BABY ON BOARD | Discrimination

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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53 thoughts on “BABY ON BOARD | Discrimination

      • Practically if we consider only equality then yes, giving the special consideration to people involved in the family way might seem like a discrimination, where the ones not involved might be affected. But as you had mentioned, a man is not an island by himself. He is part of a society where reproduction is a bigger part of both his and the society’s growth ( even if in an indirect way). We did not have paternity leave in many organisations earlier and then there were requests and attempts which put forth the need for the father’s involvement in the child birth and support and so along with maternity leave, there came a restricted paternity leave too.
        I don’t think earlier we had any baby on board signs in a car. But then with the increase in the impatience among people and the increasing number of accidents, it became a sort of necessity to ensure that those rashers are given a sign that there are children in a vehicle.
        These are done out of consideration of humanity, which forms the basis of any action, at least I feel that it should. No one is promoted ( afaik ) based on this special consideration. The only leverage mostly given is some consideration out of humanness. It is like trying to provide ones seat to an old person while we are seated and there aren’t any seats available so that they can be a little comfortable in their old age. The only concern is the misuse of such consideration and privilege provided. That is when the problem starts and people get irritated.

        I don’t think there is any reason for people not in any family way to be worried at all. Trust me, I am one of them.

      • Beautifully put, KG. In particular I liked your addition of paternity leave to the discussion. We’ve recently had a change in law in the UK so that mothers and fathers can share parental leave after a child is born, therefore giving fathers the possibility to spend more time at home at this early stage, bond with their child, help their partner and generally get a better grasp of fatherhood and more enjoyment of seeing their child for more than a couple of hours a day.
        The law does not come as close to parent equality as the Scandinavian counterpart does, but it is a great step forward and I was very pleased when it was announced.
        Thank you, KG.

      • Woman!

        From the bottom of my dark, villainous, patriarchal -—perhaps I should add “cholesterol laden” as well-—heart, permit me to say that you’re lucky that I am both sober AND in a committed relationship. (And possibly thousands of miles away, too, come to think of it.)

        Otherwise, I would surely take it upon my villainous self to address your feminine circumstances with alacrity! (And with applicable mutual consent forms properly filled out, of course, and vetted by lawyers for both parties. Can’t be too careful, nowadays.)

        }:-)> Yo ho ho, and a bottle of rum! (Have to keep up images. Once a scourge of political correctness, always a scourge of political correctness.)

  1. Wow….I’m who or what side I’m on, if there are any sides that is. My only real opinion, as of now, on the debate is that it is wrong to take preference over someone based on anything but merit. However, in terms of families, surely you have to give them some leeway because it’s tough bringing up children and working a full-time job.

    • It is a very tough one, isn’t it. I think that’s why half of my own comment is questioning rather than giving answers. I was trying to figure it out for myself as I went along, and I agree with you, people should be rewarded for their hard work, but that is not to say that they ought to be punished for having a family either.
      Thank you.

  2. Good heavens! We are back in agreement. }:-)>

    One addition that I suggest is that when Quinn is old, bed-ridden, and has lost bowel control, it will be someone’s kid who is caring for him or her in a retirement home or hospital.

    Our children are the future, and we are well advised to care for them, both collectively and individually.

  3. I think, on top of everything else, for I do agree that ‘rewards’ should be based on merit – economics need to be taken into consideration in regards to raising families while attempting to climb corporate ladders. Very few households can afford to live on two moderate salaries anymore, let alone just one – making it nearly impossible for any of us to “choose” to be stay at home parents. While I agree it is still technically a choice – if no one “chooses” to juggle their career with family, then extinction is inevitable. Waiting, as well, is hardly an option, since the retirement age keeps getting pushed further and further away – yet, women still have ‘biological clocks’ that do not follow anyone’s rules other than mother nature’s. And who wants to be a 50 year old soccer mom/dad to a 3rd grader, anyway? It happens, yes, but it is not the ideal situation.

    Forgive me for saying as much, but IMHO – this Quinn individual is living in a fantasy world where people actually still have better choices in a fairer society where parents don’t have to hate themselves for paying other people to raise their kids, just so they can keep a roof over their heads. Of course, it all still boils down to choices. A person can still choose to work for a company who demands 100% loyalty to them even over family (yes, they still exist). Sounds like something Quinn should look into.

