Erik Loomis at Lawyers, Guns & Money had nominated this David Brooks column as the dumbest article you’ll read today, but then he found a Richard Cohen column that is even dumber. These columns are self-evidently stupid enough to not need further commentary from me explaining why they are stupid.
If the prize is not yet awarded, I’d also like to nominate this William Saletan column as the dumbest article you’ll read today. Really, Saletan should stick to concern trolling about abortion and stop revealing how oblivious he can be about other issues as well. See Steve M for explanatory snark.
But my real purpose here is to nominate a blog post by Ross Douthat, called “Why French Women Don’t Get Promoted,” as at least a runner-up for the dumbest article you’ll read today. He presents data showing that U.S. career women have a higher glass ceiling than women in other developed countries, which may be true. But he thinks the reason for this is that those other countries have governments that provide more support for families, including working mothers — what Douthat calls “family-friendly socialism” — than in the U.S., where working mothers are on their own to patch together whatever arrangements they can make to balance office and home. He writes that family-friendly socialism . . .
helps explain the persistence of â€œthe glass ceilings, as well as stubbornly large wage gaps in more progressive countries,â€ because working women tend to be shunted more decisively onto a mommy track than they are in the United States.
… but at no point does he attempt to explain why that would be true. And the sources he cites, the ones available online, don’t really explain why that would be true, either. It’s a correlation-must-be-causation argument.
One of the sources cited explains that women get so much maternity leave in France it makes employers nervous about hiring them. But it’s not like women here don’t get pregnant and choose to cut back hours or leave their jobs altogether. And, anyway, the same source says later that French companies find ways to punish excessive maternity-leave taking.
Basically, though, Douthat blames France for providing women with all these incentives to stay home and have more children, and he says that’s why they are less successful in their careers. The thing is, though, that women who really want to be a success in business are not going to have four or five babies to get more maternity leave and receive a government stipend. I suspect the women who most take advantage of France’s family-friendly socialism to spend more time with their children are the ones who choose to do that, whereas here low-wage service jobs are mostly filled up by women who have to work to earn the money but who would rather be home with their kids.
I’ve got two words for Douthat: Affirmative Action. People forget that Affirmative Action was and is as much about ending gender discrimination as racial discrimination. And early on, probably the biggest beneficiaries of Affirmative Action were younger college-educated women, mostly white, who no longer were being sidetracked into secretarial jobs just because they were girls while young men with exactly the same qualifications started up the career ladder. Now, after 40 years, it has made a huge difference.
Have any of these other developed countries with lower glass ceilings attempted anything as rigorous as Affirmative Action to address gender discrimination? I doubt it. If the glass ceilings are lower in France, I suspect the real culprit is old-fashioned sexism.