monochrome advertisements with the latter half-century’s pay-gap protests present a crumbling dichotomy between tradition and modernity in the global economy.

But there is no identifiable thesis. No semblance of focus, unity, or coherence. An orgy of animated statistics weaves between clips and interviews but clarifies little, other than the pay gap between a single woman and single man in comparable working roles is only six cents to the man’s advantage, not the worn-over double-digit figure so often peddled.

But that figure might as well be in the mythical 80s-range. Or in the 70s-range. Or in any range simply because a disparity of any proportion is grounds for developing a short documentary that amplifies specious reasoning and poor logic.

Let me explain simply:

  1. Within the first minute, Vox issues an oversimplistic deduction: Women, assuming all else equal, are paid less than men for doing the same job, meaning women are paid less for being female, and that is discrimination, which cannot occur. From this quickly emerges a portrait of females as victims of systemic economic oppression run amok by men. It is peculiar that such an emphasis is made on a woman’s value in respect to her economic utility. And Vox is no different, insisting that the value of a woman, particularly a mother, is predominantly measured within a Marxian framework of labor and economics—what she can contribute to an industry. Papa Karl would be proud, I am sure. An irony abounds, however, when reducing a person’s value, especially members from an oppressed group, to their economic utility:  it is political exploitation. And coming from the left, no less.
  2. Notwithstanding rape, having a child is a choice. Raising a child expends, above all else, enormous amounts of time that cut into anything unrelated to raising that child, including the mother’s own personal or professional desires. This is not “a motherhood penalty,” as Hillary Clinton stupidly insists. It is a consequence of a voluntary decision. Time is a zero-sum game. If mothers were paid the same as men in comparable roles, but they put in fewer hours and accomplish less because of family obligations, that would be rewarding women for being mothers, and that is discriminatory (and far more cogent than what Vox sputters out). This runs afoul to Greta Van Susteren’s belief that women demand equal opportunity, not equal pay, “which are very different things,” she admits. But Vox fails wonderfully at distinguishing differences in points of view on this subject, giving the false impression that this collective ideology is indeed unified and sensible.
  3. The narrator then transitions into the disparity between men and women in respect to household work, the majority predictably going to women. “This is the heart of the pay gap,” the narrator insists. Delegating responsibilities is a couple’s own prerogative, not a company’s or agency’s political fodder. (And in cases in which the male unilaterally dictates all roles, the woman’s continued participation in the unhealthy relationship is also a choice.)
  4. Similarly, the constant overemphasis on equal pay reduces women to a value spectrum that is inextricably tied to their career commitments, whereas many women find greater value in the family they help create and raise by choice. These women believe in a traditional hierarchy that Vox’s brand of feminism deplores. This hierarchy works best for these mothers and their children’s fathers based on mutual understanding. Again, this is not the business of any business.
  5. Furthermore, opportunistically deploying “choice” as it suits one argument while minimizing its applicability in more salient circumstances contrary to that argument, such as when a woman chooses to endure the obstacles resulting from her choices, is conspicuous and discreditable. Vox’s unprincipled reasoning is as subtle as Alex Jones is coy. In addition, Vox interchangeably uses “mother” and “woman” when the differences between the two are crucial in accurately understanding this issue.
  6. Contrary to the lone female that Vox decided was sufficient enough to make the following point, not all industries in which women work permit those women to control their time autonomously. Countless regulations and the predictably unpredictable circumstances constrain many women—men, too—to prefixed times or durations in industries defined either by divisions of labor or by necessary protocols, including careers such as academia, law, and medicine. Honing the ability to do more with less time and more effectively is the elusive purple unicorn so often sought after by tech industries: it is quite rare.
  7. Insisting that females are being economically penalized for being female is dishonest and adds to an already bloated saddle of nuanced oppression, much of it magnified to a molecular level simply to find a kernel of relatability or relevance. This group-think misleads so many into believing that a person is an individual insofar as it augments that person’s collective identity (or identities, as the concept of intersectionality dutifully helps clarify). Moreover,  cherry-picking which biologically immutable classifications, such as sex, are acceptable and when they are acceptable seem to shift with the mood-winds of Vox’s brand of feminism.
  8. And insisting that Rwanda’s grand transformation to a more gender-equal society is something to emulate while obscuring the genocidal circumstances that directly led to the existence of that equality is repulsive. There warrants no further elaboration on a such a despicable ploy to persuade.

Vox further appears to attribute a woman’s choice in not pursuing equal pay to the societal perversions that economically shackle women in the first place. They seem to bemoan this choice or ignore it entirely. This further complicates whatever flavors of feminism lurk within its caricatures, prone to loitering only in one another’s company, their banality exposed when reasoned with.

From the opening seconds to the final words rain down a salvo of information with no central objective other than to suffocate viewers with smokescreens of victimhood and demands for preferential treatment. This reads more like a mediocre draft of a college-level report paper than a polished, critical missive.

This is propaganda, and poorly executed on any critical level.

Viewers would do better watching instead the episode on marijuana. Their smoke is higher quality.

[1] Although gender and sex are different, at times they will be used interchangeably only when establishing consistency with others’ improper distinction between the two, such as in “gender pay gap” or “gender pay equality,” when sex is more accurate.

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Former college instructor with 17 total years’ experience split between the public two-year community college and public four-year state university. My commentaries address matters germane to higher education but also to broader social, political, cultural, and socioeconomic topics representative of the American public, if only to a slim minority. I value independent, critical thought free of blind allegiance, unfounded assumptions, and baldfaced censorship. I appreciate your time and the resulting fandom or spite that my musings might invite.