Does The Globe and Mail Recognize a Woman?

This is a reply to an opinion piece in The Globe and Mail by Denise Balkissoon. A lack of logic has to be called out. See the article here.

 

  1. “Woman” has never ever been “an evolving, contentious term,” contrary to Denise Balkissoon’s contention. The following sentence in her illogical opinion piece purports to offer evidence, but arguments that women are inherently physically or intellectual weaker than men are not arguments that women are not women. If anything, they are arguments that women are not quite human. People have never had the slightest problem distinguishing women from men when they have wanted to oppress or exploit them. Is it an accident that sex trafficking rings never capture a few males in their net that they have to throw overboard like undersize fish? Simple good luck that men intent on raping a woman don’t go through a male or two before they finally find the female they want?
  2. Balkissoon then defines feminism as “truly equity-seeking”. This may be her definition, but it is not the foundational definition of feminism, which was originally also called the “women’s liberation movement”. Feminism strives to liberate females from male oppression. If boys and men are also liberated, so much the better, but that is a bonus.
  3. Ms.B. then condemns MM for targeting “sex workers”, including by calling them prostitutes. Feminists do not refer to prostituted women as “sex workers” because that is a euphemism coined by pimps to erase the boundary between the exploited and the exploiters. The voices of the exploited have been amply recorded – they want out of the sex trade.
  4. Ms.B.Ms says MM claims (confusingly??) that “sharing protections largely won by non-transgender women with trans and non-binary people somehow dilutes them”. Uh huh. By “non-transgender woman”, Ms. B presumably means “woman”? To share protections won by women with males does by definition and logic not just dilute them but eliminate them — since the protections are for women from men. Can we not all agree with that?
  5. Ms.B. asks to be spared discussions of biology. May I ask what Ms. B. thinks the purpose, in evolutionary terms, of sex categories is? AfaIk, they has only one purpose, which is reproduction of the species. We reproduce with our bodies. Thus only discussions of biology apply. One adult human female copulating with one adult human male can result in the creation of a third human. This is biology. And infertile and menopausal females remain part of their biological class in the same way that infertile and even castrated men remain male
  6. We use bodies rather than minds to procreate. But we use our minds to desire, to want and to imagine. When a man imagines woman, imagines he can be a woman, desires to be a woman, desires to be recognized as a woman and applies his will to making this happen, well that is when he creates a totalitarian trans cult. And that’s where we are today.

When Journalism Fails: The Tyee’s Article on Jenn Smith’s Victoria Talk

Time was newspaper journalists were expected to cover the news without bias. That they failed to do so because they couldn’t recognize their own bias was an important insight that feminists recognized in the seventies. Enough has not been done to right the wrongs committed against women when majority male journalists still dominate the major news channels.

It is clear by now that one factor that contributed to Hilary Clinton’s loss in the U.S. was that no one could hear her message. Despite a website that detailed that message in numerous pages full of detail (too full of detail some men griped) neither men nor women can “hear” when a woman speaks. Sometimes I think we might as well just open and close our mouths silently for all the good our words do.

Still, when journalists do know their own biases and allow them to infiltrate their  writing when that writing is still posing as “objective”, there is a significant danger to the public. There must be some way that we can receive descriptions of current events as stripped as possible of prejudice and self-interest. It’s only with the assistance of untainted facts that the public can try to make up its own mind about current issues.

So Andrew MacLeod’s article in the latest issue of The Tyee, a generally respected Vancouver online newspaper, was just the latest failure to give the public what it needs – this time about an issue that  threatens to remake societies to an unprecedented degree and which most Canadians remain unaware of precisely because mainstream media is ignoring it .

Look at the title:

BC’s Increasingly Bizarre Anti-SOGI Bandwagon

Foes of teaching inclusive sexual identity now include a transgender man guarded by Soldiers of Odin, and other alt-righters.

Calling a movement a “bandwagon” immediately positions it as lacking credibility, something that ignorant people jump onto without insight or analysis. It suggests that there is no credible analysis of SOGI (the province’s sexual orientation and gender identity guidance) that could conclude that it has problems. And the sub-heading makes clear that this article will characterize those critical of SOGI as far-right neo-nazi males (and perhaps their female handmaidens).

