An eleven year old’s take on women’s rights

Such a clever daughter he has, who can exactly replicate the beliefs and values of her parents. I refer here to Peter von Onselen’s 11-year who has “won a NSW writing competi­tion run by the University of Western Sydney” which is retold in The Oz under the heading Liberal problem with gender even my daughter can see. So I will deal with the problems of gender-based decision-making her father can’t see, which is entirely to be expected. So let me begin with this:

The guiding principle for pupils was to choose a topic that mattered to them; Sasha chose to write an essay on women’s rights.

Beats me what rights are missing that this 11-year-old can identify, but that is what she chose. I know there is much going on about outcomes women are not achieving that many feel are their due, but there is certainly no absence of rights – as in cultural or legislative barriers to prevent any woman from doing whatever she can in whatever area she chooses – missing from her life. But that’s not what she is complaining about. PVO goes on a rant about Liberals bullying so the column is really about the Liberal Party. This then is what is being complained about.

My daughter put it like this: “A quota or target — guaranteeing a minimum number of women take up positions in parliament — would overcome discrimination which prevents them being judged on their abilities.”

I’d have to see more of what she wrote but what exactly is the evidence of this discrimination? But more to the point, she wants quotas for women! Never mind getting there on merit. She wants set asides, even if it discriminates against more qualified men. And why? To repeat:

“[It] would overcome discrimination which prevents them being judged on their abilities.”

Now, of course, they no longer teach grammar so no one would any longer point out that it should be “which prevents their being judged on their abilities”. But really, the entire point is that she does not want to be judged on her abilities in comparison to some male. She wants a female sinecure of some kind where she is judged only against her female peers. Not the kind of standard I’d want for heart surgeons and the garage mechanic fixing my brakes, but for Members of Parliament it may be less damaging. There is no arguing that every political party, and the top members of an elected administration, should have a sizeable number of female members, precisely because the female perspective is different on many of the issues that matter. However, she whines about equal numbers everywhere, and you can see a bright future for her in some socialist agency. As PVO says, which his daughter no doubt has latched onto:

There is no escaping the fact that it is harder for a woman to reach the top of her profession than it is for a man.

And the ridiculous example is that Australia has had only a single female Prime Minister. I might note that my home and native land has only had a single female Prime Minister as well, Kim Campbell, who ended up with the shortest tenure of any Canadian Prime Minister in history and then lost in a landslide, almost wiping out the Conservative Party at the same time. But that is beside the point. The reality is that no parent has anything other than a desire to see their daughters (and granddaughters) succeed. This is pure nonsense:

You can only imagine how young girls feel about such disparity in gender representation, long before the ingrained sexism in so many parts of society knocks them down and stifles their promotion or, worse still, their confidence…. I don’t want my daughter to lose that confidence she still has as a child.

If you really believe your daughter can do anything – she is certainly permitted to try her hand at anything but with no guarantees of success – but if you believe she can be successful at whatever she wishes to attempt to do, it is madness and profoundly self-defeating to build into her psychological mindset the belief that in spite of everything she is likely to fail because of some ingrained sexism which prevents her from succeeding. If you want to chop away her confidence, that is the way to do it, by telling her from the start that she is less likely to succeed than an equally placed male.

So to the finale.

Sasha’s last line in her piece was one I wish I’d thought of myself, it so perfectly cuts through on this issue of poor female representation in the upper echelons of politics, business and many other professions not traditionally decreed as “women’s work”: “Half the population deserves access to half the opportunities on offer.”

Personally, I think that is completely incoherent. The true point is that everyone, both male or female, has a right to compete for every one of the opportunities available. What we have here instead is a poorly worded stated desire that there should be a quota for women to ensure that half of all of the desirable jobs in the world go to them. Not based on merit. Not based on ability. Not based on smarts and proven competence. Just automatically half. What a buffoon PVO is:

Half the population deserves access to half the opportunities on offer. Damn right. It’s not merely a matter of breaking down legal discrimination, as has been occurring for years. It’s necessary also to address cultural discrimination and prejudice.

I find this particularly ridiculous. This is a quote from Sacha’s essay:

“When she finds out she is pregnant it should be a time of great joy in her life, and it is. But she is also worried that her male boss won’t be understanding: about the time she will need off to care for her newborn baby. Every day thousands of women worry they will end up in a lower paid job or even fired, just because they had a baby. This is despite laws saying that can’t happen. It does happen and it is not fair.”

As it happens, I worked on the parental leave test case many years back in which the issue was to set out in law the workplace rights that parents should have to allow mothers to raise their children in the face of business needs to be able to count on their employees showing up to work, and the importance of containing production and training costs. I had young children at the time so it was a personal issue I understood as well as one of public policy. The need to balance the two sides is something PVO is completely oblivious to.

In a previous workplace, my wife, then a law partner, no less, found herself being pressured to return to work from her first pregnancy sooner than she ideally wanted. A compliment as a worker, she was told; it nonetheless flew in the face of legislative rights for women to have 12 months’ unpaid maternity leave.

She was a law partner and they valued her work so much that they wanted her to come back to work sooner than she wanted to. Where’s the discrimination there? She was, of course, only “pressured” to come back. And this was no doubt some large-ish enterprise where it is somewhat easier to share the burdens. It gets worse if you are a four-person enterprise, for example. It is illegal to deny parental leave, and it is even illegal to discriminate against a woman because she is of an age when she might become pregnant, but you would not be amazed to find out that there may well be an employer or two – male and female – who will have such considerations in mind when they are hiring new employees.

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