An Interview With Kate O’Beirne
John Hawkins:: One of the promos for your book reads:: “Disproved: the common myth that women with similar education, skills, and job experience work for salaries 25 percent less than those of men.”: Tell us about that.
Kate O’Beirne:: The notion that American women face a discriminatory wage gap, which is vigorously promoted by the kind of woman I talk about in this book, is absolutely untrue. Yet, how often have we heard that a woman with similar education levels, skills, and experience gets paid only 76 cents to a man’s dollar? The so-called wage gap is the gift that keeps on giving to the modern woman’s movement.
The basic economic point should first be appreciated. If it’s true that a woman with the exact same qualifications and experience would be willing to work for 76 cents to a man’s dollar, who would ever hire a man? You could hire an all female work force and bury the competition. There is no discriminatory wage gap.
John Hawkins:: So there is no gap at all or what causes the difference?
Kate O’Beirne:: What the propagandists do is look at all women’s average wages compared to all men’s average wages, which is illegitimate. For instance, never married, college-educated women make more than never married, college-educated men. Married men make more than single men and the gap in their wages is far bigger than the alleged gap between men and women.
Men work more hours a week than women do. Men represent 92% of work force deaths because (they take) dangerous, dirty jobs that pay better. Women tend to select jobs that are safer, more pleasant with a lot of human interaction.
On one hand, among men, single women, and married women, wages are comparable. There is a gap between those groups and married women with children. That gap is owing to the choices married women with children have freely made in order to balance their work responsibilities with their family obligations, not as a result of discrimination.
John Hawkins:: Claims about environmental sexual harassment have always bugged me because they’re so subjective that a woman may actually be able to claim successfully in court that she was sexually harassed even though the man didn’t have the slightest idea he was doing anything wrong. Do you think these laws need to be clarified or changed?
Kate O’Beirne:: I think there have been a lot of abuses at the hands of the sexual harassment industry and that’s exactly what it is. They have a standard that they’ve gotten courts to adopt that is highly particularized to a particular (type of) woman.
So it’s a very subjective standard and if you look carefully at the materials ‘ and this is widespread on our campuses ‘ there is virtually no recognition of the possibility of false accusations, virtually none, as though that could never happen, and there’s also little attention paid to those possibly falsely accused.
The deck is stacked against alleged harassers — read men — and very much in favor of women, however illegitimate their complaint might be.
John Hawkins:: Do you think the law is so subjective that you’re going to have a case where one person is doing something and it’s just considered ordinary conversation whereas the next person could sue successfully for sexual harassment and win on the exact same behavior?
Kate O’Beirne:: Yes, that could happen under the sexual harassment regime that is in place as the result of the activism of the kind of woman I talk about in this book.
John Hawkins:: You wrote a bit about women in the military. Do you think they should be in the military at all or just not in combat? What do you think about that issue?
Kate O’Beirne:: I think there’s definitely a role for women in the military and we should be enormously grateful that so many have volunteered because, of course, nowadays they’re all volunteers.
I part ways with the feminist activists over whether or not women should be serving in combat. I do not believe they should be and the kind of women I talk about in this book have been agitating to integrate all combat with women.
I have a cultural objection. I do not believe serving in combat is a mere extension of serving outside the home, working outside the home. It’s simply not like any other job and I believe good men protect and defend women in the face of a physical threat. We should be thinking long and hard about the cultural ramification of integrating our fighting force with women to face down the enemy.
I do not believe the defense of America should rest on the shoulders of single mothers and teenage girls. Then, of course, we see the unique physical demands of combat. The plain fact is that the average woman is simply not as fast or as strong as the average man. The advocates for integrating combat argue that women should serve in any position the military has to offer, ‘as long as they meet the physical standards.’ But in fact, women in uniform do not meet the same physical standards as men.
In the interest of integrating the services, every service has had to adopt gender norm scores for its physical tests to account for the fact that women simply aren’t as physically strong or fast as men. So those physical tests have been gender normed and physical standards have been lowered in order to accommodate large numbers of women.
John Hawkins:: Would you say the same thing about ‘ like police, firemen, that sort of thing, where they’ve also had to change scores in order to allow more women to participate?
Kate O’Beirne:: I think positions in private law enforcement and even fire departments ‘ where public safety is so at issue and where the job has physical demands, yes. I believe those physical standards must be kept high in order to ensure the public safety and the safety of both police and fire and firemen.
I think the example of the New York City Fire Department is instructive. We all remember the 343 heroes who died on 9/11, 2001. It was barely commented upon that they were all men, sort of startling in these days of gender integration.
So I looked at the experience of the New York City Fire Department. Years ago they were sued by feminists to force them to have more women on the force and they fought back and refused to water down their physical standards.
