One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
Two stories have made the news lately that involve women’s rights. The one step forward is Saudi Arabian women driving despite that country’s ban on women drivers. Despite the fact that there is not one civil, written law prohibiting women from driving, Saudi women who drive are jailed because of the ruling of conservative Muslim clerics. Some 40 women with international driver’s licenses took to the streets. Some were accompanied by their husbands and families. Some men even drove around in women’s headdress as “decoys.” The women took video and posted it on YouTube.
It’s somewhat disheartening that in a country that is so clearly guilty of misogyny on every conceivable level, the right to drive is where they are focusing their energies. However, every civil rights movement has to start somewhere. Rosa Parks began her people’s fight over the same issue: transportation.
The two steps back is the Supreme Court’s ruling on a class action suit against Walmart for sexual discrimination in its hiring practices. I’m not a big fan of class action lawsuits or of litigation in general. Our society is ruining itself and doing nothing but lining the pockets of lawyers in most of these cases. By the time the lawyers get their share the plaintiffs usually get a pittance. About the only good thing about them is that the perpetrators usually have to pay heavy, heavy fines. So, they think twice about doing that again.
In the Walmart case the plaintiffs point out specific instances of sexual discrimination and cite statistics. Only 33% of Walmart managers are women, while 70% of its employees are women. The court ruled that because Walmart has a policy against sexual discrimination and because hiring decisions are made on the local level, that, therefore, Walmart as a corporation isn’t guilty of sexism.
Wow! That’s interesting. So, apparently, Walmart has no responsibility for looking at these skewed numbers and wondering just why, exactly, that far more men than women are “qualified” to be managers. No one in their human resources department ever once questioned these statistics? Are we really saying as a country that we believe that men are innately more “qualified” to management 67% of the time? That’s not sexist. Of course not.
Not surprisingly, all 3 female justices were in the minority on the ruling. They get it. These blatant prejudices don’t suddenly cease to happen because we have a policy to address them. Sexism is pervasive across our society, and I’m sure that many men and many women, as well, are only subconsciously guilty. That doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be held accountable just the same. The only way that change is going to happen is if people in powerful positions factor in for their own cultural biases.
Just because a company or a country has a law against discrimination doesn’t mean that discrimination doesn’t still happen. Just because a corporation leaves its hiring practices to individual managers doesn’t mean that they aren’t responsible for making sure those hiring decisions adhere to the official company line. In this case, Walmart failed in its responsibility to ensure that its hiring practices are fair.
Entry filed under: Ethics, Human Rights, Politics, Social Commentary, Women's Rights. Tags: Class action, Discrimination, Rosa Parks, Sexism, Supreme Court, United States Supreme Court, Wal-Mart, YouTube.