Saturday, October 22, 2016

Perplexed about Gender

In a culture of narcissism Hell is other people. If you think the world of yourself you do not want and cannot accept that other people see you differently. If you believe that you are the best, the brightest and the most talented, you will eschew any competition that might say otherwise. Or that might pop the bubble of your illusion.

If you are how you feel about yourself and if you feel good about yourself  you do not want to look in a mirror that shows you looking like a clown. If you are what you believe you are, what you think you are or what you are convinced you are you will become sorely offended, shaken to the roots of your narcissism, by someone who sees you differently.

Even the most minor gesture of disapproval will feel like an aggression. Someone looking askance at you will threaten  your carefully crafted illusion.

For the narcissist, the problem is always other minds. If you want to sustain your illusion or even your delusion about who you are, you will need to control other minds. You might threaten them, intimidate them, brainwash them, silence them or simply ignore them. One way or another you will not be able to tolerate anyone who thinks differently.

Recently, Professor Jordan Peterson of the University of Toronto—which used to be an eminent academic institution—was ordered—yes, ordered—to use the right pronouns when addressing a transgendered student who believed that he/she was really she/he.

HeatSt. reports:

The letter, signed jointly by arts and science dean David Cameron and faculty and academic life vice-provost Sioban Nelson, claimed the university is committed to free speech but that right has limits.

“Your statements that you will refuse to refer to transgendered persons using gender neutral pronouns if they ask you to do so are contrary to the rights of those persons to equal treatment without discrimination based on their ‘gender identity’ and gender expression.’

“We trust that these impacts on students and others were not your intention in making these remarks,” the letter says. “However, in view of these impacts, as well as the requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code, we urge you to stop repeating these statements,” the letter said.

For all the mental drool about gender identity and gender expression we are talking about a belief, even a conviction. Some might even say that it is a delusional belief, but we will leave that to the psychiatrists.

One notes, with Camille Paglia, that the current brouhaha over the transgendered, the latest attempt to control minds, is a sign of cultural collapse. Since reality, in the form of the external genitalia and one’s chromosomal makeup is normally unambiguous, these college administrators have taken it on themselves to say that reality is what a transgendered student says it is. The evidence of your senses counts for nothing when arrayed against the depth of his/her/its conviction.

Since secondary sexual characteristics and appearance normally suffice to signal whether we are dealing with a male or a female, we tend to be economical and not to confuse ourselves and everyone else by asking everyone what their preferred gender is and which pronouns they would like us to use to address them. The inefficiency of such a procedure would cause us to waste an enormous amount of time and mental energy.

Human community and human communication is designed to achieve a basic level of efficiency. If you imagine that human beings will sacrifice that because a student believes that he is something that he is not, you are not living in the real world. In the long run, this assault on common sense and common decency will never stand. Or better, it introduces gross inefficiencies into all human relationships and forces people to spend more time avoiding the thought police than actually living their lives.

When Judith Shulevitz took up the question of transgender rights in the New York Times recently, a number of trolls took out after her. They called her transphobic. God forbid! Given the damage done to their minds by their so-called education, they are reduced to throwing up a slanderous rant filled with name-calling. At least they are warning you off ever dealing with them on any level.

Shulevitz offered us a sensible and judicious discussion of the issues. She even tried to balance the differing interests. And she pointed out, cogently, that allowing a biological male to undress in the presence of females in a locker room violates the rights and especially the modesty of the biological females. The reverse of the situation, rarely discussed, will likely not produce the same reaction.

It is breathtaking to see that normal children are being deprived of their rights in order to accommodate someone who is convinced that he/she is not really who he/she is. As you know, this is not some crackpot issue cooked up in some bastion of radical thinking. The issue has caused deep thinking celebrities to boycott the state of North Carolina and is heading for the Supreme Court.

If you don’t think that this is a sign of general cultural collapse, you are not thinking.

