Radical Feminism

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guenther
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby guenther » Thu Sep 20, 2012 6:29 pm UTC

omgryebread wrote:Out of curiousity, and to tie it back to the topic, wouldn't we all agree that there's no objective reality regarding gender?

You can't answer this without defining what gender is. And if you define it in such a way that it comes purely from a person's own belief, then you shouldn't be surprised to discover that there's no objective reality there. But that doesn't reveal anything profound; it's just a product of your definition.

The Great Hippo wrote:Yes, but some people think there is, and that subset of people may include transgendered people, and I want to find a way to simultaneously reject that gender is 'real' while simultaneously respecting those who believe gender is 'real', in much the same way I reject God, but accept that God is of incredible importance to those who believe.

It's tricky and I'm not very good at expressing this nuance.

The difference is that the gender debate isn't about belief; it's about definition. If we all agreed that gender was about genitalia, then there's a simple objective metric for gender for most people. And we can extend this to any objective test, be it based on testosterone, chromosomes, or whatever. But if people want to define it in a subjective way, then the truth about gender differs from these objective metrics because of how we defined gender.

So when people are arguing over whether a transsexual person is really male (or whatever), they're not arguing about reality. Rather, they're both treating their own definition of gender as factual without really taking into account that the truth of the definition comes from us, not the universe around us.

By the way, I think this type of belief (the belief about what gender means, not about whether person X is a specific gender) falls into a category that's between objective and subjective. It's subjectively defined, but people by and large treat it as if it's objective. There's a lot of things that we treat as factually true that are really like this (like our concept of self, morality, etc.).
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Sep 20, 2012 6:36 pm UTC

sam_i_am wrote:Y chromosome vs no Y chromosome
So someone born with a vagina and uterus and ovaries who developed breasts but no facial hair at puberty and who presents and identifies as female, but who has some cells with XY chromosomes and others with just one X and no cells with XX, is actually a man?

When your definition doesn't match up with anyone's actual labels, including society at large and the person in question and that person's parents and doctors and partners and anyone else who has seen that person naked, it means you have a shitty definition.
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby Shivahn » Thu Sep 20, 2012 6:36 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:
sam_i_am wrote:Y chromosome vs no Y chromosome
This is actually a very good measure for something: Whether or not you have a Y chromosome. But for measuring gender, there are cases where it fails (because the accepted definition of gender is not 'whether or not you have a Y chromosome').
So, just to be clear, (also slightly nsfw, though it's Wikipedia), we have: male, male, female, right?

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby guenther » Thu Sep 20, 2012 6:38 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:
sam_i_am wrote:Y chromosome vs no Y chromosome
This is actually a very good measure for something: Whether or not you have a Y chromosome. But for measuring gender, there are cases where it fails (because the accepted definition of gender is not 'whether or not you have a Y chromosome').

But this just amounts to "I disagree with your definition because the accepted definition is different". You didn't actually give a defense of what you call the accepted definition (nor state what it is).

And by the way, if the existence of a gray area is enough to warrant a subjective definition, then race certainly belongs in this category too since the gray area is orders of magnitude bigger.
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby The Great Hippo » Thu Sep 20, 2012 6:40 pm UTC

guenther wrote:The difference is that the gender debate isn't about belief; it's about definition. If we all agreed that gender was about genitalia, then there's a simple objective metric for gender for most people. And we can extend this to any objective test, be it based on testosterone, chromosomes, or whatever. But if people want to define it in a subjective way, then the truth about gender differs from these objective metrics because of how we defined gender.
If we all agreed that understanding the universe and all of its contents was about using empiricism and science to measure it, then there's a simple objective metric for God's existence.

Belief is nothing more than definition in practice: We believe the things we do because we've defined them the way we have. People think you can't be a woman unless you have the right body shape because they've defined gender a certain way; people think there is a God because they've defined the universe a certain way. In both cases, the problem strikes me as fundamentally the same: A failure of abstractions to account for all cases.

