No. 9: Some Thoughts on the Taxonomy of Gender Ideologies
January 24, 2014
I believe that there are biological differences between men and women that are in fact inescapable, but I don’t believe they are what actually determines our ideas. Feminists are “social constructionists”, or to categorize them even more generally, idealists. They’ll tell you again and again what our ideas about gender are, where those ideas come from, their purpose etc. The fact that they’ve set up shop in sociology departments everywhere you turn is no accident, and the affinity Feminism seems to have with Marxism is a perfectly natural consequence of the kernel of pure idealism the two of them both sprout from.
There are myriad formulations and reformulations of Feminism certainly. Some definitions of it fear even the slightest ounce of determinacy, and this is usually the sort of conception we’re forced to battle with frequently on this board in particular. Definition of course is limitation, and to have any reality whatsoever, some limitation must occur, and the mistaken belief of those who refuse to accept any statement of what Feminism actually is that isn’t hopelessly vague and entirely meaningless is, humorosly I think, that by defining Feminism to include everybody, everybody will then simply have no choice but to become a Feminist. All they’re really doing however is delimiting Feminism into non-existence, never realizing they’ve turned us all into Feminists by actually turning Feminism into nothing.
On the other hand, there is the more pedantic approach, which tends to be more historicist, and unsurprisingly on account of that, the one also less squeamish about the relationship of Feminism to Marxism. This way of going about the problem typically results in Feminism becoming extremely granular, with more kinds of Lesbianism to its credit than a rainbow does colors. “Waves” is a popular metaphor in the pedantic approach, and one that’s also very appropriate and becoming of derivative Marxism I think, as it presupposes a temporal origin to what it means to understand, an epicentre in time which has not only provided Feminism its impetus, but even conditioned its whole existence within the strict chain of material causality, which is really the only proper thing for a good historicist to do afterall.
If, in the first case, the idea achieves no reality whatsoever, in the second it’s been attributed, wrongly of course, much more reality than it actually has, ie, as logical hypostasis. The second approach seems to me, I might add, the one of much more significance, as the first is just absolutely worthless and frankly, hardly worth even seriously considering.
The relationship I’m most comfortable drawing between Feminism and Marxism, is less of a purely historical character, and is more about identifying them both as fundamentally idealist in nature. “Social Constructionism” contends a whole host of idealistic propositions about the reality of ideas and the ideality of objects. Gender ideas are constructed and “arbitrary”, that is they are objects produced by “Society” (in a way that’s yet to be really explained in any intelligible way) and given to individuals, though ‘given’ is actually too weak a word here listening to some Constructionists talk. Forced? Imposed? The notion that our ideas are encountered by us and received temporally as completely contingent things is something easily transformed by the tongues of smooth talking, particularly unhinged Constructionists everywhere into a form of rape naturally enough.
Kant described this philosophical position as the “sneaking of metaphysical concepts in through the backdoor or natural science”. Really it’s the transgression of thought and judgement into the world of strictly limited actuality, which Schiller characterizes as a sort amoral hyper-rationality that shows improper respect to the independence of things from the mind’s concepts.
You can see that Constructionism at certain times fits such a description to a T, going so far as to deny the existence of basic, biological differences separating men and women from each other. It’s often also insisted upon that gender ideas are “arbitrary”, and by this I think they mean essentially this: No idea of gender possesses anymore value than any other possible, and an infinite number of ideas are ultimately possible. Why then do we have the ideas that we do and not any others? Well, like Marxists there are teleological principles at work, principles that situate rational, moral, and cultural ends to the material history of human civilization, which material history doesn’t actually contain, and naturally in this scenario, some reification of the Constructionist, “Capitalism”, “Patriarchy”, “Society”, whatever it happens to be that day, one of these is creating our gender ideas as means of realizing its own moral ends. It’s all quite nefarious isn’t it?
Now, in contrast to all this, there’s a completely different conceptualization floated primarily by MRAs. This is what you seem to subscribe to yourself. That is, evolutionary psychology, or perhaps more generally, biological determinism. Where Constructionism makes reality dependant upon the mind, as maybe only ultimately an extension of it, biological determinism makes the mind, and all of its ideas, basically nothing more than an illusion. What particularly annoys me about this is how formulaic this approach to everything always ends up being. Every phenomena is just given this tired explanation that really doesn’t succeed in explaining anything at all. Why does art exist, why do people make and study works of art? To get laid essentially. Every trait you can identify as one belonging human beings, every thing Man does whatever it may be, that “evolved” as something conducive to reproductive success. Ok. And? There’s absolutely no explanatory depth, and because of this, that this is somehow a satisfyingly “scientific” explanation I simply refuse to concede.
To come around to my point, I think that when confronted with reality, harsh and unabiding as it so often is, we naturally want for a means of reconciling ourselves to it, of understanding it.
“Everything that is, is to him through the instant’s word of command; every change is for him an entirely fresh creation, since together with the necessity within himself he lacks that necessity outside himself which binds together the varying shapes into a universe, and, with the passing of the individual, holds law firmly upon the scene of action. In vain does Nature allow her rich diversity to pass before his senses; he sees in her splendid profusion nothing but his prey, in her power and greatness nothing but his foe. Either he hurls himself at objects and wants to snatch them into himself in desire; or else the objects force their way destructively into him, and he thrusts them from him in abhorrence. In both cases his relation to the sensible world is immediate contact, and being forever harassed by its pressure, restlessly tormented by imperious need, he finds rest nowhere but in exhaustion, and limits nowhere but in spent desire.”
-Friedrich Schiller; “On The Aesthetic Education Of Man”, Twenty Fourth Letter
Without some ideas man is an animal for whom nothing exists in any sense, there is only disconnected, homogeneous, undifferentiated nature, and no law exists inherent to it which makes it comprehensible to Man, for it is the mind belonging to Man tasked with comprehension. From his mind his ideas emerge, and through his ideas things exist for him. There is a law according to which everything in nature exists, because everything within nature whatsoever, our reason necessitates achieves existence only in so far as it conforms to that law.
Our gender ideas are in fact, in a sense “arbitrary”, there are indeed an infinite number of possible other conceptualizations that could be had. Biology does not determine how we think, what ideas we construct, or how our mind reflects upon world, Man enjoys infinite freedom to do so however he wishes. But, at the same time his ideas and his way of thinking are bound by reality outside of himself he wishes to make peace with. Biology creates a need, and makes our ideas of gender possible, but those ideas come from us as a way of mitigating that need, and who knows all the different ways we could attempt to do so.
Our ideas of gender were created by us long ago, during our earliest prehistory, and we refined them perhaps rejecting competing conceptualizations along the way, and over time the ideas we have today became unrivalled because of how useful they proved to be. Generation after generation for thousands of years have ultimately affirmed and reaffirmed that these ideas are enormously successful at allowing us to reconcile ourselves to the reality of sex. I just can’t accept either of the approaches that seem to otherwise be in vogue on either side of the debate, they both ignore one whole side of things and what we require is a way of thinking that incorporates both sides, in the places belonging to them, in such a way that they’re able to coexist.