oldmastersexpainting

Yesterday I liberated from the overgrown jungle of Facebook a brief and characteristic-of-the-age Q&A, placing it here. But that short burst of re-iterations — restatements of my basic set of objections to modish (postmodern?) sexuality/social construction theory and intersectionalist politics — is obviously not enough. Some day I must make a definitive statement. But even before that time, there is something else I must do.

Some time back I made a more lengthy and rhetorically loaded against the theory — “I do not care about your ‘gender’” — which was itself a reiteration of points I’d made earlier. And Daniel Kian Mc Kiernan challenged me on my post, in the comments section.

That challenge deserves a reply more extensive than the one I gave initially. Or, at least I should take on points not initially handled. So here goes.

The Œconomist Mac Kiernan wonders about my attitude, which I will not directly address, since it can be read in all that follows. More interestingly, he states that he does indeed recognize that “the people who speak and write most vociferously about gender theory themselves confuse the distinction between ‘sex’ and ‘gender’” — a point I often make. I often draw from it the conclusion that the innovation of “gender” is thereby likely a mistake. But I could very well be wrong, at least to make this inference. He goes on to insist that this need not be the norm: “some of those of us who write less vociferously are also consistently careful to recognize the difference between physiological states and rôles that have been associated with those states by psychological factors, some idiosyncratic and some involving interaction with other persons.”

There is a lot to unpack here, and I am probably not the one to do the unpacking. But while gender is said to be the social aspect built on the biological foundation of sex, no matter the extent to which gender is an individually chosen role, an assigned role, a socially promoted role, a socially tolerated role, a socially deprecated role — even perhaps taboo — it does seem to me about roles. That has been my reading of the concept, anyway. So I wonder about this:

While gender is plainly associated with sex, I don’t know that gender can be reduced to a sex rôle, in-so-far as there may be more than one gender associated with a sex, and I believe that there may me more than one sex associated with a gender. We now see the latter, at least as a sub-cultural phenomenon, in our own nation.

Of course there may be more than one gender associated with a sex. That was the original idea. Non-problematic from the original theorists’ point of view. And, yes, both men and women (adult male and female humans) can play a single role (that of, say, subservient homemaker, or breadwinner, or what-have-you). I am not sure what is the big deal here. Indeed, I do not see why we need “gender” to explain this. People choose different functions in social groups, and that is to be expected, since there is a division not only of labor in society, but of leisure, also.

Indeed, what is gained by talking about gender over role and social functionality? The very word is derived from a classificatory scheme.* But people are individuals first, and classified role-players second. Instantiations of roles are almost infinite, because each individual is different, at least to some degree. That socially recognized role functions get promoted in society is of course a big deal, but so is individual choice. But the idea that individuals must create newly named social role functions in order to become the people they wish to become strikes me as nipples on a bull’s belly: not necessary. Individuals may simply diverge as they choose, and, in an open society, decide not to conform to standards A, B, and C, but perhaps to D or E, even if such standards are not socially prevalent, normed.

A lot of the angst behind gender theory is the angst of people making identities for themselves in terms of closed society norms while creating and participating in increasingly open societies. But instead of embracing the evolving openness as an individualist option, they are insisting that every role choice be socially defined and accepted, and any resistance to it a sign of oppression.

This all strikes me as the anxieties of the Last Man. (The Last Man being a Feminist, or a Mangina.) These are all examples of Sartre’s “bad faith.” My objections to gender theory are partially on this existentialist-individualist line. Gender obsessions among postmoderns (Last Men) are evasions of responsibility by trying to construe the freedom of an open society as an embattled group-interest cultural war in closed-society terms.

Whatever we may conclude about gender, there are plainly people who are intersexed, having more traits of the male sex and of the female sex in combination than we find in “textbook” models. These people were once simply concluded to be in some way defective, but defects only exist relative to purposes of some sorts. It seems to me that if these people are content as they are, then there is no defect to be corrected. And if the only source of discontent associated with their physical states is that society treats them as defective, then they have a prima facie case for social change. If we pity them, it should be as we pity anyone treated badly by society. Likewise for those born sexless.

Well, yes. But of course there is a “purpose.” It is the one set by evolution. If you are born with your heart out of your chest, you are born defective. If you are born without the genitals associated with either the male or the female, you are a defective.

I was born with several disorders at birth, which showed up as infantile glaucoma and, later in life, a substernal goiter. I am a defective. I know it. I have always known it. That’s just the truth.

This is not a difficult concept. The question is not whether there are defectives, but how to treat them. As civilization has progressed, we learn that we more and more physical and mental defectives can be socially useful and socially tolerable. Indeed, we discover that our bad treatment of defectives hurts our society almost as much as it hurts them.

