The feminist movement preaches that Patriarchy is the root of all that is wrong with the world, and that we should work to eliminate it. But I have not seen anyone really discussing what society looks like after Patriarchy is defeated. A common theme in feminism is equality, so let’s take the stance that equality is what we are working towards. But now we beg the question, “What does equality look like?” If we are striving for a society that is devoid of hierarchy, then we are on a fools errand. Society needs hierarchy in order to function. Take a society without hierarchy to its extreme: Do you want a 5 year old running a nuclear power plant? Should an illiterate person be a teacher? Wait, how can we have teachers if we don’t have hierarchy? Nonsense and anarchy ensue.
How else might we view equality? Perhaps we could see equality as valuing people equally, no matter their contribution to society. In a way, this is what communism was trying to achieve. A janitor receives the same compensation as a physicist, since clean floors are just as important as new lasers. Part of me likes this view of equality, and it is a useful lens to look through, but it fails to account for some basic human truths. People are motivated by power and wealth, and we are competitive. We need hierarchy to function, beginning with the basic hierarchy of parent > child, and continuing into senior worker > junior worker. So people at better positions in the hierarchy have greater power and wealth. Through competition, the most fit individual is the one who is able to move to higher and higher positions in the hierarchy. Communism failed before it was ever achieved, because it is impossible to eliminate hierarchy from human society.
So what are we left with? How can we reconcile equality with hierarchy? First, by not relegating entire groups of people to the bottom rungs of the hierarchy based on entirely superficial grounds, such as
- male > female
- white > black
- Anglo > everyone else
Second, by giving every person the same opportunities to climb the hierarchy. Every child would have the same educational opportunities, the same financial supports, the same early work opportunities. Advancement through the hierarchy would be entirely based on personal qualifications, skills, and abilities. (Some people live in the delusion that society in the U.S. already looks like this, but any critical reading of recent sociological literature will rapidly paint a very different picture.)
While striving against the Patriarchy sounds nifty, it is generally more productive to work towards something than away from something. So I will strive towards Meritocracy.
What do you think? What characteristics define equality in society for you?