I've written some incisive questions, and presented my best “for” and “against” positions for each of these (For most, I’m actually undecided!). I’m interested in your opinions, so please leave a comment addressing any or all of the questions.
Point one: Is it a problem that most bricklayers are male, and most preschool teachers are female?
Yes: this is just as bad as gender inequality in any other profession, and indicates a systemic problem.
No: there is some truth to the stereotype that men are stronger and women tend to be more nurturing to infants. It's fine that people choose careers that match their abilities and inclinations.
Point two: Is it a problem that we have gender separated toilets?
Yes: this is as bad as race separated toilets. There is truly no good reason to separate toilets like this, and some places are beginning to only use gender neutral toilets. Plus it causes problems for anyone who doesn't fit a male or female stereotype.
No: there are valid privacy, hygiene and safety issues, particularly for women.
Point three: Is it a problem that gender is a very large part of most people’s identity? (this is reflected in free choice of clothing, for example)
Yes: ideally, people would not label themselves male or female in any strong sense.
No: gender is deeply ingrained in most people’s psyche whether we like it or not.
Point four: Is it a problem that we have gender-specific pronouns?
Yes: it’s just as bad as race-specific pronouns would be.
No: Quite often it provides additional clarity and communicates better. And besides, it's almost impossible to change a language in that way.
Point five: Is it a problem that sporting events are separated by gender?
Yes: we don’t separate by race, either. Just consider everyone on their merit alone.
No: men tend to be stronger, so very few women would be able to compete in some sports. It's actually good for gender equality to have, say, a women's soccer league.
Point six: Is it a problem to treat people differently based on whether they might become pregnant or not? (eg. give them more paid leave than people who cannot become pregnant.) (Yes I’m talking about maternity leave and paternity leave being non-identical)
Yes: men and women should be treated equally out of principle. It’s wrong to ask about pregnancy in a job interview, and it’s also wrong to give child-expecting women more leave than child-expecting men.
No: It’s still wrong to ask about pregnancy during a job interview, but realistically, women go through more strain in childbirth and are biologically the primary caregivers for many months, thus require more leave.
Point seven: Is it wrong for insurance companies, security forces, etc. to use gender as a means of profiling people, even when supported by actuarial data?
Yes: it’s just as bad as racially profiling people, which is also wrong. Even if there’s statistical significance, it’s important as a society not to treat people differently due to gender. We don’t charge one racial group more for car insurance, and we shouldn’t charge one gender more.
No: it’s fine to use whatever profiling is necessary if there are gains to society overall. By searching more young men than old ladies, we catch more bombers. It’s fair to charge young men more for car insurance if they (as a group) cause more accidents.
Point eight: Is it a problem that there are female-only gyms?
Yes: this is clearly sexual discrimination, just as bad as “whites-only” gym or “men-only” business school.
No: there is great demand for this kind of business, and women should be able to exercise away from men if they choose.
Please leave a comment and let me know what you think.