On the eve of Women’s Equality Day, Amy Schumer recently clarified that she doesn’t think she should be making as much money as Chris Rock or Dave Chapelle. Most would expect Schumer, who fancies herself a feminist, to demand she make the same as her male counterparts. But Schumer accidentally let us in on a little secret: She actually believes women should be paid what they deserve, not based on what their male colleagues are bringing in. Incidentally, men should also be paid what they deserve.
A recent article in Variety documented the many monetary microaggressions against women, listing multiple examples of female actors making less than males in the same movies or TV shows. Schumer’s Netflix special was used as an example, with a note that specials by Rock and Chapelle received significantly more payment. While the article declares Schumer’s people immediately asked for more money upon hearing the news, she appeared to deny the reason for the claim in a recent Instagram post.
When a commenter noted that Schumer “deserved” to be paid equally, she replied by saying this: “I don’t believe I deserve equal pay to Chris and Dave. They are legends and 2 of the greatest comics of all time. I would like to say that I have been selling out arenas these last couple years. Something a female comic has never done…I didn’t ask for the same as my friends. I did ask for more than the initial offer. I will continue to work my ass off and be the best performer I can be. The reports of me ‘demanding’ or ‘insisting’ on equal pay to them aren’t a true.”
Neither Jobs Nor People Are Standardized
The reality coming to light here is that all jobs, and all people in those jobs, cannot expect to be paid the same wages without context. How many factors go into someone’s salary? Experience, flexibility, benefits, time off, reputation, availability, and talent are just a few things that aren’t articulated into arguments and statistics about the wage gap.
Context is everything, and those obsessing over the wage gap nearly always leave it out. As Independent Women’s Forum Policy Director Hadley Heath Manning said, “Even the Department of Labor has said that the raw wage gap is largely the result of the individual choices women and men make, and shouldn’t be used to justify further legislative action.”
Schumer revealed what she really thinks about the wage gap: Both men and women should be paid in context, according to their performance and myriad other factors that contribute to what people earn. “Equal pay” is nothing if not relative and circumstantial—every profession and experience standing alone, and also reliant on individual action to ask for more.
Non-Discrimination Factors to the Wage Gap
A 2014 Glamour magazine survey polled 2,000 men and women about asking for raises. Only 39 percent of women said they asked for a higher salary when starting a new job, compared with 54 percent of men. Within those jobs, 43 percent of women admitted they’d never asked for a raise, while 54 percent of men said they had. Men are notoriously more aggressive and confident at negotiating salaries and asking for raises, and while this doesn’t mean it creates the wage gap in and of itself, it certainly contributes to it.
Lastly, when factoring in things like marriage, children, and availability, the wage gap sometimes actually flips. A Time magazine analysis found that the median-full time salaries of unmarried, childless women “are an average of 8 percent higher” than those of men in the same life circumstances. That may not the case for every profession, but it’s vital to look at the numbers on a grid of factual reality, rather than idealistic notions of feminist victimhood.
Overall, a tiny wage gap does exist, but it’s not the 80 cents on the dollar the usual suspects complain about. Even if it were, telling young women they are fighting a losing battle doesn’t exactly lead to a lot of victories. The deck isn’t stacked against us. It’s just waiting for both men and women who understand how it works—and what it means to win the equal pay game.