Firstly, what is definitional discrimination? It’s not a phrase used commonly (though I’d like to see that changed) and I want to propose the following definition:
the discrimination (different treatment) of a person or groups of people as a result of not fitting a particular definition or criteria for a status, organisation or social institution.
Now, let’s have a look at a few examples.
- A man is not allowed to use the female restrooms.
- Being rejected a membership for a high achievement society for not being a high achiever.
- The inability to enter military grounds as you aren’t in the military.
All these things involve discrimination. All of these things discriminate based on a definition at hand. That definition is in place for either the protection of people involved, or because without it the organisation or social institution can’t exist. It is self describing. For example, a man not being allowed to use the female restrooms. Let’s have a look at some (very obvious) premises:
- Person A is a man.
- The female restrooms are for females exclusively (by definition.)
- A man, by definition of being a man, isn’t and can’t be female.
- Thus female restrooms can’t be used be Person A.
If Person A was allowed to use the female restrooms, they can no longer be called female restrooms, because they are allowed to be used by people who do not fit that definition. If the definition of female restrooms changes, they can’t still be called “female restrooms,” because the name implies a specific definition.
The same with a high achievement society. If someone who is a average achiever insists they join, and are allowed to, it is no longer a high achievement society, just an achievement society. A whole bunch of average achievers want to start their own society, so be it, but they can’t call it a high achievement society. The name also implies a definition.
The name doesn’t have to imply a definition (such as “female restroom”) but could also be a historical definition. If it’s a historical definition, it’s definition can still be there by strong association, which is just as good as an implied definition. For example, a bottle is cylinder shaped object that holds a liquid, is able to be sealed and designed to be poured. Nothing in the definition implies that a bottle is a cylinder shaped object. It is a historical definition, and thus it is defined by strong association rather than an implied definition. Bottle has become synonymous with a type of liquid transport vessel (which does have a implied definition.) However it would be ridiculous to say a bottle is designed to hold food. It might be able to, but it isn’t designed for it (by the definition and alternative name “liquid transport vessel.”) That liquid transport vessel is discriminating against non-liquids!
Let’s look at the example of high achievement society. One high achievement society (well, high IQ society, which is similar enough to suffice for the analogy) is Mensa. The name “Mensa” doesn’t have an implied definition, but it has a definition by history and association, it’s a high IQ society. Changing the definition will change what Mensa is.
Quite often with historical definitions, not only is there a definition by strong association, but there was also a just reason behind the definition, and what was included in the definition. Providing the reasons are truly just and sound, this adds traction to the definition. However just reasons aren’t required; you can make a high IQ society that discriminates against non-high IQ persons with no reason other than that it’s nature.
Why am I writing this? I want to show that discrimination isn’t always bad, especially when it’s discrimination for not fitting a criteria. If we didn’t have it, there would be many things that we couldn’t have in society. There are certainly types of discrimination that are wrong, but it doesn’t mean that all discrimination is wrong.