Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Equality: The Foundation Stone of Egalitarian Feminism

Author: Blaise Wilson

TLDR/ Abstract

Egalitarian Feminism's definition of equality is:

Equal opportunity for every individual.

As this is diametrically opposite and incompatible with Equality of Outcome it may seem that we are encouraging fighting against Third Wave Feminism.

Egalitarian Feminism is a throwback to First Wave Feminism, with the inclusiveness of Second Wave Feminism and promotes equality for all, both women and men.

This topic has resulting in a new campaign: http://egafeminist.blogspot.co.uk/p/campagins_5.html

As a foundational stone of the Egalitarian Feminist website I felt it important to define our terms. Starting with the most important part of our mission statement: “to create equality for men and women” equality is a key term and how we measure it will drive our campaigns.

It was only after I started my research I realised how many definitions of 'equality' there are [8] and how fundamental this definition will be to our future work and how we fit into the wider Feminist movement.


Equality has many definitions but when it comes to humans it means that people are treated the same. It is the lack of privileges and discrimination based on who or what you are... or at least that's what I thought.

Turns out equality is more dependant on how you measure it, which impacts how you achieve it. You can have huge disparity on how individuals are treated, but it could still be considered 'equality' under certain definitions.

There is 'natural inequality' and 'man-made inequality' [4]. Natural centres on biological differences (think natural talent, size, weight and sexual dimorphism etc), while man-made inequality is about social structure.

The first major issue to consider is equality for each individual or for a collective/group? Do you want equality for a women or all women? This might sound like it would have the same outcome, but once you start to pair this with types of equality it becomes another story.

The two overarching measurements of equality are:
  • Equal opportunities
  • Equal outcomes 
All other types of equality could be measured using either opportunity or by outcome, for either a collective or for the individual. Equal opportunity is much harder to measure than equal outcomes. Opportunity is about process and access, whereas outcomes can be see through statistics. This makes it very tempting to use outcome as a measure, as it is empirical and easy to obtain but does not always reflect equal opportunity or question if the measure is fair on an individual scale.

These philosophies have links with different types of cultures and societies. For example Marxism and Communism is heavily linked to Equal Economic Outcome for the Collective. Whereas a Capitalist state concentrates on Equal Economic Opportunities for the Individual. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, and there are a range of ways each could be achieved in practise.

I'll break equality down into different areas and discuss what different measures of equality could look like. I will consider equality of opportunity verses equality of outcome on an individual and collective scale. It might be that some areas are better suited to one measure over another.

It is worth noting that the UK Equality Act 2010 [6] centres on the concept of equality of opportunity for the individual, and protects from discrimination based on: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. It does not specify any sub-category or group and combines an array of equality acts into one, for example the Equal Pay Act of 1970 has been superseded within the Equality Act 2010.

There are very strong links between equality of opportunities with the individual, and with equality of outcome for the collective. Equal opportunities for individuals implies that due to natural inequality (e.g. biological factors such as intelligence) will always produce inequality in the outcome. And vice-versa, outcome for the group can only be gained when individuals with natural inequality are made equal through their treatment in man-made inequality, forcing privileges for those without the natural factor which drives individual inequality. The two concepts are fundamentally diametrically opposed as one requires inequality in the other in order to function. This is why how we measure equality is fundamental to how it is implemented.

Types of Equality

Civil and Legal Equality

Civil and Legal equality are very similar [4 and 5], both centring on equality before the law, and protection of rights and liberties.

Civil and legal opportunity equality would cover ideas such as equal access to lawyers, legal knowledge and advice and equal treatment for the same crimes, including due process.

When broken down into collective groups this would imply there could be a disparity between how men and women are treated based on group needs. For example all women may be provided more support due to their perceived lack of access to wealth when compared to all men in order to ensure they have overall equal treatment. However this is counter productive to equality of individuals, as some wealthy women in this case may gain access to support that a poor man does not not have access too. Taking on an individual scale it would be done on a case by case basis – either through means testing or to provide everyone with the same basic level of support and disallow any extra support for anyone, regardless of which group they belong. This would require government funding and control.

At present in the UK everyone is provided a basic, taxpayer funded, lawyer but you may pay extra and bring in your own lawyer should you wish. This is under the principle of Equality of Condition – or equality of starting point. It gives everyone the same initial footing, however allows freedom of choice and opportunities open to individuals. But this comes at a cost to equal outcome, as the rich get better lawyers than the poor.

