When discussing social justice and human rights issues, more often than not we use the term “equality”. As humans, we are desperate for things to be equal, and we have every right to have that desperation.
It’s only human to want what others have, to be treated the same, to want to be treated equally.
And let’s face it; most of us are not, in fact, equal.
There are millions of different things that determine our “worth” to society, our privilege, and how we’ll be treated as a result.
You’re probably all tired of the straight, white cis men as an example, so I’ll give a different one about how, on the seemingly same platform, people that look the same can be treated different (however, this is just an example of how equality fits in, not an explanation as to why equity is essential in regards to achieving equality).
For example, take two white single mums.
They both have the same aged kids, and the exact same number of children. They both earn exactly the amount of money. They both have fathers that are in the picture and, as a result, have free time to work, date and socialise.
The mothers are the same age.
This is “equality” (in its simplest, most basic form). They are the same.
However, one looks younger than the other. She’s also naturally thin and extremely beautiful.
The other is less attractive, and has a quite large frame, despite the fact that she eats well and tries to exercise when possible.
No matter what, the first woman will be treated differently. Even if she eats badly, her slim figure will give her thin privilege and therefore less people will be likely to judge and criticise her as a result.
The second woman, however, will be judged and criticised. It doesn’t matter how well she eats, she will be considered as lazy as a result.
So what’s my point?
That everyone has a different set of privileges and a different set of disadvantages as a result.
Small things like height, for example, can have a major impact on someone’s life and the equality they face.
Obviously, these are small – and for most part – trivial examples of how different things can affect a person’s set of privileges.
But what does this mean in regards to equality and equity?
Equality means things are the same.
Equity is about making sure people are put on the same “platform” as others to make sure things are, in fact, equal. It’s about recognisng the different sent of privileges a person has, and the different set of disadvantages another has. (For example, it’s why there’s different starting points in long distance racing. To ensure that everyone starts at the same point and no one has a head start or an advantage of any kind.)
Equality is men and women receiving the same amount of paid sick leave.
Equity is realising that some people may need extra sick leave on account of the fact that they bleed from their uterus each month as punishment for not having babies.
This isn’t something that men can ever experience.
For many women, suffering from painful periods is really rather common
Then add in the amount of women who have chronic conditions like endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Adding a few extra paid sick leave days for women is only fair as it recognises the inequality between men and women.
It’s about making things equal through equity.
And that’s the difference between equality and equity.
That’s why there’s scholarships, special programs and extra funding for certain people.
Because equity is needed to ensure equality.