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Friday 8 November 2019

I'm Alright Jack (or Jill)...

There are few things more distressing to somebody genuinely concerned with equality than the notion that we can only be winning if everybody else is losing. It's so fundamentally ingrained in our collective psyche that it's hard to see a way out of it, even to those of us who understand how truly asinine it is.

There are entire movements dedicated to equality, yet that have deeply embedded within them cohorts who quite clearly have no understanding of what equality means, to the degree that it's impossible for them to see the success of anybody perceived as outside the movement or "other" as anything but an attack on their own success.

For example, there are people who self-describe as feminists that genuinely think that feminism is about the pedestal-setting of women as a class apart, and that men should be subservient. Of course, this is not, nor has it ever been, what feminism is really about. Feminism is about equality (in fact, it's about equity or, more accurately, parity, but that's a discussion for another time).

As somebody who grew up entrenched in notions of all being equal, it's horribly distressing to see misandrists treated as if they represent feminism, and that's not even the worst of it.

This week, there's been a public meeting in Toronto (known to those of us who've spent any significant time there as 'Tronno'; gotta love Canucks) concerning the booking of a known transphobe to speak in one of their public libraries. It's garnered a lot of attention on social media, and it highlights some really important things about our species that we should, in the aftermath of the very many social movements driving our moral progress in recent decades, have learned already.

Still, as Kuhn pointed out, sometimes it takes the extinction of fuckwits to herald the dawn of progress (he was much more charitable in his presentation than I have any intention of being).

I recall the first inklings of this kind of feeling when, as an outspoken atheist and purported freethinker, what it was like to encounter those ostensibly on my side who simultaneously described themselves as freethinkers while clearly having difficulty thinking at all.

My earliest years as an internet atheist were filled with genuine thinkers, people who understood the value of thinking properly and exposing their own dogma so that it could be demolished. To even recognise something as a dogmatic position was something that was desired, precisely because it was an experience to grow and learn.

Over time, it became clear that the movement - of which I never really considered myself a part - was becoming infected with the virus that all large movements are cursed with, that of the lowest common denominator becoming dominant. More and more, the lunatics began to take over the asylum.

I suspect that this has been the case with feminism as well. More and more, feminism and misandry are treated in the popular mind as being the same thing, when they really couldn't be more vehemently opposed. The same is true of the juxtaposition of feminism and transphobia.

This brings me to the main point here.

There are many truisms that have threaded their way through the collective consciousness of our species over the millennia. In the vast majority of cases, they amount to little more than "old wives' tales" (there's a throwback to our misogynist past; or is it our misogynist present(?)), stories we tell ourselves that we really-o, truly-o want to be true, but really aren't. It's comforting to think we have the inside track to truth, and extremely discomforting to discover that our inside track is really a gutter flowing to a turd-infested sewer.

Among those truisms is the notion that "boys will be boys".

Most probably think that gender-fluidity is a new thing. The idea that there are only two genders is a very old one, only recently treated in any rigorous manner, as is the idea that there are only two sexes.

Errr, what? You mean that sex and gender aren't the same thing?

Yes, I mean exactly that but, to explain why, more ground needs to be covered first.

Let's start at the beginning, and talk first about body dysmorphia. This might seem like a strange place to go, but there's a good reason.

It's widely accepted that dysmorphia is a real phenomenon. Indeed, it's so widely promulgated that very few will bat an eyelid at a breast enlargement, botox injection, diet (yes, the notion that we are "too fat" is a mild form of body dysmorphia), even the purchase of skin-care products and lipstick, or any number of other procedures designed to make us look "better". The popular press is rife with ads to sell us things that will make us more acceptable, whether to ourselves or to society, selling shit we don't need for a problem that exists only in our tiny minds (yes, even I).

It's such a compelling myth that the vast majority of advertising preys upon it. Whether it's selling you some clothes because they'll make you look like everybody else or selling you some surgery to make you look like the ideal that everybody aspires to, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with what we really need. This even extends to people who go out of their way to look like they don't care, when in fact they're projecting only the illusion of not caring, carefully constructing a look that matches the antithesis of caring. There's nobody that doesn't suffer from it in some way or to some degree, despite contrivances to the contrary. That we don't even question the entirely subjective term 'better' is a clue to just how poorly we think about such things as a species.

The above is only dealing with subjective things, and cognitive disorders, so let's move on to some objective things, and to genuinely physical disorders; to what it's like to suffer from the issue of quite literally being in the wrong body.

There's been a lot of noise in the last few years about the use of bathrooms. There's one particular instance of a teacher humiliating a student by insisting that they urinate in full view because the teacher couldn't accept that the student was transgender. It's such a ubiquitous and insidious notion that it seems to be accepted very broadly by the world at large, despite the science being really clear that the world at large is categorically wrong on the point.

Let's talk about that difference between sex and gender alluded to earlier, because it's important to any discussion of this nature.

Sex is a specialism. In particular, many organisms specialise in a reproductive sense, which is reflected in the production of their gametes. In human terms, this is typically defined by their sex chromosomes, XX for female, XY for male but, as with all things that are 'typical', this is far from being the end of the story. In reality, these are only the primary characteristics associated with purely binary sexual reproduction. What defines the sex of any organism is the chromosomes, gonads, genitals and sex hormones (testosterone and oestrogen). It should be informative that every one of these factors is a non-binary variable. Even were all of these variables binary, it would lead to a situation in which sex was not, as any variable that falls the wrong side of any classification would, of necessity, define a third sex. As it happens, that they are not binary leads science to the necessary conclusion that sex is not binary.

There are well-described cases, for example, in which the sex chromosome count differs, with results such as XXY, XYY, and various other combinations of the sex chromosomes. These are far from being the only complications with the assignation of biological sex.

Let's move on to gender, so that we can see the distinction properly.

In reality, gender is an amalgam of several factors. First, those factors dealt with above concerning sex are all factors in gender, but they're not the whole picture. In particular, it's an amalgam of anatomy (non-binary), chromosomes (non-binary), genitals (non-binary), culture (non-binary) and psychology (about as non-binary as it's possible to get).

Here's where the rubber really meets the road, though.

Throughout history, humans have always found ways to dehumanise other humans; to otherise; to make less than. Every right that has ever been fought for, and that those on the wrong side of history have consistently had to concede, has begun with such otherisation. Every concession has begun with complete denial, then slippery-slope arguments and whataboutism and well-poisoning and a litany of other logical fallacies, and finally to acceptance.

The notion that any movement really concerned with equality can align itself with such dehumanising tactics is anathema to anybody who's spent decades embedded within them, and it really is time that the only targets of otherism should be those who otherise other humans.

The lessons from history are clear. Those who fail to learn from them are not only doomed to repeat them, they are doomed to be the Nazis of the future.

This is not an issue of free speech, contrary to the moronic witterings of Jordan Incelson, it's an issue of being human; of having empathy; of being moral.

Don't be that guy/girl/other.

1 comment:

  1. Glad to see you're back writing again, me old mucker! :)


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