A Brief History
On January 4, 1972, the famous Old Bailey court in London England witnessed the first appointment of a female judge when Rose Heilbron was allowed to sit on the bench. This event raised the questions: Are women emotionally or hormonally fit to judge other people? Should they have life-altering decisions placed in their hands? These questions may seem silly now, but 40 years ago women still faced much discrimination for being the “weaker” sex.
If you are a regular reader History and Headlines, you are familiar with our frequent articles acknowledging and lauding the accomplishments of women. From their achievement of political rights to attaining high office, to inventing important technology and accomplishing great scientific breakthroughs, we highlight them all. We even admire their courage in war. Great women such as Joan of Arc, Annie Oakley, Marie Curie, Margaret Thatcher and Angela Merkel are prominently mentioned on our site.
What we have not yet done is present the counter arguments to allowing women equality in economic, political, military and civil matters. Those arguments center on physical, social, hormonal and emotional factors. Some naysayers argue that women are generally smaller and weaker than men. On the average, this is true, but most professional female basketball players are taller than I, the author, am with my height of 5’9″. I would also guess that many female Olympic shot putters are stronger than I am as well (and in my day, I was a strong man). They also argue that it is wrong to change (“lower”) standards or make special accommodations just to squeeze women into certain professions to be fair to them. An example of this are modifications to fighter plane cockpits.
Women have long argued that PMS and menopause are real medical conditions and have sometimes used those conditions to excuse themselves from activities such as gym class or from responsibility for their actions. If a female police officer shoots you unjustly but had PMS, should she not be held accountable anymore? You cannot have it both ways! Either these female conditions provide excusable behavior and women are therefore not “equal,” or they must be disregarded. Woe to men facing female judges going through menopause!
Women get pregnant. Not all women, but a lot of them. That means they end up leaving jobs at a higher rate and miss more work (on the average) than men. In the military, pregnancy excludes them from combat service, making them unreliable for missions. Are we to pretend these facts do not exist, or should we look at every single person on a case-by-case basis? These questions are actually quite tricky as taking either side opens an equally squirmy can of worms. How about the physical fact that a woman’s brain shrinks by 10% during pregnancy? (Probably to no intellectual effect.)
If women are equal, eligible for combat and the like, then they must also be eligible for the military draft. How many new moms would go along with that? Then, all of a sudden, to get out of it, they might use the argument of social and religious status quo keepers who say a woman’s place is in the home raising children. Again, you cannot have it both ways…
We at History and Headlines do not pretend to have the answers. Generally speaking, we marvel at the mighty feats women have accomplished, and are inclined to say if a person of either sex is capable of doing a job, they should have the opportunity to do that job. Go for it! Vive la Difference!
Question for students (and subscribers): What do you think? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Heilbron, Hilary. ROSE QC: The Story of England’s First Woman Queen’s Counsel and Judge. Hart Publishing, 2019.
Strebeigh, Fred. Equal: Women Reshape American Law. W. W. Norton & Company, 2009.