What Equality Means–A Humanist View

SV_SimplySoft01Equality is quite the buzzword in modern mainstream society, but like the terms feminism and atheism, I don’t think folks know what equality means. Now, before I go further, allow me to back track and clarify something. I don’t identify as a feminist. Not that I disagree with feminism in ideal and indeed, I support many of the concepts of it. I look at feminism in much the same was as I do the MRA. Both are sex-centric rights organization with a mission to protect the segment of society they represent. No harm, no foul. I can see the appeal of picking a side to fight for and I don’t denigrate anyone for doing so. For my own personal tastes however, I choose to pick up the cause for the LGBT community as well as champion the rights of both men and women. In that regard, I also choose my battles accordingly. Indeed, I can feel the same kind of righteous indignation when I hear that a man has to automatically pay alimony after a divorce regardless of his circumstances, as I would for a woman who is publicly slut shamed on a college campus cause she was wearing hot pants.

Unfortunately, I find that, in spite of my attempts towards reasoned balance (of course I am a bisexual woman so the injustices that affect me personally will get more of a rise), whenever I champion a female cause I am automatically labelled a feminist. This is strange, seeing as, when I stand up for male rights, just as vociferously, I might add, I am not thought to be an MRA member. Couple this with the fact that feminism has now became a dirty word because of the likes of Rush Limbaugh and even fellow Atheists like T. J. Kirk, and I know that the aim was to demean my point. What an individual, male or female, hopes to gain by rendering my viewpoint null and void in this way, is beyond me.

Which leads me to my focus on equality, and in particular, gender equality.

When I encounter woman hating atheist types who says insane things like, “Well, you’re the ones who wanted equality…” after a woman has some kind of misadventure, or “woman want equality but they don’t want to pay for their own dinners and open their own doors,” I just have to cock my head to the side in confused little puppy fashion. This dismissive sleight of hand manages to misrepresent what feminism and equality are all in one fell stroke.

People, I just have to ask…

1) What is wrong with wanting equal treatment under the law? What in the hell does, “Well, you’re the ones who wanted equality!” even mean? That is like saying, “Well, you’re the ones who wanted to eat, breathe air and drink water.” Of course we want legal equality. Just what do you mean by equality here anyway? The equality most feminists, the MRA and humanists like myself are fighting for is the idea that we have the freedom to make our own choices, for our own lives that we are given the same opportunities in life across the board. Yes, I am smart enough to know that equal opportunity doesn’t mean equal outcome, but if you block my way to those opportunities, how will I know what kind of outcomes I COULD have?

2) What does the opening of a door or paying for dinner have to do with desiring basic human rights? In this regard, the “go make me a sammich” brigade is truly missing the point. The reason many women hate that whole “Get in the kitchen bitch” type o’ thing is because the Christian Right would often say things like, a woman’s place is in the home or in the kitchen. This was the mantra of both men and women when ladies desired to join the work force and get into positions that had been long held by men. The term barefoot and pregnant comes to mind. When guys, who think they are being cute and counterculture, say things like, “get in the kitchen, ho” they are saying the equivalent of “get back into the cotton fields niggah”, to a person of color. Which leads me back to the ideas of equality in the dating world. What are you trying to say with your admonishment of supposed female privilege here? That some women, many of whom are probably NOT feminists, who enjoy courtesies like a man opening a door or paying for dinner shows that chicks really want to be stripped of life options and relegated to a life of making sandwiches? I don’t get it.

In the end, all human beings want to be treated like, well, human beings. That is the basis for human rights. Of course a woman wants the right to choose between being mother or giving her life to mission work. No one wants all their choices made for them, or have their life arranged and mapped out without their input. That’s called slavery. Man, woman, gay or straight, we want our chance at the pursuit of happiness promised to all of us in the Bill of Rights.

The special treatment, dinner argument just never makes sense to me anyways. Equality is not a tit for tat exercise. For example, if you gave me an apple and I gave you a pear, you can’t then scream, “That’s’ not equal–you gave me a pear! I gave you an apple! How can you want equality when you treated me so differently!”

Dating scenarios and rituals are a different animal outside the human rights landscape. Couples can and should decide for themselves how to handle a given situation and believe it or not many women can and do pay for their own shit, especially feminists. I often joke that the men who have an issue opening doors or paying for meals should date a feminist. Feminism is a concept not only based on the idea of female equality but also, female self-sufficiency. Most will give you a hard look if you open a door for them, or smack your hand if you dared to pay for her dinner.

But, I am not a feminist and I love being treated to a night out. Does this mean I don’t believe in feminine equality? Not at all. I deem the opening of a door as a courtesy that has little to do with gender roles. I open doors for women, men and kids. Why? So the door doesn’t smack them in the head as I exit the building. It is a courtesy. Giving everyone equal regard under the law, doesn’t mean we do away with basic civility and common courtesy.