Shulevitz writes:

Two teenagers have to change for gym. Both wear the skinny jeans and Converse sneakers that make up the quasi-uniform of the American middle-schooler. But one was born with a girl’s body, the other with a boy’s. The second has asked the school to consider her a girl, and the school has agreed to do so. But the girl-born-a-girl (the cisgender girl, to use the preferred term) does not want to strip in front of the transgender girl or have that person strip in front of her. Meanwhile, the transgender girl does not want to be banished from the common area like some sort of freak. The standoff will end only when one retreats to a stall to change in private. Which one will it be?

According to the federal agencies charged with enforcing Title IX, the statute banning sex discrimination at publicly funded schools, the cisgender girl must cede the floor. 

Ideologues masquerading as scientists have proclaimed that gender identity is fluid. And yet, the pronouns that designate gender are not fluid. In some languages all nouns are gendered. In some there are two genders. Others add the neuter form of nouns.

Shulevitz recognizes that we all respect the right to privacy and that it must include the right to personal modesty. We keep our private parts out of public view and do not to expose ourselves to strangers of the opposite sex. At least, most of us don’t. It's called having a sense of shame. It is universal to the human species. It makes social beings and moral beings. Get rid of it at your own peril.

She explains:

On the other hand, people have a right to privacy. Courts have largely agreed that no one should have to undress unwillingly in front of a member of the opposite sex, or see that person naked. Call it prudishness, if you like, but such modesty is common. We live in a sex-segregated world. After a certain point in childhood, men and women go their separate ways for almost every activity that involves exposing the body.

As it happened, the Obama Departments of Education and Justice informed schools that students could change their gender merely by informing school administrators. You are what you think you are. You are what you say you are. Anyone who disagrees, anyone whose judgment is based on reality, is a bigot.

If you were wondering why people across America are angry and upset, here’s one place to start.

And it’s not just religious groups who are horrified at the implications at this sign of cultural degeneracy. A feminist group has taken up against it too:

Shulevitz writes:

And the radical feminists behind yet another lawsuit — the Women’s Liberation Front, or WoLF — are as nonreligious as it gets. WoLF worries that defining sex as a subjective feeling could strip women of their status as a class granted certain privileges and protections under Title IX.

Imagine, says David Bookbinder, an attorney working with WoLF, a school district in which “there have never been girls who have taken upper-level math class. A school could set up a class just for girls” to encourage them to do so. (Title IX allows this.) But under the O.C.R.’s edict, he continues, “men would be allowed into that class.” If “anyone who identifies as a woman qualifies legally as a woman,” Mr. Bookbinder says, then anyone can “take advantage of anything that the law reserves exclusively for women,” be they scholarships or other benefits. “How do we protect transgender people against real and pernicious discrimination,” Mr. Bookbinder asks, without taking away the reparations women fought so hard for?

Rather than get into the legalities in play, I direct your attention to a recent article by Prof. Anthony Esolen. In it he explains cogently that the war on pronouns is really a war against reality.

First, Esolen makes the argument from economy of expression. In a delightful reductio ad absurdum, he shows that the new rules would translate Oliver Sachs’ book, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat into:

The Adult Human Being Who Was Biologically Male but of As Yet Undetermined Sexual Preference and Sexual Identity Who Mistook His or Her or Zis or Xer Committed Life Partner Who Was Biologically Female but Also of As Yet Undetermined Sexual Preference and Sexual Identity for a Hat.

He continues, explaining that we are dealing with a special kind of madness. You might consider it the madness of crowds, or a mass hysteria or even a mass delusion, but it is a pernicious form of mind control:

The sane reader will note that the only clear item in that sentence is the hat. The sane reader will also note that, of the two madmen, the man who mistakes his wife for a hat is as clear in the head as a sunny day by comparison with a person who could conceive of that new and “improved” title. At least the man who mistakes his wife for a hat still knows what a man is and what a wife is, though he is unclear about where she or his hat might be. But the person who thinks himself into believing that we cannot tell from ordinary observation who is a man and who is a woman is mad in a special sense. The first madman's reason is struggling in the fog. The second madman's reason is gasping for breath, because the second madman himself is throttling it.

Esolen continues that if we do not use language to refer to objective realities we will soon cease to communicate. Or better, we will cease to use language for any other purpose than to show off how deeply we believe the dogmas that are being peddled by the Church of the Liberal Pieties.

