5 People Way Dumber on Equal Pay than Miss Utah

Miss Utah has been the subject of non-stop attacks for her statement during Sunday evening’s annual Miss USA beauty pageant.

In case you missed it, when a judge asked Marissa Powell, “A recent report shows that in 40 percent of American families with children, women are the primary earners yet they continue to earn less than men. What does this say about society?” her response was:

I think we can relate this back to education and how we are continuing to try to strive to (pause) figure out how to create jobs right now. That is the biggest problem and I think, especially the men, are um, seen as the leaders of this and so we need to try and figure out how to create education better so we can solve this problem.

People called the response “insanely idiotic,” “hard to watch,” a “fantastic flub,” “incoherent,” “the most nonsensical thing ever said in a public forum,” “contrived, faux erudite, and filled with nonsequiturs [sic].”

Was Powell inarticulate, fumbling, awkward and halting? Yes. Was she totally wrong? No. As ThinkProgress notes, “those mocking Miss Utah may be surprised to hear that there were glimmers of truth in her answer: men’s wages and education are much discussed factors in the gender wage gap.”

Ultimately, ThinkProgress points out, education isn’t the cause of the wage disparity since “women’s wages have recently started dropping even as they gain even more higher education than men. And the wage gap is stubbornly persistent despite how much education women take on. The gap appears the moment men and women graduate, with young female graduates earning 82 percent of what their male counterparts earn. It follows them at every level of education as men with the same degree earn more.”

The point is that there is a lot of stupid stuff being said about equal pay. Instead of making fun of a beauty pageant contestant’s response to the issue, shouldn’t we be angrier about the more egregious statements made by the people who actually create or defend the policies which reinforce income disparity? Shouldn’t we highlight when the very people whose job it is to know about this issue say things that are at best nonsensical and at worst dishonest? Here are the five statements that should have received more attention than Powell’s.

1. Kelly “We Have Enough Laws” Ayotte: When asked at a town meeting why she voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would have required employers to demonstrate that any salary differences between men and women doing the same work are not gender-related, the New Hampshire Senator said:

“We have existing laws — Title VII, um, Lilly Ledbetter, all those existing protections in place — that, I believe, enforce and provide that people doing equal jobs are, certainly in this country, should receive equal pay. So, uh, that bill, in my view, didn’t add — in fact I think it created a lot of additional burdens that would have been hard, um, to make it more difficult for job creators to create jobs. . . . The reason that I voted against that specific bill is that, I looked at it, and there were already existing laws that need to be enforced and can be enforced and I didn’t feel like adding that layer was going to help us better get at the equal pay issue.

Interestingly, despite the already existing burdensome laws, which are, like, so annoying, women make 77 cents for every mans’ dollar. Guess the laws aren’t so burdensome, after all.

2. Marsha “Women Don’t Want Equal Pay Laws, Thank You Very Much” Blackburn: When David Axelrod ridiculously suggested we enact “pay equity laws to ensure that women are treated fairly in the workplace” on Meet the Press, Tennessee Congresswoman had this to say:

“I think that more important than that is making certain that women are recognized by those companies. You know, I’ve always said that I didn’t want to be given a job because I was a female, I wanted it because I was the most well-qualified person for the job. And making certain that companies are going to move forward in that vein, that is what women want. They don’t want the decisions made in Washington. They want to be able to have the power and the control and the ability to make those decisions for themselves.”

In other words, we women would like the power to be able to be discriminated against. Amen!

3. Sabrina “Equal Pay and Feminism Have Nothing to Do with Each Other” Schaeffer: When yours truly was on MSNBC, I argued that one of the many reasons Sarah Palin was not a feminist was because she didn’t support equal pay. Sabrina Schaeffer, of the conservative Independent Women’s Forum, argued that the two had nothing to do with each other. (The exchange starts at 4:36, or watch a shortened clip here)

Katie Halper: “So what is feminism?”

Sabrina Schaeffer: “the fact that she is able to be a wife and a mother and a politician and a best-selling author”

Halper: “And not support equal pay?”

Schaeffer: “I’m sorry equal pay is a whole other issue.”

Just like integration is a whole other issue from civil rights. The two have nothing to do with each other. Duh!

4. John “Who Will Speak for the Rights of Discriminators” McCain: When asked at a townhall why he opposed the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, McCain explained:

“If you eliminate the statutes of limitations, and you make it unending, you may be violating the rights of the individuals who are being sued, whether they’re a man or a woman… I don’t think you’re doing anything to help the rights of women, except maybe help trial lawyers and others in that profession.”

Totes. How does empowering women to sue employers when they find out they were discriminated against– which may be after the statute of limitations because employers tend not to broadcast their discrimination in a timely fashion–  help women at all?

5. Alex “There’s No Unequal Pay And I’m Gonna Condescend to and Interrupt Rachel Maddow Compulsively” Catellanos: When, on Meet The Press, Rachel Maddow mentioned the FACT that women make 77 cents to the dollar, Republican consultant and Romney surrogate Alex Castellanos interrupted her to, well, lie.

