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  Jonathan Best takes a shot at framing some of the key issues in this debate.  From first hand experience, I have to agree with what Mr.Best has to say.  There is very little oxygen available to question, and even less to argue the trans-interpretation of sex and gender.

 

The philosopher Kathleen Stock has written extensively on these issues. Here’s her explanation of what is usually termed a ‘gender critical’ view:

Here is one position held by many radical feminists. It holds that what it is to be a woman is to have a certain biological and reproductive nature, involving female sex organs and a female reproductive system, and to be economically, socially, politically, and sexually oppressed on that basis. This view therefore concludes… that transwomen, though fully in possession of all basic human rights (obviously!), and also deserving of respectful treatment as if they are women in many social contexts, are not in fact women. Simply put: they don’t have the required biology, nor do they have the required history of oppression on the basis of that biology.

And, on the other hand, the transgender view:

In contrast, there are those metaphysical positions which argue that transwomen are women. These usually argue that women’s biologies and reproductive capacities are not essential to their nature as women. People with penises and testicles and no female reproductive characteristics can be women.

Gender critical views argue that biological sex is of primary importance. The opposing view, central to transgenderism, argues that biological sex is irrelevant. This question was at the heart of the QUN dispute: Michigan Womyn’s Festival took the view that biological sex was central, whereas the activists who protested QUN took the opposing view.

This question has taken on a fresh urgency with the planned reform of the 2004 Gender Recognition Act. This proposes writing into law the concept of ‘gender identity’ — one of the newer ideas in transgender ideology, and one which is strongly resisted by those holding gender critical views.

Stonewall defines gender identity as follows:

A person’s innate sense of their own gender, whether male, female or something else, which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned at birth.

But not everyone agrees that gender is innate. Many people — me included — prefer to see gender as a social construction, a hierarchy, which disadvantages women (and, in some ways, men too) and against which we should struggle. Rather than identify with it, we want to fight it.

You may or may not have an innate sense of your own gender. It isn’t for me — or anyone else — to tell you how you should feel or think on the subject. Likewise, those of us who wish to resist or deny the concept are deeply unhappy at the prospect of it being written into law.


When new ideas emerge in society there is usually discussion about them. It’s a sound general principle — the best way to evaluate new ideas is to explore them critically and freely. These issues of sex and gender are of importance to society as a whole. Women especially will want to debate all of this. Surely we can agree that women should have the right to discuss it?

But that is not how this is playing out.

Instead of open, respectful discussion, today’s trans activism too often seeks to prevent women from discussing the issues in trans ideology which directly affect their lives.

Exactly.  Preventing discussion and persecuting women for objecting to their linguistic and biological erasure from society isn’t a good policy to follow and thankfully, everyday, the opposition grows against this misogynistic strand of Transactivism.

The grand colours of the atheist movement seem washed out to me. The great debates, the vibrant speakers, the literature now all seem distant and far removed from the present.  One of the touchstones I fondly remember though, is the Intelligence squared debate, a spirited affair in which both sides did their best to persuade the audience of the validity of their respective positions. Here it is again, in case you missed it.

Wow.

The oration, the rhetoric, the impassioned defences. Fantastic stuff. But more importantly, I think the debate spoke to people. Certainly no one deconverts or converts on the basis of one debate, but the possibility of this being a beginning (either way) is there.

What I see and feel now is the utter lack of space to grapple with ideas and ideologies. Certainly here at DWR we have planted our stakes and, over the years, made it abundantly clear that religion is too sweet a poison that has no place in a civilized society.

Yet, taking a peek at the handy wordpress blog feed, one can develop a nasty case of carpal tunnel just scrolling through the assorted god bothering and religious ballyhoo that religious individuals vomit up, in a endless stream. It is faintly disheartening to see the lack of progress we as a civilization are making on moving toward dispelling the fairy tales of the past. It makes me think, to a certain extent, that we are wired for belief in compelling narratives rather than seeing the world as it is.

We used to have a regular contingent here at DWR of believers who earnestly (sometimes not so earnestly) would state the case for religion, it made for a lively time in the comments section. But now that’s mostly gone, at least in the case of religion. It is understandable, who wants to be told that their worldview is the bunk-y-est of bunk and be shown exactly why their arguments do not hold up.

I get that.  But preaching to the choir, so to speak, has its limits.  It gets boring after awhile.

Lately though, not just in the religious arena, but in politics and feminism as well the move toward the calcification and crystallization of viewpoints and ideology seems to be cutting people off from each other. The chance to have one’s arguments and ideas rub up against opposing views is a fraught with hyperbolic statements and condemnations. The idea that atheists eat babies comes to mind and other assorted religious misreadings of atheist positions.

