↑ comment by gjm ·
2017-01-24T14:36:21.783Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
"Gender equality" is a fuzzy term. Taken sufficiently literally, it's absurd (We demand equal rights for men to bear children! We demand equal rates of breast cancer for men and women!). So, when the goal is reasonable discussion (as opposed to, say, making one's ideological opponents look silly), we should either avoid using the term or interpret it more charitably.
I think there is a useful thing that the term "gender equality" is gesturing towards, even though taken absolutely literally those words don't point in quite the right direction. It means things like not giving preferential treatment to one sex or gender over another when there isn't an actual reason for doing so, and finding ways to reduce disadvantages faced by one sex or gender even if they are (incidental) consequences of real differences.
This is not the same thing as claiming that there must be absolute equality according to all measures. Neither is it the same thing as saying that any sort of equality must be enforced. (Yes, I saw what you did when you slipped in "the enforcement of". That's rude. Please desist.)
Yes, I am suggesting that a modicum of charity be extended even to your political opponents in these discussions. If that is unacceptable to you, then unsurprisingly it is going to be difficult to have a useful discussion.
So, anyway. We are not talking about 'optimizing for "equality" between two fundamentally unequal things'. We are talking about making the thing called "gender equality", which is fuzzily defined and doesn't in fact mean exact equality in all things, one of the things we would like to see more of. At least, that's my interpretation of ArisC's use of the term, and it's what I would mean if I wrote something similar. (As it happens, I generally avoid the term "gender equality", precisely because of the issue we're seeing here.)
If we need to have something more like an actual definition of "gender equality", I suggest that it means "treating men and women more fairly". That's still fuzzy, it's still open to plenty of argument about what constitutes fairness, and what we're doing now is engaging in some of that argument. Except it seems almost as if some participants are less interested in arriving at a reasonable answer than in giving answers they don't themselves believe in in order to make the whole notion look bad. (I should maybe say explicitly that I don't think James_Miller was doing that.)
Would having a more equal fraction of men and women in prison necessarily mean that society was treating men and women more fairly? Well, men are more prone to violence than women (#notallmen, of course, but statistically) and commit a lot more violent crime than women (statistically), and there seems little prospect that any actually-possible social intervention will undo that. So whatever the target, it shouldn't be 50/50. Maybe there are feasible changes that would make men less likely to engage in violent crime; maybe some of those are best thought of as aiming at "gender equality" rather than at trying to reduce violent crime overall; if so then yes, we would want to see the ratio become more equal, but not because the goal was 50/50, and I don't in fact know of any credible changes of that sort. In any case, I'm pretty sure that the reachable states of society in which there are as many women in prison as men are mostly ones in which either lots of violent crime is going unpunished or else lots of women are being imprisoned for reasons that would generally be regarded as insufficient.