Equality vs Equity

Equality is great, and the fight for equality goes on across the internet and in real life everyday. We see people protesting about gender equality, financial equality, equality in the workplace, the list goes on.

Let’s have a quick definiTion of equality:

 Equality noun
The state of being equal, especially in status, rights or opportunities.

Who wouldn’t want to fight for that? It sounds like a world that would be much kinder to live in, and so much better for everyone.

The thing about equality is, it expects everyone to be starting from the same point. The example I see a lot is three people are standing behind a fence, trying to see a game happening on the other side. The first person is tall enough that they can already see over the fence. The second person is comes about halfway up the fence, and the third person is about a third as tall as the fence.

If all of these people are given the same size of box to stand on, the first person is now way taller than the fence, and likely blocking out people behind them. The second person is now just tall enough to see over the fence if they go on their tiptoe, and the third person still has no chance of seeing. But they’ve all been treated equally, so that’s good, right?

Equity noun
The quality of being fair and impartial

What equity does, then, is look at the situation, see what is fair for everyone without favouring any group, and helps accordingly. Therefore, using the example above, if the objective of the three people is to see the game, equity wouldn’t give the first person a box, as he can already see, but it would give the second person a box to boost them to the height of the first, and give the third person the biggest box, so he’s the same height as the other two. That was they’ve all been helped to see the game fairly.

Here’s a diagram:



The biggest argument made against equity is that the first person gets no help, and if we were truly looking out for people, we would just use more boxes so that everyone gets a boost. The thing is, as seen in the diagram, the first person doesn’t need a boost to achieve their objective, and boosting them is wasting resources that can be used elsewhere. Look at the diagram again: both examples use three boxes, but the second method is a much better use of them.

This translates in our society into things like trans rights, gay rights, women’s rights. There is a lot of pushback against trying to help these people, and a lot of it boils down to cisgendered heterosexual people, who’s identity and gender orientations are accepted as the “norm”, claiming that the others having rights but them not getting some sort of dispensation for having to, and I quote, “put up with our altered perceptions of reality” is unfair.

This comes down to a matter of privilege, which is a discussion for another day, but in simple terms it is people who already get to live unchallenged feeling they are somehow oppressed because other people ask for rights. In even shorter terms, it’s bullshit.

So yes, equality is a good end goal, but for equality to be possible, we first need to enact equity. Only when we get everyone to the same level of basic human rights can we then aim to make everyone truly equal. Strap in folx, it’s going to be a long ride.


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