Sarah Palin Chronicles: Myth #11: She’s a Feminist

I know, I know.  It’s all I could do to keep from choking on that title.  But the thing is, Sarah Palin is being promoted as a feminist, and she’s calling herself a feminist. I wasn’t aware of a little nugget of desperation the McCain staff is now throwing out there: that Obama pays the women on his staff less than he pays the men. (Thanks to Cootamundra W. for info about the McCain ad, which I’m sure she is seeing day and night on the t.v. machine in Pennsylvania!)

My first reaction to hearing that Obama’s female staffers make $0.83 to every man’s dollar? “Oh, so it’s just like the rest of us, then.” But of course he should be better than that. So I did a little searching and found out that (A) The Republicans are like kids on Red Bull with this story, and (B) it’s not really that simple.

Here’s what Palin is said:

“There is a difference between what Barack Obama says and what he does,” she declared. “Out on the stump, he talks about things like equal pay for equal work, but according to Senate records, women on his staff get just 83 cents for every dollar that the men get. What is with that? Does he think that the women aren’t working as hard? Does he think they’re 17 percent less productive?”

“I know one senator who does pay women equal pay,” she added, referring to McCain.

Now here’s an outstanding analysis that I found over at Feministing:

It’s completely fair to call out Barack Obama for not having more women at the highest (and highest-paid) levels of his campaign. I grant that (and have linked to this point before). BUT beyond the anecdote about their campaign staffs, Palin declines to mention that McCain voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act, and supports the right of businesses to discriminate on the basis of gender. This has a much greater impact on American women than what he pays his own staff.

“Working mothers need an advocate, and they will have one when this working mother is working for all of you,” she said, as the crowd cheered.

…Except that, again, her running mate has supported paid family leave in theory, but not in practice. Obama has pledged to expand the Family and Medical Leave Act, while McCain…

In the transcript, McCain’s team proposes not one new program geared towards work life. As mentioned, he supported the original FMLA bill but does not advocate its expansion or that FML be paid. He does not support employer mandates on sick leave or time off. McCain’s camp advises “creation of a Commission on Workplace Flexibility and Choice. The idea would be to get a bipartisan set of workers, small and large employers, laborers, academics and they would sit down and look at the issues…

No new laws. No expansion of existing law. Just a bunch of people “looking at the issue.” It allows the McCain campaign to say they care without actually doing anything for working parents.

And by the way, the figure of 83 cents was derived by a reporter for Investors Business Daily, as follows:

Crunching the numbers, Obama’s 28 male staffers were paid a total of $1,523,120 for an average salary of $54,397. Obama’s 30 female employees divided $1,354,580 for a female average salary of $45,152. Obama’s female staffers, on average, make just 83 cents to the dollar his male staffers make.

McCain’s office, by contrast, is a feminist fantasy. McCain’s 17 male staffers carve up $916,914 for an average salary of $53,936. His 25 female employees split $1,396,958 for average pay of $55,878. In McCain’s office, a woman earns $1.04 for every buck a man makes.

I’m no math whiz, but it doesn’t seem like lumping everyone’s salary together and then averaging it out will actually give you an accurate number on which to base this argument. All it takes is one really well-paid woman on McCain’s staff and one really poorly paid male intern, and the numbers are skewed. Plus, Obama has a larger staff in general, so again, all it takes is one highly paid male staff, and maybe having more women working at lower level administrative jobs than McCain does. Doesn’t that make this entire argument invalid?

Math people, am I right?



  1. MathMan says you are right. I consulted with the best.

    Palin, a feminist? Maybe in bizarro world where up is down and all that.

  2. totally correct, you can only compare the salaries of those in the same position, not all male and female staffers. they are grasping at straws, and if they think us thinking people will buy palin as being a feminist, they are sadly mistaken.

  3. Just think, if that handsome oldster Mr McCain loses in Nov, which of course he will, he could be a cracking spokesperson for Centrum Silver and, if he works on that smile, Depends. Perhaps they can pay him 17% less than his female counterparts – just to make Miss Caribou happy.

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