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From memory, those are the opening words of M. Scott Peck’s book The Road Less Travelled.

It is true, of course. And the more you try to achieve, the truer it seems to be.

Rambling for a minute. When I was a teenager I remember reading a story about a woman in the US who had sued her local men’s baseball team. They had discriminated against her by refusing to let her join. She won. It was America, after all.

After playing two games, she was struck and slightly injured by a fast pitch. She promptly sued the club again, this time for failing to take account of the fact that she was a woman, and therefore had slower reaction times. Even at the age of fourteen, this struck me as the perfect example of the women’s movement in practice.

Feminists want to be treated like men, but when they are treated like men, they complain bitterly.

Men are competitive. They constantly test each other. And it is not hard to understand why. If you are going out hunting mammoth, or fighting the Viet Cong, or trying to win a critical contract for your firm, you need to know that the person next to you can take the strain. This is the purpose of ‘hazing.’

Testing gives you confidence in your own strength, and that of your fellows. While hazing can sometimes  trip over into bullying, it is not a bad thing in itself. I would not be confident on a battlefield with a buddy who burst into tears if someone laughed at the ladders in her stockings, or who complained about breaking a nail while on basic training.

Women (again generalising) test each other in different ways. When they choose to place themselves in a predominantly male environment, the prestigious world of garbage collection, for example, and are treated by men as those men treat one another, women often seem to interpret this as being picked on, belittled, put down. In fact, it should be taken as a compliment. The male workers are assuming that she can be one of them, that she can work on an equal basis.

This interpretation of equal treatment as unfair can be particularly evident in the workplace.

Again, to ramble for a minute, I worked in a bookshop where some books were stacked on high shelves. To reach them for customers or to restock, staff had to stand on a small step ladder. The female staff refused to do this, because people would be able to see their knickers. The same applied to changing lightbulbs, dusting, etc.

When I suggested that they knew this was part of the job, and that they should therefore dress appropriately, either wearing pants or longer skirts, I was berated for assuming the right to tell them what to wear.

Feminists tell women they do not, cannot succeed, because they face constant unfair discrimination. In fact, women who can do the job, and are willing to make the sacrifices (physical discomfort, repeated rejection, long hours, etc) that are needed, can do, and do do, as well as men.

Efforts to to achieve equality in employment at executive levels for women and minority groups by forcing employers to hire less qualified or able women, blacks, or whoever, only make the situation worse. People hired under such schemes will be the object of annoyance and frustration, and the knowledge that they have not genuinely earned their jobs reinforces rather than mitigates negative stereotypes.

It is not liberating or empowering for women to be told that they will never succeed because they face insurmountable obstacles of injustice and discrimination. The truth is, as Penny Vincenzi points out in this article, it is not an imaginary glass ceiling that holds women back from the top positions, it is not working as hard, not working as long, or simply not being good at their jobs.

Life is not fair. Work is not fair. Just stop whining and get on with it, and you will do as well as anyone with your commitment and abilities. That is the liberating truth.

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