Science is so wonderful because it's a type of abstraction designed to build better abstractions. I want to approach issues like gender the same way--I want my definition of gender to be designed to build better definitions of gender. And the best definition of gender may be none at all. A complete simulation--where the abstraction is indistinguishable from the thing it's trying to abstract.
Shivahn wrote:So, just to be clear, (also slightly nsfw, though it's Wikipedia), we have: male, male, female, right?
Yeah, I was thinking about all the various medical conditions involving weird X-Y translation, but couldn't remember any of their names. A metric like 'The presence of the Y chromosome' is great at measuring the presence of a Y chromosome, but not actually answering the question of gender.

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby guenther » Thu Sep 20, 2012 7:14 pm UTC

Take person X who has a penis but self-identifies as a female. If someone says "X is really a male" and uses the existence of a penis as the defining distinction, and then someone else says "No X is really female", is the second person arguing that X doesn't have a penis? Are they arguing over any objective details such that we could run a test and learn the answer? Or are they debating over what "maleness" means?

There could be a debate about gender that does differ on objective facts. Suppose someone claims that a male historical figure Y was really a woman (with a vagina) in disguise. Then people arguing that Y was actually a male would really be debating the objective reality of Y's genitalia, not the definition of maleness (though one could still debate that here).

Religious debates can be either type. When people argue over historical Jesus, they are likely debating what Jesus factually did. But when they argue about the goodness of God ordering genocide, then it's really about definitions. Arguing about the existence of God can really fall either way. If someone claims that God is factually real but offers up no objective test of realness (be it currently feasible or not), then this could be about how we define "real" or even how we define "God". But if they believe there is a place where God exists, and, if we knew how, we could travel there and touch him, but they just have no clue where this is or how to even scientifically probe it, then it's about objective reality. I think a lot of actual debates blur these lines quite a bit.
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby Choboman » Thu Sep 20, 2012 8:59 pm UTC

How is something like this supposed to work in areas where men are specifically excluded, like battered women's shelters?

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby HungryHobo » Thu Sep 20, 2012 9:02 pm UTC

sam_i_am wrote:Y chromosome vs no Y chromosome


Not a good standard. the more genetics you cover the worse a standard you realise it is.

physical gender associated characteristics have an objective reality. someone can say "I have a penis" and be objectively wrong. they can say "I have a Y chromosome" and be objectively wrong. they can say "I have a Sex determining region on my Y chromosome" and be objectively wrong. they can say "I lack the receptors which respond to testosterone" and be objectively wrong. they can say "I have 2 X chromosomes and a suppressed/disabled Y chromosome"
and be objectively wrong. they can say "physically I possess phenotypes which are mostly normally female associated" and be objectively wrong.

But "I consider myself female" can't ever be proven to be objectively wrong (at least without invasive and slightly futuristic brain surgery)

You could even pick one phenotypic feature and declare that that you're going to define what you consider gender by that but you'd classify a fair number of people poorly and make quite a few peoples lives quite a bit more unpleasant no matter what you use and achieve nothing of value.

the easiest answer which also happens to be the most fair (which upsets a lot of people slightly but makes a small number of people massively happier) is simply let people define themselves.

That, or gender is objectively what the individual says it is.

Perfectly put. You are a poet.

How is something like this supposed to work in areas where men are specifically excluded, like battered women's shelters?


You take people at their word and kick them out if they cause trouble.
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby The Great Hippo » Thu Sep 20, 2012 9:12 pm UTC

HungryHobo wrote:the easiest answer which also happens to be the most fair (which upsets a lot of people slightly but makes a small number of people massively happier) is simply let people define themselves.
I'm coming at it in what might be a needlessly roundabout way, but this is, in its simplest essence, what I wish to express. It seems that letting gender be defined on an individual basis produces much more happiness than allowing certain parties to have a monopoly on the definition.
HungryHobo wrote:
How is something like this supposed to work in areas where men are specifically excluded, like battered women's shelters?


You take people at their word and kick them out if they cause trouble.
Perhaps more precisely: You analyze the reason why men are excluded and satisfy those reasons--focus on the spirit of a law, not its technicalities.

There are intersections where calculations like these become very hard, and it's in everyone's interest to promote candid discussion about those intersections. But a lot of these questions are infuriatingly easy to answer.