Now, I completely get that it is unfair that men have to automatically pay alimony in most cases, but men need be aware that women often pay alimony to ex spouses too. I do think the laws need to change to either eradicate spousal payments altogether or make them more strictly case by case. Example, if financial assets are built up during the marriage due to the hard work of both spouses, then there should be a fair and equitable dissolvement of those assets. But, if you bring gazillions into your marriage, you should be able to leave with your gazillions, unless you yourself feel inclined to do otherwise (not all divorces end bitterly). However, let’s say a married couple decides to have a kid. The man agrees that the wife makes more money than he does and leaves his job to stay at home. Yes, I know it is often the other way around, but I actually do know of a couple who did this. The woman was a CEO and he had a high paying repairman gig. They both believed that one parent should be home with the kiddos and had already discussed the fact that who ever was the biggest bread-winner would keep their job when they decided to become parents.

They honored this idea when the first babe was born and dude became a stay at home dad. The couple is still happily married, but I can’t help but ponder if, lets say, they were heading towards splitsville. what would-be fair here. Would it, for example, be fair to just toss dude out with the bath water with no means of support after he gave up his own livelihood to stay home with their offspring? In such a case, I think an award of alimony would be fair for a short time until the man could get a job in his chosen field and support himself (if that hadn’t already occurred).

This is what I would call a decent and fair moral decision backed up by the law, but this STILL doesn’t fall under the real of basic human rights and legal equality. Separate things.

Lookit–I am aware that a woman just can’t bench press the same weight as a man…but if a woman wants to try, let her. If she fails in the attempt — so what? Does this fact mean I should go back to the days when all decisions for a woman’s life was made for her?

Humans are not all equal. Some are better looking than others, some are tall while others are short. There are folks who are smarter, faster, bigger, richer, stronger, weaker, more privileged, than others. The idea that we are all equal is a fallacy. Even so, this doesn’t mean that the beautiful, privileged, tall man gets to have more opportunities than the weak, short and unnattractive short man. The short man should have the same rights as a tall man under the law. What happens outside of that is well–I dunno…the general fluctations of life?

Getting back to the dating ritual thang, I will say this. My hubby and I both agree that the individual doing the asking should pay. When I was single, I asked men out and when I did so, I picked up the check. But to the fellahs reading this, please ask yourself what is really behind this anger at treating a woman to a night out and displaying courtesy by opening a door. Do you really have to get a complete, I do this, you do that, tit for tat out of it to enjoy the night? What does that say about your true intentions?

Dating is a getting to know one another, social process. It ain’t marriage, nor is it a fast track to easy sex. Go into it with minimal expectations and pure intentions and you will have less of a chance to get all bitter and claim both sides have so-called “privilege”.

Folks, please, let us stop getting distracted by the dumb shit and keep our eyes on the prize. Equality is about choice–our own individualistic choices–all the rest that goes along with that is what gets sorted out in the mix once the goal of across the board equality is achieved.

That will be very happy work should that day ever come.

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8 thoughts on “What Equality Means–A Humanist View

  1. I consider myself a feminist, but I agree that the word has become synonymous with man-hating “girl-power” stupidness because of a few outspoken crazies (the crazies have the loudest mouths, and often ruin things for the rest of us). BUT I really am an equalist, and the word “feminist” doesn’t really represent that view appropriately. I am a feminist in the way that I want WOMEN to be recognized as equal members of society. I focus on the feminine angle, because I believe women to be unfairly judged, viewed, and treated in society, so I fight from the woman’s side – but it is NOT about superiority, as some supposed “feminists” push for. I view the feminist movement in the way it was *originally* intended – equal rights. I think it’s grossly unfortunate that feminism has gotten such a bad name, because there are so many women out there who are outwardly “Anti-feminist”, and I always think, “Really? Do you enjoy your right to vote? Own property? Do you LIKE being paid less for the same job? Because that’s what feminism, in its roots, stood for.”

    That being said, I am all for mens’ rights when it reflects true equality. Custody and child support are a huge issue for me. Did you know that, generally, the NON-custodial parent (usually the dad) is responsible for paying for insurance for the children (in addition to child support)? REGARDLESS of whether the custodial parent has access to cheaper insurance? AND, a non-custodial parent is not allowed to file for Medicaid for their children, even if their income qualifies, and even if they are legally responsible for providing insurance… It’s complete bullshit, and dads get screwed constantly in divorce/custody decrees. I’m all about preserving equal rights for men, especially when they’re held to higher societal and legal standards than women.

