Imagine a Mother has two boys–an Older and Younger–each biting at the other’s throat for many years. Oh, they love each other in that special, sibling way. They defend each other fiercely against outsiders.
Yet they’re always bickering about whose life is more unfaaaaaaaaair.
Now imagine the Mother intentionally sides with the Younger boy in every, single situation–because he needs more defending. When Younger complains, “It’s not fair that Older gets to drive! I didn’t choose when I was born!” their Mother agrees…it’s NOT really fair.
So she makes Older park the car and stay home.
When Younger cries, “He won’t let me come in his room! No fair!” the Mother agrees it’s pretty rude for Older to lock him out. So, she tells Older to take the door off the hinges and let Younger come and go freely.
The Younger often demands the same bedtime, the same amount of dessert, the same chore-list, the same friends, etc. even though Older’s age makes him both bigger and more responsible in many ways.
And Mother appeases her little guy, because she feels he shouldn’t be left out for something he can’t control.
Unfortunately, she really doesn’t notice what she’s doing to the Older child, whose opinions are always trumped by the baby.
Older tries to tell Younger, “I know you think my life is peaches and cream. But it’s not really better. In fact, now I get punished by Mom whenever you cry.”
…and that makes Younger cry.
“Mooooom, he says I’m wrong!” So Mother comes to solve the dispute.
“Older!” she scolds. “You don’t understand how hard it is to be left behind…Now go play catch with your brother.”
Would you say this situation is “fair?”
Now imagine if Younger gathered a group of friends and started the Youngest Child Club, which picketed and protested the way Older Siblings get to do unequal things.
And, in response, all the Older Siblings of the world grabbed their signs and bullhorns, and responded that the Youngers actually had more power in the family–because they use their supposed disadvantage to win all the time.
In the United States, this scenario is called “advocacy.”
And we consider it a good thing. This arguing with each other about whose life is more difficult is–we think–the crux of the Civil Rights Movement.
The problem is, most advocates think they’re fighting for fairness. When, actually, most of them demand extreme one-sidedness for themselves or a loved one.
Let’s use a fairly benign example. Someone I know was on an airplane recently, when they made an announcement over the loudspeaker:
“Attention, everyone. There is a passenger flying with us who is extremely allergic to nuts. So, we won’t be serving our in-flight snack today. And if you have anything in your carry-on containing soy nuts or peanuts, we ask that you refrain from eating it. Thank you!”
You might say, “Well, people shouldn’t have to stay home because they’re allergic to peanuts,” which is like advocating for Allergy-Equality. But, on the other hand, is it fair to make 200 other people go hungry on the flight, because you are allergic to their food?
Sure, most people won’t mind cooperating in this case. (Avoiding nuts for a few hours is a pretty small thing.) But it’s inconvenient. It requires a favor from people you’ve never met–and if they agree, it’s due to their kindness.
Not because it’s the fair thing.
Okay, how about a more emotionally-charged scenario? Recently I wrote about Mama Bears, who make particularly powerful advocates. But, when they picket for mainstream schooling for their disabled children, is that really fair?
I’m familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act and yadda yadda–but I’m not asking about the law. I already know that Mother stands up for anybody who claims to be “left behind.” But what if this slows down the others?
Is it more fair that way?
Should my Older child park her car?
And what about businesses required to accommodate certain customers? Should bakers make cakes for weddings they don’t support? Should hotels be forced to build elevators and ramps in their pools? Should backward, raging, self-centered racists be forced to serve burgers to blacks and Asians?
But I don’t think it’s “fair.” Now that business owners can’t decide when to close the door in their “rooms,” it’s just unfair in a different way.
There are many overlaps to my post about breast-feeding in public, and women like me are the Younger Brother in that scenario. Mother agrees with us. We win.
But I asked fellow mothers to cover their chests out of respect and empathy for other people. I’m asking if we will stop fighting for ourselves long enough to see the struggle of our brother?
To Women’s Advocates and Race Advocates and Disabilities Advocates and all other Advocates: every victory for your cause means things are less fair for the people you’re fighting. And, not only that, your small win hasn’t actually made things more fair for you or your family, either.
His peanut allergy will make ordinary things difficult for the rest of his life. I don’t need to tell you how unfair that is.
The same for folks with disabilities. For all the things they’re able to do–for all their great qualities–at the end of the day, they’re going to suffer in ways most others don’t. Why are some of us born with obstacles like that? How is it fair?
I totally understand struggling with that reality.
But everybody has to deal with a set amount of fate-sponsored “unfairness.” (Yes even the Older Brothers have problems.) “The System is real”–but I just call Him “God.” He allows every person a measure of struggle, which means we ALL have something that makes us question His idea of justice!
Life certainly isn’t “equal.”
And we’ll never be able to fix all of our perceived wrongs with enough advocacy.
Do you think we might keep this in mind, next time we’re competing with our siblings? Life isn’t peaches and cream for them, either.
Maybe we’ll pause, when we feel like running to Mother and signing petitions and calling the newspaper/TV-crew, and tweeting about the business being sooooooo misogynist or anti-family or in-need-of-education, because how dare they not immediately see how little and victimized I am?
THAT version of advocacy is the very real down side to all the hype surrounding the Civil Rights Movement. We’ve been taught that groups of Little Brothers/Mama Bears can band their trucks together and run over those who disagree. To those militant activists, a word of caution:
There really is a fine line between standing up for your family and becoming a bully.
If–at some point–you’re no longer asking for cooperation, but you’re actually forcing them to give up freedoms for your sake, using social media to tarnish reputations and celebrating when you crush them with the force of the law, then you’re a powerful, culturally-acceptable bully.
I don’t feel sorry for the son born second when he learns how to manipulate Mom.
And, if all your friends always encourage you, and Mother never balances your perspective, never cautions you to be wise–then you’ve basically built a team of lackeys. Somebody in your circle ought to have freedom to say, “Slow down.” Someone needs to balance the addictive power of “advocacy” when it goes too far.
-“Sweetie, your breasts don’t offend ME. But, slow down. It’s not the issue of the century for others to want modesty.”
-“Yes, it’s inconvenient to drive. But, slow down. SOMEBODY will be inconvenienced by our son’s allergy, and I don’t want it to be strangers on the plane.”
-“No, that business doesn’t need ‘education’ or ‘awareness.’ Slow down. WE should be aware that we’re asking for a sacrifice; it’s not a right.”
Yes, injustices happen every day. And it’s our job to stand up for the helpless. But, I’m asking advocate groups to understand we often make things more unequal by championing ONE side, every time.
Like the Mother feeling sorry for her youngest boy–our culture really hasn’t solved anything.
We’ve simply sponsored a different brand of Not Fair.