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby Choboman » Thu Sep 20, 2012 9:47 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:
HungryHobo wrote:
How is something like this supposed to work in areas where men are specifically excluded, like battered women's shelters?


You take people at their word and kick them out if they cause trouble.
Perhaps more precisely: You analyze the reason why men are excluded and satisfy those reasons--focus on the spirit of a law, not its technicalities.

There are intersections where calculations like these become very hard, and it's in everyone's interest to promote candid discussion about those intersections. But a lot of these questions are infuriatingly easy to answer.

It's my understanding that men are excluded, at least in part, because many of the women have had such poor prior experiences with men that being in the presence of others that they percieve as male fills them with anxiety and a sense of dread, and would probably cause them to be unwilling to stay. So by allowing the 200 pound muscular deep-voiced person with a penis who identifies as female to room with the the rest of the battered women, you provide a potentially-triggering event that makes the shelter less helpful to the a large number victims. On the flip side, it becomes vastly more helpful to the individual who is percieved by others as male but self-identifies as female, and may be a battered victim herself. There's an argument for it, but it definitely comes at a cost.

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby leady » Thu Sep 20, 2012 10:01 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:
HungryHobo wrote:the easiest answer which also happens to be the most fair (which upsets a lot of people slightly but makes a small number of people massively happier) is simply let people define themselves.
. It seems that letting gender be defined on an individual basis produces much more happiness than allowing certain parties to have a monopoly on the definition..



philosophical point but if a huge majority of people are slightly more happy with one definition they will dwarf the total happiness of a handful gaining significant happiness from self acreditment.

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby guenther » Thu Sep 20, 2012 10:07 pm UTC

HungryHobo wrote:
That, or gender is objectively what the individual says it is.

Perfectly put. You are a poet.

In the same sense, a person's favorite color is objectively what the individual says it is. But most people use subjective to describe this, not objective. Gender isn't a fact but an opinion.

Choboman wrote:It's my understanding that men are excluded, at least in part, because many of the women have had such poor prior experiences with men that being in the presence of others that they percieve as male fills them with anxiety and a sense of dread, and would probably cause them to be unwilling to stay. So by allowing the 200 pound muscular deep-voiced person with a penis who identifies as female to room with the the rest of the battered women, you provide a potentially-triggering event that makes the shelter less helpful to the a large number victims. On the flip side, it becomes vastly more helpful to the individual who is perceived by others as male but self-identifies as female, and may be a battered victim herself. There's an argument for it, but it definitely comes at a cost.

To carry this example further, what if the transsexual decides to still dress like a man? If they identify as female, this definitions requires us to accept that they're female, but then can't they defy gender norms in how they dress just like the rest of us? So then you have someone who in every way would be thought of as a man in there except they identify themselves as a female.

This isn't to say "Oh the horrors, let's scrap the whole thing!". I get it's complicated, and I still am happy to leave solving these difficult issues to people more experienced and knowledgeable. But my thought is that as this treatment of gender becomes more commonplace, it seems there could be a greater capacity for abuse. For example, someone with a penis and dressed like a man could make full use of women's bathrooms, showers, and changing areas by simply identifying as a woman. If the facility manager suspects someone is abusing this (i.e. they suspect the individual doesn't really believe they're a woman) but the individual hasn't done anything wrong except have the wrong genitalia and wear the wrong clothes, should anything be done? If not, then people can literally abuse it so long as they behave themselves (i.e. no grabbing or gratuitous staring). Should the women that are uncomfortable with this just get over themselves? Or how else should this be handled?

EDIT: Cleaned up some potential pronoun confusion in my example.
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby Aceo » Thu Sep 20, 2012 11:14 pm UTC

guenther wrote:This isn't to say "Oh the horrors, let's scrap the whole thing!". I get it's complicated, and I still am happy to leave solving these difficult issues to people more experienced and knowledgeable. But my thought is that as this treatment of gender becomes more commonplace, it seems there could be a greater capacity for abuse. For example, someone with a penis and dressed like a man could make full use of women's bathrooms, showers, and changing areas by simply identifying as a woman. If the facility manager suspects someone is abusing this (i.e. they suspect the individual doesn't really believe they're a woman) but the individual hasn't done anything wrong except have the wrong genitalia and wear the wrong clothes, should anything be done? If not, then people can literally abuse it so long as they behave themselves (i.e. no grabbing or gratuitous staring). Should the women that are uncomfortable with this just get over themselves? Or how else should this be handled?


