THE OPPRESSION OF WOMEN
by R. A. Bolden
In a world racked by cruelty, violence, ambition, suffering and disappointment, Prison Service management have let the standards of Public morality slip so low that women officers, instructors and educators must ask inmates to pull-up their trousers and stop exposing the outline of their genitalia through their boxer shorts.
These nihilistic men are allowed to wear their trousers around their thighs, thus letting their manhood wiggle in the wind as they deal with females in British prisons. I will argue this is a danger to the equality of women in the workplace.
What kind of message does this send to the female staff? Surely as human beings they can only assume the State allows this because it sees women as an inferior class of person by subjecting them to this blatant assault on human decency in their place of work.
Since all humans have value, women are moral subjects and the body politic as moral agent has a prima facie duty not to be seen to allow morally repugnant codes of dress in the Public Sector arena. Mine is not the official voice of the disaffected, but I am capable of speaking to the disaffected; and a rapid reaction must be decisively launched.
It's morally flawed to induce mental anguish in women because male prison governors don't see this form of sexist exhibitionism as offensive. Management's acquiescence raises an intoxicating cocktail of questions, doubts and ambiguities which cry out to be labelled quintessentially unacceptable.
Would male officers let men expose themselves in front of their wives and daughters? I think not. As a matter of fact, they would take a conservative stance and immediately notify the Police of such radicalism. Yet, in their place of work, where they are responsible for an inmate's rehabilitation, the British standards of Public moral decency are completely relaxed.
Imagine how a woman must feel when a potentially violent nihilist comes into the wing office, his trousers down around his thighs, his checked y-fronts in plain view at her face level: "Got any toilet roll Miss?" How is this woman supposed to react when the male-dominated establishment does not see this as an assault on British womanhood? It's mad that we have not seen the emergence of a secular intelligentsia large enough and powerful enough to challenge the unenlightened, especially in a Prison Service that fancies itself as cosmopolitan.
John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) wrote The Harm Principle in his essay On Liberty: "That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community against his will is to prevent harm to others." Surely, even the most cynical can see that harm is being done to the dignity of women in the workplace by allowing this underpant demonstration to continue.
Then I wondered why women who work in male prisons have not demanded a change. I thought about their natural sense of nurturing and maybe they thought that by setting an example of fine European manners they could get the inmates to change their philosophy.
I rejected this argument because to change you must admire something. To admire something, there's a certain amount of respect involved. The inmates haven't changed, so they don't respect female authority. This on its own is grounds for concern, even though the female officers and staff I've known have conducted themselves with the utmost civility and decorum.
Then I thought, these women must fear for their jobs in the testosterone culture of prisons. They're being bullied into accepting this type of atmosphere at work. This seemed plausible as one of the standard phrases officers like to use is: "Keep your head down." Although I have not proof. I can infer from experiences that when management is criticised, that's the ususal response. The State must take proactive measures before the situation reaches a critical mass. As with racial issues, their oratory on equality is good, but the delivery is poor.
It's not enough to indict sexual tyranny and have another rhetoric-laden Governor's Order handed down. The outcome of the directive on the landings, in the workshops and in the classrooms is what matters. Without a positive outcome, the equality of women in the Prison Service will be seriously undermined.
The end result is what will make the operational theology of the Prison Service a morally-viable alternative to the gunslinger-style, underpant-exposing culture of the non-conformist who resides inside. The State must not fail to rectify this affront women are subjected to endure every day in their struggle for equality at work.
Why do men let this form of sexual harassment go unchecked? From ancient times, many vociferous reactionary ideologues have argued that women are incapable of holding high office or of doing meaningful work aside from rearing children.
Today, we must protect the Public from the blinkers of male-chauvinist dogma and provide women with the same education and similar opportunities for career advancement. For example, in the British Prison Service the female staff should not be made to endure Public decency insults in order to advance their careers.
There is clearly need for reform. To the casual observer, it would seem these women are being subjected to the whims of a tyrannical master where they will probably end up as martyrs with no chance of ever becoming apostles. The polity responsible for enforcing the law in prisons must take this common coin out of circulation in order not to cause harm to females working in or visiting British prisons.
Let's examine another view. Suppose there are male managers who thing boys will be boys and these possessive individualists are just being lads. This implies that somehow women are morally different from men. Such managers are not illuminati drunk upon reason. They find their logic speciously attractive. In their deeds, they radically reject or a least distance themselves from, the modern teachings about men and women, their duties and their equal destinies. The truth is our psychology is not far enough advanced to credibly establish any moral difference between the two sexes.
To make a valid claim about women's moral nature we would need to establish a general principle with which to discriminate. For example, we discriminate against handicapped people by giving them parking access close to the building. This is an established general principle with which we can clearly identify a necessary difference. We cannot do this with women. We have no grounds on which to say women are less equal or less moral than men. Therefore, women should be treated with the same respect in the workplace.
If all women who worked in male prisons were of a moral denomination that accepted this low-pant fashion, that would be one thing; but they are not. I've seen female tutors who felt compelled to asked inmates to pull-up their pants. They replied: "I'm leaving the classroom Miss."
Therefore, as not to cause harm to women working in or visiting British prisons, this dress code must be stopped. It's another form of sexual harassment. It's blatant sexism, it undermines female authority and it endangers their equality in the workplace.
I conclude, the State must adopt the politics of paternalism to justify coercing male inmates into wearing their trousers in the normal manner. Where paternalism is the interference with a person's liberty of action justified by reasons referring to the welfare, good, happiness or values of the person being coerced. For example, cyclists are required to wear crash helmets, or motorists seat belts, or small children are banned from riding in the front seat. These restrictions are for their own good. And so it would be for the inmates who insist on a gangster fashion that is degrading to women.
They will rebel and complain, but the body politic has an obligation not to see harm come to the equality of women; and to see that inmates are protected from harming their own rehabilitation. Therefore, my arguments support the principle of the State's right to act unilaterally to protect the Public morality of inmates in prison and the equality of women in their place of work.
RAUF BOLDEN is an American born in Colorado. He studied languages at University where he became a polyglot speaking German, French and Dutch. As a yacht master, he spent twenty years sailing more than 100,000 nautical miles while circumnavigating the planet with his wife Jeannette Dean, an internationally known sailor and writer. They plan to sail around the world again being very much in love while continuing to write fiction and feature articles. Their motto for life is, "Never Ever Give Up.”