Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Death Warrant, Part 2

(Jordan, this is just your day!)

*

In response to a condescending post suggesting my opinion was based on lack of knowledge/ confusion, I wrote back:

I thought I should clarify: I know the supposed distinction between sex and gender. I know that sex refers to the sex one is born (biological sex characteristics) while gender is seen as being a social construct that refers to the way one acts and the attributes one adopts. I am not getting the two confused due to a lack of knowledge. I simply don't agree with this perspective. I do not think that gender is fluid; I do not think we should strive to make it fluid, and believe that sex and gender are and ought to be exactly the same thing. The sex that I was born (female) with female organs, anatomy etc embodies the gender that I am as well since I do not believe gender is a social construct.

Indeed, as I mentioned, I think the idea of "performing gender" is ridiculous. We are born human, are we not? Or is humanity too a social construct? Can I "perform humanity" or "perform animality?" Can I choose to perform as a dog tomorrow? To me, the concept is foolish and arbitrary. In the same way that we are born human and are born with sex characteristics that identify us as male or female, I believe that we are born with a gender that matches those sex characteristics. I do think a female has a natural affinity toward nurturing, caring, being emotional, sensitive and sweet; I think this is innate. The fact that the tribes in New Guinea were different in terms of hunter-gatherer/ coquettish roles is immaterial. All that demonstrates is that it is *possible* to change up one's role. That doesn't mean it is natural to do so. The assumption the researcher made is that because she saw the natives in those roles, that meant gender was societally constructed. How does that follow? People rebel against their nature all the time. Some of those tribes were cannabilistic! If I choose to be a cannibal, does that mean that eating food as opposed to people is a social construct? I think not. I believe that humans are born with some innate sense of right and wrong, morals, etc (just as I believe they are born with a gender that is the same as their sex characteristics.) That some choose to rebel against that innate sense of right and wrong and/or to rebel aginst their innate sense of self does not persuade me that the idea of gender as a whole (or right and wrong or morality) is all a societal construct. In the same way that I have no desire to adopt cannabilism, I have no desire to attempt to actively work to change my innate characteristics as a female over for learned supposedly male characteristics. One can learn anything, at that rate. I can crawl on the floor, bark like a dog, and eat raw meat. Does that mean humanity is a societal construct? No, I don't think so, and I will not have become a dog.

Or to put it another way:

Rav Simcha Zissel records an incid ent in the life of the Rambam (Maimonides, a noted Judaic scholar). A group of wise men approached him and told him that they could change the nature of a cat, training it to be as gracious and polite and as giving as a human being, making the cat into a servile butler. The Rambam argued that it was impossible to change the nature of a cat.

The group of 'wise men' set about for weeks and weeks to train a cat. They trained it to walk on its hind legs. They dressed the cat up in a little suit. It was trained that when people came into the room the cat would escort them to their seats. In fact, the cat acted just like a butler. They further trained the cat to hold a little cup and to serve the people when they got to their seats. They invited the Rambam to show him their accomplishment and to prove to him that it is possible to train an animal to be just like a human being.

The cat greeted the Rambam and guided him to his seat. When the Rambam got to his seat he removed a box from his pocket. In the box was a little mouse. He dropped the mouse on the floor. The cat suddenly forgot that it was a butler and scampered after the mouse. The Rambam turned to the wise men and said, "A cat is a cat and will always be a cat."

Similarly, a male is a male and will always be male; a female is a female and will always be female. The fact that you can *learn* differently does not change the innate qualities you possess from birth. When I am born, gender is ascribed to me. I have female sex characteristics; I am female. I can "learn" male behaviors, if you like, just as the cat did (or the tribes in New Guineau) but that will not change what I truly am and the essence of me.

28 comments:

Ezzie said...

Just to reiterate: This was freaking awesome.

The Joy of Ladin said...

I am curious - how do you explain people who have from birth felt like they were born the wrong gender? Mental illness?

Daganev said...

@Joy of Ladin:
I misunderstanding of what it means to be of that gender.

Chana said...

Joy of Ladin,

See all my articles here. In that case, the most important thing is to be compassionate toward/ kind to the person who feels that way. I don't have an explanation; all I know is that it hurts the person inside. Nobody would change their gender unless they truly feel compelled to do so. But it is my belief such occurrences are relatively rare in relation to the general population.

The Joy of Ladin said...

Chana,

I know you are a very compassionate and kind person...

My point is that you made categorical statements about "This is how it is" vs "This is how I am and most people are". You seemed to make a judgement of what is normal and not normal. A little while ago, lefties were considered abnormal...

Chana said...

Joy of Ladin,

I make statements because I don't believe in accepting nonsense. I think claiming that gender fluidity is the norm is absolute nonsense- it makes just as much sense as saying that there is human fluidity (aka if I dress like an animal, then I can be an animal, in the same way that if I dress in drag I can be a man.) I don't think arguing that the idea of "gender fluidity" is arbitrary and nonsensical is the same as claiming that left-handed people are bad.

Erachet said...

This was amazing. I am in total agreement.

The Joy of Ladin said...

