While proposing equality, the feminist Gender Justice Warriors propose that equality of opportunities is not enough to ensure justice and hence equality of outcome is needed to be ensured (this theory is the origin of the notion that because of centuries of oppression, women need to be given better facilities today to ensure justice for them). In this regard, a very popular feminist thesis was published by Anne Philips in The Journal of Political Philosophy in 2004 (this is also part of research archive of London School of Economics, LSE). In this paper, she discussed the theory of ‘Equality of Outcome’ from various perspectives.
In my previous article of this series, where I have started analysis of gender justice theory as proposed by Anca Gheaus, I have shown how the feminist concept of gender justice, fails us in all 3 basic promises of gender justice that they make.
In this article, I will show you how some nice sounding vague arguments for justice led to the theory that justifies reservation for women.
[This article is part of a research program undertaken by The Male Factor on two completely opposite social philosophies. While this article is directly related to the research program on Modern Feminism, there is a parallel research initiative on Vedic India to understand traditional culture and philosophy.
All articles under Modern Feminism can be found – here
All articles under Vedic India can be found – here]
In simple terms, the theory on ‘Equality of Outcome’ states – to ensure gender justice, special provisions (like special training, special conveyance to commute etc.) need to be created for women so that they can exercise their choice (equality of opportunity) and also there need to be reservation in all sectors to ensure (or to force??) women participation in different areas.
This theory states that different parameters to measure outcome (i.e. income/happiness/welfare) may be contradictory to each other. Since our likes are different, if we get same amount of material benefit, we all may not be equally well-off. It also states that equality of outcome may deny importance of individual choice and responsibility. For example, if one doesn’t take up early chances of employment and wait to enhance educational qualifications to get better salary at a later point in time, that will be her choice and she needs to take responsibility of the outcome.
The Politics of Envy
This outcome equality may also lead to ‘politics of envy’, which in simple terms is the envy towards achievement of all above average achievers.
However, feminists’ counter argument is that, ‘opportunities are equal as long as there is no overt discrimination or any legal impediments based on gender’. In simple terms what they say is, if there exists any social bias in the mindset of people about women being suitable to some jobs etc., that kind of mindset bias can also lead to discrimination. Hence, it will be not enough to ensure only ‘equality in opportunities’ to achieve gender justice.
Legitimate and Illegitimate Discriminations
In this aspect however, Anne Phillips wanted to distinguish between illegitimate discriminations that arise due to circumstances beyond our control and legitimate discriminations that arises due to personal choice. However, she also argues that if the personal choice is influenced by a biased social norm, that is also illegitimate discrimination. So, her theory argues that those less favored by nature should be ‘compensated’ for their less abilities and talent.
The Bad Luck Scenario
Anne Phillips research argued what she termed as ‘Bad Luck’ scenario. One born with less talent or disability. She argued that if one is naturally at a disadvantage, then we need to give more opportunities and help to succeed to ensure ‘equality in opportunities’.
We understand this for differently abled people, however, if the same argument is also placed for women (as less favored by nature) then in this case feminists seem to agree that women and men are not equal. However, they always portray that the genders are equal and there is no difference and hence they need equal rights. So, if we consider that women are less favored by nature in certain aspects that means they can’t be considered as equals in the first place.
Now, whether these ‘less favored’ (as per the feminist argument) group of people (called women) can be given equal choice to select jobs is the question. The answer lies in the consideration of the fact, if we want to give similar access to children or to differently abled people. Do we want to send children to war or make them scientists or do we want to send a lunatic to moon? All of them may be ‘less favored by nature’ but forcing them to take up these jobs because we want equality is insane. Especially when we have better fit persons available for these jobs. If we thus try to ensure gender justice and think that we need to waste our national resources on people with bad luck, then we will not end up in any positive output. That is why some division of labor becomes important.
If we can’t just blindly extrapolate such benefits to everyone, then why should the ‘equality of outcome’ be considered for women? Some women may exceed men in mathematics and technical areas, but if women in general don’t use that part of the brain, then by providing unnecessary benefits (like skill training, providing better books etc.) will only lead to waste of national resources. The thesis fails to take this point into consideration. So, a theory created based on some incomplete arguments, is used to change social norms globally.