Isn't the issue here more that there aren't Unisex changing rooms? Why are males and females required to change in separate rooms? People are uncomfortable because they've been taught/told to be uncomfortable all their lives around those of the opposite sex while naked.
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby guenther » Thu Sep 20, 2012 11:23 pm UTC

OK, so your solution is that they need to get over themselves. I'm not a woman myself, so I don't know how helpful or bothersome this response is to them. But maybe that's the ultimate solution for this direction of gender fluidity.
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby Aceo » Thu Sep 20, 2012 11:33 pm UTC

Spoiler:
How about stop referring to only women? It's incredibly insulting both to them and to men (as apparently they're the only one's that will abuse this).


Actually it's not, it comes as part of the overall change in the fluidity of gender and general sex positivity which comes as part of feminism (or should). There is some part of a childs upbringing at which point society says, you shouldn't be naked around X or Y. From this there is then a shame brought about from it, and then uncomfortable feelings can occur. Of course this isn't the only reason but it is one which has a sound basis. We aren't talking about changing things in some specific way for only a certain group, this change will need to be from the ground up.
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby Shivahn » Fri Sep 21, 2012 12:42 am UTC

leady wrote:
The Great Hippo wrote:
HungryHobo wrote:the easiest answer which also happens to be the most fair (which upsets a lot of people slightly but makes a small number of people massively happier) is simply let people define themselves.
. It seems that letting gender be defined on an individual basis produces much more happiness than allowing certain parties to have a monopoly on the definition..



philosophical point but if a huge majority of people are slightly more happy with one definition they will dwarf the total happiness of a handful gaining significant happiness from self acreditment.

That's true according to some, but not all, schools of utilitarianism. Also I don't think it's really relevant in this case, for a couple of reasons.

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby sam_i_am » Fri Sep 21, 2012 1:59 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
sam_i_am wrote:Y chromosome vs no Y chromosome
So someone born with a vagina and uterus and ovaries who developed breasts but no facial hair at puberty and who presents and identifies as female, but who has some cells with XY chromosomes and others with just one X and no cells with XX, is actually a man?

When your definition doesn't match up with anyone's actual labels, including society at large and the person in question and that person's parents and doctors and partners and anyone else who has seen that person naked, it means you have a shitty definition.


Well, It's a good thing that society at large agrees than isn't it?

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Sep 21, 2012 2:27 am UTC

Agrees with what? That she's a woman, even though she has a Y chromosome?

See, the problem with your "definition" is that it is capable of surprising everyone. Gender is not the sort of thing that should turn out through genetic testing to be completely unexpected. Ergo, your definition is shitty and doesn't actually line up with what people actually believe.
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby lorb » Fri Sep 21, 2012 3:33 am UTC

But people believe what they can see and if people see a person with long hair, no beard, and wearing a skirt they likely believe it's a woman no matter what chromosomes that body carries.
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby guenther » Fri Sep 21, 2012 4:25 am UTC

Aceo wrote:
Spoiler:
How about stop referring to only women? It's incredibly insulting both to them and to men (as apparently they're the only one's that will abuse this).


Actually it's not, it comes as part of the overall change in the fluidity of gender and general sex positivity which comes as part of feminism (or should). There is some part of a childs upbringing at which point society says, you shouldn't be naked around X or Y. From this there is then a shame brought about from it, and then uncomfortable feelings can occur. Of course this isn't the only reason but it is one which has a sound basis. We aren't talking about changing things in some specific way for only a certain group, this change will need to be from the ground up.

