Porter: Protecting Whom?

puBy Butch Porter

When I was young, infants rode in their mother’s laps in cars. Now, they won’t let you leave the hospital without a car seat safety check—and kids are stuck in it until the age of 8 in Virginia. It’s against the law in Leesburg to allow your child to ride a bicycle without a helmet in the street. How many reading this even had a bike helmet when they were young?

Butch Porter
Butch Porter

So we definitely are not short of ways in which we are determined to protect children. It’s probably fair to ask here, though, whether the concerns of transgender students are being taken more seriously than that of other kids and their parents who may not feel comfortable with the rules established by the federal Department of Education on the matter of locker room use in our public schools, among other things. With the firm acknowledgement that there should indeed be arrangements for transgender students, it seems we’re not thinking clearly about the issue.

First, given that we’re talking about minors, who have enough to worry about going through adolescence, there is the chance that this can often be less about protecting children than about accommodating their desires and feelings. Second, and perhaps as importantly, it thoroughly dismisses norms of chastity and innocence, and most parents would rightly consider these norms a part of their child’s safety. And are we sure it’s time to throw out chastity and sexual innocence of children, and if they are to be thrown out, might we ask that it not be determined by the federal Department of Education?

Women, it would seem, are also worthy and deserving of special protection. An entire cottage industry of modern feminism is crafted around the idea that sex in our universities is 100 percent at the discretion of women, to the point where California has official policies that demand written consent for sex. When a high-profile rape case involving a man as a victim rears its head, we should re-evaluate. Until then, it should be considered the domain of women as a protected class. And perhaps that’s appropriate. It bears further discussion for sure. As an aside, we should probably not forget the complication that another facet of modern feminism is that young women should be expected to treat sex exactly as freely and callously as young men do. What could possibly go wrong there?

But we do treat women differently, and rightly so. They are offered, in general, special dispensation when it comes to reproductive medical care. Since they are the bearers of children, that blessing and burden grants them a level of protection that would make no sense for a man, regardless of which side you land on the abortion issue.

How far does that extend though? It’s important to remember that women not only have been honorably serving in front line combat roles in the military, but also a bill is winding its way through Congress that would make women eligible for the draft. Obviously, this makes perfect sense as a matter of fairness … to men. If women get to serve voluntarily in combat, they should be bound by the same draft laws.

However, it’s not necessary to go through the arguments about whether it’s advisable for women to serve in combat, to ask a more central question: Is it necessary to treat men and women exactly the same to treat them equally? If their differences are acknowledged by necessity under medical laws, by simple biology and reality, then given their differences otherwise (size, strength, etc.), is it a flagrant violation of reason and the 14th Amendment to treat women differently under military rules? And, God forbid, rules and protections regarding sex, rape, medical care and military service should ever intersect, or conflict.

There are those who would argue, not without an ounce of merit, that we have never been in the business of protecting women, and that all the various orders of chivalry from ancient Rome to the Middle Ages to Victorian England to the modern “gentleman” are all simply window dressing—tools of trade in the reigning patriarchy (the East certainly has no more credibility than the West on this count). This would indeed put a kibosh on the whole affair. It would mean not only that we cannot protect the fairer sex while still affording them equal value under the law, but also that we should not, in any way. If equal treatment means same treatment without deviation, then we would have to re-evaluate not only affirmative action but equal pay laws, hate crime laws, and of course any real accommodations for transgender students. On that note, once you are up to about 20 total genders, as New York City apparently is, there is basically no protection for anyone—everyone is special.

I don’t have all the answers, and far be it from any of us to pretend that these issues aren’t complex. I fear, however, that we are plunging ahead without asking a most central question: Are we, or have we ever been, as a society, in the business of protecting women and children? If we are not, why not?

Butch Porter is a Leesburg business owner and local commentator.

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