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The Difference Between Equal Treatment And Special Treatment
Why I don't call myself a feminist (from an e-mail exchange yesterday with a friend of Cathy's):

I don't call myself a feminist because I loathe that feminism is, essentially, victimism these days. But, if pressed, I tell people I'm an Elizabeth Cady Stanton feminist -- for women having the vote, and for women making the same amount of money if they do the same job. (Not if they simply HAVE the same job but leave at 4pm to pick up the kids.) In short, I'm for equal treatment, not special treatment.

Perhaps more women should think this way, define themselves this way. Well, those women who consider themselves people, not victims.

Posted by aalkon at March 30, 2007 12:22 PM


Amy, my brand of feminism is drawn chiefly from the tenents of 'equity feminism' -- a movement that rejects the victimology inherent in a lot of contemporary identity or 'gender' feminism. The brilliant Christina Hoff Summers is a chief proponent -- check out her seminal (ha!) Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women as a primer.

Posted by: michelle/weaker vessel at March 30, 2007 8:40 AM

I quoted from that book in a piece I wrote for Hustler about a bunch of victim feminists (Gail Dines and Robert Jensen, mainy) who perpetuate falsehoods about women being victimized...not a problem for them as long as it serves The Victim Industrial Complex, thus keeping them funded.

I think we need a new name for women like us. Humanist already has other meanings, a friend pointed out, but it's what I've called myself to differentiate myself from the victimists.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 30, 2007 8:43 AM

Given that the wage inequality thing is so pervasive, I'm still scratching my head that businesses which are so cheap about wages in the first place perpetuate it ! It doesn't even seem internally consistent. Someone has a topic for a paper on sociology here.

Posted by: opit at March 30, 2007 9:30 AM

Amy, why do you hate women so much?


Posted by: RedPretzel in LA at March 30, 2007 9:56 AM

Given that the wage inequality thing is so pervasive, I'm still scratching my head that businesses which are so cheap about wages in the first place perpetuate it !

People who don't stay a full day should be paid accordingly.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 30, 2007 10:27 AM

If I owned a company and could get away with the wage inequity.... wouldn't I want to fire all my fellow white males and hire only college educated women? So I could make huge profits and cut my payroll at the same time???

I've worked for 3 various Bio-tech firms. One was a German company that specialized in gene therapy drugs for women recovering from gender specific cancer treatments. (breast and cervical) Could you guess the gender numbers among the members of the various R/D divisions in Germany, USA and Australia? On the average it was 8 out 10 were men. Some were 7 out 10 were men.

It is not a problem of the patriarchy on why women make less money than men. Could it be a simple matter of choosing a less profitable career?

I have a female friend who majored in anthropology at a university in Washington DC. When she received her BA, she had around $75K in college debts. In many of our conversations, I would ask her dream career. Do you want to teach anthropology? Grad school? Pursue a PhD? What are the numbers of available positions for teaching anthropology in various colleges and universities? She ended up getting a job as a Social Worker (her minor) making roughly $35K a year with $75K in debts. Not a wise choice.

My other friend (male) majored in theoretical physics in college. Got his degree. Accumulated $65K in college debts. Does he teach physics for a living? Nope. He also obtained a commodities brokerage license while working as a substitute teacher and house painter during the summer vacations. Using his extensive knowledge in mathematics and calculations in probability towards investing. Presently, he does not have any student loan payments and 'works' only 6 months of year and spends the remaining half year traveling or sitting on his couch watching TV Land all day.

By the way, I offered my social worker friend to pay her way to get an IT certification. At least she would make twice as much as her present job. She refused and her excuse was that the computer manuals would be too daunting and technical.

Posted by: Joe at March 30, 2007 10:59 AM

There's also the fact that some recent studies are showing that men just tend to be more assertive about asking for more compensation. It's interesting...though my friends and acquaintances have different enough tastes and personalities that I hesitate to generalize too much about gender, I have noticed that women are usually very quick to think that them not being liked by someone is their own fault, while men are usually quick to think exactly the opposite. Not that either gender always sticks with the first impression...but it's interesting to notice the difference in instinctual reaction.

Don't get me wrong - I think the willingness-to-work-the-time thing is a factor. But I also think that MANY women are still just a lot less likely to say, "Can you do any better than that?" at hiring and raise time. I have, but I'm unusual. :)

Posted by: marion at March 30, 2007 1:33 PM

The correlation between time spent at work and performance on the job is not as strong for some jobs as it is for others. Of course, at any hourly job, there will be a perfect correlation.

