Lu: Maintaining Objectivity

by Jessica Lu | 10/7/15 6:30pm

While canvassing for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination last weekend, I encountered a “meninist” in the wild. People I had hoped existed only on social media and in my nightmares, meninists are anti-feminists who at once claim that gender inequality is a myth, while simultaneously inventing ways in which men are victims of discrimination.

The first warning sign that this man may be a meninist was his condescending tone when asking why I supported Clinton. I launched into my speech on how she will fight for equal pay, paid pregnancy leave and affordable childcare — how Clinton will do everything possible to eradicate the economic disadvantages women suffer in the United States. I threw out statistics — how, for the same work and time spent working, women earn considerably less than their male counterparts, making it more difficult for them to economically support both themselves and their families.

When this man tried to counter by claiming that the wage gap is simply a consequence of occupation, industry or education, I was prepared with a retort. A study by labor economists Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn found that these factors leave 41 percent of the wage gap unexplained, indicating that discrimination more than likely plays a role. Deborah Cobb-Clark and Yvonne Dunlop found that men are overwhelmingly promoted over women with the same qualifications, and countless other studies demonstrate active hiring and wage discrimination. Unequal pay for equal work is not a coincidence — it is the result of systematic discrimination against women in our economy.

By permitting companies to pay women less for equal work, the U.S. government is endorsing the unequal treatment of the sexes. Women deserve fair compensation for their work and the greater level of economic freedom and security that it grants. I figured that after explaining these sources to the man, such an ideal should be a no-brainer — yet, I was wrong. After all my neat facts and figures, his only response was, “I just don’t believe that’s true.” There’s really nothing you can do in the face of such outright disbelief — if someone is unwilling to accept empirical facts, then they cannot be rationally convinced.

This is at the core of much of bigotry in the U.S. — “I just don’t believe that’s true.” People refuse to believe in empirically proven inequalities, from scientifically supported phenomena like climate change and to biological proof that race is not physical. In essence, for much of the American political right wing, it seems belief trumps science.

First, with regards to inequalities, from “meninism” to backlash against the #BlackLivesMatter movement, many people actively oppose the idea that we need to combat socioeconomic inequalities, often by denying that any such inequalities exist to be remedied. As for climate change, according to a Gallup poll conducted over the last five years, 59 percent of self-identified conservative Republicans do not believe that climate change is happening now — and 70 percent do not believe humans are responsible for it.

Yet, there is clear scientific consensus on the matter — of the tens of thousands of scientists studying the phenomenon of human-driven global warming, 98.4 percent agree that global warming is indeed caused by human activity, and an even more overwhelming majority of the scientific community believes that climate change is happening now. And finally, on race. America’s criminal justice system seems to assign an automatic label to young black and Hispanic men as likely criminals with the defense that race and criminality are correlated. New York City’s stop and frisk policies overwhelmingly targeted young men of color. Our prisons are overwhelmingly filled with young black and Hispanic men. Science has shown that race is not an indicator of character traits — nothing inherent to black people make them lazy or criminal. That belief, rather, is simply racism.

Liberal politicians suffer from this obstinance, too. Many ignore the inefficiencies in our current system of social safety nets and blindly defend what could be vastly improved. The liberal love of strong central governments often imposes a one-size-fits-all solution on a complex problem made only more complicated by America’s geographical diversity. Liberals also continue to defend race-based affirmative action, despite its many flaws. Liberals, like conservatives, get defensive about their party’s policies to the point where they refuse to step back and consider its faults.

In many ways, this is why politics often feels so futile. People on both sides of the aisle — though in my experience, somewhat more on one side than the other — refuse to budge and end up blinded by their beliefs to the point where they refuse to see any alternatives, no matter how convincing. Maybe we would all benefit from some objectivity.