Thus I see one problem with gender theory as not properly dealing with defects. Indeed, I regard this as the modern goody-two-shoes vice: lying about reality because reality seems harsh. We have options to ameliorate reality. They can include honesty.

But somehow rarely do.

This is not to say that what is defective under one perspective cannot serve as an advantage under another. My lack of stereoscopic vision saved me from any enticement in sports, which I tend to regard as a great social nuisance. But that does not mean that my poor eyesight (and, growing up, slight frame) should not be seen as defective. Nicely, conveniently for me, other talents and abilities more than made up for my physical shortfalls.

Perhaps my attitude to gender theory derives in no small part from my attitude towards my own defects, growing up. I developed my own sense of self, and had no models ready at hand. I rejected many messages coming at me. Sure, I was not good at sports. But, I realized fairly quickly that I did not care (and had not ever really cared) about such socially normed activity. I turned my attention elsewhere. Had I been one of those more normal boys who had always wanted to be a baseball pitcher or some such waste of time, I would have had greater difficulty. Sure. But the lesson is still valuable: accentuate the positive; do not bother yourself with what is too expensive to fix; prepare for the best and avoid the worst. Give up on impossible dreams.

What one should do if one dislikes one’s own body more than I did — if one cannot stand one’s own genitals, for instance — I am probably not the best to advise. But I do have some perspective on the situation, and I take that perspective in my many criticisms of what I regard as leftist lunacy regarding sexual matters.

And, really: are there “plenty of people” who are intersexed? There are a very few people, by population. (It is also worth noting that these people are not primarily suffering from “gender” problems but sexual/somatic disorders.)

And let me restate more clearly: there are many defectives. Ugly people, fat people, stupid people, weak people. Indeed, there are so many defectives and so many valid perspectives under which we can be defined as in some way defective that we can say that we are, nearly all of us, defectives — only in different ways. This recognition of limitations is the beginning of wisdom. It is the beginning of folly to pretend that defects are not defects.

It’s baldly true that what is called “sexual reässignment surgery” cannot turn men into women nor women into men; at present, surgery cannot even give a genuine new breast to a woman who has lost one! But that doesn’t established that sexual reässignment surgery is always a bad idea. Surgery can be used to counterfeit various sorts of changes, to good effect — for example, a counterfeit breast for the aforementioned woman. It seems to me that sexual reässignment surgery may be in the same category.

I am not saying that sex changes are not a good idea (though the evidence is far more indicative of its perils than its benefits); what I was saying, I thought, was that such manipulations are not “gender” reässignment. Sex change surgery is, instead, a somatic alteration. Sure, you may do what you want. But note what is happening when a person who suffers from a sexual identity crisis has surgery to change his or her body into her or his body: it switches a so-called (perceived; constructed) gender problem into a somatic problem. Basically, a psychological and moral problem into a problem for medical technicians. But since the sexual reässignment surgeries are still quite primitive — have you seen what passes for a penis at the end of such procedures? I’d prefer a vagina and make do! (vice versa for constructed vaginas) — the results are often gruesome. And extremely inconvenient. Quite a lot of bother.

Once again, as far as I’m concerned, normally-bodied folks may (should be allowed to) alter themselves to become freaks, or freaks may try to become less freakish (I may sometimes advise it),  but that is not my issue. My issue is lying about what is being done.

Or even creating moral fictions to smooth over the bumps of the inconveniences of nature and circumstance.

I am very interested in moral fictions, but I try not tp engage in many, myself. Indeed, when somebody catches me in one, I enjoy (after picking at a psychological scab or two) exploring another element of fiction in everyday life. Fiction is extremely important in the course of civilization, for individual persons as well as at meso- and macro-level society. But to be a philosopher is to be able to distinguish fact from fiction, truth from lies — and speculate where the lines should be drawn when they can be drawn competently. (My theory of rights incorporates a theory of moral and legal fiction.)

I don’t think that anyone born of one sex can somehow know by introspection that he or she has the brain of another sex. We’re not telepaths; even those of us who are content with our birth sexes know others of our sex only through the lens of gender! But if someone can be made significantly more comfortable as a counterfeited male or as a counterfeited female, taking hormones for the rest of his or her life, this seems to me to be fundamentally analogous to someone with, say, a face transplant, taking anti-rejection drugs for the rest of his or her life. I don’t see a reason to avoid the person, nor to smirk at the choice.

