Royal Baby’s Incorrect “Gender”

I did a poor job explaining why the leading academic theory on “gender” collapses of its own weightlessness. The theory insists that people “choose” (or should be allowed to choose) their “gender”. But they cannot do so, says science and logic, without some basis with which to make the choice. That this basis exists thus refutes the idea that you can choose, therefore the theory is false.

What people can do is to choose to behave in certain ways. No question about that at all. Any male may pretend he’s a female, and any female may pretend she’s a male. Even to the point of applying makeup, wearing different clothing, or taking a knife to themselves. None of this playacting can, of course, change the person’s sex, which is determined long before the person escapes the womb.

So much is obvious, presumably even to the people who insist gender is a choice. That must mean what these intellectuals really carp about are the behaviors themselves, which they want to be acceptable and accepted. But that, since it obviously involves willful behavior, is a harder sell.

That is, the academic theory insists both that gender be chosen and that gender is innate and unchangeable. It must be a choice because freedom is paramount, but it must be innate because the consequent behaviors must necessarily follow from the innate—i.e. naturally given—gender and therefore cannot be disparaged or disapproved of.

In other words, the entire theoretical basis is a mess and boils down to “I want what I want, therefore I should have it”, modernity’s most common argument.

Anyway, this stuff saturates popular culture, so much so that it didn’t come as a surprise when people started tweeting about the “gender” of the latest addition to the British Monarchy. Take this tweet:

DeWitt was obviously joking, and later in the same thread admitted as much, but many took it seriously as a symptom of the decadence of our culture. Which it is. It couldn’t be shocking or funny if there weren’t the poisonous fumes of gender theory permeating everywhere.

Well, there were lots of tweets like this, and this prompted some to make montages of them, like this one.

In that compilation are tweets like this:

Now Cooke is not a lefty and he was joking, but many some took him at his word.

I looked at several (but not all) of these exemplars and it was obvious many were gags, others written only to prompt a response, and still more were by mere kids who were only parroting what they heard from adults who should know better but don’t.

So I’m not sure how much this latest flap was conservatives telling horror stories to themselves, how much was earnestness, how much childishness, or that maybe all was just another symptom of the general insanity of the times.

Incidentally, I thought this answering tweet was cute:

https://twitter.com/albertoapardo/status/360220848965169152


17 Comments

  1. Actually, my first thought was “How can the royal couple announce the gender of the child before he/she has decided?” Of course, I was reading this blog and the gender choice at the time or admittedly, it would never have occurred to me to think such a thing.

    Ever notice how truly lowest class language has become? A “sausage fest”? Really? Language is just not a human strong point at this time in history. Maybe we’ll just go back to cave drawings. Faster for emailing, could replace texting, and no spell check ever required.

  2. When I was living in Germany I suffered from gender confusion. In German the nouns have gender which is indicated by the article that goes with the noun. There is absolutly no rime or reason for the gender assigments. It is completely arbitrary. You had to memorize the article that went with the noun. Even worse, the gender can change, for instance, when the noun goes from singular to plural. This gender business was very bewildering. German must have been designed by liberals.

  3. “In other words, the entire theoretical basis is a mess and boils down to “I want what I want, therefore I should have it”, modernity’s most common argument.”

    Yup…and that’s the best explanation there is in this, the best possible of all worlds 🙂

  4. “In other words, the entire theoretical basis is a mess and boils down to ‘I want what I want, therefore I should have it’, modernity’s most common argument.”

    While I agree the theoretical basis is a mess, I will add one caveat to the boiled-down argument; most moderns or postmoderns I know would phrase it as, “If it does not directly harm you for me to get what I want, you have no good reason to object to me getting it.”

    This argument, of course, has a distressing habit of treating “have no good reason to object to” as semantically and functionally equivalent to “are obliged to assist in”, and also conveniently elides the possibility that one can legitimately have a right to object to (a) the indirect harm of collapsing social standards and (b) harm not done to oneself, but it does at least still have *some* recognition that negative consequences are a valid reason to restrain certain desires.

    But yes: in most cases, it really seems like the “choice” people with gender identity dysphoria claim to be making is far less about psychological affinity for the gender identity they want to assume than it is about revulsion for the physical sex they already possess. (In Brad Fraser’s play POOR SUPER MAN, one character, a pre-op transsexual named Shannon, has a line where he says of his “equipment”: “The d**k’s not mine. …Huge mistake.” Given that Fraser is one of the leading queer artists in Canada, he presumably knows the trans community well enough to capture this kind of attitude accurately.) To phrase your own point more formally, the gender essentialism required to assume it is easier to alter one’s physical sexual characteristics to match one’s mental self-image than vice versa is the same gender essentialism disproven by the “mismatch” between physical sex and mental gender in the first place.

