Politics of Weakness

In the 1980's the doctrine of sexual equality is increasingly being misapplied. The current discussion of women's sports provides a graphic illustration. The central premise of the sexual egalitarian is simple: It is unjust to reward or support a woman less than a man, when the woman performs on the same level.

Many would agree that this should be the minimal expectation of a just society. Reward based on performance satisfies the requirements of both fairness and the social good. The egalitarian who really believes in equal opportunity and rejects gender as a determinant of reward will let the chips fall where they may. He will accept the possibility that reward based on ability—a criterion that serves women well in all but athletics—will result in lesser rewards for women athletes. Such an inequality is the unavoidable result of rewarding ability, a policy that in all other areas of life is regarded as consistent with fairness.

Sometimes, however, egalitarianism is no more than a political device to be jettisoned whenever it fails to reward a group that has been targeted—justly or not—to receive special privileges. In this case, the egalitarian will not worry about consistency, for he wishes to have it both ways: equality of opportunity when it will bring about equal reward for the group he represents, and equality of result when equality of opportunity will be of no avail.


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