MacLeod reports that Jenn Smith is opposed to teaching children about sexual orientation and gender identity. I suspect that is not correct. I suspect that Smith opposes only the teachings regarding gender identity, which MacLeod quotes in the following paragraph. I am particularly interested in the next paragraph, where MacLeod paraphrases Smith’s position:

“He denies outright that people can transition their gender, and it’s that lack of acceptance, the assertion that transgender people are not who they believe they are, that people on the other side of the debate find hateful.”

It’s in regard to claims like this that journalists really do their jobs – to research the claims and report on their veracity or lack thereof. MacLeod does not; in fact he augments that claim with his own interpretations, that a denial that people can transition their gender marks a  “lack of acceptance” and includes a claim that “trans people are not who they believe they are.” I’m not sure what he means by a “lack of acceptance”. If he means the denial of the idea marks a lack of acceptance of that idea, well that would seem tautological. So why does he say it?

His comment that a denial that people can transition their gender includes the belief that trans people are not “who” they are is not justified and adds an incendiary element to Smith’s assertions. Smith is denying not who but what trans people are. Trans-identified males. are. not . females. That is his assertion.

Can this claim be found to be true or false? It can be. Mainstream, reputable scientists are united in stating that humans, like all mammals, are sexually dimorphous. That is, we come in two and only two sexes. Male and female are exclusive categories, defined by a cluster of attributes, all relating to reproduction. Though not every male or every female has all the attributes of the cluster, in general we can say that all males and no females have the y chromosome.

It is impossible for a male. to be or to become. female.

This is what the trans lobby finds hateful, and what they would like to shut down. This statement of scientific fact should be included in every article and news video about trans issues. It is never included.

Instead the unproven and unprovable myths of the trans activists are repeated – “I am a woman in a man’s body”, or “I’m female so my testicles and penis are female” or “I have a female brain in a male body”. That there are at least three different claims is simply evidence that there is nothing to hang any of the claims on.

But then science can only prove hypotheses about material, physical reality. Like sex. Everything else is metaphysical — pertaining to such non physical possibilities as soul, spirit, consciousness, mind, an afterlife. SOGI is a metaphysical document, beginning with its starting claim that we all have a gender identity.

But the bulk of the article returns to discussion of the threat of far right extremism and insists on linking far right extremism with the criticisms of those, like Smith, who are critical of the education ministry’s teaching of the trans ideology to children. This exemplifies the refusal to not just ignore women’s voices, but to not even hear them. When education minister Rob Fleming says it’s not surprising one extremist group should attract others, he is displaying a breathtakingly misogynist attitude.

Anyone paying attention should know by now that increasing numbers of women – feminists, lesbians and mothers – are alarmed by the giving away of women’s rights as well as the endangering of children by the trans ideology’s adherents.  And Smith himself is part of a growing group of  transsexual males who know they are male. All of these critics of trans ideology are more likely to vote to the left of centre than to the right.

But characterize your opponents arguments as “phobic”, and your opponents as scary alt-rigters and you don’t have to deal with them or their arguments. The protesters at Smith’s talk prevented him from speaking. They considered that a victory. And now the BC NPD, through its Vice President, is trying to make the dissemination of biological facts, as well as debates about the impact of trans rights on women’s rights a hate crime. As I speak, The Tyee has removed all comments critical of gender ideology from its comments page, marking them as spam.

That the government is pushing dogma and censoring speech is alarming enough, but when the free press aids in this crime instead of challenging it, liberal democracy is quivering on the floor. They can shoot the messenger with a hail of bullets, but the only corpse is  democracy.

Follow this link to facts and myths about trans ideology. http://transfacts.blogspot.com/

 

 

 

A Brief History of Innate Ideas

 

We’ve been living in the latest version of western civilization for about 400 years now. For those who don’t follow philosophy, it’s called “modernity” and it’s been possibly the most destructive period of time in human history, having encompassed a handful of empires, at least a couple of attempted genocides and two world wars.

It began, more or less, with the ideas of two men, the  theologian John Calvin and the philosopher Rene Descartes. The first good and thoroughly booted the sacred feminine out of the long-standing culture known as Christendom, and the second all but booted out the sacred masculine.

I would like to consider Descartes’ theory of innate ideas, because I think it applies to the current notion of transgender identities. Descartes is famous for kick-starting the scientific rationalism of this modern age with the concept of doubt. He purported to doubt everything, including the existence of God, and then to work his way to a method of knowing what was real and what was not.

