Monday, June 18, 2007


Josh writes:

Yeah, so let's talk about discrimination.

Discriminating means choosing, that's all -- it's neither good nor bad[1]. What makes it good or bad are the reasons behind the discrimination. Discrimination on unreasonable grounds is unfair and should not be condoned. I bring this up, of course, because of the front page story on yesterday's Herald on Sunday about Talley's Fisheries being done by the High Court for gender discrimination in refusing to hire a woman for the position of fish filleter on the basis that she is a woman.

The boss of the company, Mr. Andrew Talley, thinks this is bollocks, and brings up an interesting example in disputing it:

There are jobs - pole dancing being one and fish filleting being another - that have a higher predominance of either men or women.
Well let's look at those two vocations. Without wanting to appear crass, the job of a pole dancer is, in the overwhelming majority of cases, to give heterosexual men erections. Without wanting to get into a debate on gender politics, it is a fact of biology that heterosexual men get erections from looking at women, but not from looking at men[2]. There is therefore a genuine reason why women are more suited to the task of pole dancing than men, and therefore legitimate reason to discriminate on the grounds of sex when hiring a pole dancer.

What, then, are the requirements for being a fish filleter? Well, the job of a fish filleter is to fillet fish -- as far as I'm aware, that is done with the hands and not, for example, the penis[3], so there seems to be little reason why a two-handed person of any sex couldn't do it. What's that? "[T]he job sometimes required lifting fish bins that weighed up to 30kg," you say? Right, so a requirement is upper body strength sufficient to lift a heavy bin of fish. Call me silly, but I would have thought a good test for whether or not someone can lift a heavy bin of fish is to get them to lift a heavy bin of fish, not to check whether or not they have tits.

Now sure, it is also a biological fact that men on average have greater upper body strength than woman, but there's no reason to believe that any given woman doesn't have the required strength for this job just because she's a woman. Unreasonable grounds = unfair discrimination = book 'em, Dano.

What confuses me is that Mr. Talley goes on to say that Talley's employed female fish filleters "and always has done as far as I'm concerned" -- doesn't that undermine everything he said beforehand? Ah, well -- you know those fisheries bosses...

[1] As a former linguist, I'm obliged to point out that, English being the mercurial whore that it is, the word "discrimination" is often used as a shorthand for "unfair discrimination against human beings" -- so much so that this sub-meaning is fast becoming the main meaning. This sort of thing happens all the time -- deal with it.
[2] Unless they're attractive transgendered people who they think actually are women, I guess.
[3] That'd be something to see, though.


Anonymous said...

I'm feeling an urge to comment for several reasons.

1)Im a petite woman barely over 50kgs who spent the day moving 20kg bags of tile adhesive and packs of laminate flooring.

2)I used to be a pole dancer.

First of all I feel obliged to point out there are male pole dancers and like many other jobs they get paid a heck of a lot more for doing a hell of a lot less. They also have a tendency of being viewed as entertainers while whore is a label that will always follow me around.

Secondly I'd like to point out that a 30kg fish bin would definately be a safety hazard regarded as a two person lift. I may be slightly off by I think its everything around 15kg or more that fits this definition. Like my 20kg bags this morning its just not possible in most work places to stick within the safety guidlines, but not hiring someone on those grounds is ridiculous.

Oooh, we cant hire you because you cant do something you shouldnt be doing anyway!


Eric Olthwaite said...

Liver is right, men are paid more...

but women are better suited to universities...

Oh and, here's Eddie Izzard...

James said...

The right to liberty is the right to discriminate....for any reason you wish.If the owner of the job doesn't want to employ you then tough...get over it and move on.Let the market pass judgement on your actions and render its verdict by continuing to trade with you...or not.

Josh said...

Yeah, I was wondering how long it would take before the libertarian perspective would be aired.

True: in a libertarian utopia, people would be free to discriminate as they chose. Unreasonable discrimination would still be acting contrary to reason, though, so surely no-one would do it...

Meanwhile, back in the real world where you're not allowed to discriminate unfairly, Mr. Talley's arguments about what does and doesn't constitute unfair discrimination are a load of crap, which was the point of my post.

Apathy Jack said...

I've read Atlas Shrugged, I can play this game.

Taley has the right to do whatever he wants so long as it doesn't violate the rights of others, so he is allowed to discriminate against Caitlin Lewis.

Except, of course, doing so violates her right to get a job she's qualified for.

It's like that time that the bank didn't realise that not giving me a million dollars violated my right to have a million dollars. I hit the teller over the head with a copy of The Fountainhead and everything, but he still wouldn't listen.

I don't get people.

Anonymous said...

Jack your a nutter!
Its a good thing talley's had to pay out...we're out of the dark ages dude its the 21 century.
And i for one don't ever want to see a male pole dancer...but i know they are out there!