miss_s_b: (Politics: Post Feminism)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
You guys all know that I self-identify as feminist. I am very pro-equality. And yet, and yet... The subject of positive discrimination has been raising it's ugly head again, and it has been a while since I fully elucidated how I feel about it. The first time I posted substantively about this was in July 2008 and my views have shifted slightly but not much since then, so this is going to be basically an update of that post from 08, edited for more current examples and to remove some of my own bad wording*

Why I am Against Positive Discrimination

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. 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 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 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.

  4. The argument from mediocrity. If you discriminate in favour of one group, you are 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? Positive discrimination led directly to Hazel Blears being in the cabinet. Is anyone apart from Hazel herself really convinced that this is a good thing?

  5. The argument from resentment. Linked to the above: every 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 turn out to be. They are hamstrung before they even begin, and face resentment that no person should face.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

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.

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 doesn't work (or if it superficially appears to, it doesn't work for long) and 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.

*eurgh unchallenged and innate transphobia and gender binary shit. I HAVE LEARNED SINCE THEN, oh internets. But note that I don't censor my learning process...

Further reading, should you wish it (some of it sweary, and some of it still containing unchallenged gender binary. Must update that Venn Diagram):

My original post on this subject from July 2008
On having A Minister For Women from Oct 2007
Two linked posts on biological determinism from June 08
AWS selected MPs Vs non-AWS selected MPs from Oct 08
On having a "women's policy" from Jan 09
On the actual Women's Policy Consultation from March 09
On supposed male allies wishing to be spoonfed women's views from July 10
On how one grows up with expectations of what one's place should be from July 11
There's a fuckton else in this area on both of my blogs. Go look for it if you want to.

Date: Friday, December 20th, 2013 08:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] zoeimogen.livejournal.com
What's your view on one-off zipping? (I'm a fan, because a one-off thing does seem to perpetuate a better culture in future)

Of course, all these things only work for gender balance - you can't reasonably run all-LGBT+ shortlists, for example.

Date: Saturday, December 21st, 2013 01:14 pm (UTC)
perlmonger: (Default)
From: [personal profile] perlmonger
Agreed for the most part (the Hazel Blears argument is the killer here :), but perceptions of skewed playing fields are skewed, and there's a possibility of actual equal treatment being perceived as positive discrimination - the Grant Shapps effect, that sees 7% non-white-presenting as a black invasion. or 25% women as forcing men into a minority.

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