    As for “chivalry”. Human beings like being treated like we are special. This is biological; a desire to find ourselves suitable above other mating candidates. Because men and women are different (regardless of legal equality, and I REALLY wish people could understand this), “special” presents itself in different ways. But for MOST women, having doors opened, allowing her to order first at a restaurant, etc. is not just courtesy; it makes us feel honored, appreciated, and elevated beyond the normal standard. In the same way that flirting with my husband in full view of other men, giving him a BJ out of the blue in the middle of the week, and making him a sandwich for his lunch at work once in a while, makes him feel honored, appreciated, and elevated. There is nothing wrong with doing things to make people feel special. The only thing “wrong” about it, is when you start expecting those things as a norm. I do not expect my husband to open the car door for me, but if he does, it makes me feel special and appreciated, and I love him all the more for it.

    AND there are the wrenches in “equality”. I’m 36 years old, and I have never changed a tire in my life. I KNOW HOW. But every time I’ve been in the process of doing so, some man – my boyfriend/husband or just a strange guy on the road – steps in and takes over. Once I was changing a tire IN MY OWN DRIVEWAY, and some guy I didn’t even know came by and literally PUSHED ME OUT OF THE WAY and took over, even after I said, “I’ve got it.” like 10 damn times. But, when this happens, I am both offended and relieved. Offended because he clearly believes I cannot do it on my own simply because I am a woman, and relieved because, damn it, I didn’t have to do it. I think, maybe, it’s the same when my husband is cooking/cleaning/doing laundry and doing something “wrong” and I say, “Just get out of here and let me do it.” The point is that I know how to do it, I can SEE that it’s being done improperly or with a lot of struggle, and it will just be easier if I did it myself. I think this happens a lot with men and the whole changing tires or oil or chainsawing trees or whatever. There is no reason to take offense, or to believe the other sex is inadequate, simply because one person knows how to do something better than the other. And honestly, if he knows how to do it better than I do, by all means, do it. Less work for me 😉 I’ll bet he feels the same way: “Thank god I didn’t have to do THAT crap!”

    • Heather thank you so very much for this comment. There is so much I can hang my hat on here, and I concur–there is a grave misunderstanding about what feminism is. More young ladies and men need to stand up and be counted when relating that information. Hugs to you!

  2. “Equality is quite the buzzword in modern mainstream society, but like the terms feminism and atheism, I don’t think folks know what equality means. Now, before I go further, allow me to back track and clarify something. I don’t identify as a feminist. Not that I disagree with feminism in ideal and indeed, I support many of the concepts of it. I look at feminism in much the same was as I do the MRA. Both are sex-centric rights organization with a mission to protect the segment of society they represent.”

    Unfortunately, I’m inclined to disagree here. Feminism is a movement too large to paint as only looking out for the gender they “represent”. Certainly there are strains that do so, but even just a short look into highly-regarded feminist blogs, books, etc. will show you that for the most parts people who identify as feminists are equally concerned with the rights of women and men but choose to approach these issues from the viewpoint that society has a tendency to consider “feminine things” ill-suited for men, “masculine things” ill-suited for women, and both genders are the worse for it. The best way to achieve equality is to change the way society thinks of gender roles so that both men and women can achieve what they want from life without discrimination.

    In addition, comparing MRAs to the feminist movement is ill-informed at best. Normally, they wish less for gender equality and more for a return to even more restricted roles for both men and women.

    • Hey Anna–my comparions was more to point out that organizations exist that kinda of look after the interest of a specific group. The NAACP while it does try to reach out to latinos and other disenfranchised groups, was primarily established to help black folks. I was not even trying to say that MRA and Feminist based organizations are wholly comparable. At the end of the day, many feminists do try to ensure that female righst are protected. I rather do agree with you that many MRA members I have encountered seem less inclined towards equality but rather would seek to take hold of “lost power” by promoting the false idea of female privilege and using laughable examples. That said, the feminist movement is not a male based, it is female based, with initiatives focused on our rights and the changing of perceptions. Not a bad thing, just not solely my thing…

  3. Hey Alicia, nice blog you got going here. I would like to subscribe to a feed or something, but I can’t figure out how to do it. Can you help me out with that?

  4. just enjoyed th!s and have to say…lady you got !t popp!n’ ~ ! totally agree & feel that equal!ty has been trag!cally & loosely thrown all over the place but unt!l a person stops & dec!phers the actual mean!ng, !n ALL !ts glory, only then w!ll they know how to apply !t to the!r world ~ !ts a fun evolut!on to watch (to a degree) and so very enl!ghten!ng !nto ones soul

    • Thanks sweet thang! It is an interesting evolution yes, I just wish mankind would stop penduluming between extremes. When one thing fails to work as expected, we stampede towards the other side, which may be as bad or worse than the initial “solution” to a given problem. Moderation is perhaps the answer to MOST questions as well as judging things as they come to us, not making it black and white.

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