Let’s Talk Opinion in conversation with Quinn
“I fully believe in equal rights, equal pay, equal opportunity and whatnot. However, I am NOT a fan of anyone– male or female – being given “special” consideration “because” they have children. […] This is blatant discrimination – “family” vs. “individual”. And yet, it is. It exists. Life is all about choices. If you chose to have a family, IMHO – then THAT should be YOUR priority (not mine or my employers). If you chose to have a family AND climb the corporate ladder, then you – the individual – must choose your priorities. Corporations have no obligation to make those choices for you or make special concessions for you. […] Using the law firm example you gave, an attorney can put up their own money – hang their shingle – drum up business – grow – hire associates – grow – form partnerships – grow – and on and on. They (the original owner and partners) owe you – a female attorney or paralegal or secretary – nothing. If you don’t want to work the 100 hours a week required to make partnership (for whatever reason) – don’t. Doesn’t really matter if you are a man or a woman. But don’t then sit back and demand some special consideration “because you have children”. […]”***
*** This is an abridged version of the comment. Click HERE for the full version (Quinn on October 21, 2013 at 10:30 pm.),and for the context of this discussion
I absolutely agree, but let me make my agreement contingent on one important thing: a thorough self-reflective and self-aware engagement with the values and norms we want to stand by and cherish, that is: What kind of society do we want to live in?
Some question to ponder:
1. Do we want a society where the individual and only the individual matters? Where did this “individual” come from? Do “individuals” spring up from a void, outside of society and its norms and values OR do they in fact only come into being from within society itself and precisely because of its norms and values?
2. Do we want to live in a society that divests its citizens of their reproductive nature, a society that does not wish to re-create itself and is in fact satisfied to go extinct? What I mean by this is simply this: is the giving birth, bringing up and education of children important to society itself, or is this an absolutely private individual matter that society has absolutely no benefit from or any interest in whatsoever?
3. Do corporations operate in a social void? Are they simply some “individual” exercise or do they in fact benefit from the existence of society, from the system of organisation it offers, from a certain security in laws, norms and values that make it possible for corporations to operate in the first place?
4. Do we want to live in a society, and work for corporations that victimise individuals who whilst contributing to both also take on the burden of creating the next generation? Or may it be perhaps more constructive to acknowledge the value of their work in both areas and reward it appropriately? After all, those that choose to or are unable to participate in the reproduction of society already have a time-energy advantage on their hands to climb the corporate ladder as well as engage in social activities that are no longer attainable for those others who have children. Win/win one would think?
Until the family unit is eliminated and individuals are developed in vitro – see Brave New World by Aldous Huxley for a blueprint – then the two will be forever intertwined in the makeup of society. There is no family vs. individual conflict insofar as I can see it. We are born, we grow up, we live alone, we live together, we learn, we work, we create, we imagine, we strive, we overcome, we succumb, get old and die.
Mutual respect is the basis of equality. I am a democrat. Equality is of great importance in my books. I do wonder however whether we spend sufficient time discussing what the idea actually stands for, because this comment made me realise once again how fluid the concept is, and how little we agree on what it means.
I would like to leave you with this one final comment of my own:
Individuals do not exist in void. They exist in society. Therefore, individuals act upon one another and shape society, just as they are acted upon and shaped by society. There is a tendency within individuals to direct others and to resist direction, a tendency which amplifies both the radical and the contestatory nature of the democratic project, which is a project of autonomy or freedom, understood as the lucid, self-aware and self-reflecting making of one’s own laws.
These laws ought to benefit all – in this case both childless individuals and those who have children.
And a final question:
Why discriminate against either? Why as someone who does not have children must one ever feel like they are somehow done a disservice if their employer happens to value their workers sufficiently to act humanely and with understanding towards those that have a life outside the office that is of equal important to that within?**
**This is the first part of a two part series on this topic. The follow up post is scheduled to be published on Tuesday, the 10th of December 2013 at 7am GMT.
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