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Will treating people equally be considered discrimination?

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by Marlat, Jun 3, 2011.


  1. Marlat

    Marlat

    Sep 17, 2002
    London UK
    This came up at a discussion at work. The context is probably somewhat boring, but in brief, we were discussing a recent ECJ decision regarding the requirement that from 2012, insurance companies use unisex premiums. That is, most insurance companies discriminate between men and women on the basis that statistical evidence suggests (for example) that women live longer than men, young women are less likely to be in an accident than young men etc. However, the court ruled that the exception which allowed this discrimination is itself in breach of the requirement to treat men and women equally.

    However, the point was raised that at some point, the equal treatment of people based on sex could ultimately amount to disrcimination if the actual differences between sexes were not recognised. For example, if the equal treatment of men and women requried that all olympic events were unisex and women had to compete against men, could the women complaint that treating them equally was actually discriminating against them by not recogising the physiological differences.

    This got me thinking about other areas where we strive for equality, such as age equality (ie not discriminating generally against older and younger people - again, sports is an example where the olympics for example are open to any age, but this effectively rules out "older" atheletes in most areas) or perhaps more controversially, race equality.

    Do you think there comes a point where equality can become discrimination? DOes it matter? Is equality such a lofty goal that even if it causes discrimination it is worthwhile?

    Do you think that, in time, our sensibilities will shift and this striving for equality will ultimately be recognised as discriminatory behaviour and we may shift back to a point where differences between sex, age, people etc are recognised and treated differently?

    (FWIW the technical term for this type of discrimination is "indirect discrimination", ie where the behaviour itself is not discriminatory, but it indirectly causes discrimination. An example may be setting a requirement that in order to play in a club you need to be at least 6ft tall. Technically this doesn't discriminate between men and women, but it is far more likely to mean that women are excluded from the club than men).
     
  2. Relic

    Relic Cow are you?

    Sep 12, 2006
    Robbinsville, NJ
    Wow, lots to think about with this one... It's hard for me to give a definitive response.
    Yeah, I do tend to think at times that striving for absolute equality may not necessarily be as beneficial as we at first think it is. I also think that at times, we're almost brainwashed into believing that it's the "right" thing to do to the point where going against it runs the risk of you being declared "sexist/racist" etc.
    That said though, there are a whole lot of "shades of gray" in this one - salary differences between races/genders, educational opportunities and such - these are cases when leveling the playing field so to speak would be beneficial IMO
     
  3. dbhokie

    dbhokie

    Nov 1, 2010
    We are born to discriminate. It will never end.

    We are encouraged to see differences our whole lives, and make choices based on them. Except we are supposed to magically forget this tendency when it comes to sexual orientation, sexes, races, political structure...

    In short Political correctness is killing everything.
     
  4. Marlat

    Marlat

    Sep 17, 2002
    London UK
    That really has nothing to do with the OP.
     
  5. dj150888

    dj150888

    Feb 25, 2008
    Belfast, Ireland
    I'm all for equality, but being equal doesn't mean being treated the very same way, just with the same degree of respect.

    My opinions mightn't be terribly PC, but I think a lot of the movements towards creating, "equality" for men and women just ends up as an attempt to force both into a masculine role. I firmly believe a woman's strength is in her femininity. The fact is, women are about as good at being men as men are at being women...and that's not very good. Certain professions may suit a more masculine profile, others may suit a more feminine profile. Filling these jobs with people who are less-than-ideal, just because you want to appear to be "equal-opportunities" is foolish and does nothing to create equality. Creating an environment where both the masculine and feminine aspects of humanity are respected and celebrated for their differences would go a long way towards creating true equality in my opinion.

    I guess my key point is that "equal" doesn't necessarily mean "the same", and the differences should be respected and celebrated, not denied.

    This doesn't mean, for example, that if two people are equally capably doing a job that I think differences should be made in salaries etc. There are lots of jobs out there which both sexes excel at equally, and lots of people of either sex who don't fit the typical mould. My point is just about expecting everyone to buy into this totally genderless ideology, by denying that any differences exist at all.
     
