Friday, September 10, 2004

Because I'm a Girl

Suggestion courtesy of John Venlet of Improved Clinch. Because I'm a girl Mary Katharine Ham (archive) September 7, 2004 In my 24 years, I had never met a man who told me to my face I was inferior to him because I was a woman—until last weekend. It happened in a Capitol Hill bar on Friday night. I was introduced to a friend of a friend. He asked where I worked, and his eyebrows flew up at the mere mention of The Heritage Foundation. As he tried to tame his look of alarm, he explained, “I used to work for the DNC.” (Democratic National Committee) Well, there you have it. Eyebrows were raised, acronyms used, ideological lines drawn. There was no hope for enjoying my Miller Lite. My new friend-- let’s call him Brad-- and his friend decided to confront me on every right-of-center person or policy they had ever disliked, while I shouted the conservative perspective over Guns n’ Roses. As we hop-scotched from issue to issue, Brad’s friend got very upset by a potent mixture of corporate corruption, blood for oil, the rich getting richer, and the conspiracy that connects them all. He left. Brad apologized for his friend, and explained, that as a Democrat, all he wants is to help the middle class move to the upper class. He didn’t mention that it was by government-mandated redistribution of wealth that he wanted to do that, but I gave him a shot at explaining the whole theory. “All right,” I said, “as a young person working on Capitol Hill, making a modest sum of money, what do you and the Democratic Party have to offer me? What are you gonna do to help me move from one class to another?” Brad looked at me as if the answer were self-evident. I raised my eyebrows and waited for his answer. “Well, you know, as a female…” He must have noticed the wicked smile spread across my face. If I were a better actress, I would have gone for outrage, but I asked: “As a female… what?” He mumbled something about women’s and minorities’ rights and “leveling the playing field.” Check mate, DNC Brad. Just to make sure I understood correctly, I ran over his points. I need the Democratic Party to help me move up in life. I can’t be expected to do it all by my little lonesome. And why not? Because I’m a girl. DNC Brad had a slightly sheepish look on his face. He had just let slip one of the most blatantly sexist things I’d ever heard in person, and before I repeated it, had apparently been secure in the fact that he occupied the moral high ground. I explained to Brad that I simply don’t believe I need the help of men like him and the government to make it in life, nor am I up for forking over my tax dollars to cheapen my achievements with a special set of girly rules. And so our conversation ended, a polite parting of ways. I picked up my lukewarm beer and moved on. Later, I wondered where he might have gotten such an idea about women. Could it have been the DNC? I word-searched the 2004 Democratic Platform for references to women and women’s policies. Here are a few. First, “we support affirmative action to redress discrimination.” That must have been what DNC Brad was talking about! The DNC is going to force people to give me all kinds of goodies I may not deserve simply because I’m incapable of earning them on my own. And why can’t I do it? Because I’m a girl! Looks like this DNC thing really is the next train out of Oppressionville. Here’s another way they’re going to help me: “We believe a day's work is worth a day's pay, and at a time when women still earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, we need stronger equal pay laws and stronger enforcement of them.” Now, I can understand that because I’m just a girl, the DNC would figure I’d take this statistic from them without question, but it turns out I can Google with the best of them, men or women. This figure comes from a 2002 census survey, which compared the yearly median earnings figure of full-time working women to the median figure for men. So the census folks took two lists that include everything from burger-flippers to CEOs, stuck a pin in the middle of each list, compared them, and that’s supposed to determine equal pay for equal work? If women really do offer equal work for 23 cents less on the dollar, why does anyone bother hiring men? The point being that there may be sexual discrimination in pay, but there are also plenty of other possible reasons for discrepancies. The DNC would force employers to ignore those other reasons and pay me a certain salary simply based on my gender. And last, “because we believe in the privacy and equality of women, we stand proudly for a woman's right to choose… regardless of her ability to pay.” Clearly, I cannot be expected to protect myself from an unwanted pregnancy, and should I decide to have an abortion, I can’t be expected to take responsibility for even paying for it. Why not? You guessed it—Because I’m a girl. No wonder all the liberal women I’ve ever known felt like someone was keeping them down. I never imagined there were so many things I can’t do because I’m a woman until I read the DNC platform. But isn’t this the party for women? I hear time and time again that I can’t be a self-respecting woman without being a Democrat. I beg to differ. It is precisely because I’m a self-respecting woman that I don’t need Brad’s condescension cloaked in kindness. I want to earn what I get, deserve what I earn, and decide exactly what I do with my earnings instead of handing that responsibility off to a political party. I am capable of that and much more, because I’m a girl. Mary Katharine Ham is editor of the The Heritage Foundation's Insider magazine and, which features a blog about new studies from all over the conservative movement, and a searchable database of years of conservative research.