Monday, February 20, 2023

No Equivalence

CNN This Morning is a train wreck and as Heather Schwedel of Slate explains, last week Nikki Haley announced 

her presidential run. In her speech, the former governor of South Carolina called for “mandatory mental competency tests” for politicians older than 75, and Lemon responded that this made him “uncomfortable.” He then said that Haley, who is 51, should stay away from criticizing politicians for being past their prime—because she’s already past hers. A woman’s prime, he went on, includes her “20s and 30s, and maybe 40s.” Lemon has since apologized for what he said—calling it ”inartful and irrelevant, ” which is not the same as “wrong”—but the moment was so bizarre that it’s worth lingering on.

Lemon’s two female co-anchors reacted immediately to his initial comments, asking what exactly he meant, but he doubled down with the following bit:

I’m just saying what the facts are. Google it. Everybody at home, when is a woman in her prime? It says 20s, 30s, and 40s. I’m just saying Nikki Haley should careful about saying that politicians are not in their prime, and they need to be in their prime when they serve, because she would not be in her prime according to Google or whatever it is.

Schwedel found that Google "does not, in fact, have an authoritative answer to when a woman is in her prime" which means it may be  "Her sexual peak? Her most beautiful? Her most fertile? Her most satisfied with her life? Her most capable in her career?"

Lemon's rant rivals in ludicrousness the comment from Nikki Haley which prompted it and Schwedel observed "it was jarring that Lemon made his point so confidently, like it was an open-and-shut case." Regrettably, "he 100 percent just heard that old saw about how a woman reaches her sexual prime in her late 30s (which is itself ill-defined and of unclear origins), took it as fact, and decided it also applied to politics."

However, Schwedel then went ludicrous herself, remarking "This also isn’t his first instance of making chauvinist comments on air—in December, he got in trouble for arguing male athletes should get paid more than female athletes."

"Chauvinist?" On that December 1 show

Lemon adamantly argued that the U.S. men’s national soccer team should get paid more than the women’s team despite their lack of comparative success, telling his female co-hosts Poppy Harlow and Kaitlin Collins that the men are simply “more interesting to watch.”

Co-hosts Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins disagreed with Lemon, as did CNN data reporter Harry Enten, who argued

The women’s World Cup titles—they have won four since 1991. The men’s World Cup titles? They have won zero since 1930. So yes, the men’s tournament brings in more money, but when it comes to the U.S., I make the argument the women’s team is far more responsible for the boost in popularity in soccer.

The women have been more successful against their competition- much weaker competition- than men have been in theirs and Enten believes they have boosted the popularity of soccer more than have the men.

The latter claim is questionable, and virtually irrelevant to salary, as is the success of the women's national soccer team.  Lemon noted that the men are better than the women, also of little significance. However, he pointed out

But the men’s team makes more money. If they make more money, then they should get more money,” the veteran CNN host stated. “The men’s team makes more money because people are more interested in the men!

That would have been understood by Harlow, Collins, and Enten, had they maintained a semblance of objectivity. If they had decried the situation as unfair, they would have on firmer footing (especially as compared to State Farm Stadium in Glendale, AZ) but instead chose to deny the obvious. 

In the private sector, employees aren't paid for being successful against lesser competition or for making all the other industries in the industry more popular.  They're paid more when they make more money, in this case greater revenue for the team. 

Americans commonly complain about professional athletes in the major sports- football, baseball, basketball and, to a lesser extent, hockey- are paid a huge salary.  In concept, those complaints are completely justified. Professional athletes are paid tremendously ell for adding nothing to the welfare or benefit of the country.  Sports are a game, and we all would survive without it.

Nevertheless, the owners are fabulously wealthy and become far wealthier once they buy a team while the players make them more money.  They produce for the owners, making them gobs more of money and are handsomely rewarded. Given the profit of the owners, the employees (players) probably are paid insufficiently, at least those who have not signed the most recent contracts. However, boosting their pay if they increase the profit of the owner and value of the business is the rational response of the business owner, however displeased it makes individuals who believe women and men should be paid equally no matter the circumstances.

Don Lemon should have kept quiet about women's prime time, whatever "prime" he was referring to. Women's soccer- and women's sports generally- are less profitable than the equivalent men's sport and therefore women are paid less than the men.  When Lemon compared salaries in women's and men's soccer, he was merely making an observation, and one which should have been offensive to no one. Facts matter, and so does accuracy.


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