What about when this change isn't here yet? How does my hypothetical get resolved before we get unisex bathrooms?

gmalivuk wrote:See, the problem with your "definition" is that it is capable of surprising everyone. Gender is not the sort of thing that should turn out through genetic testing to be completely unexpected. Ergo, your definition is shitty and doesn't actually line up with what people actually believe.

Where do you get your premise about gender and genetic testing? And what's a definition that lines up with what people actually believe? And what do people actually believe?
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby netcrusher88 » Fri Sep 21, 2012 4:49 am UTC

lorb wrote:But people believe what they can see and if people see a person with long hair, no beard, and wearing a skirt they likely believe it's a woman no matter what chromosomes that body carries.

That would be nice. Likely may be accurate. Depends on the context and person though.
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby Shivahn » Fri Sep 21, 2012 5:14 am UTC

guenther wrote:Where do you get your premise about gender and genetic testing? And what's a definition that lines up with what people actually believe? And what do people actually believe?

The premise comes from the posts that assert that gender is determined by the present of the Y chromosome (which, again, is a pretty demonstrable falsehood.)

There isn't really a definition that lines up with what people believe. People's beliefs are mishmashes of poorly-thought-out stuff which are adjusted ad hoc to eliminate certain contradictions while neglecting to consider the impact of these new thoughts on old beliefs. Additionally, particularly when it comes to sex and gender, people's ad-hoc categorization criteria are flat-out wrong. We've seen this already with the Y chromosome; you can see it again with hormone levels, SRY presence, genitalia, and a bunch of other things where people will proudly proclaim there is one sole determinant to gender only to be foiled by counterexample - we all perceive a cluster of related gendered markers and process these into our gendered assumption, and any attempt to pretend that there is one arbiter is doomed to failure.

Sex is a cluster and gender's even worse. Anyone who tells you that either of those aren't true either hasn't studied biology or is obscuring the truth from you.

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby guenther » Fri Sep 21, 2012 7:35 am UTC

Shivahn wrote:The premise comes from the posts that assert that gender is determined by the present of the Y chromosome (which, again, is a pretty demonstrable falsehood.)

Sorry, I didn't state that well. I meant the premise that genetic tests shouldn't cause us surprise in relation to gender. I've never heard such a thing before.

Shivahn wrote:There isn't really a definition that lines up with what people believe. People's beliefs are mishmashes of poorly-thought-out stuff which are adjusted ad hoc to eliminate certain contradictions while neglecting to consider the impact of these new thoughts on old beliefs. Additionally, particularly when it comes to sex and gender, people's ad-hoc categorization criteria are flat-out wrong. We've seen this already with the Y chromosome; you can see it again with hormone levels, SRY presence, genitalia, and a bunch of other things where people will proudly proclaim there is one sole determinant to gender only to be foiled by counterexample - we all perceive a cluster of related gendered markers and process these into our gendered assumption, and any attempt to pretend that there is one arbiter is doomed to failure.

What does failure mean? A result that defies our intuition or causes surprise? One that makes a sufficient number of people unhappy? If a categorization of gender is subject to failure, then there should be a success criteria. What does a definition of gender need to achieve?

My point here isn't that gender should be clearly defined, but rather that if we accept that it's poorly defined then we shouldn't claim other definitions are wrong. sam_i_am isn't wrong with his definition, you just don't agree with it, and further there's no widespread consensus on that definition (or so I presume).

But alternatively, I don't think a definition is shitty just because it has a grey area or produces results that are surprising. I don't recall the medical definition of being dead, but I remember hearing how over time this changed (like with the invention of the stethoscope) and there are grey areas, or people define a boundary and then people die then come back to life. Weird things happen at the boundaries, but that doesn't invalidate the usefulness of the definition. We could have a technical definition of gender that categorized some people as both male and female, others as neither, and some others as undefined. But if overall it had a high likelihood of producing results that were intuitive, then it could still have value.

