24 September 2014

Attempting the Impossible

Via Buzzfeed:
“The more I spoke about feminism, the more I realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man hating,” Watson said. “If there is one thing I know for certain is that this has to stop.” 
Watson, a U.N. Women Global Goodwill Ambassador, was in New York to launch “HeForShe,” a campaign for men and boys worldwide to advocate an end to gender inequality. She spoke frequently about the role men have in helping women and girls achieve equal rights, and said that liberating men from stereotypes ultimately benefits women.
There's a lot to pick through, of course, and the talking points are familiar:  advocates of female equality do tend to be man-haters, women's rights aren't actually rights in the traditional sense, etc.  One thing that's always interesting, though, is the utter absurdity of the call for men to help women achieve equal rights.
This call is absurd because it is intrinsically self-contradicting.  It would be one thing to say that men should recognize women's equal rights (which assumes that equal rights exist and can generally be exercised by anyone); it's an entirely different matter to say that men can help women achieve equal rights.

Either women already have equal rights or they do not already have equal rights.  If women already have equal rights, then there is no need for women to achieve equal rights.  If women do not already have equal rights, then the question becomes why this is the case. The obvious answer is that men and women are not equal to each other (i.e. they are different from one another).  A less obvious answer is that men are trampling on women's rights.

If it is the case that men and women are not equal, then it is logically necessary to ask whether they can have equal rights in any meaningful sense.  After all, why would anyone expend energy trying to redress an intractable problem?

However, if the real problem is that men are suppressing women, then the question becomes:  why haven't women successfully overcome male oppression?  For, if women are equal to men, then how can it be that they are oppressed?  If women are intrinsically the same as men, how can it be that they are taken advatange of?

If there is a race of two runners of equal speed, the race will result in a tie.  If there is clear winner, then the two runners do not have equal speed.  In like manner, if women are the exact same as men, how is that they end up oppressed?  This brings us back to the prior observation that men and women are not equal, which in turn begs the question of whether there can actually be equality.

When all is said and done, Ms. Watson's pablum is simply an attempt to spur people to attempt the impossible: getting two intrinsically unequal groups to be treated as if they are equal.  I'm guessing it won't work.