In many salaried positions however, the "job" is really just a set of responsibilities combined with some number of goals to reach. Most bosses I have worked for mainly just care about how well you did on your "metrics" and whether or not you achieved the goals you were challenged with. In that sense, if two people have the "same job" (same responsibilities and tasks to complete) and their results are the same, they should be paid the same. Compensation should be about results, not effort. Of course not all companies work that way. Too bad.

Posted by: Lisa at March 30, 2007 5:46 PM

I got dumped by a social worker. They cant handle finances. I refuse to believe anything nice anyone has to say about them and their profession.

Posted by: PurplePen at March 31, 2007 1:05 PM

My social worker friend's plan to solve her financial problems through snagging a guy who makes at least six figures.

Posted by: Joe at March 31, 2007 1:53 PM

Joe you keep confirming my biases are correct. Against Muslims, against feminists, against evangelicals, against social workers....

Posted by: PurplePen at March 31, 2007 2:27 PM

Just develop a healthy suspicion towards groups and not individuals.

Posted by: Joe at March 31, 2007 4:23 PM

Compensation should be about results, not effort.

Okay, fine. From my experience in my 20s working for a big corporation where mommies often left at four, let me tell you that I showed more results -- especially when I stayed til 8 or 9 to get their unfinished work done.

Sorry, ladies (and a handful of men who take the primary parent role) you really can't have it all. If you want to have kids, and it reflects on your job performance, as it's likely to, your salary should reflect it.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 31, 2007 11:48 PM


Maybe that was your experience. You don't say what kind of work you did, but of course "individual contributor" workers probably have a higher correlation of time spent to results. In many positions however, results are mainly a function of making the right decision quickly enough to be effective, coming up with new ideas, and building good relationships with coworkers, superiors AND subordinates (I can't tell you how many people ignore the last one). I have followed "regularly stay until 8pm" types into jobs twice, and outperformed them (evidence: my bosses' opinions AND my numbers) both times, even while going home by 5pm most days.

I am not saying that mine is a representative case, only that at least SOME people have a case when they want to be paid comparably for comparable responsibilities and results. Luckily, I've had no cause for complain in that area.

P.S. I am now in my 20's, single/childless, working for a large corporation. I just like to go home at a reasonable hour. The way I see it, if you have to spend more time at work than 80% of your equivalent colleagues, then most likely you waste time during the day or you are just not very good at the job. Also, I have never had to finish "mommies" work. In my company, everyone does their own work, except when they are officially out-of-office (business travel, vacation, training).

Posted by: Lisa at April 1, 2007 10:46 AM

You're dead on in this discussion, Amy.

I once co-owned and operated an arts center that employed about two dozen professionals, many of whom had graduate degrees, two of whom had PhDs. At the time, I was a working mother of two, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I PAID MEN MORE THAN WOMEN FOR THE SAME JOB.

Why? Because they were flat-out more valuable to me than the women were. Not one of them ever decided to stay home and be with the kids or quit to follow a fiance halfway across the country.

I am not opposed to women doing those things. I've done them myself, more than once. But it's my choice to do so, and I wouldn't expect an employer to find me as valuable as a man with equal qualifications. The fact is that the chances that a man will up and quit to follow a woman somewhere or to stay home and raise his kids is very low. And to his employer, that makes him more valuable.

And for all the women out there who get pissed off when they read this and think it's not fair that the woman bears the brunt of upholding families and relationships, perhaps you can consider that my husband reached his 50's without children because his wife didn't care enough to have any, and without a uterus, he had no way to have them on his own. Desperate for children and unable to have them, he paid a high price for being male.

It's not easy being a man, either.

Feminism has helped women to stand up against some victimization (rape, incest, domestic violence), but it went too far when it started trying to convince women that we are All Victims All The Time.

Posted by: Tess at April 1, 2007 11:36 AM

I was a TV commercial producer, and I stayed late editing mommy's work while she went off to pick up her kids. To name just one example.

See Tess above.

I'm a rare woman in that I'm totally committed to my work, and will not let anything get in the way of it. I work seven days a week, thanks to being intentionally barren, and I have a very happy relationship with another person who's equally involved in his work...which means our relationship is more like a sexy series of dates than the day to day drudgery so many relationships and marriages become.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 1, 2007 12:33 PM

There are numerous incidents of employees using the "I can't, because of my kids" excuse. One of my last regular jobs I worked for was a company that provided phone banks for Public Service advertisements. When one of these P.S. ads aired nationwide... someone had to work the phone banks from 5PM to Midnight. Every ad campaign aired there would be a litany of 'what about my kids?' or 'I would like to stay. I just can't find a babysitter at short notice. Sorry.' Even when the notice for the PS ad air dates are given a month in advance.