>I make statements because I don't believe in accepting nonsense.

One person's nonsense is another's intellectual pursuit... For example, does this text look familiar?

"riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.

Sir Tristram, violer d’amores, fr’over the short sea, had passen-core rearrived from North Armorica on this side the scraggy isthmus of Europe Minor to wielderfight his penisolate war: nor had topsawyer’s rocks by the stream Oconee exaggerated themselse to Laurens County’s gorgios while they went doublin their mumper all the time: nor avoice from afire bellowsed mishe mishe to tauftauf thuartpeatrick not yet, though venissoon after, had a kidscad buttended a bland old isaac: not yet, though all’s fair in vanessy, were sosie sesthers wroth with twone nathandjoe. Rot a peck of pa’s malt had Jhem or Shen brewed by arclight and rory end to the regginbrow was to be seen ringsome on the aquaface.

The fall (bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonner-ronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthur— nuk!) of a once wallstrait oldparr is retaled early in bed and later on life down through all christian minstrelsy...."

Some people say Joyce is nonsense. Beckett is nonsense...

Others say, midrash is nonsense...

I am no expert on gender and sex, so I cannot comment on the specifics. However, it seems to me that this is too obvious of a thing to dismiss as nonsense. Perhaps there is something there to be learned?

Chana said...

No one doubts that there is something to be learned. If I weren't Jewish, I'd be on the extremely liberal side of the spectrum and marching in LGBTQ rallies (and everyone who knows me knows this.)

Since I *am* religious, I think it is important to bring that perspective to a class that will not otherwise hear it.

Anonymous said...

so at the end of the day all men will think about is sex no matter how much conditioning they have?

Chana said...

Anon 12:30,

I'm not sure what you refer to in your question. I don't really understand how it is related at all...

Anonymous said...

the cat story, and men always being men

Chana said...

Oh. Well, I'm not the sort to interpret 'men will be men' as men always think about sex. Honestly, I don't know, though, because I'm not a man...

Holy Hyrax said...

>or "perform animality?"

If you play Mortal Kombat you can

Holy Hyrax said...

No one doubts that there is something to be learned. If I weren't Jewish, I'd be on the extremely liberal side of the spectrum and marching in LGBTQ rallies (and everyone who knows me knows this.)

Since I *am* religious, I think it is important to bring that perspective to a class that will not otherwise hear it.


What does this mean? What does this have to do with Judaism? You either believe certain values are true or you don't.

Chana said...

Nope. If I weren't religious and if I didn't believe in a God who stated that the act of homosexuality is forbidden, I'd be a huge LGBTQ ally. Rationally, I agree with absolutely everything I stand for. It's only my religion that holds me back from acting on that.

JewishGadfly said...

Interesting and well-written post, but I actually have to disagree with a couple of your arguments, even though I think your position is legit.

First of all, you start by recognizing the difference between biological sex and aspects of social gender--even if you claim it is not constructed--so I don't see how you go on to the analogy of "performing humanity" vs. "performing animality." The differences between humans and animals are strictly biological; we cannot talk about reversing social roles between them, because animals don't have a role in human society. (Or at least, you would have to posit some non-biological existential essence of what it is to be a dog, and then try to live that out. I don't really think that's a feasible road to go down given what seem to be the limits of canine identity. On the other hand, I think we understand some kind of deeper essence in human gender roles.)

Also, I'm wondering what research you are referring to in New Guinea, and why you assume that the natives studied are rebelling against their natures. Did they used to have the same natures you think are universal, and at some point as a society decide to rebel against that? Or did they just develop differently, and if so, what does that show?

Holy Hyrax said...

so rationally, you don't agree with the values of Judaism?

JewishGadfly said...

HH,

Sorry to be butting in, I'll get out of the way for Chana's reply after this thought. But is what you say necessarily a problem if it's considered a chok, not a rational mitzva?

"Al tomar i-efshi lilbosh shatnez, le'echol basar ve'chalav, ela tomar: efshi, aval kach gazar avi she'bashamayim."

I don't know how this issue is treated in the literature, as a chok or a rational mitzva, but at least some of the sexual prohibitions fall into the chok category.

Lon said...

There seems to be a perception that there’s a difference between the physical and the rest of it – that aside from some differences in plumbing, there should be no difference in how males and females behave.
I think your case might be stronger if you point out that the physical actually effects behavior. Just like you don’t “perform” being weaker than a man, prettier than a man, or less hairy than a man, you don’t “perform” PMS. Mood swings are a result of hormonal swings, so you’re going to be more emotional than a guy just because of what’s shooting around in your bloodstream. There’s some NYTimes article circulating via email “My Week as a Woman” or something like that, about a guy who got hormone therapy and found himself breaking down and bawling unusually often. If you haven’t seen it, I can send it to you.
Similarly, after birth, hormones circulate a mother’s bloodstream, making her feel more connected to her child. She isn’t “performing” nurturing. It’s biology. And biology is destiny.
There have been social studies showing that male aggression is proportional to testosterone levels. They’re not “performing” male. It’s part of being a man. Nor are you performing female by being gentler. You’re just performing physiology. Which is also destiny.
Before anyone jumps down my throat – I’m not saying a person can’t help how they behave. Just like you can say “I’m overtired, I’m feeling cranky, I need to be careful not to say anything I’ll regret,” you can say “This is PMS – this too shall pass” or “I can’t hit people just because my testosterone is acting up.” I suppose you can also say “I only love this red, wrinkled, and ugly parasite because of hormones,” and dump the thing, but honestly, who would want to? You’re not performing gender, you’re going along with nature.