He eventually decided that we all have an innate idea of God, and because we have this innate idea, we can be assured that God must exist. An innate idea cannot be proven to be true or false, real or imaginary. It exists outside of reason. You believe it or you don’t. But he called innate ideas “clear and distinct” and gave them validity.

His philosophy was of grave concern to the established Roman Catholic church, as well as to the recently founded protestant denominations, most of which were influenced by the theology of Calvin.

The problem was that the innate idea of God was and must be a pretty stripped down idea. It doesn’t include all the accoutrements invented by the Christian tradition and clinging like barnacles onto the idea of God. The three gods-in-one doctrine, which was a necessary belief for any church in the Christian tradition. The crucifixation of one of those three for the purpose of the salvation of all humanity.  The punishment of humanity after the Eden debacle. The holy communion, whether literally the blood and flesh of Christ, or only a memory aid. None of these are implied by an innate idea of God.

In fact, as was pointed out fairly quickly, if all people have an innate idea of God, then who is to say which is the right one. Is there even a right one?

This led to a hundred or so years of pretty violent and vicious philosophical “debate”. It got personal. It was as ugly as the transgender wars on twitter. People were threatened with physical violence, and with the loss of their jobs (typically as philosophy profs at various universities).

Eventually the men who populated the public domain decided it was better to stop arguing the inarguable, and to look instead to ideas and theories that could be either logically proven/disproven, or were verifiable by observation and experiment. This was the philosophy of empiricism and it pretty much said to confine yourself to hypotheses that could be proven or disproven.

If we translate that sequence of events to today’s issues, we may conclude that the idea that we all have an innate gender is basically an innate idea, and like innate ideas, it can’t be proven or disproven. So maybe we should again confine ourselves to what we can prove. We know all humans, like all mammals, come in two biological sexes.

It could be argued that all the destruction of the last 400 years was and continues to be motivated by the greed and power-hunger of patriarchy. It could also be argued that it was all due to people (Europeans) insisting that they were innately superior and others (Jews, the indigenous peoples of the Americas, Asians, Africans) were innately inferior. Or insisting that their innate ideas (their God, their cultural and intellectual artifacts) were superior and that of others were inferior. All unprovable.

The thing about empiricism is that, if practiced rigourously, it doesn’t pander to anyone’s ego.

I vote that, as far as sex and gender go, we stick to what’s verifiable. If gender is innate, afterall, then children are born transgender, and it would be best to discover that as early as possible so that a massive medical assault can be initiated as soon as possible. Do we really want to consign thousands upon thousands of children to toxic drugs,  suppressed puberty, and multiple surgeries because of an illness that can’t be detected or verified by any scientific testing?

 

 

 

The Patriarchal Rage

I’ve been thinking about the trans male whose rage at being called “Sir” instead of “Ma’am” by a store clerk has been on display all over Twitter. I wonder how it must feel to spend thousands of dollars on multiple surgeries, to have oneself castrated, and still to be seen for what one is — a man.

Surgery is an assault on the body, and since the consciousness (that non-material aspect of self) is intermingled with the body, surgery is also an assault on consciousness. What must it feel like to subject yourself multiple times to this invasion, and still have people see you for what you are — a man?

Trans males are showing how they feel by lashing out in rage.

But anger, rage, is a “cover” emotion. It’s the easiest of the emotions to feel, especially for men, because it’s associated with power. An angry man might just kill someone; if he’s angry enough he can do it with his bare hands or with his boots.

But anger is almost always hiding another, much less palatable emotion. In the stages of grief, anger is the first emotion after denial. And I think anger and denial are often tangled up with each other. Anger is a defense against the truth.

One of the most destructive consequences of the demands of patriarchy is male rage, which has become the only emotion men are allowed to feel. Without permission to feel what’s underneath, men can never get beyond the anger.

What’s under anger is often, if not usually, a cluster of emotions associated with helplessness — sadness, despair, emotional pain, grief. I think anyone who has allowed themselves to experience grief itself, the stark searing pure unadulterated pain of it, knows that it is a “clearing” emotion. It is rock-bottom. It is bedrock. Once you hit it, you are ready to let go of something.