  6. Marlat

    Marlat

    Sep 17, 2002
    London UK
    Just to give an example of what I mean. When you go to buy a pension (ie an income stream in retirement). One of the key factors in deciding the price of the pension is your life expectancy. Providers have complex methods of working this out (ie based on where you live, your work experience, health and sex). But basically it comes down to a cost per $1 of pension. So, for arguments sake a man aged 65 might have to pay $23 for every $1 of pension income they want to receive (based on a life expectancy of 23 years). A woman aged 65 might have to pay $27 for every $1 based on a life expectancy of 27 years.

    By saying that insurance companies cannot take gender into account, effectively the same premium must be charged for both sexes. In practice, that's likely to mean that men's premiums will increase to match women's premiums because companies are unlikely to reduce the cost. So, a man who, statistically should only live for 23 years may have to pay the premium of someone who should live for 27 years and thus have to pay more for his pension. The man may then complain that he is being discriminated against by not taking into account the fact that statistically he should not be living for 27 years and therefore should pay less.
     
  7. colcifer

    colcifer Esteemed Nitpicker Supporting Member

    Feb 10, 2010
    A Galaxy Far, Far Away
    So far as the use of statistics goes, that might be a form of discrimination itself since statistics only apply to large groups, not individuals.
     
  8. dj150888

    dj150888

    Feb 25, 2008
    Belfast, Ireland
    It would be massively cost-prohibitive for insurance companies and the likes to do an in-depth study of each individual. Statistics are necessary, as are generalisations about large groups.
     
  9. someone having an advantage over someone else is not discrimination. to go into my thoughts on your first example; women vs men in the olympics. now lets say that the men are faster at running the mile, and I'm assuming this based on the fact that in military basic training women have a longer window of time to run a mile. what is the fictitious woman demanding when she screams discrimination? does she want to finish at exactly the same time as the man every time? I'll venture so far as to say no she does not, she wants to win. and that has nothing to do with equality she wants an advantage, to have her cake and eat it too if you will. It has everything to do with envy and nothing to do with discrimination

    Equality needs to be looked at as an opportunity, using the example again, the woman has the opportunity to compete with the men, which in turn affords her the opportunity to win. if she fails to win then she needs to work harder, train harder, learn her mistakes and try again. letting here start with a 100 meter head start or something is not equality at all

    thats like saying "first one to my back yard wins a million dollars, go"

    its asinine

    now, knowing how OT often goes I need to state a few things.. there is no subtext to what i've just typed so dont go making assumptions about me based off what i've said. i gave specific examples and they mean nothing about me personally or my world views

    i do not think there is no such thing as discrimination etc...
     
  10. Marlat

    Marlat

    Sep 17, 2002
    London UK
    I think you may have missed the point here. Its not about men or women (or whatever) having a particular advantage. Its about bringing indirect inequality about by implementing equality. To use the same example, if all olympic events were unisex and, like with the olympics now, only the fastest qualifying times got to compete. The reality is that in many events, it would only be men competing. There is equality in the sense that events are no longer divided down sex based lines, but there is inequality because it prevents (in general) women from competing.

    Sports is an interesting one because we do allow for sexual inequality, but otherwise any statistical inequalities are not allowed for (for example some races are shorter / taller than others on average - that kind of thing).

    The idea of giving a head start etc was never suggested.
     
  11. colcifer

    colcifer Esteemed Nitpicker Supporting Member

    Feb 10, 2010
    A Galaxy Far, Far Away
    Well aware.
     
  12. dbhokie

    dbhokie

    Nov 1, 2010
    I find it quite relevant. You ask if treating people equally will be considered discrimination. What I mean is discrimination is impossible to avoid we are wired and taught that way, so no matter what even in an effort for equality you will be discriminating. I read your post, I know what it said, I just found it to be lengthy for the point.

    Humans are incapable of removing everything and making "vulcan-like" decisions.

    By forcing political correctness and equality like you are speaking of all they are doing is changing the method of discrimination. Such things tend to be pendulums and go one way then swing too far the other.
     
  13. Marlat

    Marlat

    Sep 17, 2002
    London UK
    You do realise that one point doesn't follow from the other though, right? Just because discrimination is impossible to avoid doesn't necessarily mean that treating people equally will be considered discrimination. Its a non sequiter. The point you are making is "we will always discriminate". However, there is nothing in the OP that suggests otherwise. You've arguing against a point no one made.

    My general rule of thumb is to disregard any posts that use the term "politcal correctness" in them because most of the time the poster doesn't really understand what the term means and that lack of understanding flows through to their substantive arguments. However, I am hoping that you will prove me wrong in this case.