Indeed, only common knowledge of objective reality can make language possible. If I say to you, “I tripped on a rock on my way to the school this morning,” you will know what I am talking about, because you know what a rock is and what it is like to trip on one. The statement is not ambiguous. You will not wonder whether the rock was a promontory like Gibraltar, or a fortress like the Masada. You will not wonder whether my trip involved the inhaling or venous injection of hallucinogenic chemicals. You will not wonder whether I was talking about a school of fish in the Mediterranean Sea. You will also not wonder whether “rock” meant “cat” or “Napoleon” or “n-dimensional pyramid,” depending upon my peculiar and idiosyncratic linguistic preferences, or upon my idiosyncratic view of reality. Language is not language unless it is communal, and it cannot be communal unless it can refer, quickly and clearly, to the things in front of our noses: to husbands and wives and hats.

As for a person's sex, it is the first thing we notice about another human being. Like much of what we call reality, differences between the sexes are obvious to anyone whose perceptive apparatus is still functioning.

Esolen continues:

It cannot possibly be to any living thing’s advantage to be confused about male and female. As it is, sex is far more strongly marked upon the human body than it is upon the bodies of dogs or cats or horses or many of the species of birds. A man’s face is not like a woman’s face. A woman’s voice is not like a man’s voice, even when the woman is Greer Garson and the man is Frankie Valli. A man’s shoulders do not look like a woman’s shoulders, and a woman’s hips do not look like a man’s hips. Men and women differ down to their very hair, as anyone can perceive who looks at a woman’s smooth chin or a man’s bald pate.

One suspects that those who are trying to force everyone to take their leave of reality, lest it offend a miniscule portion of the population, are doing so in order to brainwash people. If you are no longer allowed to use reality to judge the truth or falsity of your beliefs, even your beliefs about yourself, then others will find it much easier to deprive you of your free will, your judgment and your ability to test ideas against reality.

It is, Esolen continues, an act of violence against the human mind:

To pretend, therefore, that we do not know what we immediately and urgently perceive is to do violence at once to human nature, language, the possibility of a shared life, and the intellect’s capacity to apprehend reality. If I cannot say, “There is a man walking down the street,” then it is hard to see how I can make any reliable judgment about anything at all that bears on human existence. If I cannot say, “Joey is going to grow up to be a fine man someday,” then what in life is left to talk about? Everything else is less certain than sex. 

He then asks why anyone would want to do such a thing. Why would anyone want to do something that:

… is like the deliberate injection of carcinogenic RNA into the healthy cells of the mind. It would infect common sense with confusion and madness. It would render people incapable of obvious judgments: so that you cannot say that Laurie is “strong for a girl” because she can do fifteen unmodified pushups, or that little Mike needs a father in his life, or that every culture known to man has celebrated the union of man and woman in marriage. And that prompts the question: why should anybody want to do this to other people? Cui bono?


Trigger Warning said...

Heh. It's always a pleasure for me to read about the blind alleys that lackwit Proglodyte theories inevitably lead to. Back in '08, I watched with some amusement to see which aggrieved identity group, blacks or women, would prevail in the Democrat primaries. As if that were not an amusing enough pickle for the Progs, when it emerged that Trayvon Martin, black, was shot by George Zimmerman, mixed-race (mestizo) Latino, the problem was only resolved by the application of "white Hispanic" to a an obviously brown person. And the even more absurd cases of Rachel Dolezal et al simply put the icing on the racial identity cake. So now, racial categories mean nothing.

But we have a new jihad underway; we have sexuality as an "identity".
One of the major goals of Proglodism is the Procrustean effort to restructure categories to fit their theories. I'm no philosopher, but as a scientist, it seems to me that categories are one of the rock-bottom bases of knowledge. Perhaps the most obvious example is Linnaeus' taxonomy, but many others like the periodic table, states of matter, etc illustrate the point.

In fact, and make of it what you will, the very first "job" God gave Adam was to name the animals; i.e., to categorize the living things of Eden. That a writer thousands of years ago would have tapped into this most basic of human cognitive capabilities is simply staggering. For all of us know that one of the most important gifts we give our children goes something like this: "No, that not a kitty. That's a doggie."

