Things like racism, agism and sexism all hinge on the axiom that it is wrong to discriminate. However, Anthony Browne has written an interesting little book about political correctness in which he argues that discrimination is sometimes not only necessary but positively good. The book is titled The Retreat of Reason and is reviewed by me here.
Browne showed that gender discrimination is not only accepted in many instances, but many times is necessary, laudable and defensible. Gender discrimination simply means treating a person differently than you would if that person were a different sex. For example, when a man dates a woman he is, in a sense, ‘discriminating’ since he would not offer the same treatment to members of his own gender category, assuming he is a heterosexual. In short, there are many cases where men and women are unequal, and these are diversities to be celebrated rather than inequalities to be lamented. The real question, therefore, is not whether something is a case of sex discrimination, but whether it is a case of justifiable sex discrimination. Browne writes:
“Young men pay higher rates for car insurance than young women and older men, because young men are, on average, more dangerous drivers than young women and older men. A young man who is a safe driver is thus discriminated against because of the characteristics of other people in his age and sex group….Anti-discrimination campaigners may publicly declare that all discrimination on the grounds of sex should be outlawed, but they are unlikely to agree that all men should have the right to use women’s toilets, that men should be allowed to go to women’s gyms, or to demand overturning the right of women’s clothes shops to refuse to employ men….Men pay smaller pension contributions than women for a given level of private pension, for the simple reason that, on average, they have shorter lives and so on average claim less….The various forms of rational discrimination that are widely accepted are not often called discrimination – although that is clearly what they are – because accepting that some discrimination is actually essential to the working of a society would undermine the public acceptance of a ‘zero tolerance of all forms of discrimination’. The war on discrimination would become meaningless if there were general public awareness that actually some forms of discrimination are needed.”