Over the course of the past few weeks, I have seen a number of comments talking about wanting to know more about women's rights, women's views, or how women are viewed with regards to the political campaigns in the United States Presidential race. I normally try to avoid referencing politics at all here, but the topic reminds me a lot of a couple of things I have discussed in the past and that, as I see it, bear repeating (I highly recommend you look at the post Ethnicity, Gender, and Privilege that I previously wrote). Note that this is not a piece where I am discussing the state of equality or inequality between any groups, be it based on gender, race, age, height, weight, eye colour, hair colour, or any other descriptor that one can use. With that out of the way, I hope you'll join me for an interesting discussion.
The key point I made in my previous post was that introducing a descriptor or characteristic of a person or group into a discussion immediately renders that discussion invalid with regards to rights, policies, laws, or other official statements. Note that general discussion is not included in this list, and that is because the understanding of a group requires examination of the differences between groups. Using the examples of the right to vote and the opposition to affirmative action, I presented the idea that these regulations were not only a source of inequality, but also reaffirmed bias in discussing these topics.
Let's take the concept a bit further today. When we discuss policies, laws, procedures, or rights, we tend to draw from our own experiences in an effort to present balanced discussion. This is normal behavior, but it also introduces an immediate lack of objectivity in the discussion. This is the reason sociologists and psychologists warn about the dangers of classification and labels, and yet we continue to approach topics as though we are all different species instead of merely posessing differing physical traits. Yes, there is a difficulty in explaining cultural and socio-cultural differences without examining those traits, but for the purposes of politics, rights, and laws these differences should be relatively negated when viewing the entire populace as a single classification: human.
Think about it this way, which of the following is actually an example of complete equality, and which ones introduce room for bias:
- The right to vote shall not be denied or abridged to any citizen of the United States who has reached the legal age of majority.
- The right to vote shall not be denied or abridged to any citizen of the United States, regardless of race, gender, or age, as long as they have reached the legal age of majority.
- All citizens of the United States, whether male or female, shall not be denied the right to vote upon reaching the legal age of majority.
The only one that is written from a purely unbiased perspective is the first in the list. Once we start talking in terms of equality, instead of talking in terms of categories, then we might actually start making progress. Until then, welcome to continued inequalities and biases based on the labels we ascribe ourselves every day.
I get that people are concerned about the policies and issues they see as a result of someone viewing them through the lens of inequality. I understand the reason the feminist movement exists, and applaud the efforts taken in trying to promote viewing all people as equal. The issue, though, is still the same as it has been since day one: we still discuss topics through categories and labels. Until that changes, we will never have true equality.