Months of pulling these excuses and all the childless employees being stuck doing all the night time shifts caused a very stressful office environment.

I didn't find out if the company found a solution, because I was hired for my first CLS position a few months later.

Posted by: Joe at April 1, 2007 12:54 PM


From what you write, it sounds like you pay people based on what you think they *might* do, rather than on what they actually do. If you pay your male employees more for doing more work, that's fine. If you pay them more because you calculate, based on their sex, the probability that they will do more/be more valuable/stay longer, then that is screwed up, not to mention illegal. If you noticed variation in turnover among people of different races, would you vary pay based on race? Perhaps you did not mean what it sounds like you meant.

FYI, for my generation (


It doesn't sound like you and I have any fundamental disagreement, only it seems that I have been fortunate enough to work for an employer that manages its people much better, and does not allow people to push their work off onto others. We both agree that employees should be paid equally when they perform equal amounts of work that is equal in nature. Leaving at 4pm with work unfinished = unacceptable. But if A and B both complete X in one day, B should not be rewarded more for taking 10 hours to complete X, than A who did it in 9 and left at 4pm.

Posted by: Lisa at April 1, 2007 1:34 PM

Damn, comment got cut off... That middle paragraph should read:

FYI, it seems to me that in my generation (under 30), turnover is quite high for both men and women, although for different reasons. It is very common for men, especially the high-performing ambitious ones, to leave their jobs for better opportunities. Even within one company, ambitious workers chasing promotion will switch jobs laterally, sometimes not notifying their current boss until a few weeks before the new start date. A family friend, for example, has switched jobs on average every 2-4 years, receiving more money and responsibility with each one. The effect of an employee leaving is the same for the original employer, regardless of the reasons for departure.

Posted by: Lisa at April 1, 2007 1:43 PM


Rest assured that I didn't pay people based on what I thought they WOULD do. My tendency toward paying men more came as a result of hard experience and a desperation to retain employees and reward them for not leaving. It was practically impossible to keep women from leaving or missing work, because they kept doing the things women do: get engaged, get married, raise kids. As a result, that left me with the option of retaining the men by increasing their compensation.

The sad fact is that the women were NOT doing exactly the same work as the men were, although their job descriptions certainly called for it. They were, by and large, doing less work, and doing it less reliably. It is not illegal to reward employees for working harder and more reliably than others, even if they're men.

Your comment about both men and women leaving jobs is true, but incomplete. My husband is president in a Fortune 100 company. He has left jobs 6 times in 28 years, always for a better opportunity. His ex-wife left plenty of jobs, too...always because she was following HIM. I've left a job for him once already as well. Does it make a difference to an employer, whether a woman leaves for a better job or because of her husband? You bet it does. An employer has a chance of stopping her from leaving if it's because she wants a better work situation. If she's following a man, probably not.

PS: Allow me to reiterate, lest I sound like I dislike women who place their priorities on their families, that my personal belief is that women SHOULD be placing their children's needs above their job's needs. I'm just explaining why in the Real World, that makes women less attractive as employees (unless you're Amy, in which case it sounds like you're damn lucky to have her!).

Posted by: Tess at April 2, 2007 5:21 AM

"It is not illegal to reward employees for working harder and more reliably than others, even if they're men."

I hope that's not directed at me, since I never implied that performance-based rewards are illegal (or even immoral). As long as each employee's performance is evaluated on an individual basis, and not influenced by what other people of that sex or race do.

" personal belief is that women SHOULD be placing their children's needs above their job's needs. I'm just explaining why in the Real World, that makes women less attractive as employees"

All parents, at least all who voluntarily had children, should be placing those children's needs above their jobs. A father who neglects his child's needs in favor of work, is a crappy one.

When a woman chooses to follow her husband for a job, she is not "placing her children's needs above work." She and her husband are agreeing to place her husband's work above her work. Which may be a rational choice in those cases where a woman does not especially value her work or the husband makes way more money. No need to front with "But it's for the children!"

As for the whole leaving thing, once an employee is gone, they're gone. Yes you can try to keep them, but usually there are major constraints on what you can offer. Smaller employers usually have a very limited number of leadership roles w/low turnover in those. Large corporations are often reluctant to let people "skip" more than one rung on the way up, and HR limits managers' discretion in offering raises, bonuses. Clearly your husband's 6 previous employers failed to keep him. If he was a good performer, then it must've sucked for them when he left.

Posted by: Lisa at April 2, 2007 5:36 PM

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