    • Thank you, melodyspen. You raise some very good points regarding working families. The majority of people don’t have the option for one of them not to work, and when both in a couple want to have a family as well as have a career, juggling the two can be tough.
      I think what Quinn was suggesting is that if you’ve chosen to have a family, then that those who choose not to have a family shouldn’t be expected to carry the burden of those who do. I get that, but I think that corporations and law firms, as well as all other places of work need to be more flexible in this.

      • I also understand and respect that no one should have to carry the burden for others choices, yet we do. When someone calls in sick, regardless of having children or not, the slack falls to those employees who did not call in sick. Likewise, I believe the ‘family’ emergency is in place for all employees, regardless of parental status – and I think we’d be hard pressed to find someone who wouldn’t expect a little special consideration from their employers if they missed a week of work, because they were tending an ailing loved one, a dying spouse, etc.

        I’m not trying to argue with Quinn, honestly. I don’t think anyone should “demand” special treatment for any reason. I was merely trying to point out that economic environments play a large role in the inequality of the workplace and that the blame shouldn’t be put solely on the working parent’s shoulders. Due to the financial restraint of freedom to choose, because you simply cannot afford to raise a family without a career these days – I also do not think that it should be left up to someone who has no clue what it’s like to be forced to work in order to raise a family to decide where anyone’s priorities should lie. Kind of like, walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before you judge.

        This is a vicious catch-22 that’s never going to end, unless a miracle happens and the cost of living plummets. (sigh) Sorry for the long comments, Vic. I guess I just don’t get how anyone could assume that “working” while being a parent is actually a CHOICE nowadays – unless you’re choosing to raise your kids on the streets.

      • You need never apologise for long comments, melodyspen.
        It is as you say a Catch-22 and a very difficult issue too, so of course not very easy to say everything you want to in one sentence. I really appreciate you taking the time to explain your points.
        I would add to them, but I have to say that I agree with everything you’ve said so far.
        Thank you.

  4. I think this conversation topic is very interesting. However, I think the question isn’t whether people should be discriminated for having children and therefore not giving their life to work; but the question is should we be giving our entire life to work?

    I really have an issue with corporations and businesses who set their values, norms and hence, their working practices up in such a way that people feel compelled to spend 10-12 hours a day and all their weekends working. I think society has an issue when we are tied to work. If the task at hand is that labour intensive then put more people on the task or set a more realistic time-frame – clearly this does not fit with the corporate policy of making large profits.

    If we fixed this issue, I think the issue of child rearing would not be seen as a task or burden and maybe even men would be able to join in even more.

    • Thank you, Long time listener. I agree with you. There should be a life/work balance, and I think there will always be a tension between companies wanting their employees to put in extra hours (often for free) and finding time to be a parent as well as a husband/wife/partner as well.
      We should certainly not dedicate our entire life to work. Even if we love what we do, I don’t see that as being particularly healthy.
      I also agree with you regarding the amount of work that is required of individual persons. I remember reading that most people are not physical or mentally able to be efficient for ten consecutive hours, leave apart more.
      Profits do seem to be driving a lot of this. Somehow I doubt that those making company policy at the top spend quite as many hours working as they expect of their employees, and they certainly get remunerated far in excess of the amount of work they put in. (different discussion however, so perhaps I’ll leave this aside for the moment)
      Great comment. Thank you for contributing to the debate.

  5. Well, this has certainly given me something to think about today while going about the mundane. My first gut reaction, is we can’t live as “individuals”. We need each other to survive. I’m going to revisit this blog when I’m not procrastinating, and read the comments. Maybe I will have formed more to say—when I’m not in a hurry.

  6. To misquote Orwell, ‘We are all equal, but some are more equal than others’. Ideally everyone should be treated both equally and fairly, but then power tends to corrupt, and then the element of human greed raises its ugly head. We are, I believe, all equally valuable, both as individuals and members of society, regardless of how great a participant of that society one is.
    A little anecdote – A leading surgeon, who has always considered himself amongst the elite, has an accident and urgently needs an operation. Sadly he dies as the man who makes scalpels, and is poorly paid, has gone on strike to improve his lot.
    Who, exactly, decides on a persons worth??
    Food for thought – great topic, Vic.

    • Great anecdote, Chris. Thank you for adding it. Food for thought indeed. I was arguing at one point with some friends about the fact that if all jobs were paid an equal salary then no job would be seen as inferior to another. They argued that someone who spends eight years educating themselves surely deserves to be paid better than someone who left school at sixteen. My position was that they got “paid” by having an additional eight years of their life to spend learning about something they love, rather than having to mop floors. Surely there is value in that too. In any case, I’m off on a tangent now. That’s what anecdotes will do 😉
      Thank you, Chris. Great comment.

