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(NB: this post has been going in various forms since '08 and was last posted in '13)

This list is presented in what I feel to be order of importance of the arguments.
  1. The argument from perpetuation. This is the big one as far as I am concerned. It's the practical argument. Positive Discrimination doesn't work, and worse than that, it makes the situation continue and can even make it worse. Using discrimination to fight discrimination is like fucking for virginity. It doesn't even stop specific instances, and it definitely doesn't get to the root cause. It's salving - no, not even salving, covering up - a symptom, while leaving the disease utterly intact. We need to fight discrimination, not perpetuate it.

  2. The argument from individuality. Positive Discrimination treats all women and all men (or all racial groups, or all LGBT+ folk, or whatever) as representatives of their group first, and individuals second. You don't have to have known me for very long to know how far I am from the average for women in many, many, many areas. I firmly believe that it is perfectly normal to deviate from the norm. I am an individual. I am not there to be a tick in the box of a diversity agenda, and I believe that each individual has experiences and needs which are individual to them and not predetermined by any visible physical factor.

  3. The argument from commonality. Just because someone has similar physical features to you does not mean that they will be of the same views as you, have the same experiences as you, or understand you any better. I believe that Julian Huppert understands me better and does a better job of representing my views than Nadine Dorries, for example.

  4. The argument from equality of opportunity. AKA two wrongs don't make a right. If you discriminate in favour of some groups, you necessarily discriminate against others. This is manifestly unfair, and unfairness is in fact, what we are arguing against here.

  5. The argument from mediocrity. If you discriminate in favour of one group, you are potentially promoting people who may not be as well-qualified or capable simply because they belong to the group in question; I thought this was what we were fighting against? For generations cis het white men have beaten better qualified women, black people and LGBT folk simply by being cis het white men. reversing this does not make it any less discriminatory.

  6. The argument from resentment. Linked to the above: every single person who gets a job due to positive discrimination has to fight the perception that they only got the job because of the group that they belong to, however well-qualified and good at the job they are. Sexists (or racists or homophobes etc) will assume that any woman (black person, LGBT+ person) who got any position where there is a positive discrimination policy in place got it because of the protected characteristic, not because they are actually qualified. The person getting the position is therefore hamstrung before they even begin, and face resentment that no person should face. You don't have to take my word for this, look at how affirmative action is discussed in the US.

  7. The "Sins of the Fathers" argument. Positive Discrimination means that some people will suffer through no fault of their own, but because they were born to a privileged group. This is manifestly unfair.

Really, it all boils down to the fact that if you use positive discrimination, you are accepting that the ends (greater diversity) justify the means. By that logic, you should also accept torture, pre-emptive invasion of other countries, etc. etc. This is not, in my view, how a good liberal should think.

I also hate the slippery euphemistic re-naming of it as "affirmative action" or "positive action", like that changes what it is. I don't think that one needs to have the same attributes as someone else to be able to have empathy with their situation, and I don't think that one needs to be a member of a marginalised group to understand that marginalising people is bad and wrong. I don't think a person's attributes qualify them to represent me, I think their brain does. Selecting women because only women can represent women is as bad, in my view, as suppressing women because only men are smart enough to decide what's good for us.

Diversity is not an end in itself. It's a means to an end of fairness and better governance.

Now, I'm not saying that women (and other marginalised groups) don't face structural and institutionalised inequalities; I know they do, and I rail against them regularly. But to say we can solve all that by using positive discrimination is like saying you can cover third degree burns with a bit of make-up. It might make things look better for a while, but in the long term it makes the problem worse by preventing actual solutions from being used, because look, we've solved it.

I want discrimination solved. I really really do. And at bottom, that is why I am against positive discrimination.

Date: Monday, November 2nd, 2015 07:57 pm (UTC)
po8crg: A cartoon of me, wearing a panama hat (Default)
From: [personal profile] po8crg
One of the biggest problems with Labour's AWS is that they don't select any women in open selections any more, so they no longer have any evidence whether returning to open selections would work.

If you don't know when you've succeeded, then you are in an even bigger mess than you thought you were.

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