Civil and legal outcome equality would cover ideas of the same punishment for the same crime. In this case this seems fair, especially taken on an individual level. However when seen from a collective it may mean that one group gets different treatment to another in order to obtain equal outcomes. For example if people of colour are perceived to be unfairly targeted by law due to the outcome being disproportionate to the number of the people of colour in society you could say this is not equal outcome of a collective. But this doesn't take reasons why this might be the case into account.

Taking equal outcomes on an individual level would mean that everyone, regardless of background, should receive equal punishment for equal crimes. And this should be achieved though a mechanism of equal opportunity before the law.

The equality of law is the driving mechanism for all other equalities. Through censorship, quotas, discrimination laws and audits linked to punishment. Equality in the law and the definition of the measure of effectiveness will fundamentally drive which kind of inequality we see – either individual or collective, outcome or opportunity.

Political Equality

Political equality [4 and 5] is defined as the equal opportunity to participate in all political processes and have equal rights to all offices of authority. It includes the right to universal adult suffrage and is a basic requirement of a democratic society.

Taking the view of opportunity on an individual scale, this means every adult should have the ability to vote. Everyone is afforded freedom of choice on if they want a political career. The collective view seems to be similar.

However when equality of outcome is applied it implies that there should be an equal spread of group votes that should mirror wider society, i.e. the voters should be 50% male and 50% female. It also implies there should be an equal number of men and women in positions of power, such as in government and in high ranking positions within companies. One way to force this is to use quotas.

Who is in political power will define what laws are passed, and thus what kind of equality is measured. Legal quality is the mechanism but politics are the people and motivation. By influencing those in power through votes and candidates the perspective on what kind of equality is used can be controlled.

Economic Equality

Economic equality could be argued as the most important type of equality as it creates the rich and poor into different classes. This is why money could be considered as the root of all evil because it is the driving force of inequality.

Economic equality attempts to remove the differences in wealth [5], material goods and implies the abolishment of poverty. However it also highlights that everyone should be provided with basic human requirements for life.

Economic equality under equal opportunity would increase the rich and poor over time, unless it is coupled with Equality of Condition. Equality of Condition means everyone starts the same. Everyone gets the same upbringing, the same start in life. This means that parents who have wealth could not improve their children's opportunities over those of the poor. This conflicts with the parents freedom to influence their kids upbringing and to provide for their families. It would also be very difficult to implement in current culture – although over time not impossible. Another way could be to ensure all taxpayer funded opportunities rival privately funded ones by taxing the higher earners.

Because Economic Equality drives inequality it has been considered that the more complex a society the more inequality through wealth there will be. As the rich get richer, the poor get poorer.

Economic Equality measured as the outcome would imply that everyone should earn the same. This causes a lot of issues with regards to human nature as it may stifle innovation, punish natural talent and force everyone to devolve to the lowest common denominator. It would punish those with ambition while rewarding those who are lazy or lack talent. It implies that all jobs are of equal value to society.

How this would be achieved would be difficult. It could be done through a hierarchy system in which certain jobs are paid more depending on their use to society, but this would still cause inequality of outcome as some people will not be able to attain these high level roles for a variety of reasons. Especially once you consider this as a collective and start to break down society into groups for example women may have different preferences to men which diverts more of them to lower end, less required, roles which would cause women to have a lower overall outcome to men. This is similar to how the current world works, in which jobs are paid based on their ability to make money (or based on need in the case of non-profit organisations).

Economic Equality is the most highly contested type of equality, and once the relevant measure of equality is chosen achieving it can be problematic as it impacts so many other fundamental rights and equalities.

Social Equality

Anything that didn't fit into the other types of equality can be capture in Social Equality. It basically means everything, including political, legal and economic equality already mentioned [from 2, 3, 4, 5 and 9]

I'm just going to put down a list of things this covers, but it isn't exhaustive by any means. Basically if it isn't covered above, it gets put in here:
  • physical security
  • physical shelter
  • freedom of speech
  • freedom of assembly
  • right to own property
  • right to protect your property
  • education
  • healthcare
  • business
  • employment
  • human rights
  • happiness
  • workload
  • welfare
  • quality of goods
  • treatment by culture and society
  • absence of special privileges
  • elimination of discrimination
  • access (i.e. no segregation)
  • enjoy various opportunities in society
It was also noted [5] that many of these equalities can not be controlled through law. Some can be influenced by culture.

After the previous examples hopefully the concept of equality though opportunities and outcome for each case is clearer, as I do not intend to go through each of them. Same with individual verses group equality.