  7. I’m writing a similar article right now! I’m not feeling it so much in the workplace as much as on social media and in person. Child-free discrimination is unjust and unkind. Those that have children can be very judgmental of those not wanting children.

    • Look forward to reading your piece, Jessica. I think sometimes judging goes both ways, and unfortunately this can lead to a lot of tension. It would be good to see your position on this in more detail. Thank you for your comment.
      Warm regards,

  8. My brother was at my house talking about how backwards food-stamps were. I bit my tongue so hard it bled, why? Because he, having two children, is entitled to 500$ or more a month in food-stamps. Another girl I know gets about 3 grand plus a bundle of other benefits, free housing, bill assistance and more – she has four kids, two different daddies and a perfectly healthy individual. Myself, being permanently disabled with a progressive and degenerative disability, I get nothing in food stamps, no living assistance, Hell no help finding a vehicle that will transport me and my chair so I can work. I am ashamed to admit that I get the maximum in SSI for my state which split between rent, food, student loans and utilities is gone by the time I get it. My grandmother who is 72 is entitled to 15$ a month in food stamps and no other benefits, another elderly woman I know gets 10$ a month in EBT and no other benefits The difference I don’t have children. My brother is right the system is backwards, but not in his way. It’s built for people who have children — not other people who need it.
    On the plus: I got an eating budget down to 90$ a month.

    • Oh Nina, this is a terrible failure on the part of the state. Far more needs to be done for people with disabilities. I hoped that the Olympics may be a first move towards pointing at the problem but also at some of the solutions too. Unfortunately, from what you are saying it does sound like this is not yet the case.
      I do think that those benefits are for the sake of the children rather than parents, and the fact that even with all this the UK still has child poverty – is beyond incomprehensible to me. How can that be?
      But I don’t think this is a zero sum situation. I think that we can do more by way of helping the elderly and the disabled.
      Thank you for your comment, Nina. Food for thought and I will try to return to the subject in a future post.
      Warm regards,

      • Yes, they benefit the children. However, there is nothing in the world (aside from being lazy) that prevents the parents from working. Nothing! Nada. Zippo. Angry Nina is angry.

      • We are in agreement, although I have to say that to me (not having any children of my own) bringing up four sounds like a full time job. On the other hand, my grandparents managed it while both working as well, so I suppose it can be done if there is a will.
        Thank you, Nina.

  9. I am not sure what company the commenter works for, but it sounds like if his company is making preferences it is that business’s fault. Why cast the shadow on hard working mothers and fathers? It makes his legit arguement sound petulant and frankly… childish. I think he would have been best served by making this statement less personal, because it sounds like he got passed over for a promotion… lol…

  10. Pingback: BABY ON BOARD | Senators and CEOs | vic briggs

  11. It is the same old same old – taking advantage of systems that are put in place to help those who need help are abused by others to get as much as possible. Oh greed is a powerful force.
    Nothing fabulous write ma’am briggs

  12. “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?”

    I don’t think that parents should be REWARDED for having children, or get “special” treatment by employers. But the problem remains that women aren’t making it to the highest levels of leadership in our country and that IS a problem. 50% of the population is under-represented in their gender and gender differences are a big consideration when trying to create a homogenous pool of voices. The reason for this is that hight demands of parenting.

    Should parenting be less difficult in our society, and without all the rules of high-level positions contradicting the committment of being a parent, then perhaps we’ll see a fair representation of gender in leadership roles.

    Thank you for expanding this conversation.

    • Thank you, Shannon. All very good points. In terms of “reward” I think flexibility in hours could be one way to do it, as well as provision for care – especially for young children – would allow parents to return to work and put in the required hours more easily. I agree that perhaps “reward” is not the correct term, just couldn’t find one to fit better.
      I completely agree with you regarding parenting being difficult in society at the moment. When I was a kid, my kindergarten had provision for families where both worked so that a child could arrive at 7am and stay will 9pm when necessary. I’m not saying that should be the case for everyone, but if that option existed it would make it easier for jobbing parents to manage their work hours.
      Thank you once again for initiating the topic. It is a very important one – and although I don’t have to put children into the equation at a personal level, as someone “in society” I found this to be a good opportunity to think it through.

  13. Pingback: December’s Darlings | vic briggs

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