Living up to the rules you create

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Have you ever told your child to stop yelling, then five minutes later you’re yelling?
How about told them to be respectful of their elders, then shortly after you find yourself badmouthing your elders?
It’s a pretty rotten feeling, isn’t it – breaking your own rules. It sets a pretty bad example.

What about the big name politician or preacher who stands for solid family values, then gets found out for having affairs? They’re unable to live up to their own lofty rules they wanted to create.

It’s infuriating when someone sets rules (especially for someone else) when they themselves don’t follow them. It certainly infuriates me.

There’s a lot of people now wanting to create a lot of rules, laws and regulations. Only a few years ago I got a letter from my children’s pre-school. It informed me that the local council will now be regulating what the children’s lunch is wrapped in!

You’ve probably heard a lot of talk about diversity. Heard slogans like ‘diversity is our strength’. Maybe you’ve heard an employer wanting to employ a more diverse workforce. You might have heard of diversity targets or quotas. Probably the most common one you hear is increasing the representation of women on company boards and senior management positions. Some people are even arguing that this should be legislated, with companies having to report what they are doing to encourage women into senior leadership and board positions. Am I saying women in senior management and boards is a bad thing? Certainly not! As an interesting side note, you never hear anyone arguing for women to be working down mines or driving trucks at the same rate as men. Inversely, I’ve never ever ever heard of anyone arguing for quotas for men to be equally represented in nursing or teaching. I’ll make a generalised assumption here and say that it is the more progressive section of our society arguing for an increase (and legislation) in women in senior leadership and board positions.

There’s also a concurrent movement happening  in relation to the recognition of a range of sexual attractions and gender identities. The most recent big thing to happen in Australia is legislation passing to allow same-sex couples to marry. Some Australian states currently have legislation in place, or are considering legislation to allow a person to change their gender identity on their birth certificate. These rules differ from state to state. In most states that have changed this law, there needs to be medical evidence of a change of gender, for example, evidence of gender reassignment surgery.  There is consideration to change the law in Queensland allowing a person to change their gender on their birth certificate based on their feelings. That is, a person can update their gender on their birth certificate without any other evidence. A man can simply identify as a woman, but continue to live as they were without any outward or inward changes and request to have his (her!) gender on their birth certificate changed. I’ll again make a generalised assumption here and say that these and similar changes have been championed by the more progressive leaning in our society.

The most common responses you hear from people at the sound of this is something along the lines of “I don’t want a man who thinks he’s a woman in the toilets with my wife/girlfriend/mother/daughter”. Very valid concerns indeed. I also want to convey my sincerest desire that no one should be legally discriminated, bullied or harassed based on their gender identity or sexual attractions. Secondly, my sincerest thoughts genuinely extend to people who have a schism between their biological identity and their truly held belief that it doesn’t represent the gender they identify with. I personally can’t imagine how difficult it would be to wrestle with competing identities, societal expectations and discrimination.

So now, we have the more progressive leaning in our society arguing for an increase in women in senior leadership and board positions, including legislating for organisations to increase the representation of women in these positions. We also have the more progressive leaning in our society arguing (successfully, in some states) that gender is fluid and a biological fact on a birth certificate can be changed, and changed based on a feeling. If legislation proposed in Queensland is passed, it would be possible for a man simply to change his/her birth certificate to a woman based on their current feelings.

Let’s follow this through to some not-impossible real world implications. Keep in mind that male-to-female athletes have started to compete in women’s teams, often dominating their biologically women competitors in the process. A company wants to increase the representation of women at a particular level of seniority and puts measures in place to mentor and recruit female employees into those roles. It would not be impossible for a man in Queensland to feel he was a bit womanly, change his legal birth certificate to female and apply for those roles. The company would not be able to prevent him from applying based on his gender, as he is now legally a she. It’s possible that his nomination and acceptance means a more qualified, talented or motivated woman is unable to attend. It’s not impossible.

I prefaced this article based on living up to the rules you create. Living up to the laws you create. Have you noticed laws often have the reverse impact, or require more laws to counteract the negative impacts of those laws. A recent example in Australia is laws being updated that GST (essentially, our sales tax) to be applied to internet purchases from places like Amazon in the US. It was expected that this would net a massive increases in tax revenue. You know what happened? Amazon US now simply refuses to ship goods to Australia. No more taxes for Malcolm!

If you put a law in place to prevent discrimination against women, I promise you that before too long, people who identify as intersex will want a law to prevent discrimination against them. If you put a law in place to prevent people being nasty to others because of their race, gender or beliefs, you might be able to prosecute a few idiots who sprout off unkind things. What you will achieve is not more tolerance or diversity, but less people willing to talk openly and honestly about genuine concerns they have. If you put a law in place saying that a particular section of society can have special access to a program, support or job, two things will happen. Firstly, more people will suddenly identify with that section of society to gain access to that particular program, support or job. Secondly, there will be another cohort of society that thinks they are equally or more deserving of special access to their own programs, supports or jobs and they will want legislation to support that.

Laws designed to help a particular group (or punish another) inevitably lead to those helped being the ones that find themselves at the rough hand of the law they created when a new, more discriminated group comes along. The early feminists had great success breaking down barriers, seeing women enter the workforce, gaining the vote, having more reproductive rights. The early feminists were generally white women from the middle and upper classes. The next feminists recognised that it wasn’t just white women being oppressed, but it was also women of colour. The feminists realised that white women were actually quite privileged, and the feminist women of colour suddenly saw them as the enemy. White feminism became bad, because they only had rights because of their privilege. Now, we have some feminists argue that straight white and women of colour are the privileged ones, and it is the women who have differing sexual attractions or gender identities are the ones that are really downtrodden. It’s those nasty heterosexual white and women of colour feminists that are privileged, because heterosexuality is oppressive. This isn’t nonsense. This is happening now.

The government can’t legislate your problems away. It can’t validate you – not in a lasting, permanent way. If you play the victim, you’ll always be the victim, even when greater victims come along and claim you’re the oppressor.

Always be careful about the laws you want made. You might have to live up to them one day.

 

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