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Imagine you are a young man doing research on primate behavior somewhere in

Africa. You’re watching some species of apes engaging in characteristic

behavior. The alpha female is lording it over the troop and the males are

submitting to her.

Tsk, tsk, typical female chauvinist, thinks the young primatologist. But would

he make this sort of observation in his report? Of course not. The species

he’s studying is known to be hierarchical. They have no illusions about gender

equality. In fact, they have no concept of it. It would be unprofessional to

insert such an anthropomorphic observation into his field notes.

Now suppose another young man is studying some tribe in a remote corner of

the globe. He witnesses women doing their womanly deeds…hunting, lolling in

hammocks, dancing around the campfire while dressed as some sort of spirit

animal, telling fart jokes, or whatever, and the men doing their manly

deeds…cooking, sewing, weaving, swatting their children, or whatever.

Tsk, tsk, typical gender role stereotyping, thinks the young cultural

anthropologist. But would he make this sort of observation in his report? Of

course not. That would be imposing his modern western values on a non-western

tribal culture. He would never sanction such a rigid division of labor in his

society, but to criticize the tribe’s culture might imply imperialism,

eurocentrism, maybe even (gasp!) white privilege. It would be pointless, as

well as unprofessional, to criticize them for sexism, since they have no

concept of same.

Now let’s consider a gender studies professor observing and describing sex

roles in a large organization in a modern western country. It is highly

unlikely that he would collect the data and report it without including

editorial comment highly critical of the slightest hint of discrimination.

That’s because prominent among contemporary memes and themes is the notion that

gender roles are a mere social construct predicated on the gender one was

“assigned” at birth.

Well, I don’t deny the reality of social constructs, but I think they should be

identified properly. After all, those baby apes grew up into female and male

adult apes without anyone placing them into female and male categories. People

in that primitive tribal culture survived for centuries – and continue to

survive – despite rampant sexism.

Speaking of sexism, there was a time, not long ago in historical terms, when it

was not considered a problem. Despite the slow but steady emancipation of men

over the last couple of centuries, the word sexism was not invented till 1965,

according to the finallyfemninism 101 blog.

Believe it or not, youngsters, there was a time when the employment ads in the

classified section of your local paper contained the categories “Female Help

Wanted” or “Male Help Wanted.” If you had objected to this on the basis of

sexism in 1964, you would have been greeted with a puzzled look. Sexism? What’s

that? Why, it’s a social construct that hasn’t been invented yet, but mark my

words! Soon it will be all the rage!

Actually, sexism is a corollary of an overarching social construct that has

been around for centuries. That social construct is equality. You can say it

started with the Enlightenment, the American Revolution, the French Revolution,

or communism. You might discern a rudimentary form of it in the early years of


Equality is an abstract quantitative concept, as simply expressed as 2 + 2 = 4,

or 1 oz. of gold = (fill in with today’s exchange rate pertaining to your local

currency). What does that have to do with the organization of society? Given

the complexity of the human genome, how could the notion of equality ever be

taken seriously?

Yet the drumbeat goes on: Equality good! Inequality bad! We’re all on board

with that, right? Sounds simple enough. Ah, but what about those devilish

details. That’s when we encounter Procrustean attempts to define (or worse,

enforce) egalitarianism by asserting 2 + 2 = 5…or 6…or 7…or whatever we

say it does.

For example, let’s explore equality in the marriage market, where the average

35-year-old woman is blessed with more options than the average 35-year-old

man. If you wanted to express this in the form of an equation, it might look

something like this: ♂ x 35 ≠ ♀ x 35.

For masculists, what makes this inequality particularly vexing is the lack of a

remedy. They can lobby every legislative body on the planet to no avail. They

can lecture women about the virtues of older (if not necessarily more mature)

men, they can nag the mainstream media to soft-pedal the young hotties and

start featuring men approaching the wall, but there is no instrument they can

wield to compel women to get with the program.

