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Posts Tagged ‘Bloomberg News’

Good news alert:  The Paycheck Fairness Act, which passed in the Democrat-controlled House back in 2010 but died after every single Republican in the Senate voted against it, is back on the table — or more precisely, in the ring. Over at Bloomberg News, Elizabeth Dwoskin writes:

Legislation that would make it easier for people to compare salary data with their colleagues when they suspect their employers are stiffing them is headed for a fight in Congress. On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) moved to force a June 5 vote on the long-stalled bill.

And hooray for that.

As we’ve noted a number of times, census data shows that women still make on average seventy-seven cents to a man’s buck.  Which is pretty silly, when you think about it, seeing as how we make up more than half of college graduates these days and almost half of the workforce.  When you realize that the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the first bill to address any sort of paycheck disparity, was signed into law back in 1963, you really have to wonder why the fight still lingers.  And that twenty-three cents?  It’s a pretty significant wage gap, amounting to an average of well over $10,000 a year.

To conclude: if this bill is one more step toward closing the gap, who could fight against it?  According to Bloomberg’s Dwoskin, the Republicans are loaded for bear:

Now that women’s rights have taken on a central role in the presidential campaign, Reid and his fellow Democrats have revived the issue to put Republicans on the spot. The strategy may pay off, as it looks like Republicans are raring to block the bill again. Jon Kyl, the Arizona GOP senator in charge of rounding up votes, is panning the legislation, telling my colleague Kathleen Hunter of Bloomberg News, “All this does is add more ways in which trial lawyers can make money on these people. It doesn’t do anything to advance anybody’s rights.”

Oh, I think it can. Why?  Because information is power.  You can’t fight against unfair treatment unless you can proved you’ve been treated unfairly. And as Dwoskin notes, many companies have HR policies that say that employees who dare to ask what the guy in the next cube is making — or reveal the details of their own paycheck — can find themselves out on their keester.  The Paycheck Fairness Act would not only prevent folks who ask about paycheck date from being punished, but would also allow the government to build a confidential database of pay stats from a wide-array of companies, which would in turn enable the government to screen for patterns of wage inequities.

Over on Politico, Scott Wong writes that some Republicans object to the bill by invoking the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, saying that the first bill Obama signed into law renders any more legislation unnecessary.  But as Wong writes later:

Democrats counter that the Paycheck Fairness bill is much stronger than the Ledbetter Act. They say Ledbetter keeps the courthouse door open for women to sue for discrimination, while Paycheck makes it tougher to discriminate in the first place. Ledbetter does not address compensatory or punitive damages; Paycheck does. And Paycheck makes it illegal for employers to retaliate against workers for inquiring about their colleagues’ wages.

For the life of me, I can’t think of a single reason why any sentient being would want to see their daughters paid less than their sons for the same work. (Or, for that matter, any man whose wife is bringing home half the bacon or maybe even all of it.)  But what I also wonder is this:  Are the same folks who are likely to lead the fight against the paycheck bill the same ones who deny the wage gap (and, perhaps, global warming) even exists?

Oh, the irony.  But that’s another story, for another day.  Until then, I’ll be watching closely how this newest round of the war on/for women plays out.  But in the meantime: Think you could lend me my twenty-three cents?

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So according to Bloomberg News, the newest brides on the block (I use that metaphor intentionally) are Eastern European.  Really.  As we read in the story that appeared all over the interwebs this week:

Fourteen years ago, Weiner, 73, founded Hand-In-Hand, a London-based matchmaking agency that charges male customers up to $2,000 for a “supervised courtship”—a process that matches them with younger Eastern European women. Hand-In-Hand has since grown into a multinational operation with 30 satellite offices from the U.S. to Abu Dhabi. “We’re still opening up franchises, and business is booming,” says Weiner in his thick New York accent. “Financial problems are the biggest cause of divorce. There are more financial problems now. There are more people available!”