So today, under the New York City Fire Department’s physical test, 40% of male applicants fail. That’s how demanding the test is. As a result there are roughly 11,000 members of the New York City Fire Department and only about 2 dozen women. Now they’ve met that very high physical standard and the reason why the New York City Fire Department fought to defend their physical standards is because there’s no peace time for them.
There’s no period like there was in the U.S. military during the nineties and the notion of going to war again seemed sort of remote and they decided that they could water down standards. The New York City Fire Department doesn’t have that luxury and so they’ve kept their standards very high. There are in fact very few women who can meet these demanding standards.
John Hawkins:: Do you think feminism deserves a significant share of the blame for the decline of the American family over the last 40 years?
Kate O’Beirne:: I do, but my book is not about the noun, “feminism.” What I did in this book was fight the specific women, the mainstream feminists, and I quote them. In the chapter I devote to the family, readers will meet the influential women who argued children don’t need fathers, who argued that the full time attention of mothers is actually harmful to children, who argue that married women who report that they are happily so must be, ‘slightly mentally ill,’ because marriage is such an oppressive institution.
I quote these women — not marginal figures — influential, and look at their handiwork — given the attitudes they hold and the agenda they push — on the current state of the American family. A third of our children born out of wedlock and half of our children will spend time during their childhood in a home without a father.
It used to be that the majority of young adults believed, 20 years ago, that you should be married before you have children. Now only 40% of young women hold that view. I do attribute the weakening of the family in part to the activism of these kinds of women who are so hostile to marriage, family obligations, and the traditional roles of fathers and mothers. They see that traditional role of mother and father as a debilitating stereotype. So they reject the notion that each has a unique role to play in a child’s life.
John Hawkins:: Most conservatives remember when the New York Times went more than a little nuts over the whole Martha Burk and NOW vs. the Augusta National Golf Club story. Do you think it’s a problem if they don’t want to have women members?
Kate O’Beirne:: I recount the story of the feminists’ assault with the enthusiastic backing of the New York Times against the Masters’ tournament at the Augusta National Club (in my book). I recount that because it was a rare example, a too rare example, of the Augusta Club defending itself, not caving in.
It turned out when Hootie Johnson, the president of the Augusta National, refused to be intimidated by the feminists’ assault, the public was on his side. The polls indicated that the majority of the public, including the majority of women, thought it was perfectly appropriate for a private club to set its own membership standards and in that instance, of course, women were permitted to play the course at Augusta, but they weren’t permitted to be members.
He wound up having the public support for his position and because he didn’t knuckle under, the feminists’ assault fizzled. That is a rare instance of pushing back against the intimidation by the modern women’s movement and a welcome example of the public support one can enjoy when someone has the moral courage to not knuckle under.
John Hawkins:: Do you think we need women’s studies departments at colleges? After all, we don’t have men’s studies departments.
Kate O’Beirne:: (laughs) Women’s studies departments prepare their graduates for one job, it seems to me, and that’s to be a professional aggrieved feminist. Not that that’s not a promising occupation, because there’s a lot of money in being an aggrieved professional feminist. One thing I point out in this book is the typical counsel — follow the money.
The women I talk about who argue — against all of the evidence — that women in America still face widespread discrimination receive under various federal programs tens of millions of dollars in education funds, in criminal justice funds, under the Violence Against Women Act. There are a lot of federal tax dollars funding this agenda and I guess the graduates of the women’s studies departments that are so ubiquitous on our campus will now be qualified to move into the grievance feminist business and be on the public payroll to advance this destructive agenda.
John Hawkins:: A while back, Susan Estrich and Michael Kinsley got into a brouhaha over the number of women posting on the LA Times editorial page. It’s hard not to notice that percentage wise, women are very under represented not just on editorial pages, but in the upper echelons of the blogosphere. You’re a successful columnist. Why do you think that is the case?
Kate O’Beirne:: Well, very often the complaint is lodged, as it was in the case of Susan Estrich, as a matter of group identity. This is the case very often when feminists argue for more women in some given occupation. There ought to be more women in Congress, there ought to be more women on the editorial pages, there ought to be more women in the upper echelons of the media. They typically mean only a certain kind of women. I don’t believe Susan Estrich would have celebrated had myself, Mona Charen, Linda Chavez, or Ann Coulter been given important real estate on the LA Times’ editorial pages.
John Hawkins:: Agreed.
Kate O’Beirne:: They are very monolithic. What they’re saying is, ‘We want feminist views staked out on every editorial page possible,’ as they enforce a strict orthodoxy on American women.
John Hawkins:: I agree all of that is absolutely true, but also let me just ask why do you think there aren’t as many women on the editorial pages getting published. Why do you think that is?
Kate O’Beirne:: That’s still the case, John, in the upper echelons of many occupations. That’s not too different from the upper echelons of American business, the so-called glass ceiling in corporate America and other occupations, too. I explore this in the book.