    (Incidentally, please allow me to apologize for being so aggravatingly obtuse in the previous thread. Your patience and explanations were appreciated.)

  5. Ray:
    “You mean as in das madchen.”

    That’s to make it distinct from “die Mädchen” which means something else. If they didn’t have the singular gender as neuter, then the plural would have to be something like “die Mädchennen”.

    Even natives have problems with the gender of proper nouns such as names of rivers where the “gender” might be one or the other or neuter. “Elbe” and “Rhein” have obvious “gender” but Reuss and Lech don’t have that magic.

    Nevertheless, the great minds at Leipzig Uni have heard you and now they have titles such as “Herr Professorin”. Students are busily taking note of that with their Kugelschreiberinnen. 🙂

  6. “That is, the academic theory insists both that gender be chosen and that gender is innate and unchangeable.”

    That’s a misunderstanding. The modern theory is that gender behaviour is a complex mixture of the innate (anatomy and attraction), culture (traditional roles, conventions, rules), individual variation, which might be innate or by choice (do you like blondes or brunettes?) and actual choice (where allowable).

    There has been some debate over what particular common features are innate or cultural. Some things seem to be common to all cultures, some things are clearly cultural since different cultures do it differently, but there’s room for argument there. For example, most cultures have privacy taboos about hiding parts of the body, but they differ on which parts. In some cultures glimpses of a woman’s ankles are unbearably exciting, in others the (hem-)lines are drawn higher.

    The argument here is likewise not really about innate versus choice, but about the innate versus the cultural. Some people want to argue that the cultural gender roles they’re used to are actually innate, and can not be changed. Or that transexuals and homosexuals are not innately different but are merely rejecting the majority’s cultural boundaries. Other people argue back that feelings of discomfort with alternate sexuality are not innate but cultural – mere prejudice.

    If a particular practice is innate, you can insist that it cannot and therefore must not be changed. If it is merely cultural, then it could be changed, and you have to get into a far more difficult argument as to why it should not be.

    Cultural boundaries exist to allow us to live together in social groups, and limit the friction and conflicts between different ways of living. They’re picked up from all the people around us – what they tolerate and what they don’t – and they work on us by making us feel uncomfortable breaking them, or seeing them broken. They are a line of compromise between the desire for people to do what they want, and the desire to stop other people doing things we don’t want them to do. Sometimes the cultural agreement will insist that people can, and you’re not allowed to stop them. Sometimes it will insist that they can’t, and that other people can stop them doing it.

    Cultural boundaries shift and change over time, from people pushing on them. But they’re not a matter of individual choice, but of *collective* compromise. You cannot just decide to cross them and not expect to face consequences. There are some boundaries that you won’t be allowed to cross no matter how much you want to, and you’ll just have to put up with it. And conversely when people have grown up with a particular cultural convention for a very long time, they cannot just switch off their discomfort when the line shifts. Their distress is equally real.

    Having and abiding by a culture is instinctive and innate. Sexual orientation is instinctive and innate. But people differ.

  7. No, cultural boundaries stop wars. What I think you’re thinking of is that when groups with radically *different* cultures come into contact with one another, they don’t recognise the others’ boundaries, and the friction escalates into war.

    The war arises from *not* having a shared culture, and not being able to compromise fast enough to form one.

    Cultural limits serve a very important practical function. They make complex societies possible. Some people sometimes think, living in a homogeneous and peaceful society, that traditions are merely quaint relics of a less enlightened past that belong in a museum. But actually, the recognition of the role of culture in keeping society stable is the more sophisticated understanding. It’s a dangerous thing to mess with. But conversely, some people sometimes don’t recognise that its flexibility and mutability serve a vital purpose too. It’s not the *specific details* of our particular boundaries and traditions that ensure social stability. Other traditions could do just as well.

  8. So this is the Rodney King “Can’t we all just get along?” idea? Does this not require that most people abandon their beliefs for the “greater good”? Isn’t that how we got in the mess we are in now? Currently, having moral beliefs and standing up for them is considered bad. So what we get is an amoral society. I just can’t see how that is a good thing.

