To angry man: group, individual and proportional equality are distinct


I’ve seen the 2004 essay “Equality Between Men and Women is Not Achievable: Apples and Oranges” floating around. The thinking in this argument is particularly muddled — perhaps not surprising coming from “Angry Harry,” who, despite being staunchly anti-feminist, has apparently adopted the feminist tactic of preferring anger to logic. But some of his points touch on things I hear referenced in the mainstream, so the essay is worth arguing against.

Literally the second word of the essay brands the goal of gender equality “politically-correct.” As Kai Ching archly notes (mirror, original site down), the term “is a deliberately imprecise expression [. . .] because its objective isn’t to communicate a substantive idea, but simply to sneer and snivel [. . .] the great “PC” cliché, as commonly deployed in mainstream discourse, is cultural propaganda designed to befuddle and misdirect while defending the current power structure.” It’s a term that’s somehow become mainstream, in ways that similar conservative tropes like “un-American” haven’t. My college professors used the term. Ralph Nader voter Bill Maher called his old show “Politically Incorrect” while defending left-libertarian positions that the coiners of the term would squirm at. It wins Harry points among his readers, but it shouldn’t, because the term really doesn’t even mean anything. It’s just a complaint that some people don’t agree with him.

It seems that he fundamentally misunderstands what most people mean by gender equality:

Question: Should ‘women’ have more votes than ‘men’?

For those who think, Yes, (because there are more women voters than men voters) then it follows that they also believe that those in a minority should have less of a say in what affects them.

They believe that the largest group (women) should have the greatest power.

As such, ‘equality’ between ‘men’ and ‘women’ is already lost.

For those who think, No, (because this would be unfair on ‘men’) then it follows that they also believe that those in the majority should have less of a say in what affects them.

They believe that the individual vote of a woman should be worth less than that of a man.

As such, ‘equality’ between ‘men’ and ‘women’ is already lost.

Well, yes — equality on the group level, if the groups are of unequal size, is strictly incompatible with equality on the individual level. That’s why equality on the individual level, measurable by proportional equality, is the goal. Obviously, women have the right to vote, and do vote in proportional numbers. On the other hand, the fact that female, minority, etc. candidates aren’t getting elected in proportional numbers suggests that politics itself is more constrained. While this might be an argument for apportionment (and might not be), it certainly isn’t an argument for giving South Asians the same total representation as white people, either in the US or in South Asia. That wouldn’t preclude “equality” in representation, as long as the representation was proportional.*

If men and women are equally happy with whatever is the issue of concern, then, if you like, some version of ‘equality’ has been achieved.

But the state of people’s happiness actually depends to a very large extent on the propaganda that envelops them.

If the propaganda tells them that they are badly off then their happiness levels will fall and their aggression levels will rise. If the propaganda tells them that they are doing well then their happiness levels will rise and their aggression levels will fall. [. . .]

Finally, neither men nor women need to be ‘equal’ to each other in order to be happy with each other.

I’m certainly not going to come out against happiness. But happiness is difficult to measure, and multidimensional. And people are fairly good at convincing themselves they’re happy enough when they’re not, but don’t realize it until legitimate happiness reminds them. Unequal status doesn’t guarantee happiness, nor vice versa; but someone of unequal status is less likely to have the opportunity to experience a wide variety of circumstances and discover which make him or her happiest. Even if Sisyphus is content to roll the boulder up the hill, he doesn’t have it better than Zeus.

There follows a scattershot attack at various feminists, real and imagined; unusually, the imagined feminists come out somewhat better. Most of their arguments complicating the pay gap are legitimate, although it seems to be Harry’s own idea that we should therefore all throw up our hands and admit it will persist forever. Hillary Clinton was factually incorrect to call women the primary victims of war, yes — but this has nothing to do with Harry’s propositions that all feminists hate men, or that gender equality is an impossible goal. It’s just evidence that certain feminists are wrong about some unrelated issues.

And there is no scenario that anyone could come up with that would bring about ‘equality’ between ‘men’ and ‘women’ unless no distinction between ‘men’ and ‘women’ was actually being made.

Funny, I thought that was the ultimate goal. Of course, the fact that men and women alive today have experienced broadly different stuff has to be taken into account. But the ideal is to be able to treat everyone the same and get proportionally good outcomes. Even affirmative-action programs and the like are working towards this goal in mind, with the idea that spreading more education, etc. into a given community will reduce the need for help in the next generation. And then there are some systems (e.g. criminal justice) where actually treating everyone the same would be a massive improvement over what we have now — that should always be tried first, before any redistribution is considered.

I don’t think it’s feminist to say that women should have power over men, or should have an an advantage. The core of the disagreement is actually about whether aid programs are compensating for a proportional disadvantage. And that’s something better argued on a case-by-case basis than in generalities.

*South Asians are actually overrepresented among US governors thanks to Piyush Amrit Jindal; and if Nimrata Randhawa Haley wins the South Carolina governorship, they’ll be 5x overrepresented. Both Haley and are Republican; unsurprisingly, they both had to change their names and assimilate as much as possible.


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