A couple weeks ago I wrote about how almost nobody is acting for equality in “Op/Ed Friday: Almost nobody is acting for equality, which is why we aren’t getting it.” Many people talk about wanting equality. Many believe they are acting for it. That post describes how not many are, despite their belief.
Since I write about leadership, I’m looking at the leadership results of people talking about one thing and doing another.
Here is an example of a prominent figure, a former Member of Parliament of Norway, promoting inequality: “No to female conscription.” In response to Norway involuntarily drafting women, she argues that women should not be drafted. She doesn’t argue no one should be drafted, only women. Her reasoning follows what I described in my article.
Because she wrote about gender, I will too, but please note, my point is not about gender. That’s just a specific case. If you think my point is about men and women, by all means criticize my writing, but please don’t lose sight of the forest for the tree. Gender is only a special case. Had I found an article on someone misguidedly promoting inequality in another area, I would have written about that topic. There’s no shortage of them. Again, my point is about inequality in general and how people believing they are working for it undermine their efforts when they only seek equality when they feel it benefits them but not when it doesn’t.
She acknowledges that people enacting the female draft say men and women should be treated equally. She counters that conscription is different than many areas and that men and women have differences that should lead to differences. In particular, she points out that the military is violent and involves killing and says women should not be militarized.
Does she think men like killing or being killed? Men return from service with post-traumatic stress disorder and missing limbs. Many die in service. As far as I know, men don’t like killing. They may show pride in serving when the alternative is people killing them, their loved ones, and their neighbors, or to prevent such situations, but not gratuitously. This behavior looks to me not like men like risking killing and being killed, but that they take up responsibility in the face of danger, which necessitates such risks. In such situations, equality in responsibility seems to make sense to me.
She points out that women give birth and breastfeed, but I’m sure the law exempts pregnant women and recent mothers. I could see the case for exempting recent fathers too. In any case, she makes the counterproductive-to-her-case claim that “in Norway, women still bear the heaviest burden for children, sick and old people.” Every father I’ve met loves his children and would do anything to spend more time with them. Exempting men from the military would help this situation.
Anyway, her main case is that women are different, suggesting that men like violence and killing and, combined with physical differences, only they should be subject to conscription. But this argument suggests that women should be treated unequally—in this case, favorably. Should we treat them unequally everywhere?
According to her, no. In another article, she decries the low representation of women in civil government and proposes quota there. There, where no one’s life is at risk, she suggests women should be treated equally.
Equality only when it benefits you is not equality
If she argued to allow both men and women exclusion because children benefit from both parents, or against the draft for everyone, she would be consistent and working for equality.
Likewise, if she said that women’s nature prevented them from being drafted would also prevent them from serving voluntarily or from serving in civil government, she would be consistent and working for equality.
She is doing neither of these things. She is arguing for inequality—for one group to benefit in every case, for the other to lose.
She describes one gender as privileged relative to the other. In the context of the military, it’s hard to claim privilege for men. I just looked up WWII casualties in Wikipedia for a statistic on military deaths. It cited sources that over 400,000 Americans were killed in WWII, and that 16 women were killed in action, about 0.004%.
I expect none of those people wanted to die except to help their loved ones and neighbors, which looks like responsibility, not privilege.
Nobody anywhere wants more people—women or men—dying in war. Nobody wants post traumatic stress disorder. Nobody wants to lose a limb. If people must take responsibility to defend their country, why would we not distribute that responsibility equally? If there are innate reasons not to distribute the responsibility equally, don’t we have to accept that those differences will appear in other places?
If someone claims differences consistently benefit one group, that person will appear biased and lose credibility.
Again, because she wrote about gender, I did too, but please note, my point is not about gender. That’s just a specific case. If you think my point is about men and women, by all means criticize my writing, but please don’t lose sight of the forest for the tree. Gender is only a special case. Had I found an article on a different case of someone misguidedly promoting inequality in another area, I would have written about that topic. There’s no shortage of them. Again, my point is about inequality in general and how people believing they are working for it undermine their efforts when they only seek equality when they feel it benefits them but not when it doesn’t.