Zelophehad’s Daughters

The Circularity of “Separate but Equal”: A Dialogue in Socratic Form.

Posted by Melyngoch

Socrates and his pal Piggly-Wiggly are out for a post-Thanksgiving pre-Advent walk down by the river.

Piggly-wiggly: . . . and you know what else? Short people. Short people just need to learn to accept their divinely-appointed height role. It’s not a lesser role, just because they’re not allowed to hold public office or propose legislation. They have a lot of important responsbilities. Their role is just as important as tall people’s role.

Socrates: An interesting perspective, my friend. But, if I may query, why do short people need a separate role?

Piggly-wiggly: Because they’re different! Short people, being closer to the dirt, are much more naturally knowledgable about dirtiness, and therefore so much better at sweeping streets and doing dishes than tall people are. Tall people just wander around with their heads in the clouds and can’t be bothered with practical matters – but where would they be without short people to clean up after them? Shortness comes with such important gifts and callings; it’s terrible to see all these short people today, envying their tall family  members, instead of glorifying their own short role.

Socrates: Ah. And I suppose, old chum, that tall people have similarly essential characteristics?

Piggly-wiggly: Naturally. Tall people’s heads are closer to heaven, so they have smarter thoughts. That’s why they’re better suited for an intellecual life. But have you ever seen a tall person try to cook a meal? Hah! Hilarity, I tell you. Can’t even see the stovetop from way up here.

Socrates: Most interesting. But I confess, my dear colleague, I have known a few tall people who were admirable cooks. I even knew one tall person who did her own laundry.

Piggly-wiggly: Well, yes, certainly a tall person could learn to do the things that come naturally to short people, especially in a situation where a tall person lacked a short friend to take care of them. But it isn’t their divinely-appointed height role. Short people are good at scrubbing by nature.

Socrates: Might I propose a hypothetical situation, my good man?

Piggly-wiggly: Of course.

Socrates: Suppose there were a short person who felt that he were not especially suited to being a street-sweeper or dry-cleaner, who was especially good with rhetorical figures and wished to train to be an orator?

Piggly-wiggly: That poor, confused soul would need to learn to embrace his divine height role, and to develop his natural qualities of shortness. He can use his rhetorical skills in the home, to teach his tall children and prepare them for public service. Why should he yearn for a life out in the world, when he can have such influence over the tall people immediately around him? Tall people may be the head of the state, but if short people can just stand on a chair and get their hands around a tall person’s neck, they can turn the head any way they want.

Socrates: Most illuminating, my friend. If I may propose a second hypothetical: suppose there were a person of middling height who felt that she was an equally good housekeeper or politician. What should she do?

Piggly-wiggly: Middling height?

Socrates: Indeed.

Piggly-wiggly: Why would God do that to someone?

Socrates: An excellent question, comrade. I have only one further question for you: How do you know that these qualities are innate and inborn? How can you be certain that short people haven’t simply learned to cook clean because that’s what they’ve been given to do, and that tall people haven’t learned rhetoric, reason, and leadership because that’s what’s been asked of them.

Piggly-wiggly: Because look how well they fulfill their roles!

Socrates: So, if I might summarize, good buddy: Short people and tall people have different roles. They have different roles because they are in essential, inborn, inherent ways, different: more than just their height, but their natural qualities and abilties. And we know that they are essentially different because we see how they fulfill different roles in society.

Piggly-wiggly: Yes!

Socrates: More briefly: our different roles are justified by our essential characteristics, which are made evident by our having different roles.

Piggly-wiggly: Where’s that short brother of mine? I need my sandals  polished.

16 Responses to “The Circularity of “Separate but Equal”: A Dialogue in Socratic Form.”

  1. 1.

    “That poor, confused soul would need to learn to embrace his divine height role, and to develop his natural qualities of shortness. He can use his rhetorical skills in the home, to teach his tall children and prepare them for public service. Why should he yearn for a life out in the world, when he can have such influence over the tall people immediately around him?”

    I love you. That is all.

  2. 2.

    I agree with #1.

    Gender stereotyping really burns my biscuit.

  3. 3.

    Go Piggly-Wiggly! Even in writing, your height is evidenced by the cogency of your arguments.

    I’d love to see a follow-up dialogue in which Piggly-Wiggly and Socrates discuss the untouchable caste. If they yearn to perform different activities or occupy a different social status, it’s because they haven’t learned to value what they do as themselves; nobody else is complaining they don’t get to clean toilets. Society can’t operate smoothly without their work, which is evidence that they’re valued, which in turn is evidence the situation is fair. (Or so Piggly-Wiggly tells me.)

  4. 4.

    Speaking quite personally, I happen to believe that Piggly-Wiggly is entirely cogent in his characterization of tall people.

  5. 5.

    Tall people may be the head of the state, but if short people can just stand on a chair and get their hands around a tall person’s neck, they can turn the head any way they want.

    WIN.

  6. 6.

    Darn, I always knew that when they wouldn’t let me play basketball because of my height, there was more to it.

    Not to mention the way that voters tend to vote for the taller candidate. We have a stratification in effect, interesting how you have observed it.

    When is the last time you saw a tall person in the janitorial services?

  7. 7.

    You know in the movies, when a character is going about their usual blog reading business and suddenly sees the blog post above all others love of their life appear, as an angel from heaven, and the rest of the world fades into slow motion, and you hear “Dream Weaver” playing softly in the background? Yeah, that’s kinda how I feel about this post. With sparkles and slack jaw even.

  8. 8.

    Brilliant, Melyngoch!

  9. 9.

    Awesome. Just awesome.

  10. 10.

    Love it!

  11. 11.

    Smiling.

  12. 12.

    Thanks Heavens this was only a conversation not a written order of things.

  13. 13.

    Hmm, was reading http://www.wheatandtares.org/2010/12/01/the-1-reason-why-women-have-sex/ and they discussed how short men lack physical attractiveness to women as well.

    I think you are on to something here about how the short are treated.

  14. 14.

    Of course this was delightful and I chuckled through it.

    And perhaps it is applicable to men and women per se. It might make sense on the planet Gethen (Ursula Le Guin), where people live most of their lives genderless and either partner can bear a child. It might make sense on Barrayar (Lois McMasters Bujold), where couples conceive in a medical facility and the fetus develops in a uterine replicator.

    But the reality that I experienced as a mere earth dweller is that I spent more than 10 years with my body tied up in the physical demands of pregnancy, childbirth, nursing, and the aftermath. While my husband had no physical demands of parenthood other than a few sleepless nights. So I am very grateful that he stepped up to his “assigned role” to provide for our family.

    Sorry, I can’t pretend that our different roles in parenting was something that we just chose. A huge part of it was inherent to my biology.

    Some feminists recognize this reality and advise women not to have children or certainly not more than one (e.g., Linda Hirshman’s GET TO WORK). Some women have an abortion if the nausea and vomiting of pregnancy (NVP) interferes with their career (a registered dietitian who specializes in dealing with NVP told me that her typical client is a professional woman who already had an abortion in panic).

    So while I laugh, I don’t think it is that simple, either.

  15. 15.

    I just love this! Is there a youtube minimovie version in the works?

  16. 16.

    This made my evening. Thank you!

Leave a Reply