    Yes, homogenous societies do best–which would be a good argument against immigration. It is/was practiced in Scandinavian countries all the time. Very little immigration allowed. When they do allow immigration, you get things like the shooter in Norway that was angry at Islamists coming into his country.

    Historically, it seems that most “shared cultures” are one culture imposing it’s values on everyone in the vicinity. There are few “shared cultures” in the US or everyone would be speaking English. In fact, the US prides itself on divisiveness and no one being the same. It seems our society is either doing this wrong or it’s far too complex for the idea to work.

  9. “So this is the Rodney King “Can’t we all just get along?” idea?”

    Not exactly. Cultures compete. They adjust to circumstances, improve, develop, incorporate new technologies and information. That’s why they need to be flexible.

    “Does this not require that most people abandon their beliefs for the “greater good”?”

    No, definitely not.

    First, “the greater good” is only defined *within* a particular moral system, and every culture regards itself by definition as the greatest good. The morality of different moral systems is incomparable – like the truth of different axiom systems.

    From the point of view of those losing, it’s not for the greater good. That’s life. Bad things sometimes happen. I’m not saying it’s right, or that we should give up trying to change it, just that that’s how it is.

    Second, cultural differences are supposed to compete, to find the strongest. Sometimes people might abandon them. Sometimes they might lose, and be forced to comply. Sometimes they might die out. Usually there’s a two-way exchange, and people trade one limitation for another. There’s also this thing called “multiculturalism”, which originally was a culture that tolerated and tried to co-exist with other cultures, without trying to demand they abandon all their ways or in turn abandoning the most important of its own. The concept has got a bit distorted, surrendering principles it should not, and tolerating the sort of intolerance that it was intended to stop.

    But it is true that conflict and compromise are the only alternatives. I’m not saying either is always the right answer.

    “Currently, having moral beliefs and standing up for them is considered bad. So what we get is an amoral society.”

    Hmm. You might want to think about how that was phrased! Having morals is considered “bad”? Isn’t that itself a moral judgement?

    In any moral system, having *different* moral beliefs is considered bad. But that’s nothing new.

    “Yes, homogenous societies do best–which would be a good argument against immigration.”

    Not really. Immigration, trade, social contact are how we *get* homogeneous. Bring them here, surround them with our culture, allow it to diffuse inwards, learn from them where our own culture can be enriched or improved. Immigration brings us closer together.

    “When they do allow immigration, you get things like the shooter in Norway that was angry at Islamists coming into his country.”

    What he was angry about was that the newcomers were allowed to keep their own intolerant culture unchanged, and the indigents were the ones required to adapt. Multi-culturism requires *mutual* tolerance to work.

    “Historically, it seems that most “shared cultures” are one culture imposing it’s values on everyone in the vicinity.”

    Yes. That’s how they work. All the other cultures being imposed upon are trying to do the same thing, though.

    ” In fact, the US prides itself on divisiveness and no one being the same.”

    The US prides itself on a culture of individualism emphasising individual freedom. The problem culture seeks to solve is that people want to do things that the rest of society wants to stop them doing. The boundaries define who gets their way on each issue. The US tends to push the boundaries as far as they can towards letting people do what they want, but this is a perfectly viable (and historically successful) solution, that fits perfectly into the general pattern. US culture works like all the other cultures work. You’re not doing anything wrong, and the idea works fine.

  10. Actually, I agree with most of what you wrote. It is what it is. We try to change it, but we may not succeed.

    Yes, having morals is “bad” is a value judgment. However, morals are the antithesis of amoral, so I think in this case it’s more descriptive that judgmental.

    History seems to indicate that the more personal freedom people have, the further into chaos the society goes unless it is paired with personal responsibility (which it is not in the US). Societies do seem to move from responsible to more of the “spoiled child, I want my way” and eventually bring themselves down. Unfortunately, the “spoiled brat” appeal, once it gains momentum, if usually the strongest. I do think we are just doing what we have always done–go from good choices to selfish choices. After a while, we decline to a point that we have to get along again to survive. It is pretty much natural and I don’t know that there is anything that will actually stop it.

  11. ” After a while, we decline to a point that we have to get along again to survive. It is pretty much natural and I don’t know that there is anything that will actually stop it.”

    Sheri, I like your comments and being an optimist I think that the pendulum is already beginning to swing the other way in the direction of hope and away from cynicism and despair. Through discussions like these we can perhaps form a new social contract.

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