RACHEL MADDOW:  The Romney campaign wants to talk about women and the economy.  Women in this country still make 77 cents on the dollar for what men make.  So if–


RACHEL MADDOW: Women don’t make less than men?

ALEX CASTELLANOS: Actually, if you start looking at the numbers, Rachel, there are lots of reasons for that.

RACHEL MADDOW: Wait, wait.  No.

ALEX CASTELLANOS: Well, first of all, we–

RACHEL MADDOW: Don’t tell me what the reasons are.  Do women make less than men for the (UNINTEL PHRASE)?



ALEX CASTELLANOS: Well, for example–

ALEX CASTELLANOS: –men work an average of 44 hours a week.  Women work 41 hours a week.  Men go into professions like engineering, science and math that earn more.  Women want more flexibility–

RACHEL MADDOW: Listen, this is not a math is hard type of conversation.

ALEX CASTELLANOS: No, no.  Yes, it is, actually.

RACHEL MADDOW: No, it isn’t.

ALEX CASTELLANOS: We’re having to look–

RACHEL MADDOW: No, listen–

DAVID GREGORY: All right, let Rachel–

RACHEL MADDOW: Right now women are making 77 cents–

ALEX CASTELLANOS: And litigated–

RACHEL MADDOW: –on the dollar for what men are making, so–

ALEX CASTELLANOS: Well, that’s not true.



DAVID GREGORY: All right, let Rachel make her point.

ALEX CASTELLANOS: –greedy businessman in America would hire only women, save 25% and be hugely profitable.

RACHEL MADDOW: I feel like this is actually–


RACHEL MADDOW: –and it’s weird that you’re interrupting me and not letting me make my point, because we get along so well.  So let me make my point.


RACHEL MADDOW: But it is important, I think, the interruption is important, I think, because now we know, at least from both of your perspectives, that women are not faring worse than men in the economy.  That women aren’t getting paid less for equal work.  I think that’s a serious difference in factual understanding of the world.

But given that some of us believe that women are getting paid less than men for doing the same work, there is something called the Fair Pay Act.  There was a court ruling that said the statute of limitations, if you’re getting paid less than a men, if you’re subject to discrimination, starts before you know that discrimination is happening, effectively cutting off your recourse to the courts.  You didn’t know you were being discriminated against.  You can’t go.

The first law passed by this administration is the Fair Pay Act.  To remedy that court ruling.  The Mitt Romney campaign put you out as a surrogate to shore up people’s feelings about this issue after they could not say whether or not Mitt Romney would have signed that bill.  You’re supposed to make us feel better about it.  You voted against the Fair Pay Act.  It’s not about whether or not you have a female surrogate.  It’s about policy and whether or not you want to fix some of the structural discrimination that women really do face that Republicans don’t believe is happening.

DAVID GREGORY: It’s policy is the argument.

ALEX CASTELLANOS: It’s policy.  And I love how passionate you are.  I wish you are as right about what you’re saying as you are passionate about it.  I really do.

RACHEL MADDOW: That’s really condescending.

ALEX CASTELLANOS: For example– no.

RACHEL MADDOW: I mean this is a stylistic issue.

ALEX CASTELLANOS: I’ll tell you what–

RACHEL MADDOW: My passion on this issue–

ALEX CASTELLANOS: Here’s a fact–

RACHEL MADDOW: –is actually me making a factual argument–


Jerome S
Jerome S9 months ago


Jim V
Jim Ven9 months ago

thanks for sharing.

Jim Ven
Jim Ven1 years ago

thanks for the article.

Kelsey Valois
Kelsey Valois4 years ago

All i heard was "WTF WTF WTF WTF WTF WTF" seriously???? I can't believe people think like this.

Laura T.
Laura T4 years ago

we have enough laws eh? only if your male&well off.

Bonnie Villarreal

the fact that there is such a huge beauty industry and competition proves we live in patriarchy...

Bonnie Villarreal

Its a beauty competition, all the women try to look like Barbie. Once one realizes the global/national history of Barbie and the beauty industry that she created, one wouldn't ask a beauty competitor anything about womens equality...come on people...

Stephen Brian
Stephen Brian4 years ago

Hi Casey :)

I would classify investigation-programs as enforcement, but that's just semantics. Do you know if the ~4-9% pay-discrimination comes from rampant discrimination on that scale, or relatively rare cases of more extreme discrimination? If it comes from exceptions rather than the rule, then concentrating on more investigations may produce a near-total solution. If it's rampant minor differences,, then either something is not being considered in the analyses, or we are looking at a cultural problem that either depends on education or can't be handled with the government's blunt tools.

Leah h.
Leah H4 years ago

"Women don't want fair pay" and other myths from the mother of all myth-believers, the GOP.
How would Ayotte feel if she discovered that the men in the senate who were elected at the same time she was are being paid 25% more than she? I guess it would be just fine. She doesn't really need the money. She's doing it to feel special.

Alice Mullen
Alice Mullen4 years ago

Very astute statements in the comments.