You have to look at — it’s certainly a factor that it’s the case — the question is, is it owing to discrimination — and I answer, ‘no.’ There are countless examples of the different choices women make either within the same career, within careers. Women make up roughly half now of law school graduates. They’ve reached parity in medical schools but if you look at the career choices within those occupations, law and medicine, for instance, women make very different decisions very often than men do. This is frequently prompted by their desire to balance very demanding careers in law or medicine with their desire to also have families.
It’s the situation that Dr. Larry Summers, the president of Harvard University, confronted when Harvard was faulted because women were under represented on the science faculty in that case at Harvard University. There was no evidence that discrimination was to blame for the under representation of women. Professor Summers offered the rational explanation that women are less inclined to devote the extreme number of hours necessary for that kind of competitive academic career owing to their family responsibilities. He also highlighted the evidence that there were differences in cognitive ability between men and women at the very highest levels of math and science achievement. You saw what happened to him when he made these perfectly rational points. There was a feminist assault. He was lucky to hold onto his job. He had to issue a series of abject apologies and ultimately commit 50 million dollars to study diversity at Harvard.
John Hawkins:: That was an expensive speech.
Kate O’Beirne:: In an honest attempt, in an academic environment, to offer rational explanations that are backed up by evidence, he got on the wrong side of the very powerful women’s movement I talk about in this book. The notion that the senior leadership of Harvard University harbors some animosity towards women is completely ridiculous and yet, these women were able to imply that was the case.
John Hawkins:: Let me ask you this. What do you say to people who say something like, “Hey, Kate O’Beirne, you’re standing on the shoulders of giants. Why, if it wasn’t for feminism and people like Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan, you would have never had an opportunity to be a lawyer or write a book like this. You’re just trodding a path they blazed for you.” What do you think of that?
Kate O’Beirne:: That’s my favorite question, prompted by this book. Putting aside the fact that women have actually been writing books for a few thousand years — putting that aside — my own personal story was not one of having been inspired by figures in the modern women’s movement.
I learned more about self worth, ambition, and opportunity from my own parents, who had four daughters, and from Catholic nuns in my all-girls’ high school and all woman’s college than I ever learned from Betty Friedan.
With respect to the general point, that construct of course works beautifully for the modern woman’s movement because it says that no women can criticize feminism. All women are silenced because feminists 30 years ago agitated for equality.
I endorsed the equality goals as a matter of simple justice. Of course women shouldn’t be discriminated against, discrimination in wages and employment has been outlawed at the federal level since 1963, discrimination against women in education since 1972. I endorsed those equality goals. Because I endorsed the equality goals, matters of simple justice, I’m forever prevented from criticizing the excesses of the feminist movement ‘ completely ridiculous.
John Hawkins:: We’ll wind it down here. Can you tell us a little bit about your book,: Women Who Make the World Worse: and How Their Radical Feminist Assault Is Ruining Our Schools, Families, Military, and Sports.
Kate O’Beirne:: Far too many people think that feminism is a spent force. If you talk about feminism nowadays, it sounds so 1970’s. You know, didn’t that all die with the Equal Rights Amendment 30 years ago?
The point of this book is no, it didn’t. The equality goals were met decades ago. So the more destructive premises of the modern women’s movement are very much alive. They have enormous influence in our culture, in our schools, in our universities, in our politics. They’ve had a destructive effect on our institutions.
People ought to know who these women are. I name them, I quote them. They ought to appreciate what the agenda is and then they should decide whether or not they want their federal tax dollars funding this agenda.
The fundamental approach of these women, their fundamental conviction, is that there are no innate differences between men and women. So when they see any differences in attitudes or attributes or ambitions, they attribute it to discrimination. They have to continue seeing widespread discrimination, insist it exists, because that fuels grievance feminism and in turn that fuels the countless programs they receive funding under.
They also receive a lot of corporate funding that are only given by corporations to a host of feminist groups who all want to look good on so-called women’s issues. I think the point in this book ‘ there is no monolithic woman’s vote and there are no monolithic views on so-called women’s issues. American women have diverse opinions.
John Hawkins:: Are there any blogs you read regularly or semi-regularly?
Kate O’Beirne:: I read a lot of blogs regularly ‘ of course,: The Corner,: National Review,: Lucianne Goldberg’s blog,: Michelle Malkin,: Hugh Hewitt. I look around a lot of blogs. Those are among some of the ones I check into regularly.
John Hawkins:: Is there anything else you’d like to say or promote before you finish?
Kate O’Beirne:: No, you’ve done a terrific job.
John Hawkins:: Well, thank you. You’ve been wonderful. Take care.
Kate O’Beirne:: Thanks a million.