AMA Reply: Feminism

We can and we should
Just do it

Keshav Bedi asked my opinion on “the topic which is very fashionable these days here at Varsities in India, ‘Feminism’.”

I’m not familiar with what’s fashionable in Indian universities, unfortunately. I assume they’re leftist pinko swamps. I will not go there, even metaphorically. But let’s discuss femimism.

I’d like to use the Wiki description of feminism: “a range of political movements, ideologies, and social movements that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve political, economic, personal, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment.”

I would not want to live in a society where there is a need for a feminist movement because it implies that the society (and thus the state) discriminates against a female person based on a biological characteristic that is irrelevant in the context of some particular activity, and which characteristic the person has no control over.

My position on feminism flows from one of my core principles which is the principle of generality or non-discrimination. Briefly the principle says that the institution we call “the government” or “the state” must not discriminate among the citizens based on any characteristics that are irrelevant for the task or purpose at hand. All citizens must be considered by the state to be equal in all respects in the eyes of the state. The state must not be allowed to make separate rules, or impose different penalties, or grant special privileges, or deny rights, or impose obligations differentially on citizens.

Whatever the state does, it must do it generally. If it decides that a girl child should be given a bicycle, then all children — boys, girls, girly-boys, tomboys — all children must be given a bicycle. If the state cannot give bicycles to all without discrimination, then it should not be allowed to give bicycles to even one.

This principle of generality restricts the state, not any private citizen or organization. Individuals can, should, and do discriminate all the time, and do so with good reason. The good reason: because that’s what they want to do. We all should have the freedom to do precisely what we want to do, with the only provision that what we do must not interfere with the corresponding right of others to do precisely what they want to do.

To make the notion concrete, I have the right to, say, hire or not hire a Mexican to mow the lawn. Or to hire only female secretaries. Or never to eat at a Chinese restaurant. By doing this, I am discriminating but I am not impinging on anyone’s rights. There is no contract, implicit or explicit, that I had signed that I will hire Mexicans, or employ male secretaries, or buy Chinese dinners. By doing those things I am not preventing others from making their own choices.

As it happens, I do discriminate all the time. It would be silly to do otherwise. I don’t just hire someone for a job without carefully ranking those available along some criteria that matter to me. I choose what and where I eat. I have a fine discriminatory taste in food, in my reading, in my friends, in music — ad infinitum.

If someone discriminates against females, that’s his business. Perhaps his friends and associates would persuade him otherwise. But the government should stay out of it and make no laws that interfere with the freedom of any citizen to discriminate against any person or establishment of his choice.

So what should you do if you find that society systematically discriminates against a particular group of people? What should that particular group do? The operative word there is “systematically” — that the discrimination is encoded in the system. All systematic discrimination originates in rules that the government creates and enforces. An example would be the rule that prevents women from voting (which was the case in most democratic countries, including the US where the 19th amendment gave women the right to vote in 1920.) That’s a glaring example of systematic discrimination.

Feminism that aims to overturn systematic discrimination is good. I would not want to live in a society which suffers allows systematic discrimination. That includes all Islamic countries and India.

2 thoughts on “AMA Reply: Feminism

  1. Thank you for the post.

    Feminists here are not seen focussed much on fighting for legal and social equality of females but for equality in a literal sense.
    For instance, words like ‘tomboy’, will be perceived as something pejorative by them.

    So far as legal equality is concerned, some laws surprisingly are against men,like a women can get away with adultery,but men will be prosecuted for imprisonment for doing the same.

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  2. You said and I quote,
    “All systematic discrimination originates in rules that the government creates and enforces.”

    But aren’t laws merely reflection of the social beliefs and value system of the time, and hence originate in society first, only to get later reflected in law?
    To take the example which you gave,women were not allowed to vote in Western countires primarily because under Christian tradition woman aren’t equal to man having been originated from man’s ribs.Also ancient philosophers like Plato argued that a woman has no soul.
    Thus this notion ultimately got transmuted into laws of countries.

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