So, basically: are equality and parity synonymous, at least between the genders? And why?
Unlike my other posts, this one will be rather short; the main reason being that I am not really sure about my opinion on this topic.
The motivation for this question was another Broadsheet post by Kate Harding with the title College gender gap levels off, about the proportion of men earning bachelor's degrees having stabilized at 43%. Ms Harding does not seem worried by the fact that 43-57 isn't exactly 50-50, and one can wonder what she would say if the proportion were stabilizing at 43% for women rather than for men. In fact, she even goes on to comment that some schools still favor men in their admission procedures, thus giving rise to an apparent contradiction: if it is wrong for certain schools to increase the proportion of male students, leading to a male majority, why isn't it wrong that the number of men in high education is now less than 50%?
I understand that this difference may be caused by non-discriminatory factors -- but this is also possible for cases in which men are the majority. An observed gender disparity is not immediate proof of discrimination either way; there are other possible explanations.
But independently from the question of what causes disparity and how to achieve parity, or the question of whether some feminists actually want parity, or rather a female preponderance (both interesting questions), there remains the (to my view more interesting) question of whether this is indeed the goal.
What would equality mean? A society in which everything is split 50-50 between the genders -- all activities, all areas, all fields, everywhere? Or a society in which everybody is given the same opportunities and then told to compete with everybody else, and may the best candidate win?
(My guess is that equality of opportunity is better than full universal parity, because equality of opportunity seems to be the spirit of true equality -- but this would mean having to accept disparities that don't arise from inequalities in access to opportunities. And since we're all lately geared towards thinking that disparities always imply discrimination... are we going to be able to live with them?)
Yes indeed, it is a question for American culture. Is the 50-50 ratio the desired outcome (i.e. equality of results), or is fair competition between individuals starting at the same point the desired outcome (i.e. equality of opportunity)? What is the best equality, what are its consequences, and how can we live with them?
Please tell me your opinions.