On a fundamental level this approach is the most appealing to me, that gender has a technical definition even if it produces weird results. But I can understand why this can be problematic for other people. So I don't push it. I'm actually happy to treat gender kind of like race. People generally self-identity according to our cultural norms, but if I come across someone that feels a personal need to identify differently, then I respect that. Do I personally believe it's true? In my head I treat the quality as poorly defined.
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Sep 21, 2012 1:11 pm UTC

guenther wrote:
Shivahn wrote:The premise comes from the posts that assert that gender is determined by the present of the Y chromosome (which, again, is a pretty demonstrable falsehood.)
Sorry, I didn't state that well. I meant the premise that genetic tests shouldn't cause us surprise in relation to gender. I've never heard such a thing before.
Have you thought about such a thing before? Whatever gender might mean, you have to admit it's a little bizarre to claim that no one in history knew their gender for sure prior to the discovery of sex chromosomes.
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby HungryHobo » Fri Sep 21, 2012 1:42 pm UTC

when you get down to the genetic level it actually gets more messy rather than less. at least at the macro scale physical level there's only one copy of you to examine rather than billions
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby omgryebread » Fri Sep 21, 2012 2:05 pm UTC

Maybe we should have one word for when we talk about biology and another for when we talk about what someone identifies with. We could even have phrases that further specify what we're talking about. So one might have a sex, a gender, a chromosomal sex, gender assigned at birth... Oh man you guys this would be the perfect world, why has no one already done thi-
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby setzer777 » Fri Sep 21, 2012 2:15 pm UTC

Hm...why do you think so many radical feminists define "woman" in a way that excludes trans people? Is it just a coincidence, or is there something else in their general philosophy that leads to that view?
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby lutzj » Fri Sep 21, 2012 2:57 pm UTC

setzer777 wrote:Hm...why do you think so many radical feminists define "woman" in a way that excludes trans people? Is it just a coincidence, or is there something else in their general philosophy that leads to that view?


The notion that a MAaB would intentionally "give up his male privilege" runs counter to the notion that patriarchy is all-encompassing and always beneficial to men. Also, if you get into the separatist fringe, the ideal of "life without men" seems a lot less meaningful and feasible when the definition of "man" isn't cut-and-dry. These views aren't inherent to radical feminism, but they require a concrete distinction between male and female.
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby Shivahn » Fri Sep 21, 2012 3:31 pm UTC

guenther wrote:What does failure mean? A result that defies our intuition or causes surprise? One that makes a sufficient number of people unhappy? If a categorization of gender is subject to failure, then there should be a success criteria. What does a definition of gender need to achieve?

My point here isn't that gender should be clearly defined, but rather that if we accept that it's poorly defined then we shouldn't claim other definitions are wrong. sam_i_am isn't wrong with his definition, you just don't agree with it, and further there's no widespread consensus on that definition (or so I presume).

But alternatively, I don't think a definition is shitty just because it has a grey area or produces results that are surprising. I don't recall the medical definition of being dead, but I remember hearing how over time this changed (like with the invention of the stethoscope) and there are grey areas, or people define a boundary and then people die then come back to life. Weird things happen at the boundaries, but that doesn't invalidate the usefulness of the definition. We could have a technical definition of gender that categorized some people as both male and female, others as neither, and some others as undefined. But if overall it had a high likelihood of producing results that were intuitive, then it could still have value.

On a fundamental level this approach is the most appealing to me, that gender has a technical definition even if it produces weird results. But I can understand why this can be problematic for other people. So I don't push it. I'm actually happy to treat gender kind of like race. People generally self-identity according to our cultural norms, but if I come across someone that feels a personal need to identify differently, then I respect that. Do I personally believe it's true? In my head I treat the quality as poorly defined.

It's a failure when people continually try to back up and change the definition when their intuition is defied. This is one of the reasons the Y chromosome definition is wrong - most people find calling CAIS women men... dissatisfying. I mean, look at the things I linked earlier. Pronouns there are never assigned by chromosome. And that definition is physically, medically innaccurate: vaginas and breasts and internal gonads and high estrogen levels and low testosterone levels and wider hips and higher voices and less body hair and no facial hair aren't considered male traits. It's socially innaccurate, as well. People don't use pronouns and assign male/female genders mentally because of chromosomes, they do it because they see a bunch of different weighted traits and reach a conclusion based on that. If a definition of gender fails to match how people socially do gender, and is tied to a definition of sex that doesn't just fail to categorize but incorrectly categorizes individuals, then your definition is wrong.