In the age of globalization, the international matchmaking industry—still known in many circles as the mail-order bride trade—is thriving like never before. The Tahirih Justice Center, a nonprofit organization in Falls Church, Va., that protects immigrant women, estimates that the number of mail-order marriages in the U.S. more than doubled between 1999 and 2007, when up to 16,500 such unions were sealed.

The story goes on, and actually, you should read it simply for its trainwreck potential.  And don’t neglect the comments.  But here’s the most interesting tidbit:  one reason that’s given for the desirability of the Eastern European bride is feminism.  Or, more precisely, lack of same.  Back to Bloomberg:

“The mail-order bride industry is a softer version of human trafficking,” says Sonia Ossorio, executive director of the New York City chapter of the National Organization for Women. Ossorio also acknowledges that some relationships work out—but perhaps not in a way that would please Betty Friedan. “A lot of people who are attracted to it are just looking for a woman who’s docile and obedient,” she says.

Ugh, right?  Right?  It gets worse.

For some companies, such submissiveness is a selling point. Hand-In-Hand’s website trumpets the fact that its females are “unspoiled by feminism.” Company founder Weiner argues this form of chauvinism—like the mail-order bride business itself—is economically motivated. “You take a beautiful woman from the Czech Republic and you bring her into your home, she does all your cooking and cleaning and ironing,” he says. “At the end of the day, the service is free.” Hand-In-Hand estimates the potential savings of a homemaking wife at $150 per week.

Now.  I grow as weary of knee-jerk feminist rants as the next feminist, but really.  Don’t we have to call this garbage out?  As in:  Where on earth do these Neanderthals come from? These men who pay for a marriage that would have made their great-grandpas drool?  And why, for that matter, are Olga and Oksana so desperate for a slice of the American pie that they’d be willing to cook and clean for a stranger in exchange for a ring?  Is it because their lives at home are so un-opportunized that a ticket to anywhere-but-here is worth the trade?  Is it because, as one woman who had attended some of these mail-order mixers in her native Russia commented on the Bloomberg piece:

I left [the party] thinking that the men that want Russian women want lower status women and Russian women want American men for feminism! Russian women are not stupid and especially us young women want western feminism!

And so, what happens when, brandishing her Swiffer duster on fine spring day, the formerly blushing bride  suddenly catches that most American of maladies:  independence?

See?  All the makings for the next hit reality show.

But back to that first question:  I myself can’t help wondering where, in 2011,  you would find these guys who think that wives are made to look pretty and serve and who shouldn’t speak up — at least, not to their man.

And so of course I thought of The Bachelor, where marriage is idealized, where relationships come with roses and limos, and where women compete for the top prize — ahem, a husband — and where the winner almost always has a brazilian blow-out, a perky nose, and is impossibly thin.  (Yes, yes, I know.  There’s a Bachelorette, as well.  But that would take me off point, um, or would it?  Who’s the ideal bachelorette?  She may have a serious brain, but she’s usually got a serious rack, too, either real or enhanced.)

With that kind of cultural messaging, with a version of marriage and courtship that seemed to go out with Cinderella, is it no wonder there are still men out there who lust for the most uncomplicated of brides — a young, pretty girl who will cook and clean, and won’t talk back, at least in English.

Which brings us to the next new reality show.  I think it’s a great idea, don’t you?   And, of course, with great drinking game potential.  We start with our hapless schlub sitting at the computer, negotiating Paypal (DRINK)  We follow him to a mail-order mixer in Belarus, where he engages a number of young pretty girls in awkward conversation.   We could bet on which unsuspecting woman will win the rose  and if we’re right:  (DRINK)   Once he picks his intended, we could follow the courtship through the awkward emails — according to Bloomberg, many of these services charge eight to ten bucks to translate — and phone calls, where he and she are clearly lost in translation.   We’d include  the wedding, maybe some chicanery at the immigration office.

And then we might end with happily-ever-after, where our hapless husband comes home for dinner and finds that his wife has traded the vacuum cleaner for the front door.  And that is when we really (DRINK)

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