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June 30, 2014

Privileging the 1% over the 99%

The Editorial Staff, whilst eagerly awaiting the arrival of our very first granddaughter, were shocked and appalled to realize that we have already committed an egregious act of microaggression against her ... it:

The imaginary treatment I described above is real. Obstetricians, doctors, and midwives commit this procedure on infants every single day, in every single country. In reality, this treatment is performed almost universally without even asking for the parents' consent, making this practice all the more insidious. It's called infant gender assignment: When the doctor holds your child up to the harsh light of the delivery room, looks between its legs, and declares his opinion: It's a boy or a girl, based on nothing more than a cursory assessment of your offspring's genitals.

We tell our children, “You can be anything you want to be.” We say, “A girl can be a doctor, a boy can be a nurse,” but why in the first place must this person be a boy and that person be a girl? Your infant is an infant. Your baby knows nothing of dresses and ties, of makeup and aftershave, of the contemporary social implications of pink and blue. As a newborn, your child's potential is limitless. The world is full of possibilities that every person deserves to be able to explore freely, receiving equal respect and human dignity while maximizing happiness through individual expression.

Question for the ages: what sane parent tells their children they can be anything they want to be? I want to be a winged unicorn. Of course I lack the requisite horn growing out of the middle of my forehead. Not to mention the mane, tail, hooves, and other physical features thereuntoappertaining.

Dresses or ties aren't physical characteristics. A girl isn't at terribly high risk for testicular cancer. A boy is virtually assured of never having to have a hysterectomy. Heart disease has completely different symptoms in men than it does in women. One of the consequences of those physical differences is that it is underdiagnosed in women.

That's about as good a textbook example as we can think of for not encouraging doctors to view the physical differences between men and women as irrelevant distractions from "who the patient really wants to be". Objective reality exists, no matter how hard some try to deny its existence.

How we choose to respond to that reality is up to us. How we choose to present ourselves to the outside world is up to us. How others choose to respond to us is up to them. It takes a unique kind of almost totalitarian self centeredness to demand that the rest of the world change to suit your subjective likes and dislikes rather than viewing it as your job to figure out how you fit into a social structure composed of millions of individuals, each with their own wants, desires, and goals.

Privileging the 1-2% over the 99% is the polar opposite of the Occupy movement's demands that the 1% listen and subordinate their interests to the 99%.

All this talk of percentages is exhausting.

Posted by Cassandra at June 30, 2014 08:25 AM

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Comments

My favorite bit about this lunacy is the assumption that you must conform to their values. And they do not see the irony in this.

Posted by: MikeD at June 30, 2014 11:15 AM

Being forced to conform to other people's misguided value systems is risky. Oh sure - in the vast majority of cases it forms the basis of the social bonds that made Western Civilization possible.

But in 1-2% of cases, pressure to conform to other people's expectations can lead to "depression, social ostracism, difficulty finding or keeping a job. Those with negative reactions often become subject to intense discrimination in society. Suicide is not uncommon.”

*snort* :)

Posted by: Cassandra at June 30, 2014 11:21 AM

Heart disease has completely different symptoms in men than it does in women. One of the consequences of those physical differences is that it is underdiagnosed in women. That's about as good a textbook example as we can think of for not encouraging doctors to view the physical differences between men and women as irrelevant distractions...

That's right, insofar as we're talking about genetic men or women. However, I am given to understand that a certain amount of these cases are genetic anomalies. In that case, this same argument would suggest taking their claim to difference seriously: it won't do to treat someone with three sex chromosomes as if they were just another XY man. You shouldn't expect this percentage, however small, to conform to the usual outcomes of the majority.

The claim that they are "really" men or "really" women is problematic, though. The truth is that they aren't either, and we don't really have a good way of conceptualizing that. Nor, actually, do they: if they say that they are "really" a woman, that's nonsense in Wittegenstein's technical sense of the term. They've never had the experience of being a woman, and can't have it, so they can't really compare their experience with the experience they are claiming is identical to it. The claim that they are "really" a woman is not false, so much as it cannot carry the sense it is trying to carry. There's no way to know.

If the statement can't carry any meaning about whether they are "really" male or female, though, it could carry some meaning about what roles they feel more comfortable with. They have a difficult road, trying to build a life that's comfortable in a society that has no place for them. I tend to be sympathetic to these claims, as long as they remain sympathetic (rather than tyrannical) claims.

Posted by: Grim at June 30, 2014 01:03 PM

However, I am given to understand that a certain amount of these cases are genetic anomalies. In that case, this same argument would suggest taking their claim to difference seriously: it won't do to treat someone with three sex chromosomes as if they were just another XY man. You shouldn't expect this percentage, however small, to conform to the usual outcomes of the majority.

Agreed.

