Employees are people. Some of them assert themselves more than others - or whatever set of clichés you care to muster. But it's not the job of the employer to get into that kind of sophistry. Once an employee is employed, it's the employer's job to hand out the work, and pay for it fairly once it's done. Explanations for pay inequality, however reasonable they might sound, never amount to more than arguments for disregarding or setting aside or removing whatever obstacle is apparently standing in the way of compliance with the law.
I don't consider myself a feminist*. I think life is unfair on all of us, if we choose to look at it that way, but I also think life distributes advantages to each one of us. Not necessarily equally, but that doesn't mean we can't treat each other as equals. I don't consider myself a feminist, but I've surprised myself by getting really, really angry over the latest developments in the equal-pay row at a certain well-known broadcaster - and now, elsewhere as well. This issue is gaining momentum. Unequal pay is just not fair.
*Not sure that I remember this correctly (corrections welcome). When Malcolm X was asked why white people couldn't join the Black Power movement in the sixties, he replied that coffee was stronger without milk. His larger point was that some allegiances have to be lived to be truly shared. They have to be felt, and sympathising isn't the same as belonging. Fairness, or the lack of it, can be felt. That said, I'm not the masculine equivalent of "feminist" either, there isn't a word for it, because I also have feelings about felt allegiances that divide us. We're people. We should work together. As equals, for equal pay. And if you're still reading after the picture, we come to the further complication that gender is fluid anyway.
Before 1918, the situation wasn't that men could vote and women couldn't. Wealthy men could vote, but nobody else could. We might use the term "ruling class" here. I came across this, too. In 1864, Lord Palmerston wrote: "I deny that every sane and not qualified man has a moral right to vote. What every man and woman too have a right to, is to be well governed and under just laws." Gee, thanks. Palmerston was Prime Minister when he wrote that.
Also stumbled across a reference to the Military Service Act 1916, whereby every man from 16 to 41 was "deemed to have enlisted" in the armed forces and so could be carted off to the trenches. Huh! Lots of men not eligible to vote got caught by that one, I guess. With that in mind, I was relieved to discover that there's a consultation due (already under way in Scotland) on reform to the Gender Recognition Act 2004. The idea behind the consultation seems to be that a new Act would "de-medicalise" gender transitions; not sure where I found the term but the point is that you wouldn't have to prove that you've changed.
Stonewall proposes an Act that "requires no medical diagnosis or presentation of evidence for trans people to get their identity legally recognised". That's a distinct and bigger issue than me going on about gender-specific legislation, but it does remind me of that enclosure at the Glastonbury Festival a while back, that was restricted to people who "self-identified as women". There's a serious point here as well as a frivolous one, in that we'd get rid of a lot of issues if we could all just self-identify as whichever gender worked in the circumstances.
Military Service Act? Not me!
Women and children first? That's me!
You're paying how much to men? I'll take it.
Men-only dinner? I'll get my party frock.
Or maybe not that last one. But wouldn't the world be different, if we could just limit gender to the very few situations in which it really is, ah, worth exploring? And in the rest - stop hurting and bullying each other.
If you're still reading after this picture, spoiler alert, we change the subject.
There is a parallel universe in which it wouldn't even occur to us to turn up with plant-hire bulldozers and earthmovers and Portakabin site offices and men in hi-vis jackets and plastic helmets, to start wrecking the place in the name of efficient traffic flow. There wouldn't be a PR agency hired (I'm guessing one has been) to put our releases assuring the media that not damaging Stonehenge is the highest priority of, I don't know, the mysterious entity being paid vast sums by the government to [judging by recent events] go bust half-way through the project leaving a big pension deficit. Nor would campaigners actually have to make the case for not churning up the World Heritage site.
In today's England, it doesn't occur to us that we just shouldn't be there. Leave it alone. Is it a calculator or an algorithm that you use to work out the exact minimum tolerance for how close a bulldozer can be driven to the stones without shaking them down?
The cinematic reference here might as well be Tobe Hooper's 1982 original Poltergeist, in which (here comes the spoiler) Craig T Nelson grabs the developer warmly by the lapels and says, "You left the bodies, didn't you? You left the bodies and you only moved the headstones. Why? Why?" Maybe the local cinemas should all be playing that when work starts.
Although I'm sure it says something about something that when I went online to check the quote, most of the YouTube clips I was offered were titled "Everything wrong with..." Poltergeist and a string of other movies "...in fifteen minutes." Tempted to ask: what's wrong with this picture?