After Women’s Week, I had a lot of confusion about what women truly “want”. And more specifically, I found myself confused with the concepts of justice. Do women want gender equality, or gender equity?
Confused and Concerned
Dear Confused and Concerned,
I do not pretend that I understand what women want, or which practices are best served in every cultural context. I can, however, comment on the constructs of equality, equity, fairness, and justice, and I thank you for your query.
Justice on all levels of course includes equality, but is only truly just once equity has been reached. As well, it is necessary for justice to reflect the current or unresolved past injustices. While it may seem ideal to shoot straight for equality to fix injustices, it simply does not work that way in practice. People can be inherently equal while circumstances are not.
In Canada, both men and women may serve in government. This example of equal individual rights follows the political philosophical liberal tradition, as no law is stopping a woman from, for example, being a cabinet minister. Technically, equality already exists. However, with only equal rights, the percentage of women serving is extremely low, due to generations of women being oppressed via conditioned gender roles and stigma against entering “men’s” jobs.
True gender liberation lies in the active deconstruction of any gender bias towards any “role”, whether that role be societal, occupational, or cultural. Therefore, since there was past injustice, equity and the quality of fairness must come into play. In 2015, Canada introduced a “gender balanced cabinet” where a quota of fifty percent women was put into place. This might seem to be the opposite of equality, as qualified men are being passed over for their female counterparts. On a surface level, this is correct. However, gender-based discrimination is crucial for the liberation of the female sex.
The fact of the matter is that without this rule in place, the hypothetical equality of the sexes in cabinet would simply not happen. This adds a layer to the liberal ideal, where justice is the sum of equal individual opportunity and rights. While equality may be the goal, it is necessary first to go through fairness and equity when injustice has been encountered. This theory too reflects Arendt’s onus on political action. Action must be taken in order to secure equality, though the action must be the equity necessary to anti-reflect the injustice that happened in the first place. In the case of gender, initial gender-based discrimination (usually against men) is necessary for a utilitarian liberation of females; however, note that harming others will never in the long run increase justice served — vengeance is not, in fact, justice.
I hope I have given some clarity, if not, please do consult my links.
- The Gender-Balanced Cabinet
- Equality, Equity, Justice
- Intro to Gender Liberation