Whilst sitting on my sofa, attaching sequins to a horse whip last night (loooong story) I was having a little think and I realised I’m a bit confused about something.
I’ve attended training courses on equality and discrimination and I’ve also done quite a lot of reading about The Equality Act and its predecessors. I don’t start sentences with:
I’m not racist / homophobic / sexist but…
I understand that there are certain “protected characteristics”: age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation. As a disabled woman, I have experienced discrimination under more than one of these criteria and, should I ever have a baby / get old / find God, perhaps I’ll end up with the hat-trick.
But here’s the thing. There’s an inherent contradiction within the protected characteristics, in that they promote the tolerance of intolerance. What I mean is as follows:
if you subscribe to a religion or belief system that (for example) views women as having fewer rights than men, or disapproves of homosexuality, then your right to that belief is protected, in direct contradiction to the protection of women / homosexuals by the Act.
Still with me?
For example, there are plenty of religions and belief systems that do not agree with homosexuality or equal rights for women. Let us, dearest readers, take a look at some passages from various religious books and teachings:
“Men are the maintainers of women because God has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as God has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion (committing a religious sin), admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them.”
“If a man lies with a male as one lies with a woman, the two of them have done an abhorrent thing; they shall be put to death—their bloodguilt is upon them.”
“Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.”
“Whoever you find committing the sin of the people of Lut [homosexual activity], kill them, both the one who does it and the one to whom it is done.”
“Men must make their women dependent day and night, and keep under their own control those who are attached to sensory objects. Her father guards her in childhood, her husband guards her in youth, and her sons guard her in old age. A woman is not fit for independence.”
For those of you who are wondering why I have removed the references to specific deities and citations from these statements, it is for the following reason; I do not wish to single out any particular religion, belief system, or book. These sorts of teachings are common to many religions, in varying degrees, and I have no desire to criticise one above another. My interest is simply the contradiction inherent in giving the protected characteristics equal importance.
I assume that religious teachings, which disagree with more modern beliefs on equality, are taken by their believers as a product of their time? Much in the way that if one reads Shakespeare (who, quite frankly, I worship more highly than any god), one doesn’t assume that gouging someone’s eyes out is an acceptable punishment in the modern world, or that domestic violence is a good way to tame a shrew.
So. I’m still confused as to how the protection of one characteristic can promote the violation of another. I’m also confused as to whether my love of Shakespeare is a direct contradiction of my feminist ideals. Back to pondering on my sofa I suppose.
The sequinned whip is coming along nicely though.