Attitude easier to change than law

No Minister  asks a question of feminists in response to the survey which found more than a third of women think they don’t have equal rights: 

Is it that the survey company defined rights in a foolish way, that the respondents have a confused definition of rights, or just that a third of NZ women are into special pleading?

I’m a peopleist (not sure how to spell it) rather than a feminist because I think equal rights should be based on the acceptance that people are people and they are entitled to equality because of that not because they are part of a sub-set of humanity.

However, as I commented last night (four posts earlier) equality isn’t just about enshrining rights in law it’s about changing attitudes and some people still think some other people are lesser beings.

This doesn’t just apply to women and ethnic minorities, some middle aged pakeha men could sometimes argue that they’d been discriminated against because of their gender and ethnicity.

Take a look at the party lists. You can rightly argue that this positive discrimination is to improve the gender and ethnic balance because selection processes in the past deliberately or not resulted in a fairly homogenous parliament, but all else being equal a woman or someone who isn’t of full European descent is almost certain to find themselves in a better position than a man who is.

Back to the survey, I think everyone is equal under the law in New Zealand but psychosclerosis (hardening of the attitudes) prevents some people from accepting that and acting on it. So while all people have equal rights not all find equal acceptance.

Apropos of this is Adam Smith’s quote of the day at Inquiring Mind:

Attitude is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than what people do or say. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill.  – W.C. Fields.

2 Responses to Attitude easier to change than law

  1. Psycho Milt says:

    (Crossposted at Homepaddock and No Minister)

    Thanks for linking to us, Homepaddock. I hope you’ll excuse me putting this comment in both threads, because I expect there are quite a few people who won’t read both.

    I can be an insufferable pedant at times and you might be tempted to think this is one of those occasions, but there is a significant difference between rights and attitudes and it looks to me like this survey has unhelpfully conflated them.

    Unlike Fairfacts, I think women do still suffer significant inequality in NZ and whether one of them gets to be PM or Governor General or whatever is of little direct relevance to that. As Homepaddock points out, that has to do with attitudes, not rights. It seems to me entirely straightforward that women in NZ enjoy equal rights because rights are enshrined in law, but I’m willing to consider a counter-argument if anyone has one to offer.

    I get the feeling that when people surveyed responded that women still don’t have equal rights, they were most likely thinking of stuff like women averaging lower pay than men, or still doing most of the housework. These aren’t matters of rights, they’re matters of how you choose to live your life and what you choose to put up with. Women as a collective don’t have a “right” to average the same pay as men any more than men have a “right” to the same life expectancy as women.


  2. homepaddock says:

    PM – I have no problem with you crossposting because I’ll be saying the same thing at No Minister too.

    You are right to be pedantic, there is a difference between rights and attitudes.

    The survey asked if women had equal rights, not if they had equality.

    That women (or anyone else) feels discriminated against in NZ is not because they have fewer or lesser rights because those rights are, as you point out, enshrined in law.

    But equality under the law doesn’t necessarily lead to equality in life and that’s probably what the people who felt they didn’t have equal rights were thinking of.


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