Yes Braxton, The Gender Pay Gap is Real

(Or, Why Dude-Bros Shouldn’t Attempt Social Science)

Tim Wise
9 min readFeb 8, 2018


Sexism is bad enough. What’s worse, by several orders of magnitude, is the dishonesty of those who deny its existence.

And for now, I’m not even talking about the way in which some downplay the crisis of rape culture and sexual predation by celebrities, politicians, college boys and others possessed of a sense that they are entitled to women’s time, attention and bodies.

For now, I’m just speaking of the arrogant dismissal of long-verifiable gender inequities in labor market compensation. To hear right-wingers tell it, the much heralded pay gap is a leftist myth cooked up by dishonest feminists to unfairly malign men and poison the minds of women as to the supposed unfairness they experience in America.

To make their case, the dude-bros of denial don’t dispute that women, on balance, receive less pay than men across the labor market. But they insist that the explanations for that gap are unrelated to discrimination or unequal opportunities rooted in sexism.

Rather, they insist, gaps are the result of occupational choices, work effort, women taking time off to bear children, and differences in negotiating strategies between men and women, among other things. Once these things are controlled for, in social science lingo, the disparities disappear like a mirage in the desert.

But in truth, the only mirage is the presumed logic behind these arguments, and the ability of conservatives to understand some basic social science concepts: namely, the idea of what constitutes an independent (as opposed to a dependent) variable. Although these additional variables do indeed narrow the pay gap (though not eliminate it), all the things they seem to think explain gender pay inequity, separate and apart from sexism or gender-based unfairness, are actually intimately related to those very problems.

The Experience, Qualifications, and Occupation Excuses

Whether the subject is gender bias or racism for that matter (because conservatives make the same argument in both cases), the right contends that the reason for lower pay rates for women is that, on average, women have less work experience and fewer…



Tim Wise

Anti-racism educator and author of 9 books, including White Like Me and, most recently, Dispatches from the Race War (City Lights, December 2020)