“Female 2” or “Equality vs. Fairness”

A guest post by Marion Hood. (Also published on the blog of Luna Station Quarterly.)

Prior to my husband Robin Hood’s admittance of Allyn-a-Dale into the band, the ratio of women to men among the Merry Men of Avalon Faire was 1 to 4. With the addition of Allyn, it slid down to 1 in 5.

Well, there you have it: Minstrels are damaging to women’s rights.

Not actually. Yet it seems like the sort of conclusion some would be quick to draw.

I stand corrected. This infographic was not particularly quick to draw at all. No end amusing, though.
I stand corrected. This infographic was not particularly quick to draw at all. No end amusing, though.

My author finds it a bit irritating when she happens across statements like, “Only X percentage of fill-in-the-blank are women! This is an outrageous, unacceptable disgrace!” Is it really?, she wonders. Is it all to do with an oppressive glass ceiling keeping us ladies down? Are we to blame the shopping aisle with its profusion of pink and dearth of raw building materials for hoodwinking our little girls out of their bright futures in engineering?

Danielle happened across an article with a paragraph lamenting how few architects were women. Do you know she considered becoming an architect, once? Or perhaps a landscape or interior designer. All those hours of building homes and amusement parks on her Sims and Rollercoaster Tycoon computer games (whichever gender they may or may not have been marketed toward) sparked her interest. What stopped her from pursuing a career in these fields? Did she discover them to be an unwelcoming boys club? Was she told such pastimes were unsuitable for young ladies? Not at all. She’s not an architect for the same reason she’s not a master chef, an accountant, or a naval officer: Because a writer’s what she is and wants to be.

She doesn’t write because she sees it as a woman’s job, or to stick it to anyone who sees it as a man’s job. It’s her job. Her passion. Her talent developed into skill over thousands of hours and millions of words. How many men or other women write or don’t write has nothing at all to do with it.

Why say we need more women in any given field? Is it for what we feel they would bring to the table? Or are we simply obsessed with the numbers? Must women = men in every sphere before we lower our cry of discrimination, or can there be fairness without numerical equality?

Why so few Merry Women, anyway? If Robin Hood cares so much about justice, how come his wife’s the only girl in the band? Have sexism and nepotism combined to land me the role of Token Chick?

In absolute honesty, I’d say the answer’s a mix of “yes” and “no”.

There’s no pretending young ladies in my day were encouraged to be outlaws. (Which isn’t to say the authorities were exactly rooting for the men to turn criminal, either…) I grew up with my own version of the pink aisle, raised to be a noblewoman with all the feminine trappings that came with the gig. While I don’t recall it ever striking me as the most entertaining future, I made no plans to openly rebel. …Until the man I loved absconded to Sherwood.

That settled that. I put in a few months of basic weapons training to lessen the chances of making a fool of myself and/or getting killed, then found my Robin and made it clear I meant to stay with the band, never mind society or chivalry or the Law telling me it was no place for a girl. When you love something enough, you go after it.

Robin let me in because he loved me. He let me stay because I showed I could. He is as fair, and as in favor of equality, as any man I’ve ever known or heard of. And he has one woman in his band.

Is it an outrageous, unacceptable disgrace? Do the Merry Men need more women? Should I petition for a new quota to ensure females aren’t getting elbowed out by the patriarchy? I suppose I could. Or I could rest content in the knowledge that, had Allyn-a-Dale been a woman, the Men would have been no less eager to welcome her as our minstrel.

No getting around it: There is injustice in the world. A Merry Man is more keenly aware of that than most. But not all inequality is unfairness. Not every woman wants to be an architect, no matter how many “boys’ toys” she happily played with in her youth. By all means, do not force her out. Likewise, do not pressure her in. Out of every “women’s right” – out of every right for all – the right to pursue passion sits atop the list of those Danielle and I stand most firmly behind.

Your thoughts welcome below. …Unless You’re A Girl! (*laughs* I jest.)

8 thoughts on ““Female 2” or “Equality vs. Fairness”

  1. Thank you so much for this! I get so irritated when people say women are somehow encouraging oppression when they don’t go into tough careers. May I remind you, most people are raised by a woman who decided not to have a tough career. And in my experience, those who didn’t wish that they were. Is there anything wrong with choosing motherhood as a career? Or teaching? Or even cleaning (I will freely admit, I’d rather clean some rich man’s house than be stuck in an office all day!)?

    • “You are most welcome, Miranda,” says Marion, with her twinkly-warm smile. “I appreciate the intentions behind many of those who cry for more women here or there, but when we’ve reached a point where we chastise a girl for leaning toward ‘girly’ things, well, now we’re only oppressing ourselves, aren’t we?”

  2. It’s definitely a problem that a lot of people see equality as being a numbers game. It is possible to have a board of directors made up entirely of white men without it being racist and/or sexist. What is important is the context. If those white men got their jobs because they happened to be the best, than that is equality. Equality isn’t everyone gets everything in equal percentages; it’s everyone gets the same chances and treatment.

    You could look at the story I’m writing at the moment and say I’m sexist because there are only a couple of women in it, and they have very peripheral roles. But in the context of all the things I’m written, women are by far in the majority.

  3. I’m a teacher . . . so I guess I have a ‘girly’ job . . . we must all choose the path in life that will make us happy, no matter what the haters say 🙂 I tell my daughters and students every day that they can go anywhere and be anything, and I’m glad we live in a place where they actually believe me 🙂

    • Marion’s brows rise. “Is teaching considered a girly job? I would think people of any gender would desire an occupation of such incredible power, seeing as it places one in prime position to infiltrate the minds of our youth. …within the boundaries set by the rule-makers, of course. But then,” her eyes sparkle mischievously, “rule-makers’ boundaries are easily gotten ’round, if you’re foxy enough.”

  4. Love this post! I, too, get bothered by people suggesting that the only way to be “equal” is to be equal in numbers. And to tell the truth, it happens both ways. I work in a field comprised largely of women. And you know what? In school we had a lot of discussions about how to get more men interested in the field, to make it more equal. But you know what else? The men in the field tend to make more money than the women, so it just jumbles everything even more.

    Unquestionably there is still injustice in many aspects of the world. But I think in order to be truly equal, we have to stop pitting one group against the other and comparing who has it better or worse. Because then we keep everyone separated, and never get anywhere!

    • “Precisely!” Marion says of your last few sentences in particular. “Yes, that, spot on! Stop thinking of everything in terms of Boys vs. Girls, and maybe things will start getting evened out faster.”

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