Humans are innate categorizers. In fact, my research (and that of others from a more psychological bent) has led me to believe that among the most important tasks of the human brain is pattern recognition. And pattern recognition implies categorization.

Elizabeth Rosch, the psychologist, has done some outstanding work on categorization, and she (along with more mathematical investigators from other disciplines) has concluded that

Categorizations which humans make of the concrete world are not arbitrary but highly determined. In taxonomies of concrete objects, there is one level of abstraction at which the most basic category cuts are made. Basic categories are those which carry the most information, possess the highest category cue validity, and are, thus, the most differentiated from one another […] Basic objects are shown to be the most inclusive categories for which a concrete image of the category as a whole can be formed, to be the first categorizations made during perception of the environment, to be the earliest categories sorted and earliest named by children…

Mama and Dada, anyone?

Rosch calls it "cue validity", I call it feature extraction, and, as Schneiderman notes, Esolen says

As it is, sex is far more strongly marked upon the human body than it is upon the bodies of dogs or cats or horses or many of the species of birds.

In fact, one might conclude that sexual differentiation is the most critical precondition for evolution. For the strict materialists, let me say that fuzzy sexual differentiation features would be very energy-inefficient and thus degrade fitness.

And this sort of reality-deficient reasoning is precisely why Proglodyte theories always end up bumping the wall in blind alleys like a defective Roomba.

Reality is not "constructed", it is apprehended. And reality is hard; not hard as in difficult, but hard as in unyielding.

Ares Olympus said...

I heard about Psychologist Jordan Peterson a couple years ago, and he certainly impressed me. I had not heard about this recent conflict before, and I'll have to read more.

The issue is interesting and perplexing. What do you do, when a clearly male, or clearly female student wants to be referred to by a gender you don't associate with their appearance?

At a social level, we'd all prefer to be agreeable, so if someone requests special treatment, the first time it is a novelty, and you may say yes, sure, whatever you like, as long as you don't think they're trying to play you for a fool.

And truthfully gender is NOT always so obvious, and a just as great social misstep is to misidentify visually someone's biological gender, and say she or he when you should have said the opposite.

And perhaps if we all dressed identically, with similar haircuts, and loose clothing, and a clean shaven face, we might find as many as 10-20% of men and women may be easy to misidentify. And that's also potentially embarressing both for the subject as well as the observers. So culture solves this in part by people of each gender purposely dressing in stereotypical ways of that gender, and ideally that protects all of us from such embarressment.

So whether a person LOOKS a certain gender or is biologically determined to be of a certain gender, those are two different things, and what's important socially is not the inferential biological gender.

So I guess my position is if a biological male wants to dress like a female (or a masculine-featured biological female) dresses like a female, the safe bet and respectful choice is to say "she" or "her", and vice versa for biological females.

But if someone looks male, acts male, and is clearly male, and claims I'm supposed to refer to him as she/her, I might be more likely to be rebellious. So I don't know Jordan Peterson's case.

And I expect he's trying to take the heroic stand against stupidity, which is a good thing to do if you're a tenured professor, or at least a good experiment. He can write a psychology paper about it when he's finished!

Self-righteousness is a certainly a funny thing for all involved in things like this. I guess we can all learn about ourselves by these strange social experiments, or tricks nature plays on us, as the case may be.

Sam L. said...

I will identify as a black female, if need be, and defy them to deny it. Once I have self-identified, nothing more matters. I. WIN.

AesopFan said...

And Archbishop Chaput ties the idea to religious freedom:

"Americans aren’t fools. They have a good sense of smell when things aren’t right. And one of the things wrong with our country right now is the hollowing out and retooling of all the key words in our country’s public lexicon; words like democracy, representative government, freedom, justice, due process, religious liberty and constitutional protections. The language of our politics is the same. The content of the words is different. Voting still matters. Public protest and letters to members of Congress can still have an effect. But more and more of our nation’s life is governed by executive order, judicial overreach and administrative agencies with little accountability to Congress. People feel angry because they feel powerless. And they feel powerless because in many ways they are. . . . America’s cultural and political elites talk a lot about equality, opportunity and justice. But they behave like a privileged class with an authority based on their connections and skills. And supported by sympathetic media, they’re remaking the country into something very different from anything most of us remember or the Founders imagined."

