So I was reading an economic history book by Claudia Goldin (again), and in her chapter on Political Economy of Gender, she talks about why unions have traditionally endorsed equal pay for women (and minorities).
Essentially, the idea is that if employers are allowed to offer women and minorities lower wages, then that is what they will do. The wages will drop and white men will be unable to find employment or will have to accept the lower wage. The underlying assumption is that women and minorities are doing the same work as the white men, but are willing to accept lower wages for it.
If men’s rights activists really believe that the world is a meritocracy, and white men are actually the best, then insisting that women be paid the same as men makes perfect sense. If wages are the same for all workers doing the same work, then, under those assumptions, employers will only hire white men and their wages will stay high. Women will work at less productive jobs at lower wages. (Of course, there’s a bunch of new experimental research out that shows that low wages decrease productivity in spot markets– folks are rediscovering the efficiency wage argument!)
These arguments are a bit simplistic and mostly ignore general equilibrium effects, but it is very interesting how the rhetoric around equal pay for equal work has changed. And how blue-collar white men supported equal pay for their own selfish interests, but now they no longer seem to.
Who benefits from paying women less? Not the men married to them who would benefit from higher incomes (except, maybe, in terms of balance of power in the household). Not the men working along-side them. Employers benefit.