What we have to let go of is almost always some kind of want. We realize we can’t have what we want (that may be life itself, if we’re grieving the loss of a loved one’s life, or the impending loss of our own). In this way we are helpless. Human life is driven by want, by desire, and yet we are all helpless to make the world give us what we want.

To grieve is to recognize and accept the limitations of our human ability. It is to stop striving for something we can’t have. But it is also to be face to face with truth. And that can be like facing god. It is so rare that it is revelatory.

It seems to me that the truth for trans males is that they can’t become women, and most of the time they can’t even be (mis)perceived as women. If they could get under their own anger, they could experience the “clearing” power of grief and arrive at acceptance of the truth. Then they could actually become “real men”, which is to say they could become more fully human, less trapped in their learned masculinity, more open to the  femininity which is so much more than a costume.

In a related vein, a recent article in Quillette by Geoff Dench (published posthumously) made the point that with gains in women’s rights and liberties, many men are feeling dispensable and are responding by refusing to grow up. The author felt the solution was to bind women back to men. Families, he pompously opined, are what give men a sense of purpose and meaning. So strengthen them by depriving women of the ability to support themselves and any children they may have on their own.

I think this is another example of male denial of the truth, which is that men are actually dispensable. Yes, they are. Like males of any mammalian species, they have only one and a half purposes. The one is to participate in procreation. The half is to defend females. I call it only a “half” because they need to protect females only from other males.

Women are also dispensable, once their children have reached maturity. Women have to deal with this, and so we see lots of middle-aged women re-evaluating the purpose and direction of their lives. No one is indispensable. Once we face this stark truth, we can try to find ways to make our lives meaningful to ourselves. Personally I think that’s the point of life. How might men’s choices change if they could accept that the only person to whom they are indispensable is themselves?

Woman as scarecrow

I’m reading a historical document from the 1960’s, a feminist article by Marlene Dixon, in which she describes what it is to be a woman:

“They know their lives are mutilated, because they see within themselves a promise of creativity and personal integration. Feeling the contradiction between the essentially creative and self-actualizing human being within her, and the cruel and degrading less-than-human role she is compelled to play, a woman begins to perceive the falseness of what her society has forced her to be. And once she perceives this, she knows that she must fight.”

Notice there’s a definition of woman here — a creative and self-actualizing human being forced to play a less-than-human role. Those were the days when it was still possible to define woman, the days when only misogynist gay men denigrated women with the term “breeder” — unlike today when we’re supposed to accept being called “menstruator” or “bleeder” or “vagina-holder” or simply “non-men”.

So I began to wonder what males see when they look at a woman. It’s pretty clear that a significant portion of males don’t see the essentially creative female human striving to actualize her potential, to grow in wisdom through searching for meaning. Trxns males, in particular, show what they see in how they present womanhood. They see only the skin, the costume. They claim a dress, a wig as woman — this is colonization as much as Europeans who, coming to American, saw only empty land, blind to the humans on the land engaged in the perpetual human task of wresting meaning from an infinite universe.

The fact that almost all the  male-dominated institutions of the public world accept this means it’s not only trxns males  who see women as nothing more than scarecrows, clothing stuffed with straw.

But you know, perception is subjective. What we see is often a reflection of ourselves, rather than the reality. If a man sees woman as straw, is that because he feels himself to be nothing but a sack of the same? If so there is no greater representation of the male lack than the trxns male decked out in makeup and heels.

I think a  case can be made that many modern western males are alienated. Capitalist patriarchy has seduced them for generations with roles that are supposed to gratify their egos: jobs that offer status and importance, and the role of “head” of a family. But a lot of men don’t expect to find meaning in work anymore. They’ve become disenchanted. We all know that if you want someone to talk about a job, hire a man, but if you want someone to do the job, hire a woman. And many women have no need anymore of a second head plopped on top of their own. A woman can do anything a man can do, and frequently better. So what role does a man have these days?

Women, on the other hand, have been fuelled by a couple of decades of “grrrrrl-power”, and special programs to boost girls’ self-esteem. Doors are still opening for women, and there’s excitement to being first at something. First high-profile defense attorney, first attorney-general, first neuro-surgeon, first presidential candidate. Women don’t hollow themselves out in pursuit of these goals. We continue to feel emotions, to monitor our inner state, to question whether what we’re doing is giving a sense of fulfillment. One thing patriarchy has not taken from us is an inner life.