And the hollowing out of words is in service to the Masters of the Political Class:

"This week, after General Cartwright’s guilty plea, the Justice Department and the FBI thumped their chests and told us that if any government official, no matter how powerful, mishandles classified information and then lies about it, that official will be prosecuted — at least for the false statements. Well . . . how about it?"

Ares Olympus said...

p.s. Jordan Peterson's troubles were not a specific complaint, but a complaint of his attitude in this video: Published on Sep 27, 2016: This is the video that caused the recent media storm over Bill C-16 and free speech. In it I outline my concerns about political correctness.

And here's a follow up video, while he was under a firestorm of criticism and attempted censorship by transgender radials. Oct 5/16: 3a: The PC Game (and some tactics to counter it)

In the second video he made an interesting diagnosis of "The PC Game"
Eight rules of the PC Game:
1. Identify an area of human activity.
2. Note a distribution of success.
3. Identify winners and losers.
4. Claim that the losers are losing because they are oppressed by the winners. ...
5. Claim allegiance with the losers.
Feel secure in your comprehension of the world.
6. Revel in your moral superiority.
7. Target your resentment towards your newly discovered enemies.
Repeat. Forever. Everywhere

He goes on to suggest a game he created called "PC Pokemon" where students are supposed to anonymously put anti-PC stickers on objectional posters. That reaction didn't impress me. The goal shouldn't be to create a culture war, but identify arguments that can expose the PC ideology he expresses above.

Sam L. said...

"The goal shouldn't be to create a culture war, but identify arguments that can expose the PC ideology he expresses above." Still, that's what it is, for that's what they want.

Ares Olympus said...

Here's an article written by Prof Peterson, and a video with dialogue he attempted with trans-radicals at a protest.

His argument was the legislation threatens to make free speech criminal. They tried to get him to use the pronoun "they" rather than she or he, and he hemmed and hawed about it, but basically said not if he was being compelled.

He also repeated his "PC Game" rules there.
“Gender-neutral” pronouns are, in my opinion, part of the “PC Game.” Here’s how you play:

First, you identify a domain of human endeavor. It could be the wealth of people within a society. It could be the psychological well-being of individuals within a given organization. It could be the prowess of school children at a particular sport.

Second, you note the inevitable continuum of success. Some people are richer or happier than others. Some children are better at playing volleyball.

Third, you define those doing comparatively better as oppressors of those doing comparatively worse.

Fourth, and finally, you declare solidarity with the latter, and enmity for the former (now all-too-convenient targets for your resentment and hatred).

You have now established your moral superiority, cost-free, and can trumpet it at will.

Words such as zie and hir, are, in my opinion, moves in the PC game. It’s not a game I wish to play. We shouldn’t reduce complex, uncertain issues to a one-size-fits-all formula. Instead, we should think things through carefully, using words of our own choice. It’s a free speech issue, in its essence.

People often defend freedom of speech on the grounds that citizens must retain the right to criticize their leaders. That’s true, but it’s not the fundamental truth.

Freedom of speech protects our societies from shipwreck on the Scylla of tyranny and the Charybdis of nihilism and despair. Freedom of speech allows us to identify the problems that beset us. Freedom of speech allows us to formulate solutions to those problems, and to reach consensus on the solutions.

There is nothing in the absence of freedom of speech but tyranny and slavery.

Anonymous said...

Mr Bookbinder is wrong where he has been stating lately that a MTF can not ever have a female body. That is based upon the incorrect belief that chromosomes are a marker of a true sex. This has been disproven as there are born XY females and born XX males. The MTF can and often does get a morphologically female body. As demonstrated with the Renee Richards case "according to overwhelming medical evidence this person is now female"
and the MT vs JT case that the post-op transsexual is now female.

Malcolm said...

In an excellent video Jordan Peterson is interviewed regarding this issue and much more