Last week, I wrote a post arguing that the angry misogyny with which conservatives use in a (futile) effort to silence questions about equal pay suggests that, protests aside, they really just don’t think women should make as much money as men. Marco Rubio up and volunteered to prove my point this weekend, saying this about equal pay:
I think anyone who is working out there any making a living – if you’re the most qualified person for the job, you should be able to get paid, you should get paid as much as your male counterpart. Everyone agrees with that principle. But just because they call a piece of legislation an equal pay bill doesn’t make it so. In fact, much of this legislation is, in many respects, nothing but an effort to help trial lawyers collect their fees and file lawsuits, which may not contribute at all whatsoever to increasing pay equity in the workplace.
Everyone ostensibly agrees with this principle, but that doesn’t mean that everyone actually agrees with it. It’s becoming quickly obvious that a lot of conservatives are applying good, old-fashioned wingnut disingenuousness to the situation, concealing their desire to keep women working as hard as men for less pay by making a bunch of fig leaf arguments.
For instance, Rubio clearly believes women should be paid less than their male counterparts, at least if the boss wants to pay them less. How do I know this? Because he believes every avenue to fix the problem should be eliminated. This is apparently the standard position throughout the GOP: Cluck your tongue over the evils of discrimination, and turn around and defend it at every turn. They want to destroy collective bargaining rights. They oppose any government regulation that would help ensure equal pay. Oh yeah, and they don’t think you should have the right to sue, either. If asking nicely worked, they’d probably find some bullshit reason to be against that, too.
Part of this is clearly just the larger Republican belief that employees should be considered the property of their employers. But it’s worth noting that they try to expand employer power over your life by attacking women’s rights. Opposing equal pay gives them an excellent opportunity to build the case in the public’s mind that there’s some “principle” behind, oh, opposing the right of an employee to sue an employer. Opposing mandatory insurance coverage for contraception helps them establish the principle that an employer has a right to exert control over your private life, in this case by docking your compensation package to punish you for having sex they don’t approve of. Using misogyny as the lever to pull in this situation is kind of brilliant. They can’t win elections strictly by getting the votes of people who aren’t paid employees. But if their arguments about giving employers control over the lives of their employees are framed as a wink-wink-nudge-nudge attack on women’s rights—which they are!—they can get people to vote away their rights by viewing it as an attack on that hated feminism. And yes, I said “people” deliberately, because unfortunately there are a lot of women who, for diverse reasons, oppose women’s rights. Some live in conservative communities and feel that if they’re going to be treated like members of the servant class their whole lives, they’re going to make sure that every other woman in the country is, too. And some, like the female Republicans in Congress whose access to fair pay is guaranteed by their position, are just pulling up the ladder.
There is no reason to oppose Lilly Ledbetter unless you either believe women are inherently inferior or you believe employers should have absolute control over their employees—or some combination of the two. It’s very simple legislation that expands the window of opportunity for a woman who discovers she’s been discriminated against to sue, nothing more. Considering that the Republican opposition to “trial lawyers” somehow doesn’t apply if they’re being hired to, oh, push forward a truly bullshit claim of being the victim of “reverse racism”, it’s clear that the only principles in action are a belief that women are inherently inferior and a belief that employers should be able to treat their employees however they wish.