I am fine with most of this. But my smirk comes from the desperation to be something one is not and cannot be. What one cannot change one may be advised not to try. Those who insist on trying, and failing miserably, are the subject of comedy. That is what comedy is about, exactly such failures.

Of course, that is what tragedy is about, too.

I say this as a somewhat comic figure myself. As indicated above, I grew up knowing myself to be physically defective. And I now know (am made daily aware) that I am in physical decline. I am aging; death is nearer at hand every day. And though that may seem tragic from my perspective, it cannot be so for everyone else: they have their own lives to live until they can no longer muster the resources. I have no social and moral standing to make others pity me overmuch. Indeed, that is the lesson of Tolstoy’s “Death of Ivan Ilyich.” Let us not lie as we die. Nor should we lie as we primp and preen.

Desperation to put off the inevitable is understandable, but the more desperate the less admirable. I am more inclined to the Stoic and Epicurean disciplines: accept one’s limitations. Make do. Don’t fret.

I advise individuals not to adapt themselves according to a cookie-cutter “gender construct,” but define themselves as persons first and foremost.

If one sees little to offer in a standard model of sexual behavior, fine; embrace your inner eccentric. I have done that. I have never formed a long-term pair bond, and have never produced children, much less raised children to maturity. But I have never lied to myself about the cost of my choices. Or, at least I have tried not to lie.

When eccentrics prescribe for the centric we enter the realm of the problematic. Surely bachelors, spinster, openly homosexual, et al. must realize that they cannot be models for the common run of mankind. And it seems obvious . . . what must be considered the central story of any species is its sexual reproductive story. Individuals who do not participate in this activity directly must expect to incur costs of not doing so. To choose to live tangentially or orthogonally to the central story of life means one cannot directly participate in its benefits. And we should expect that this central story remain central. To not continue to place it at the center is to choose decay — by which I mean death of the social group, even death of the species.

Gender theory is, as near as I can make out, consistently, and with maddening repetition, anti-heteronormative. And heteronormativity strikes me as not merely an understandable cultural adaptation to biological and economic reality, it is necessary. We must define as decadent those practices that oppose the continuation of the species, or even the social group. Gender theory, at least in its usual pair bond with postmodernist intersectionalism, is decadence through and through.

Of course, just as there is a lot of ruin in a nation, there is always decadence in a society. And as a de facto member of a quasi-decadent social category — the “confirmed bachelor,” now known as MGTOW — I believe it to be my duty not to universalize my choice, much less undermine the social capital (heteronormativity being one) that allows society to survive and progress. Honesty demands this.

I believe gender theorists to be dishonest and decadent in the worst possible sense. They oppose the basic and necessary institutions of a society. They wish to remake the world to serve and valorize those who do not directly contribute to the continuation of civilization. What a perversity that is.

It is one thing to make room for the oddballs. It is another to redo all social arrangements to put the oddballs at the center of consideration, overthrowing normal sexually reproductive life strategies.

Family values, even. Indeed, one of the mainstays of current feminism and its embrace of “gender” theory is its utter reliance upon the State to replace the family institutions that existed prior to postmodernity. Fatherhood has been relegated to sperm donorship and forced child support payments. Motherhood is now, for increasing numbers of people, a government affair, a de facto marriage of women with the State. The norming of this allows the norming of anti-heteronormativity. The relations between the sexes have become attenuated, and all this gender talk exists within the context of the welfare state. The attenuation of social functions, like the bonds between mothers and fathers, runs parallel to the attenuation between producers and consumers, turning most folk into consumers only.

No wonder conservatives are appalled at the modern (post-modern) world. But they are completely in over their heads, because they helped create this monster.

And it is a statist monster.

If one is (as I am) skeptical of the State and its intrusive role in contemporary society, accepting gender theoretics is just another back-door meme serving to undermine an honest and subtle view of society. Gender talk serves as a lever to corrupt folks, apparently in service to the creation of a New Socialist Man, a world of Last Men where individual personhood is subsumed to State coercion at every social contact.

It is no accident that most gender theorists are out-and-out socialists. Their dream is to utterly upend society and purge all its members of individual responsibility. Directing our attention away from our own choices and towards conformity to new normed “genders” is vital, essential to their program.

And it is not a new program. Socialism, as Yves Guyot insisted years ago, only plausibly works under conditions of sexual separation and economic subsidy. This was clear in The Republic and it is clearer now, long after the death of Plato.

twv

* Late Middle English: from Old French gendre (modern genre), based on Latin genus ‘birth, family, nation’. The earliest meanings were ‘kind, sort, genus’ and ‘type or class of noun, etc.’ (which was also a sense of Latin genus).

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