While we're discussing that definition, I'm going to point out that having a penis doesn't make someone a man under it. Or vice versa. So if your intent is to exclude trans people or assign gender based on genitalia, well, you've fucked that one right up.

As for definitions and easy categorizations having value, you should ask yourself what you're tryin to categorize for. If you're doing it because you have a patient presenting with certain symptoms, maybe it's useful to know of chromosomal abnormalities. If you're looking for someone to date, perhaps genitals are important to you. If you're interacting with someone socially, maybe you should categorize people so that you have pleasant social exchanges.

If you're looking for an easy way to break people into male and female, and are reaching for medical definitions in a non-medical context, then you're actually picking an arbitrary trait as an excuse to exclude people. Because the only thing a Y chromosome reliably does is look smaller than X on a karyotype.

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby The Great Hippo » Fri Sep 21, 2012 4:28 pm UTC

Shivahn wrote:As for definitions and easy categorizations having value, you should ask yourself what you're tryin to categorize for. If you're doing it because you have a patient presenting with certain symptoms, maybe it's useful to know of chromosomal abnormalities. If you're looking for someone to date, perhaps genitals are important to you. If you're interacting with someone socially, maybe you should categorize people so that you have pleasant social exchanges.
A way of rephrasing this that I find interesting: Gender is an abstraction we use to assign certain traits to people. The problem is that, like all abstractions, it leaks--particularly because we aren't all using gender to assign the same traits. Some of us use it to assign the trait of having/not having a penis; some of us use it to assign a trait of wanting to be treated/not wanting to be treated as gender Z.

When someone says 'I am a male'--in defiance of what our gender abstraction tells us--what they are doing, in a sense, is 'short-circuiting' the less comprehensive abstractions of gender--they're saying 'I am aware that your gender abstraction classifies me as X, but I want you to treat me as if your gender abstraction classified me as Y'. This 'short-circuit' can cause a lot of hostility, because we often don't respond well to being told our abstractions are leaking (in fact, we are often willing to defend our abstractions as being perfect representations of the thing they're abstracting--even with violence!).

The reason the chromosome check fails so spectacularly is because it's an abstraction that serves absolutely no one--even the people who think those who step out of more rigid gender definitions need to 'get over it'. Abstractions are only as good as they are useful; the less useful an abstraction is, the more pointless it becomes.

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby Shivahn » Fri Sep 21, 2012 4:41 pm UTC

Ah, yes, that's very good and well said.

Gender's an abstraction and we use it to assign multiple traits (and, it is associated with multiple traits). We have to realize that this clumping of traits isn't absolute, as well as realize that the categorization exists in our head and doesn't dictate the reality of the situation. The world isn't as discrete as many would like.

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby Роберт » Fri Sep 21, 2012 4:42 pm UTC

Yeah, the chromosome definition is really dumb. Feminist or not, once educated about how chromosomes can play out, you'll realize "oh, linking gender with chromosomes is silly". It normally works, but it's in no way even close to a useful hard line or a good standard to point to if there's disagreement.
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby guenther » Fri Sep 21, 2012 4:46 pm UTC

Shivahn wrote:...then your definition is wrong.

I think it's more accurate to say "your definition is inconsistent with these other methods of categorization". You're treating your opinion on success criteria as if it's factual, which is really the same thing people do when they declare factually one definition of gender to be right. But I don't think this disagreement on terminology is enough to support a long debate. And otherwise I agree with your analysis; I do think it makes sense to challenge other proposed definitions if you think they will cause problems without providing any real value.

Shivahn wrote:As for definitions and easy categorizations having value, you should ask yourself what you're tryin to categorize for. If you're doing it because you have a patient presenting with certain symptoms, maybe it's useful to know of chromosomal abnormalities. If you're looking for someone to date, perhaps genitals are important to you. If you're interacting with someone socially, maybe you should categorize people so that you have pleasant social exchanges.