But the climate now is different.  We’re all going full-tribal now and withdrawing from the sphere of public debate and the informative acrimony that goes along with contentious issues.

Instead of debate, interactions seem more like the lobbing for rhetorical grenades back and forth between groups and individuals, looking for the ‘ah-ha I win’ rhetorical riposte which does little, or close to nothing to move the issue in question forward.

Let’s be clear here, I am responsible for my fair share of rhetorical grenades – see the RPOJ tag here – but is that paradigm the only way forward?

Moving forward seems much more difficult now as so many issues in society now are extremely partisan in nature and don’t even fall into the category of ‘contentious’  because the sides are so firmly ensconced in their respective positions.  It seems like one of the by-products of the atomization of our consumerist society is the deadening of the public sphere and concomitantly the exposure to other points of view that, in terms of intellectual maturity and growth, are vital to the health of society.

Who wins when we cannot listen to each other and respectfully disagree?

 

Very similar to debating dudes who can’t get their brains around the notion that patriarchy exists.

religionscience

   The points of view put forward here represent the thinking of an individual that does not believe in the political process, and one that believes that change can come from inside the process.  Fascinating stuff.

 

CHRIS HEDGES: Well, that’s precisely what we’re trying to do. There is a point where you have to—do I want to keep quoting Ralph?—but where you have to draw a line in the sand. And that’s part of the problem with the left, is we haven’t.

I covered the war in Yugoslavia, and I find many parallels between what’s happening in the United States and what happened with the breakdown of Yugoslavia. What is it that caused this country to disintegrate? It wasn’t ancient ethnic hatreds. It was the economic meltdown of Yugoslavia and a bankrupt liberal establishment that, after the death of Tito, until 1989 or 1990, spoke in the language of democracy, but proved ineffectual in terms of dealing with the plight of working men and women who were cast out of state factories, huge unemployment and, finally, hyperinflation.

And the fact is that these neoliberal policies, which the Democratic Party is one of the engines for, have created this right-wing fascialism. You can go back—this proto-fascism. You can go back and look at the Weimar, and it—Republic—was very much the same. So it’s completely counterintuitive. Of course I find Trump a vile and disturbing and disgusting figure, but I don’t believe that voting for the Democratic establishment—and remember that this—the two insurgencies, both within the Republican Party and the—were against figures like Hillary Clinton, who spoke in that traditional feel-your-pain language of liberalism, while assiduously serving corporate power and selling out working men and women. And they see through the con, they see through the game.

I don’t actually think Bernie Sanders educated the public. In fact, Bernie Sanders spoke for the first time as a political candidate about the reality the public was experiencing, because even Barack Obama, in his State of the Union address, was talking about economic recovery, and everything was wonderful, and people know that it’s not. And when you dispossess—

ROBERT REICH: Well, let me—let me—

CHRIS HEDGES: Let me just finish. Let me finish. When you dispossess that segment, as large as we have—half the country now lives in virtual poverty—and you continue to essentially run a government that’s been seized by a cabal, in this case, corporate, which uses all of the machinery of government for their own enrichment and their own further empowerment at the expense of the rest of the citizenry, people finally react. And that is how you get fascism. That is what history has told us. And to sit by—every time, Robert, you speak, you do exactly what Trump does, which is fear, fear, fear, fear, fear. And the fact that we are going to build some kind of—

ROBERT REICH: Well, let me—let me try to—

CHRIS HEDGES: —amorphous movement after Hillary Clinton—it’s just not they way it works.

ROBERT REICH: Let me try to inject—let me—let me try to inject—

AMY GOODMAN: Former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich?

ROBERT REICH: Let me try to inject some hope in here, in this discussion, rather than fear. I’ve been traveling around the country for the last two years, trying to talk to tea partiers and conservatives and many people who are probably going to vote for Donald Trump, to try to understand what it is that they are doing and how they view America and why they’re acting in ways that are so obviously against their self-interest, both economic self-interest and other self-interest. And here’s the interesting thing I found.

This great antiestablishment wave that is occurring both on the left and the right has a great overlap, if you will, and that overlap is a deep contempt for what many people on the right are calling crony capitalism—in fact, many people on the left have called crony capitalism. And those people on the right, many, many working people, they’re not all white. Many of them are. Many of them are working-class. Many of them have suffered from trade and technological displacement and a government that is really turning its back on them, they feel—and to some extent, they’re right. Many of them feel as angry about the current system and about corporate welfare and about big money in politics as many of us on the progressive side do.