There's plenty of research in biology and social psychology/psychiatry to back up such an argument.

Jewish Atheist said...

The idea of gender as 100% social construct vs. 100% innate is a false dichotomy. There are statistical correlations between sex and gender, of course, often very strong ones, but those are just statistical correlations! No two females are identical.

You write:

I do think a female has a natural affinity toward nurturing, caring, being emotional, sensitive and sweet; I think this is innate.

Females probably -- ON AVERAGE -- embody those stereotypes more than males do. But not all females, and not all males. There are millions of males out there probably more nurturing, caring, etc. than the majority of females. And there are millions of females less caring or nurturing than the majority of males.

And of course there are many unfortunate souls who are psychologically "female" but physically male or vice-versa. Are you pretending they don't exist?

As for your story, it's idiotic. First, one cannot train a cat to be a butler, so we're obviously in the realm of unrealistic fiction. So why are we trying to learn lessons from it? Second, cats (or dogs) and humans are far, far further apart genetically than male and female humans are.

And we already know that hormones play a major effect on "gender." Pump me full of estrogen and you full of testosterone and suddenly I'm going to be more "female" and you more "male."

The misconception that you are putting forward here does real harm in the real world. Homosexuality is seen as wrong or disordered as best by many because of this nonsense, and we've seen the results of that: high teen suicide rates, fraudulent marriages, hate crimes, etc. All 100% unnecessary except for the fact that (generally religious) people insist on trying to make the world conform to their model of the world rather than changing their model to fit the world.

Let's take a real-world example rather than some made-up nonsense by some "wise men" addressing the Rambam: basketball. Now clearly, on average men are much better at basketball. We're taller, stronger, faster, higher leapers, and are probably more competitive.

But to turn that statistical fact into a blanket statement like "women can't play basketball" is not only stupid but will lead you to false conclusions. The best female basketball players in the world would CRUSH 99.9% of all male basketball players. And the worst male basketball players would probably be crushed by 99% of all female basketball players.

So if you want to say that women on average have these tendencies and men on average have these, fine, as long as you are backed up by the data. But don't try to talk about "female" and "male" genders as if they are real things rather than statistical correlations. They're not 100% constructed socially, but neither are they Platonic ideals that exist outside of the instance data.

If I weren't religious and if I didn't believe in a God who stated that the act of homosexuality is forbidden, I'd be a huge LGBTQ ally. Rationally, I agree with absolutely everything I stand for. It's only my religion that holds me back from acting on that.

You should be ashamed for putting your religion ahead of what you know is right. You're a grown woman now, and smart enough to see that the authors of the Torah were neither divine nor morally superior to you or me.

Aaron said...

Jewish Atheist,I find your tone offensive. Learn to curtail your anger when stating your point. Thanks.

Jewish Atheist said...

My apologies. It's a problem I sometimes have. It's hard to see a sensitive, intelligent young woman holding and putting forward backward views simply because of her religion. Classic case of religion causing a good person to do bad.

Anonymous said...

To tell you the truth, I don't understand something-what's wrong with non-Jewish people being gay or something like that? I have to agree with Jewish Gadfly- a hok (the h is supposed to have dot underneath-darn keyboard) is a hok, something which must be followed by any Jewish person, regardless of whether or not it seems rational or not. But not being gay is not one of the Noahide laws.
I also agree with Lon, in the way that I think a lot of what this is is biology and perhaps psychology. Women will probably be more "motherly" because of their hormones AND because of those hormones, they may love their baby unconditionally. But as with all of science, there are exceptions and variances-tomboys and penguins (the wings people, the wings).
Ah, what the heck am I doing, I haven't got a clue WHAT I'm rambling about.
Let the lions pounce.

Anonymous said...

"To tell you the truth, I don't understand something-what's wrong with non-Jewish people being gay or something like that?"

See Rambam, Hilchos Melachim, Chapter 9, Halacha 7, where he writes that Jewish Law forbids Gentile males to be homosexual.

ז [ה] שש עריות אסורות על בני נוח--האם, ואשת האב, ואשת איש, ואחותו מאימו, וזכור, ובהמה: שנאמר "על כן, יעזוב איש, את אביו" (בראשית ב,כד), זו אשת אביו; "ואת אימו" (שם), כמשמעה; "ודבק באשתו" (שם), ולא באשת חברו; "ודבק באשתו", לא בזכור; "והיו לבשר אחד" (שם), להוציא בהמה חיה ועוף שאין הוא והם בשר אחד; ונאמר "אחותי בת אבי היא--אך, לא בת אימי; ותהי לי, לאישה" (בראשית כ,יב).

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