Equality “alienates” (who, exactly?!)

// 18 November 2010

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may.jpgHome Secretary Theresa May intends to abandon one of the central measures in the Equality Act passed by the last government, reports The Guardian.

The socioeconomic duty would have required all public bodies to assess whether they were addressing inequalities caused by class factors, encouraging them to improve, for example, health and education outcomes in more deprived areas.

There has also been a general change in direction: instead of equality, the government will now try and strive towards “fairness”. We will have to wait and see what further implications there are for this shift.

The concept of equality had, she argued, become a “dirty word”, associated with “the worst forms of political correctness and social engineering”.

“I recognise that ‘fairness’ is a word that many will feel is perhaps not as specific as ‘equality’. But one of the problems is that equality has come to be seen by a lot of people as something that is available to others, and not to them. We do need to change our attitude and approach to it, and we do need to say that equality of opportunity is for everybody. The other problem with using the word is that it has been seen to mean equality of outcome rather than equality of opportunity,” she said.

“Using fairness as a word alongside equality will mean that the majority of the British people will start to see this is something that is about everybody, not something that is just available to specific groups of people.”


Or, as Jane Martinson put it over at Comment is Free:

Theresa May, the home secretary, set out a coherent ideology today that sought to cut back on government interference and encourage all 61 million of us in the UK – women, ethnic minorities, the disabled and, presumably, wealthy white men – to do it for ourselves.

Comments From You

Feminist Avatar // Posted 18 November 2010 at 10:51 am

“The other problem with using the word is that it has been seen to mean equality of outcome rather than equality of opportunity,” she said.

Uh, yes. Tha’ts because we mean equality of outcome- it ain’t a fricking accident.

Jennifer Drew // Posted 18 November 2010 at 11:00 am

More machinations emanating from the male-dominated Tory coalition and its minions the male-dominated Lib/Dems. Now ‘equality’ is supposedly a word widely bandied around and claiming that women but not men are the ones being oppressed and discriminated against.

The answer – why delete that ‘dirty word equality’ and instead insert ‘fairness.’ How convenient because what is fair for me might not be fair for you. In other words ‘fairness’ is not objective – it depends on a person’s socio-economic status – meaning of course men will continue to retain their socio-economic power and women – well we can get to the back of the queue again!

And oh yes – in the name of fairness any woman who is oppressed/discriminated against can challenge this individually because ‘fairness’ means she not (male-dominant) society is responsible for enacting change.

Note too ‘fairness’ is always in the ‘eye of the white male beholder’ and that is the view which Tories are determined to retain. Still the issue is all about ‘fairness’ is it not – just as ‘communities’ is all about returning political power to ‘communities’ – but conveniently ignoring how institutional/individual power is never equally apportioned. Only those males who hold positions of power will be heard, whereas women – forget it – your issues are irrelevant.

sianushka // Posted 18 November 2010 at 12:14 pm

from what i understand, public bodies will still need to ensure gender equality is considered, but they don’t need to care about impact or have consultations about it.

which seems like double think to me.

am i being a conspiracy theorist when i think that the government are threatened with legal action from fawcett for not considering gender equality impact on their budget, and now – tah da! – the law is gone?

either way, the only people i know who are threatened by equality are people with bags and bags of privilege, i.e. white, middle – upper class men that make up the coalition cabinet.

this is such a step backwards in my view. i am agreeing more and more that this is an ideological war on women, to push us back out of the public sphere.

Kristel // Posted 18 November 2010 at 3:29 pm

Sianushka, if you’re a conspiracy theorist, so am I! I so knew this would happen. Theresa May is no doubt happy to participate in this ideological war to push women out of public life – or at least she will be until she’s pushed out of it herself.

The only people threatened by equality are the ones who are perpetuating discrimination and inequality.

Anchoredwunderlust // Posted 18 November 2010 at 3:34 pm

Newsflash: inequalities minister makes herself redundant

spiralsheep // Posted 18 November 2010 at 4:56 pm

Does this mean Theresa May will be changing her job title to Fairness Minister?

Kit // Posted 18 November 2010 at 6:10 pm

@Anchoredwunderlust – *snicker* :3

” But one of the problems is that equality has come to be seen by a lot of people as something that is available to others, and not to them. ” – oh boo hoo. It’s not true though, so why pander to them?

Lucie // Posted 18 November 2010 at 7:22 pm

“New measures aimed at reducing the gender pay gap would be announced in the next few weeks, she said.”

This should be good.

polly // Posted 18 November 2010 at 11:11 pm

Equality of opportunity? Does that mean all kids will go to Eton in future then. Even girls?

aimee // Posted 19 November 2010 at 11:36 am

For Fuck’s Sake.

What the hell is wrong with people? Why can’t they understand that addressing equality only disadvantages them in that it is designed to take away priviledges that they DIDN’T DESERVE IN THE FIRST PLACE! That they have purely by virtue of being white, or male, or straight, or cis, or able bodies. Are people so fucking ignorant that they can’t understand that they don’t deserve to benefit from that? People opposed to equality, people that think its a dirty word are only opposed to it because they want to maintain a status quo which benefits them by affording them a priviledge based on something irrelevant and innocuous. Selfishness, ignorance and blind, ill informed prejudice wins again. Also: Fuck you, the tories.

starsandscars // Posted 19 November 2010 at 12:55 pm

Double think indeed, Sianushka.

It really makes no sense to me.. Surely fairness and equality should be the same thing? Inequality is unfair, isn’t it? Well, only to those of us affected by it.. hmm.

I love aimee’s comment, sums it up I think.

Kit // Posted 19 November 2010 at 5:52 pm

aimee, I think part of the problem is a lot of people against equality don’t “think” that they’re getting any benefit from being white, male, cis, straight, able bodied etc. I think ignorance pretty much covers that though, yeah :(

Sheila // Posted 19 November 2010 at 6:37 pm

Get this. A school I know of recently held a Debate Club with the motion “This house believes the male is superior to the female”. They congratulated the boys on winning the debate (of course it was boys versus girls for the motion).

Feminist Avatar // Posted 19 November 2010 at 8:38 pm

I think a lot of this sense of unfairness is about the perceived allocation of resources, rather than a problem with the concept equality. I think that when you aren’t earning particularly much, it becomes very frustrating to see people being given things for ‘free’ that you have to struggle to pay for yourself. So, why is it fair that very poor people get a grant to go to university, when you can’t afford to send your child to university without getting huge amounts of debt. Why is it that people with disabilities (sometimes) get an automatic interview, when you can’t get to that same interview and instead have to apply for yet another job.

The fact that you might have a nice house and a car- which is why you don’t have money to send your child to university – or that the person getting the grant may have significantly less advantages in many other areas of life that are also being compensated for through the grant- isn’t recognised.

Similarly, the fact that having a disability limits people from what jobs they can apply for (so giving them less opportunity to get a job in a global sense than you) is not understood.

Because in that moment, you can only see the direct comparison, where somebody is getting something which you are not.

[Having said all this, I think higher education should be free for all.]

Kathryn // Posted 21 November 2010 at 2:59 pm

It seems a minor point, but the fact that the Fawcett Society STILL has Theresa May’s photo on their website in a “this is what a feminist looks like” t shirt is making my skin crawl. And making me angry, given that she is making it apparent she has no interest in improving opportunity and conditions for women. Other than her self.


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