On gender equality

To kick things off I will state my views on gender equality. I do not believe that gender equality is to be found anywhere in the World today. This declaration will certainly please the feminist contingent among the blog followers. But there is a twist  –  I also do not believe that full gender equality is possible.

Those who managed to get through my chauvinist intro without having to reach for Valium should think about what a gender equality refers to. The genders are equal only if the Law makes no distinction whatsoever between males and females. If then a distinction is encountered anywhere in the society this constitutes inequality which must be eradicated. The reason why I think this will never happen is that due to biological differences between men and women it is not desirable, or indeed possible, to have complete symmetry between the genders in all legal and social interactions.

The biological function most important for the survival of a species is producing offsprings. This is also where the roles of men and women are dramatically different. At the risk of stating the obvious I will say that there is nothing even resembling equality in a procreation scenario of homo sapiens. While a male is only required for conception, females have to go through months of pregnancy and then labour. There is nothing even the most progressive laws can do to make the genders equal with regard to what is required for a new human being to be conceived, carried to term and born.

But, for an argument’s sake, let us look at where following the tenets of gender equality would lead us in the scenario of a male and a female who have just conceived. Parenthood comes with many long-term legal and financial commitments so the issue is not trivial. The pregnancy may have been an accident or one of the parties may have changed their mind about the deal. In either case, accepting the principle of gender equality, their voices should carry equal weight when it comes to deciding whether to go to term or terminate. This is a completely literary and direct application of gender equality – both had a hand in conception so both should have an equal say in where things go from there. For one party to override the wishes of the other would constitute discrimination.

The current legal practice in the West is that a women has exclusive right to decide whether to carry or abort. While the access to abortion may be restricted in some countries, a determined mum-not-to-be will always find a way to terminate pregnancy. On the other hand a father has next to no say on the issue. He cannot force the mother to abort if she wants to keep the baby or make her keep the baby if she is determined to abort. There are very good reasons why this is so but we should not fool ourselves that it has anything to do with gender equality. It is a demonstrable case of discrimination where one’s legal standing depends on whether one happens to be a man or a woman.

Some will argue that a man entering an intimate relationship with a woman accepts the risks involved and I agree but this is not the issue here. My point is that in our quest for gender equality we are bound to hit the wall of biological realities. There is no possible way to make the scenario of child bearing gender-symmetrical. The best we can hope for is an arrangement which aims to protect the interests of both genders while recognising their different roles in the process of procreation. This will not make men and women equal but may institute a workable legal framework allowing the societies to function.

There are other situations in which it would not be practical to treat both genders the same way. Let us imagine a person turning up at a police station claiming to have been raped. If the person is a woman and the alleged perpetrator a man I see how the scenario is plausible and warrants urgent investigation. But if it was a man claiming to have been raped by a woman the story would be suspect. Or another example – only women are eligible for free mammography. You may think that I am being silly here but men can also get breast cancer:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Male_breast_cancer

and the only reason the public health system discriminates against them is that this is a rare occurrence. But even this argument is besides the point – in a World of perfect gender equality both sexes should be equally entitled to all available medical procedures. Illogical? Yes.

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