How different types of Feminism defines Equality

Due to the different definitions of equality, there are different elements of Feminism. This is why there is so much in fighting between Feminists and the concept of 'NAFALT' – Not All Feminists Are Like That exists (I've had too many arguments with anti-feminist on the topic).

According to Martha Rampton of Pacific University in Oregon [1], published Oct 2014 Feminism falls into three waves.

First Wave Feminism (late 19th and early 20th Century) was centred on opening up opportunities for women. In other words they defined equality from the 'Equal Opportunities' perspective.

However it was also rather exclusive, this was addressed in Second Wave Feminism (1960s - 1990s) which captured a wider voice and minority groups. This is were the concept of Patriarchy and the objectification of women arise and became increasingly radical. This is also when Feminism became increasingly linked to neo-Marxism (similar ideals to communism). This shows a turning point in which Equality became to be defined as Equal Outcome due to the Marxism influence.

We are currently in Third Wave Feminism (1990s onwards), in which the Equal Outcomes measurement is becoming more and more apparent through campaigns such as quotas and using the Gender Wage Gap (which compares all men with all women in a collective perspective).

However within the Third Wave of Feminism there are many who still define equality as 'Equality of Opportunity,' a throwback to First Wave Feminism. And this is where many debates and issues arise as the two measures are incompatible.

As a result it maybe useful to define individual Feminists in terms of their Equality Measurement, if they are Opportunity Feminists or Outcome Feminists.

How to spot an Opportunity Feminists

They will use measures of opportunity, such as available funding or equality before the law. Factors to be considered include freedom of choice and a free-market. However sometimes evidence will appear to be about outcome, for example looking at the overall outcome of all women verses all men in an area, however this has to be clearly linked to the opportunities and treatment they receive. They will concentrate on individual examples, but will use group examples when applicable.

To an Opportunity Feminists 'good' is the lack of individual privileges and discrimination.

Examples of Opportunity Feminists:
  • Christina Hoff Sommers aka The Factual Feminist 
How to spot an Outcome Feminists

Outcome Feminists will concentrate on overall statistics and figures, ignoring the reasoning behind them. To them equality is about the end result and this may require special privileges for certain individuals or groups in order to obtain it. They value the greater good over individual choice and feel that individuals should sacrifice themselves for a wider goal. Quotas are a key method to ensure outcome equality.

To an Outcome Feminist 'good' is when the measurement of the outcome is the same for each group studied.

Examples of Outcome Feminists:
  • Anita Sarkeesian [10]
The Test
When someone claims to be a feminist, there is a simple test to discover what kind they are. Simply ask them: "Do you agree with using quotas to force companies to take on more women?"

If their answer is 'yes' they are an Outcome Feminist.

They their answer is 'no; they are an Opportunity Feminist.

Egalitarian Feminist Definition of Equality

Egalitarian Feminism's definition of equality is:

Equal opportunity for every individual.

As this is diametrically opposite and incompatible with Equality of Outcome it may seem that we are encouraging fighting against Third Wave Feminism.

Egalitarian Feminism is a throwback to First Wave Feminism, with the inclusiveness of Second Wave Feminism.

This topic has resulting in a new campaign: http://egafeminist.blogspot.co.uk/p/campagins.html


[1] Three Waves of Feminism:
http://www.pacificu.edu/about-us/news-events/three-waves-feminism accessed 31/07/2015

[2]Social Equality:
http://www.innovateus.net/innopedia/what-social-equality accessed 31/07/2015

[3]Social Equality:
http://www.lawandbioethics.com/demo/Main/EthicsResources/social_equality.htm accessed 31/07/2015

[4] Five types of equality:
http://www.yourarticlelibrary.com/political-science/equality-meaning-features-and-types-of-equality/40362/ accessed 30/07/2015

[5] More types of equality:
http://www.shareyouressays.com/93669/5-important-types-of-equality-equality-found-in-our-society accessed 30/07/2015

[6]UK Equality Act 2010
http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/private-and-public-sector-guidance/education-providers/secondary-education-resources/useful-information/understanding-equality accessed 28/07/2015

[7] Equal pay act 1970
http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/private-and-public-sector-guidance/employing-people/managing-workers/equal-pay/equal-pay-and-equality-act-2010 accessed 31/07/2015

[8] Equality
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/equality/ accessed 30/07/2015

[9] Systems Engineering and Feminism:
[unpublished, but will be available on this website in due course. This is a live document and will be developed over time. It is the Systems Engineering evidence that underpins the Egalitarian Feminist ideals website.]

[10] Anita Sarkeesian's definition of feminism:
https://archive.is/sBqb0 accessed 01/08/2015

No comments:

Post a Comment