Uncivil Warring

by | August 20, 2015

I don’t understand the common obsession with everything Kardashian. Now, it’s not that I don’t have my guilty pleasures, my taste in music for instance, is crap. I have always liked crappy pop songs, and I probably don’t want to hear x band’s first album… before they went mainstream…

Maybe I am just gettin old, but the idea of dumping your private life onto the internet, for mass consumption, seems not only narcissistic, but also masochistic. Why anyone would want fame at all… I don’t know. (I am happy to accept cash, but it will have to be the real kind, as we don’t monetize your clicks here at CA)

I guess this is a strange attitude for a sometime blogger, as quite a lot of my kind lean towards the reality tv drama model of blogging. This manifested recently over at Freethought Blogs. They had a bit of a civil war and lost a couple soldiers in the process (as of this writing, Ophelia Benson and Ed Brayton are no longer with FtB). The short version: Ophelia Benson made some comments, that some commenters and some of her fellow bloggers as well, interpreted as meaning ‘transwomen are not women’. I won’t get into the details, its a convoluted mess of accusations and counter accusations.

It does bring up a problem however that faces atheists these days. I’m no social justice warrior, but I do, at times, see value in what the kids call ‘social justice’, even if the more extreme politically-correct-macro-agressions against free speech, annoy me.

But…are transwomen… women? Oh boy!

Science doesn’t really have much of an answer. Trans… is a real thing, but what it is, what makes someone trans, and what that means with regards to society, is a bit beyond any current models of neuroscience.

Even if we could pin it down biologically, and someday we might, that doesn’t really tell us how we should treat trans individuals, and that, in my opinion is the real question of what makes a woman… in this context.

The traditional definition is binary, of course, humans can be separated into one of two boxes, the man box and the woman box. This works fine if you believe that God created Adam and Eve and so we should all, unless we sin, fit neatly into one or the other… but atheism, and modern science, complicate the shit out of things.

While the vast majority of people do indeed fit into these boxes just fine, there is a significant minority who either don’t fit in their traditional box, possibly fit into both boxes, or fit into neither. These outliers are problematic in a society based on two simple boxes. So what do we do with them? How do we treat them?

There would seem to be some logical options.
A) Expand the boxes until they include everyone
B) Create more boxes
C) Put everyone in one box, with most at either end, and some in the middleish part.
D) Venn the shit out of everyone

Ophelia Benson has essentially been accused of option B, where you add either a trans box, or transwoman and transman boxes to the equation. On the surface this seems reasonable, but ‘separate but equal’ has a history of not working so well, and people like Caitlin Jenner, for instance, seem to want option A, where they are included in the box they ‘identify’ with. This is a problem for some feminists(TERFs) who see this as giving ground in the war of the sexes, accepting privileged usurpers. For them, expanding boxes is not acceptable, as it would be akin to accepting ‘trans-racial’ identities, people who no matter their commitment to an identity, are REALLY just putting on blackface and posing.

There is a further problem. Even though many transpeople want the traditional boxes expanded for them, some are a lot less happy about where drag queens and cross-dressers fit into these bigger boxes.

Is a man in drag a woman? or just while in drag? Or not at all?
Is dragqueen another box?

Option C seems the simpler solution, one box, with a ‘spectrum’… but all-too-human tribalistic turf wars, that have their roots in personal identity, and personal trauma, rarely end with simple solutions. People tend to dig in their heels even more when such fundamental things are personal identity are questioned.

Logically, identity is after all, all about excluding.
A and not-A.

And when it comes to personal identity, it is going to get personal.

TERFs exclude transwomen, because their focus is on men vs. women, and that narrative is so important them, that giving any ground is seen as a betrayal, and some trans people exclude drag and crossdressing, because it is seen as pretending, and they see that as mocking their ‘genuine’ identity.

Now, I’ve lived in Toronto for a while, and although I’m not part of what I will call the ‘Pride community’, I have seen other fault lines within it. Some homosexuals devalue bisexuals, on the basis that Bi’s are really gay, but trying to pass as straight, or that they are just experimenting, goin through a gay phase. And some bisexuals I have met claim that everyone is ‘really’ bi, but is either just repressed or narrowminded. Just give it a try… and you’ll like it.

Myself, I’m practical, I listen to my penis when it comes to attraction. It likes the ladies, but really only a small subset of subjectively attractive women. It has never responded positively to the idea of a transwoman, but hey, if you read the weeklies, you know, there are plenty of guys out there who are attracted to… the outliers… and are willing to pay for it. Not always so flattering, that, but true.

Science doesn’t know much about sexual orientation either.
Why am I straight and not gay, or bi?
Are there 2 boxes, 3 or 4? Or just one?

Ultimately I think the divisions are subjective and arbitrary, that how we make the divisions depends more on what we value most, what is most important to us as individuals, rather than any naturally occuring boxes.

I remember reading about Rachel Dolezal and feeling bad for her. She clearly has family problems, and her ‘black identity’ seemed sadly escapist to me. And I can understand why a lot of people ‘born black’ or ‘raised black’ might reject her because they see the historically repugnant blackface, when they look at her. But I also have to wonder, that if human race is really just biologically superficial, and if we are all the same on the inside, and culture is learned, and even our neurons have plasticity, how does excluding people make things better?

Scots may wear kilts, but no true scotsMAN wears a dress.

If we insist on keeping others off of our self-claimed turf, aren’t uncivil wars inevitable?

2 thoughts on “Uncivil Warring

  1. billybob

    It is not about how we want to group people.

    Our limited cognitive abilities require that we create groups. We use binary concepts like good and bad because dealing with the grey between the two would require to much brain power. The same with groups, they are a way to organize the interact with the world with minimal mental resources.

    Whatever option you pick is irrelevant as the physical limits of our brains will dictate how we respond. Probably the minimum number of groups that is functional.

    You use the word feminist to describe a diverse group of women because you would require thousands of classifications to accurately describe their positions on the issues. To much info for us to deal with.

    On a scale of 1-7 what kind of atheist are you; are you hard, medium soft? Medium soft? Medium soft soft? Hard hard medium?

    We could create dozens of words to refine what type of atheist a person is but they will go away as it is simply easier to group them into the atheist group.

    It is about physical reality not what we want.

    1. Joe Post author

      Deciding on using a two group system vs a three or four group system is not about brain power. Generally, adult human brains can handle numbers under 5 without too much trouble. No need for greyscale.

      I used the phrase ‘some feminists’ actually. And specifically referenced TERFs. So no, #notallfeminists.

      I prefer scrambled atheist, once you have hit enough atheists in the head with a baseball bat, you realize they are all equally soft.

      Also there is this thing called science, which actually allows us to change physical reality, thus we have such things as sex changes.


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