But that’s exactly what patriarchy has taken from men. So when there is nothing external for them to hang onto, no job or role that tells them they’re important or valuable, they have nothing else. Straw men, that’s what we’re dealing with. Straw men who hate the women who are excited, dynamic, bravely pushing past barriers. Straw men who have to remind us over and over again that while we may *think* we’re important or successful or valuable, but we’re really just pieces of meat. A little sexual harassment accomplishes that very well.

And for those that don’t have that opportunity, there’s the ultimate ploy. Colonize the costume of “woman”, parade it in front of women to rub our noses in the image you have of us, the image you want us to have of ourselves. If that’s the case, trxns males are jealous of women. And they’re trying to drag us down to their level of hollowness and cynicism.

Finally, trxns males are ditching the responsibilities of manhood, which are the same as those of womanhood — to find some meaning and purpose to life on a tiny planet at the edge of a huge and indifferent universe. And while they disown the responsibilities, they’re holding on to the priviledges.

So there he is — pretending to be a woman as he lords it over us. Because he’s jealous. And because joining women as we conquer worlds would demean him. A sack of straw blowing away in the wind.

How “man” renders men invisible

I recently came across an article by Clifford J. Green on the German Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was involved in the German resistance to the Nazis and was eventually imprisoned and killed by them. Bonhoeffer questioned at length his own desire to be a Christian theologian, and Green argues that the personal issues Bonhoeffer faced in himself became part of his theology. That’s the overall thrust of Green’s article.

I was interested in how Bonhoeffer analyzed his own self-perceived egocentricity. He describes an egocentric as (1) “a man of impressive power” who (2) “dominates others”, viewing them as “things”. This way of relating to others (3) violates human relationships and destroys community. His conscience, instead of repairing what he destroys, (4)justifies his “autocratic solitude”.

The word “man” is used by both Bonhoeffer and Green as if it refers to humanity in general. But I ask you, does this four-fold analysis describe women? When Bonhoeffer generalized from what he saw in himself, does anyone think he considered women? Of course not. The idea is ludicrous.

YET — in pretending to talk about humanity through terms like “man”, academics like Bonhoeffer and Green lose the opportunity to discover insights about men.

Bonhoeffer made his remarks in the 1930’s. Green’s article appeared in 1967. Even though exactly the same thing continues to happen, I thought this article showed particularly clearly how men — in failing to see women — fail to see themselves.

Bonhoeffer’s analysis  is an acute indictment of patriarchally-conditioned masculinity. I am particularly struck by his conclusions regarding male “autocratic solitude”. It makes perfect sense that when people seek power to dominate others, they can have no true relationships with others. Masters and slaves aren’t intimate with each other, and that includes when the master is the husband, and the slave is his wife. As a consequence, men are alone. And lonely.

Recent male commentators are starting to suspect that men join misogynist and racist hate groups primarily for a sense of belonging. How desperately lonely do you have to be to join misogynist MRA groups where participants howl out their pain over lack of female companionship? Does serial rape fill the void in the heart?

I doubt that the patriarchy can be dismantled without male cooperation. So I think it’s essential that men figure out that they are half the human race only, and start paying attention to the other half. By that I don’t mean paying attention to women’s sexuality, or to all the other ways that men have coerced women into serving them.

I mean paying attention to them as if they were just as autonomous as men, living their own lives for self-directed purposes. I mean referring to men as men, not as “menandwomen”, thus leaving open a space for women. And I mean becoming curious about what’s in that space.

“Masculinity” , when it’s confused with “humanity” through such words as “mankind” is, if anything, anti-humanity. That’s because it offers the human being as a uniped rather than a biped ( to use a very appropriate metaphor). Human beings’ personalities comprise countless attributes. Men in patriarchy divided them all into two large categories — the masculine and the feminine. These categories are ideas only. They don’t actually exist.

Still, the world men see contains people with the “leg” of femininity bent and bound at the knee, forcing people to stump along on only the “leg” of masculinity. It doesn’t work. Humanity has not progressed since patriarchy began about 8000 years ago; it simply cycles between less brutal and more brutal. We cannot progress until men unbind the “leg” of femininity and unpack and legitimize the contents of that category.

