Don’t Be Equal, Be Fair

Early twentieth century pamphlet opposed to women's suffrage.
To many people equality and fairness are the same thing, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Equality is treating everyone the same regardless of differences, fairness is treating everyone how they deserve in light of differences. 

Much of the social change of the last couple centuries has pursued equality without regard for fairness, like the women’s suffrage movement. Since those days we’ve come to oversimplify the matter and demonise the men in power at the time. In reality there were a lot of women, as well as men, that opposed women getting the right to vote. Most of the women who opposed getting the vote were already politically active and didn’t see voting as a gaining a right but rather being saddled with an added responsibility, or the influence of the ignorant and stupid would increase. Another argument against women voting was that the potential benefits couldn’t possibly justify the complexity and expense it would add to elections. Even the most compelling argument for giving someone a vote didn’t apply because women were already represented in the public sphere through their husbands and charity work. The only reason to give women the right to vote was that men already could. Who was right? At the time, the people who thought it would just be a waste.1 If women hadn’t gotten the vote, feminism may have died there and maybe the liberty movement would never have happened. Should women lose the vote now? I don’t know, the world has changed so it’s a totally different argument. 

Parents often fall into this same trap. They do the same things for their younger children as they did for their older children. They forget that they’re totally different people. 

Usually when people try to treat people equally they end up treating everyone unfairly. Some people get treated better than they deserve and others are treated worse. Think of affirmative action. Minorities get jobs even if they aren’t qualified for them and white people don’t get jobs despite being the most qualified applicant. 

In conclusion, don’t worry about treating people equally, just try to be fair. 


1. Morton, Ella. “Why Women Led Anti-Suffrage Campaigns Against Themselves.” Atlas Obscura, 11 July 2016,http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/why-women-led-antisuffrage-campaigns-against-themselves.


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