    Do you think equal pay for men and women, for example, is just a matter of political correctness?
     
  14. but it doesnt prevent women from competing, it affords them the opportunity to compete with the men. they have the opportunity, which i mentioned in my op, but you choose to ignore it seems because you had a problem with my notion of a head start

    for the record I completely understood what you are saying, I just feel you are trying too hard to see something that just isn't there. but you definitely misunderstood my post

    that being said I see where this is going, so I'm out.
     
  15. Marlat

    Marlat

    Sep 17, 2002
    London UK
    I think its quite clear that I understood your point. The counterpoint is that the "opportunity" is indirectly discriminatory and that is what the women *could* complain about. This is the point that, I think its clear from your response, you don't understand and why you are getting confused with the "headstart" issue.

    I disagree. In any event, who misunderstood what is largely moot, our comments are on the page to be disected by anyone who wants to.

    Okay.
     
  16. dbhokie

    dbhokie

    Nov 1, 2010
    Treating people equally will always be discrimination. As long as there is a choice to treat them any other way. Perception of those treating and those being treated is a big deal in this. From whose viewpoint will it be considered discrimination in their relative perception of reality, I do not know. I was unaware of the philosophical doors that you wanted to open through a self-defeating question. Though I am aware of what a "non sequiter" (sic) is. If someone ever believes that a different viewpoint is a better one, then it will always be considered discrimination by that person. It is all relative to contextual framework and individual morality and ethics as well. Then you have to question the solidity of ethics, absolutes, or relative. Then you would need to delve deeper and define equal in an understood and accepted way. If treating equally by definition means without discrimination (to the person putting forth the thought), then that person will consider themselves outside of discrimination as long as they treat equally (according to their perspective). The problem is trying to establish this elusive idea of "equality" and constrain it into a defined philosophical context. If you take a 105 year old man and put him in a race with a 30 year old, many would consider this "not equal" to begin with. political correctness is what is forcing a lot of these changes. A fear of being discriminating leading to a blank standard not taking into account what are logical and physiological discriminatory differences.

    If treating people equally, means discriminating by ignoring all differences, then in my mind they are not being treated equally at all, though of course that is just semantics, and it is more that the idea being conveyed through the vehicle of the word equally through my perspective framework is not well suited for the occasion.

    As every person is born and conditioned to discriminate in one way or another (thus far observed in all history), and there is not a collective universal consciousness that forces obedience, agreement, and strict adherence to a set of maxims or ideas, there is no concept of "equality" that can be inferred will be understood "equally" amongst all concerned parties, which will lead to discriminating views, and discrimination in the perspective of some, or all of those involved.

    Well that sounds like a pretty discriminatory policy, and pompous as well.

    I suppose that would depend on what idea you construe to be the definitive end of the vehicular term "political correctness". That also would delve into what is equal pay? It could certainly be construed that way, as semantics are easy to play with. Part of conversation is trying to understand the idea being conveyed behind words not just hiding behind them.
     
  17. Marlat

    Marlat

    Sep 17, 2002
    London UK
    There are some cracking sentences in the two paragraphs above. I will respond properly in due course, but just wanted to flag that I appreciate the effort you've gone to make your post sound needlessly complex! :D

    Its not discriminatory, its just prejudicial. However, experience has largely proved me right on that particular prejudice, although I'm not adverse to being shown to be wrong. I appreciate it sounds pompous. So be it.

    So that's a yes then? :D
     
  18. There is no denying that there are differences between men
    and women. The politically correct crowd would like you to
    ignore facts and believe otherwise.
     
  19. LiquidMidnight

    LiquidMidnight

    Dec 25, 2000
    +1

    I also find that people invoke the "political correctness" term, either purposefully or unpurposefully, as a polemic device to stop the discourse of a topic from going anywhere deeper. For example, Person A could say, "Men and women should get equal pay for equal work," and Person B says, "That's just political correctness." Therefore, the discourse stops and no real understanding or meaning is gleaned from the exchange.

    However, that argument subsumes either a high amount of biological determinism or that traditionally socialized gender roles are normatively good. I disagree with both points, but unfortunately I don't have time to reply at the moment. Perhaps another time. :D
     
  20. This is a great question. Im going to have to spend some time on this.
     

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