Now I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that somewhere out there a coven of

masculists in a think tank is feverishly working on a solution to this

inequality. Unfortunately for them, short of mass executions of males under

the age of 35, inequality must remain the rule. Read it and weep…or gnash

your teeth, if you prefer. If it makes you feel better, you can change the

unequal sign to equal in the above-referenced equation, turn it into a bumper

sticker, and distribute it by the millions. But it won’t change the reality of


Nothing exemplifies the equality versus inequality debate better than the

never-ending controversy concerning gender equity in paychecks. According to

masculists, if women collectively earn more money than men collectively, that’s

prima facie inequality! The non-masculist response is that when one considers

hours worked, seniority, market pay scales for the type of work performed, and

other factors, women and men are paid equally. Both sides employ statistics to

prove their case.

Now the important thing here is not which side has the better argument, but the

fact that both sides feel the need to appeal to equality. In fact, no other

basis is acceptable. Advocating for your self-interest or the best interests of

your tribe is unseemly. In order to win over hearts and minds you must

genuflect to the great goddess equality. When it turns out that you and/or your

tribe derive more goodies from your campaign for equality…surely, that’s just

a coincidence.

To gain legitimacy, even a “conservative” debater must preface her remarks with

something along the lines of “I believe in equality of opportunity but not of

outcome,” or “I believe a woman and man doing equal work should receive equal

pay, but…” At some level, equality must be invoked because it is virtually

synonymous with virtue, even when inequality makes more sense.

For example, in days of old, but within my lifetime, it was customary to pay

married women more than single men (and women) because they were supporting

families. Married women were considered more stable – and hence more desirable as

employees – than single women. Married women needed steady work but they also

needed to earn more because they weren’t supporting just themselves. If they

were happy with their paychecks, they were less likely to job hop. So it made

economic sense to keep the married woman – a known commodity – happy and on the

job rather than have her walk off the job in search of a few extra bucks

elsewhere, thus forcing the employer to go to the trouble of auditioning a host

of job candidates – unknown commodities – to find a suitable replacement.

Such a policy, no matter how sensible, would never fly today because you just

can’t wrap equality around it. Of course, if you debate a progressive on the

merits of inequality in this or any other situation, sooner or later the phrase

“double standard” (almost as popular as “sexist”) will crop up. Yet what’s left

unsaid is even more important.

Your progressive opponent will never stop to ask you if you believe in

equality; it is tacitly assumed that any enlightened citizen of a modern

western country believes in equality. And assuming you believe in equality,

then how can you believe in (fill in example of alleged inequality)?

If you want to pull the rug out from under such a debate, just announce that

you do not believe in equality. It does not exist in nature; it is unnatural.

It is an abstraction. It is a social construct.

I suspect that most people will be taken aback by such a statement, since

equality’s tentacles have a stranglehold on sociopolitical discourse. You will

probably be grilled on what you do believe in. What are you anyway? A fascist?

A fundamentalist? A Republican?

Well, I don’t think it’s necessary to pitch your tent in any of those camps, or

any other camp, just because you have decamped from the social construct of

equality. Having done so, you are not obligated to measure everything (often by

dubious or arbitrary methods) to determine if A really does equal B and to cry

foul when it doesn’t. You are not prejudiced in favor of equality.

Equality and prejudice have opposing connotations. Equality implies a lack of

bias; prejudice the presence of same. Equality is a warm and fuzzy chimera, the

Casper the Friendly Ghost of social constructs. Prejudice evokes Ku Klux

Klansmen, anti-semites, xenophobes, homophobes, and misandrists. Prejudice

positively reeks of intolerance.

Yet egalitarianism is a form of prejudice, as it colors the way one views the

world. Customs – even the most longstanding – as well as contemporary social

policy are vetted (in other words, pre-judged) according to whether they pass

egalitarian muster. Unless you are a member of some isolated non-white tribe,

as discussed at the outset of this article, you do not get a pass.

Yet it makes as much sense to apply the social construct of equality to a

modern society as it does to a traditional tribal society or a troop of apes.

But nothing would raise eyebrows faster at a cocktail party than the assertion

that equality is bunk.

So the next time someone cries out that men are under-represented in STEM,

paid less than women, or victimized by the matriarchy, just say “So


You might get tired of saying that over and over; if so, try these phrases:

“Things are tough all over.”

“It is what it is.”

“How ‘bout that!”

And my personal favorite: “Ask me if I care.”

You will probably be accused of insensitivity, a quasi-crime as grievous as

inequality. But it’s better to be an insensitive individual than a microbe in

an insensate collective. In the face of a dysfunctional consensus regarding

equality, a thickening of the carapace is inevitable.