If we consider Ronald Dworkin’s argument that not everyone may be interested to accumulate more wealth or material pleasures, we will get another perspective in this matter. His key argument was, ‘no one wants to be poor but not everyone wants to be rich either.’ In this, he suggested ‘envy-test’ to see if one who envies another person who is richer compared to her, will be ready to be in that position. Dworkin said, all of us want to get paid more for what we are doing instead of taking up the roles of people we envy, because those roles also demands giving up a lot of benefits we enjoy in our current positions.
Amartya Sen’s ‘Development as Freedom’
In her theory, Anne Phillips also referred to Amartya Sen’s Development as Freedom, and said that one’s ability to convert incomes into opportunities depend on multiple factors and hence will require different levels of resources to achieve the same result. In this aspect, Sen has given example of a person without leg would need a wheelchair at a minimum to be as mobile as a normal person. This theory argues to check whether the educational system has enabled them to stretch their imagination to achieve full potential, whether political system enables them to participate actively in public life etc. Particularly for women this theory suggests that there are some families that support women in their endeavor, while some other do not, and thus create discrimination. So, Amartya Sen’s basic argument was it does not matter what kind of resources we have (same bundle of resources), but what matters is what we are able to do with resources we have.
But Amartya Sen’s analogy is not applicable in every aspect of life even though it is a nice sounding analogy. For example, the jobs requiring special abilities (e.g. soldiers at the borders, SEAL commandos etc.) may not be suitable for anyone and everyone even if they are adequately inspired. That is why we see feminists asking for lower entry standards for these positions. No amount of family support or inspiration can qualify a lunatic for lunar mission. Similarly, if one doesn’t have the required talent to become a poet or an artist, she just can’t become one simply by education or family support. So, Sen’s theory may sound good for a person without leg, but the same can’t be extrapolated to all fields. If it did, then we would have got many Tagores or Sukumar Roys and would not have to compromise on quality.
The Agency and Power
In this context, main point feminists bring is when a woman is dependent on a man and marry for his being rich, then they are not getting equal treatment. ‘A woman might capture a wealthy husband and never suffer material want – but the price for this was a stunted moral and physical development’. Feminists say that in such cases even though such women may seem to be empowered and men being discriminated against, such women were confined, constrained and denied.
This high-sounding argument however contradicts the main theory of equality of outcome, that demands special provisions for women to be equal. The very thought (that women are disadvantaged by nature) puts women in stunted moral, constrained and denied. This theory itself shows the feminist hypocrisy and it has now become the basis of ALL facilities provided to women.
Anne Phillips in her theory also negates the popular counter argument that said, ‘the two sexes are equal though different’. She viewed this ‘celebration of women’s maternal instinct’ as a conspiracy by men ‘to hide their incapability to take care of children’. In this aspect, some feminists proposed revaluation of women’s work, so that the genders could freely choose from any available role without any bias. Her argument was, ‘equality of opportunity’ will be a fantasy if social outcome equality was not achieved’. To illustrate, she gave examples of all wealth being accumulated to men or all literary awards going to men etc. She showed, if this happened, then there was an overall inequality that should be eliminated.
So, feminist argument here is to ensure ‘reservation’ to women to accumulate more money, or to have ‘reservation’ in literary awards to ensure equality. So, in way this feminist theory suggests that what men achieve through hard labor and competition, women should achieve easily by reservation and that is equality.
If we look into the scenario of becoming rich (for example being a successful global businessman), one needs to put in very hard work and succeed in severe competition. However, feminist theory of ‘Equality of Outcome’ suggests, women should be given reservation to own those positions even without any merit.
Same argument holds good for literary awards as well.
In the cases above as we understand, and as stated by Anne, ‘equality is understood in outcome terms, with outcome broadened to include occupations, activities and responsibilities as well as distribution of income and wealth‘.
So, she argues that since this definition of equality of outcome is not measured in ideological terms (like preference, satisfaction or income and wealth) but across a broad spectrum of resources, occupations and roles have to be taken as equality of opportunity. So, she argues that the explanation of ‘Outcome Inequality’ actually shows ‘unequal opportunities’ even if there is explicit equality of opportunity. Hence, she argues that there needs to be reservation for women to ensure true equality.
So, if this is the way we want to achieve equality, which is the case today, we will see third grade actors or creative workers being promoted or awarded only to achieve this bogus ‘equality’ and quality is compromised unnecessarily.
———-End of Part 1 of Equality of Outcome————
Next Part 2 – Why Feminists Want to Destroy Your Culture