What I'm having trouble with is the notion that simply peering between a child's legs and noting male or female genitalia somehow consigns that child to a life sentence that can never be reversed or revised :p

Especially in today's world.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 30, 2014 01:09 PM

Or that, conversely, that failing to note the external plumbing would produce the results the author seems to feel they would.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 30, 2014 01:10 PM

What could be the harm in letting a child wait to declare for themself who they are, once they're old enough (which is generally believed to happen around age 2 or 3)?

One of the commenters at Slate linked to an article entitled "Boy or girl? Why not have a stereotype instead?" This is a feminist push-back on the thinking in the Slate article. I think the author has the right idea but needs to tighten up her writing (hard to do when one is apparently frothing at the mouth - understandably).

Her reaction was my reaction (without the frothing) when a friend told me her teenage daughter had announced she was either "Questioning" or "Ungendered". What does that even mean? That the daughter hates pink but loves prom dresses, hates blue but loves tuxes? That she hates (or loves) all of the above? The only thing a child could come close to telling anyone at age 2 or 3 would be whether he or she fits what the child perceives as the roles assigned to men/boys versus women/girls. Which are, for anyone who hasn't been paying attention, the very roles that feminism has supposedly been fighting, yea, these many years, to make a choice rather than a genetically programmed inevitability.

I also note that the Slate author blithely assumes that discontinuing the "as long as there have been humans" practice of determining a child's sex at birth will have no downside whatsoever, will not harm the 98-99% of children who are currently doing fine with the practice. I dunno; for some reason, I find myself thinking about babies and bathwater.

Posted by: Elise at June 30, 2014 01:57 PM

I think the author has the right idea but needs to tighten up her writing (hard to do when one is apparently frothing at the mouth - understandably).

OK, that made me laugh out loud :p

I also note that the Slate author blithely assumes that discontinuing the "as long as there have been humans" practice of determining a child's sex at birth will have no downside whatsoever, will not harm the 98-99% of children who are currently doing fine with the practice. I dunno; for some reason, I find myself thinking about babies and bathwater.

Because I greatly enjoy talking to small children, I have noticed over the years what a big deal being a boy/being a girl is to them. I've had both little boys and little girls regale me with loooong lists that start with, "boys/girls do this.... boys/girls can't do that...".

I don't get the impression their parents are coaching them, but seems to do with identifying who they are.

My very feminist daughter in law has been taking great delight in all the pretty, girly clothes people are giving them for the long awaited GrandPunklette. She doesn't seem at all offended, nor does she seem to believe that wearing a pink frilly outfit will prevent the GrandPunklette from choosing certain careers.

I'm a bit mystified at the suggestion that other people's expectations necessarily define us. They absolutely do affect us, though.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 30, 2014 02:29 PM

Leave it to the nomenclatorists to make something titanic of miniscule minorities. That they should assign them their niche instead of leaving it to personal introspections bespeaks pretense and stratagems for subterfuge We have now fifty-seven shades of gender and haven’t even gotten to Michael Moore, or the stable of presenters at CNN.

Posted by: George Pal at June 30, 2014 03:02 PM

Enjoy the Grand Daughter. Mine arrived last Labor Day weekend and is nearly a year old now. I had sons in the family and this is my first little girl in the family and nothing lights up my day better than her smile when I get to see her. I am in love, all over again!
Enjoy!!!

Posted by: Barry at July 1, 2014 11:51 AM

Perhaps surprisingly, I have strong feelings about this.

Grim beat me to the issue of Klinefelters, a rather rare natural condition. They get a 1000% free pass fr

Posted by: CAPT Mike at July 6, 2014 03:52 AM

(Cell phone blues)

From me, and genuine sympathy.

For all other kids, I don't think is fair to involve them in the gender wars until at least puberty. Maybe homosexuality is a naturally occurring trait in a small fraction of the population (if it were a large fraction then Darwinian natural selection would have eradicated the trait), but pre-adolescent kids don't need to know anything about the details; maybe excepting the obvious proviso that it's not nice/acceptable to be mean to Johnny because he 'throws like a girl' (as does current POTUS).

Posted by: CAPT Mike at July 6, 2014 03:59 AM

I don't think I ever spent any amount of time talking differently to my boys simply because they were boys.

Maybe I was a weird parent, but it always seemed to me that the things we expect of small children are pretty much the same, regardless of whether they're male or female: be polite and respectful, do your chores, mind your parents and legitimate authority figures, take turns when playing, etc.

I think that's why I've been so surprised to see *them* focus so strongly on it.

I've heard a lot of the guys here say they were taught never to hit a girl. I don't recall ever saying that to my sons, but I did teach them not to hit other people unless they had been hit first and there wasn't a better way to resolve the dispute. Seemed to work pretty well - they got in very few fights and ended up with very good social skills.

Am very much looking forward to having a granddaughter, Barry :)

Posted by: Cassandra at July 7, 2014 10:08 AM

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