Now, if it is possible to have a multiracial, multiethnic coalition of the bottom 90 percent that is ready to fight to get big money out of politics, for more equality, for a system that is not rigged against average working people, where there are not going to be all of these redistributions upward from those of us who have paychecks—and we don’t even realize that larger and larger portions of those paychecks are going to big industries, conglomerates, concentrated industries that have great market power, because it’s all hidden from view—well, the more coalition building we can do, from right to left, multiethnic, multiracial, left and right, to build a movement to take back our economy and to take back our democracy, that is—

[…]

CHRIS HEDGES: I don’t think it makes any difference. The TPP is going to go through, whether it’s Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Endless war is going to be continued, whether it’s Trump or Clinton. We’re not going to get our privacy back, whether it’s under Clinton or Trump. The idea that, at this point, the figure in the executive branch exercises that much power, given the power of the war industry and Wall Street, is a myth. The fact is—

 

Can a compromised system produce results that benefit the non-elite portions of society.  I’m thinking no.

[Democracy Now: Full Transcript]

A good talk on some of the problems facing people who wish to debate sensitive topics in society.

    “No idea is above scrutiny and no people are beneath dignity. And what I mean by that is that no idea in Islam, like any other religion and any other philosophy and political thought and creed, is an idea. An idea is by definition adopted voluntary and therefore should be subject to scrutiny. And so I don’t subscribe to any form of blasphemy or censorship when it comes to an intellectual and rigorous debate around any idea. On the other hand, no people are beneath dignity.

     So no idea is above scrutiny, no people are beneath dignity. And what I mean by that is, it’s very easy when understanding it in this way to recognize, and you can recognize it in your gut, the difference between somebody who is saying I don’t like the religion of Islam. Let me scrutinize it, you know. I think this whole thing about the literal word of God doesn’t sit comfortable with me. That’s very different to someone saying all Muslims are terrorists and they are a disease in America we must expel them. Your gut can recognize the difference between those two. I think Muslims as a people deserve every dignity like any other human being. But every single idea – Charlie Hebdo is a case in point. People have the right, the absolute right to scrutinize and satirize.”

Well, it never hurts to reinforce an important concept, especially one that many people miss or gloss over when the argumentative fur starts flying.

dictionary   I would like to take this time to edify and hopefully illuminate those with access to my very small part of the blogging community.

Blogging community, if you care to listen please note that for future reference that if you intend to talk about a topic that you are unfamiliar with, or wish to actively criticize please recognize that looking up terminology you will be dealing with in a dictionary is not the endpoint of your commitment to honest discussion.

Defining your terms is important, but the level of detail present in most dictionaries is not sufficient to base a reasonable argument on.  An example of the problem described can be found in the wordpress reader, while browsing the feminism tag.  Every day I see posts that either start out with the dictionary definition of feminism in the topic sentence or maladroitly inserted into a body paragraph just before a long list of criticisms of said definition.

The problem, dear blogging community, is that arguing with dictionary definitions is about as useful licking a frozen fence post with your tongue.  Feminism (and other topics) are often rife with nuance and complexity that require a more careful reading to fully appreciate what they are about.

Would you feel okay in expressing your opinion based on what the dictionary says about a possibly esoteric topic such as:

Quantum Mechanics? 
noun, Physics.
1.
a theory of the mechanics of atoms, molecules, and other physical systems that are subject to the uncertainty principle.
Abbreviation: QM.

Huh, fascinating stuff eh?  Did you see about part about the many types of quarks?  How about the double-slit experiment?  Quantum tunnelling behaviours that are associated with electrons?

   Me either.
So why then do people often think that going on something like this –
Feminism

noun.
1.
the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.

…is somehow going to give them enough insight to intelligently comment on Feminism in a meaningful way?  My new goto method for jarring people out of their sullen stolidity is linking to a poignantly concise, accessible piece by bell hooks called Understanding Patriarchy.

Of course, some choose not to look farther than the meanings of words that are easy and convenient for them and their ‘arguments’.  Then other methodology must be used, including the neigh-terrible Red Pen of Justice in the most serious cases of cranial-rectal inversion.

One of the best methods for avoiding various peoples RPOJ’s is using the dictionary, coupled with other resources such as Wikipedia to further flesh out the context of complex topics that one might wish to speak on.  You’ll still get your ass handed to you by those possessing specialist knowledge, but you will avoid the eye-role and exasperated sighs of those who must yet *again* give the 101 level context necessary to properly frame a discussion.

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