Both men and women need the attributes of both categories. Feminine compassion without masculine discernment leads to the enabling of all kinds of things that should be contained rather than enabled. And masculine judgement without feminine empathy leads to state-sanctioned murder.

The problems with identity

The subtitle of this blog is “deconstructing identity and culture”. The culture part is patriarchy of course. But in these days of “identity politics”, of identity being used as a weapon for exclusion or inclusion, of the proliferation of ideas about identity, I think it’s time I said something about why I feel identity needs to be deconstructed.

Identity is more or less a synonym for what Freud called the “ego”. He coined the word to describe that part of the self that says “I”. In other words the part of us that recognizes ourselves as autonomous and discrete on the one hand, and a unified package consistent over time on the other. That is our sense of self, or of identity as a self.

It’s a challenge to develop a healthy ego/identity/sense of self, and that development is overwhelmingly affected by external circumstances. It takes years for a child to accept that she (or he) is autonomous and discrete, separate from all others. It’s frightening. It means that in some way we are alone on the planet, in the universe. That “alone-ity” can be terrifying. Those who can’t handle it become needy and clingy, always looking for someone to merge with. Then look at whose job it is to guide the young through the journey to selfhood. Ordinary people. Flawed people. People with all kinds of ideas about how to do it. People who don’t care. People who are themselves needy, who’ve had children for the purpose of keeping the aloneness away.

The end result is an ego that is a mess of scar tissue. Wounds to the sense of self can’t be undone, only covered up. Our sense of identity, then, often becomes a clutch of claims we make to make ourselves feel like we matter. It’s like saying, “if I am a discrete, autonomous individual then I want to be a special one, an important one, I want my difference from others to be significant.” But that means we’re not truly autonomous. A truly autonomous being simply gets on with life, being who they are without having to make claims about who they are or measuring themselves against others.

A lot of these claims are really limiting, and I think one purpose they serve is to create walls to box us in like the walls of a house. They’re comforting and they ensure we don’t have to experience the infinity of time and space, which is really, really scary. Think about “identifying” simply as one of billions of human beings who have lived on the planet earth — an outlier planet in the milky way galaxy which is itself an outlier galaxy in the bit of the universe our machines have access to — over the past million or so years. Talk about reducing your importance to nothing.

So on the one hand we make identity claims to make a place for ourselves in the universe and in our specific time and place, in our society. But that brings us back to the second problem, which is that identity is created through interaction with a world of other people. I’m referring now not to the flawed immediate family, but to the public, political world. This world is not unbiased. The world around us has an agenda.

No society wants authentic members. No society wants people of integrity. No society wants self-aware people.

What society wants are copies of itself. It wants people who fit into easy stereotypes.  It wants to tell you the size and shape of your box and amputate parts of you until you fit. It wants people who conform, which means people who are controllable. If you want to be authentic, it’s likely you’ll need to withdraw from society so that you can try to liberate yourself from its expectations.

And while we go about making claims about our identity, society is also making claims about our identity. Society identifies us largely by externals: as male/female, white/brown/black, rich/poor, sophisticated/ignorant, handsome/ugly, fat/slim. In that way it imposes identity on us. Then our identity is a box that imprisons us.

Most of us don’t identify with large parts of ourselves. Who identifies as a liar? As a cheat? As selfish? In order to maintain a sense of identity that makes us feel good about ourselves we have to tell ourselves lots of lies because, frankly, most of us are selfish lying cheats, aren’t we?

Identity becomes a barrier to authenticity and to genuine individuation. Our sense of identity stops us from growing up.

Most spiritual paths are about either transcending or dissolving the ego self. Whether or not you think there’s anything “spiritual”, the fact that lots of humans have thought getting beyond the ego was a good thing is itself evidence that the ego self is a problem.

So I think personal happiness and fulfillment requires that we explore who we are beyond identity. But there’s yet another permutation to the problem of identity. If we “identify” in some ways acceptable to our families and to our culture, we perpetuate that culture. When that culture is as harmful and destructive as patriarchy, we bring that destructiveness inside ourselves in order to replicate it outside of ourselves. We internalize patriarchy.

If we want to end patriarchy we need to deconstruct our patriarchally-constructed identities. We need to find ways to be human that go beyond the limitations of identity.