Friday, 9 December 2016

Equality matters!

Last night, amidst reporting on the Supreme Court meeting about Brexit - all rather inconclusive since they have heard all the evidence and now need to go away and deliberate on it - BBC's Newsnight did a feature on Supreme Court judges.

They began with the profile of a Supreme Court Judge: old, white and male. Old is understandable; growing older goes alongside gaining experience. The young may have a mass of knowledge and lots of great ideas but amassing experience takes time. White and male, however, are categories of a different kind. Among the 11 Supreme Court Judges there is only one woman, Lady Hale. To a man (and one woman) they seem to have studied at top universities: mostly Oxford and Cambridge with Queen's University Belfast and Edinburgh in there as well. Ethnic minorities are not represented at all. Since women and ethnic minorities are apparently increasingly well represented in lower echelons of the justice system, it could be argued that in time the situation will remedy itself. However, those involved in the discussion felt that this might quite simply be too slow. Some kind of positive discrimination may be needed to speed up the process of change.

Rajesh Agrawal, London's Deputy Mayor for Business (who knew that London had a range of deputy mayors?) argued that even though the Supreme Court Judges may be very learned and honest and truly strive to be unbiased in their judgments, they still can only see the world from their own perspective. Their predominantly white, male, expensively, and often privately, educated perspective. His experience as a member of an ethnic minority makes him see the world differently. Similarly a woman sees the world from another, different perspective. For the Supreme Court to be truly representative of our modern UK society, it needs to have some Justices who see the world from those other perspectives.

Coincidentally, on the subject of equality, I was talking to our son last night. The purpose of my phone call was really to do with arrangement for their Christmas visit and a check to see if there was anything specific that they might like us to buy for their small daughter. As regards that question the answer is nothing too big as they have to carry stuff back in quite a small car. Anything to do with arts and crafts will go down a storm. Also appreciated are things involving construction; she likes to build. And books, of course, but stories in which the prime mover and shaker is female. None of these females who rely on being pretty and need rescuing by the prince!

In fact, at not quite three years old, she has begun to alter the stories she hears. Heroes change their names and become heroines. Events are turned around. Dragons become more believable dinosaurs. Reading bedtime stories to her has become more complicated as you have to remember the changes that have been worked on the storyline in question. She has been adapting the male-dominated world to her own specifications.

Fantastic! At almost three she is already determinedly protesting about gender inequality!

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