Are We Sending Mixed Messages on Equality?



Dear Dharma,

I have to admit I am confused.  As a male in my 50’s, I have always said I am a firm believer in equal rights and fairness, and would take issue with anyone who said I wasn’t.

I believe that men and women are equal in any and all ways, and have tried to maintain that belief in my actions throughout my life.

When the whole “Weinsteining” situation began, I was as appalled as anyone at the flagrant abuses of power and position that seemed daily to be coming to light in many different areas of our society.

The more I thought about it however, the weaker my claim to the moral high ground appeared to be, and the greyer and more nebulous the dividing lines became.

It seemed like that I was contributing to the problem myself in dozens of ways that were almost unnoticeable, but were cumulatively large.

Here’s an example, I work in the Natural Resource industry, and hiring summer students to fill in for vacationing staff and get valuable experience is very common.  Routinely, I have seen the guys get placed in the field or pit, and girls get the lab or office summer jobs.

All equally valid placements, but when you are a new grad engineer, looking for that first real job, having 4 or 8 months experience in operating conditions is a huge plus, versus 4 or 8 months of office or lab experience (and I don’t mean to disrespect either office or lab personnel).

Even something as simple as opening a door for a woman or offering to carry a package has its basis in treating women as inferior in some way.

I guess my question is, how can we end this sex based discrimination, when even the simplest things are now suspect?  How can we teach our young men and boys that girls are their equal while we are still telling them “hold the door for the lady” and “girls first”?

Is this mixed message one of the reasons that this problem is still with us, so many years after it seemed like the fight for equality had been won?

Not a Weinstein-er

Dear NaW,

This is a really great question, what with everything going on in the world right now.  And if Dharma had the perfectly perfect answer, she could probably share it with you, and then retire and live happily ever after.

Alas, I do not, mainly because I suspect there is no perfectly perfect answer.  However, I can tell you some of the things Dharma believes in, and some of the things she doesn’t, and you can work that into your own belief system however you like.

I don’t know that I necessarily believe in women’s rights.  I do, however, strongly believe in human rights.

And respect.  Dharma has a very strong belief for the whole respect thing…

Like, you’ve got two humans; a man and a woman, both with equal education and experience, both applying for a job.  And hey, this is great, because you have two open positions, you can hire them both!

And how about this – how about you pay them both what the job is worth?  Simply that, what the job is worth.  Not this much for you, cuz you’re a man and this much (less) for you because you’re not…  You know, just pay these two humans the same amount as each other out of respect for their qualifications.

Whoa, right?  Crazy.  How we got this far thinking anything but that is seriously one of life’s great mysteries.

And here’s another one, while we are talking about puzzlers…  How is it that woman are considered “a minority”?

Doesn’t the word minority mean less than in numbers?  Are there really that many less women in the world than there are men to warrant that categorization?  Or in this case, does the word intend to mean simply “less than”…

Moving on.

So here’s where the grey you’re talking about comes in, because another one of the things I believe in is chivalry.  And manners.  And respect – again…

Because when is it ever respectful or good manners to drop a door behind you in someone’s face, regardless of whether it’s a man or woman…  or to not offer assistance to anyone who is struggling…   We all struggle at some time or another – it doesn’t have to infer weakness, does it?

And here’s the thing… can men and women not be treated equally, yet differently?  Because… we are actually different from each other!  Not less than or more than, but different!!

Our brains work differently, we have different parts, some of us can grow mustaches, some can push humans out of their bodies – we’re different!

Dogs and squirrels – both part of the animal kingdom, both deserving of kind and equal treatment, but each requiring very different things in order to thrive, right?

I guess I can’t help but want a world where woman get paid the worth of a job, not the worth of their sex, but still has the door held open for them on date night.  Why does one have to negate the other?  I touched on this very concept earlier this week in Does Chivalry Need to Die?

Like – do we really want to encourage “Well eff you, you want to be treated equally, you got it, bitch!” as the door drops in your face or they chuckle while you struggle with 10,000 things in your arms.

I’ve gone on for longer than usual, and don’t know if I’ve offered you anything useful at all. You’re right though, NaW – these are confusing issues in confusing times.  I can only say that I hope you teach your son respect and kindness, and honestly, holding doors open just can’t be the worst thing in the world for him to do for another human…



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