This article on the BBC’s website has gotten me thinking about the place of women in the world. I hate to say it, but I guess the crap that’s been going on Big Brother recently has also gotten me thinking.
On the one hand there is a world of difference between the actions of Ashley and John and female infanticide in India, but on the other hand all actions that degrade cheapen the lives women are morally reprehensible. I don’t think that Ashley and John should face the kind of punishment that should be metered out to those found guilty of killing a newborn because it happens to be the “wrong” sex (and for the record I think they got exactly what they deserved, even if channel 10 has handled the whole thing appallingly), but legal punishment for wrongdoings does not necessarily equate to the level of morality involved in the wronging in the first place.
To be sure, the killing of an infant is in a realm of moral wrongness of a higher order than holding someone down and slapping them in the face with your penis, but, in my opinion, the level of moral wrongness (that’s a technical term, by the way…) in performing that act live on national tv (or at least in front of cameras that are recording and webcasting) elevates it to a place higher on the badness scale than it might otherwise occupy.
I’m disturbed and distressed that some males in Australia are attempting to justify the actions of Ashley and John, as I’m sure many people in India try to justify the practice of female infanticide.
The perpetuation of harmful and disadvantageous practices and attitudes cannot be justified (in the case of infanticide) on the protection of cultural integrity or (in the case of Big Brother) harmless fun. To those who would defend Ashley and John’s “harmless fun” and tell the rest of us to loosen up, I ask, would you say the same in the face of female infanticide?
I’ll take a leap of faith and assume the majority of people who feel Ashley and John should have the right to have their fun would reject infanticide as an acceptable practice (quite a stretch, I know). What makes the two actions different for these people? I’m assuming it must be distaste for death (though the majority of them eat meat I suppose – but we’ll leave that little contradiction aside for the sake of convenience). Taking a longer perspective, can we not see that the actions of Ashley and John perpetuate the second class citizen status of women in our society (despite the gains that have been made – many of which we are now in the process of undermining)? Stretch this attitude a not-too-great distance further and you arrive at a society where women are valued less than men to the extent that couples would rather have male children than female children. The logical next step is late term abortion and female infanticide, practices that are engendered in certain sections of Indian society.
But that couldn’t happen here, you might argue. And why not?
Because we have strong laws in place to prevent such atrocities? India has such laws in place and they seem to have little impact. In fact, we have strong laws in place to prevent all sorts of actions deemed harmful to society (murder, reckless driving, etc) and these actions are still performed on a regular basis.
Because our culture is more (developed, refined, advanced, civilised – or any other racist and degrading word you can think to insert)? I can’t even muster the strength to engage with people who hold this position; you don’t deserve to be called human.
Moral relativity is important, we can’t be condemning someone who commits cold blooded murder and someone who steals a stick of chewing gum on the same level, but on issues like these that affect (more than) half the human population of the planet, we can’t afford to let relativism get too comfortable.