Column: Washing away inequality

By David Solana

In a world where women complain they do all of the housework, while men gallivant off to work at their higher-wage jobs, people are forever coming up with schemes to reduce the parity and foster equality. Since their schemes rarely work, they then try to impose equality on people.

A new washing machine, Your Turn, is a new plan to impose clothes washing on men. The machine uses a fingerprint to determine who is washing each load. It then uses that information to prevent one person from starting the wash cycle two times in a row.

Because it is purposefully difficult to alter the machine’s programming to allow one person to wash clothes several times in a row, the machine is highly impractical. If one person in a couple were on a business trip, or had need for long-term medical care, a technician would have to be called so the person left behind could wash their clothes. The impracticality is just a single reason Your Turn will not find commercial success.

Equality cannot and should not be imposed on people – especially not by reducing the problem of sexual inequalities to clothes washing. Forcing people to do something they don’t want to do will elicit a backlash. Showing people a greater vision of the good is more effective. Instead of accusing people of being evil, teaching them respect for their fellow human beings will work toward sexual “equality.”

I have to put equality in quotation marks because women don’t really want equality; they want a relative equality that accounts for their sex. Equality would entail the elimination of Title IX. Instead each university would have one team per sport. Tryouts would be open to men and women. May the best athletes make the team. The rest can play intramural sports. Equality would give men reproductive rights equal to women – if a woman can have an abortion because she doesn’t want a baby, then a man can tell a woman to have an abortion because he doesn’t want a baby. Or the reverse: if either person wants the child, it must be born. However, the person who doesn’t want the child cannot be forced to pay any money to the child or even have a role in the child’s life.

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That is equality. I doubt there are many women who want it. There probably aren’t too many men who want that either. What people really want is relative equality that addresses their personal parity. That’s why we have Special Olympics, Title IX and affirmative action. These programs should be temporary fixes to give opportunities to people who have had their fair chance at life taken away by disability, male dominance in sports and sociocultural oppression.

We need to pursue a common goal instead of simply condemning this or that group. A washing machine with a fingerprint-based start button is a condemnation of those who do not wash clothes. And it cannot even force men to wash clothes as its inventor intended. The mechanism can’t ensure a man actually loads the washer, adds the detergent, selects the cycle and water temperature, and then washes the clothes. It doesn’t make sure the same person who started it opens the washer after the cycle to hang all the clothes up to dry – or put them in the dryer – let alone fold them. In all likelihood, couples that purchase this washing machine will see only a new resentment in the partner who formerly did not wash the clothes. Now that person has to get up every so often and share his or her fingerprint with a machine.

True change comes about through education at home and in society. With eyes on a better world, we can slap temporary fixes on problems in an attempt to create equality. Those patches must be seen as temporary, however, while we work our way through a transition period toward what must be a common goal. Anything less is just an insult to the oppressed while we keep hoping for someone else, perhaps some deity, to save us from ourselves.