That's a good point, and it's something I didn't take into account in my response.
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby setzer777 » Fri Sep 21, 2012 4:52 pm UTC

Shivahn wrote:As for definitions and easy categorizations having value, you should ask yourself what you're tryin to categorize for. If you're doing it because you have a patient presenting with certain symptoms, maybe it's useful to know of chromosomal abnormalities. If you're looking for someone to date, perhaps genitals are important to you. If you're interacting with someone socially, maybe you should categorize people so that you have pleasant social exchanges.


Yeah, though I do think there's the issue of hypocrisy when it comes to categorizing people differently in different contexts. If I understand it correctly, the "cotton ceiling"* argument was essentially: "Lesbians** claim to consider trans women to be 'real women' in every sense of the word, but if that were true one would expect to see roughly equal outcomes when it comes to romantic partnerships in lesbian communities, and this definitely does not happen. Therefore in the context of looking for sexual partners, it seems that most lesbians do not consider trans women to be 'real women'."


*I think most people will agree that the unfortunate wording didn't help the discussion of the issue...

**One thing I'm curious about is why the discussion centered around lesbians specifically. Is it because they tend to be more pro-trans rights? Are the statistics of sexual orientation for trans women different than those for cis women? If most trans women are straight I would have assumed that the bigger issue would be the general attitude among straight men (or maybe the issue is just hypocrisy, and more straight men are blatantly trans-phobic and therefore not hypocrites, just bigots).
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby HungryHobo » Fri Sep 21, 2012 4:57 pm UTC

but if that were true one would expect to see roughly equal outcomes when it comes to romantic partnerships in lesbian communities


Unless trans women are more likely to have more masculine physical features and lesbians are more likely to find feminine physical features attractive.
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby The Great Hippo » Fri Sep 21, 2012 5:01 pm UTC

guenther wrote:
Shivahn wrote:...then your definition is wrong.

I think it's more accurate to say "your definition is inconsistent with these other methods of categorization". You're treating your opinion on success criteria as if it's factual, which is really the same thing people do when they declare factually one definition of gender to be right. But I don't think this disagreement on terminology is enough to support a long debate. And otherwise I agree with your analysis; I do think it makes sense to challenge other proposed definitions if you think they will cause problems without providing any real value.
Something else to keep in mind: I've decided that the definition of 'people' is 'human beings with sufficiently pale skin'. Is my definition wrong?

Yes, but we understand that 'wrong' is just another way of saying what you're saying ("your definition is inconsistent with these other methods of categorization"). Methods of categorization persist because they're useful--when they stop being useful, they (ideally) stop getting used. It's not very useful to define 'people' as 'human beings with sufficiently pale skin'--no one (except perhaps some very deranged individuals) uses that definition. It makes dialogue harder for obvious reasons. It reduces clarity. It's a definition that only serves one group of people--those who think pale skin is the qualifier for being a person.

What I'm saying is that yes, you're right--but Shivahn is also right. The definition is wrong because it's inconsistent with these other methods of categorization, and these other methods of categorization are more useful to us by several magnitudes. The group of people served by a definition of gender linked to the existence or non-existence of a Y chromosome is very, very small, and the service this definition does for them is likely much less than the service a more inclusive definition would provide for everyone else.

When a definition is 'wrong', this is shorthand for saying the definition represents a reduction in clarity. Wrong definitions are wrong because they're less useful.

EDIT: Also,
setzer777 wrote:Yeah, though I do think there's the issue of hypocrisy when it comes to categorizing people differently in different contexts. If I understand it correctly, the "cotton ceiling"* argument was essentially: "Lesbians** claim to consider trans women to be 'real women' in every sense of the word, but if that were true one would expect to see roughly equal outcomes when it comes to romantic partnerships in lesbian communities, and this definitely does not happen. Therefore in the context of looking for sexual partners, it seems that most lesbians do not consider trans women to be 'real women'."
And really, something I wanted to mention here is how this represents nothing more surprising than the notion that gender is an abstraction that has been ingrained so deeply in our brains that we often can't untangle it from our sexual preference.

Which, on one level, is perfectly fine. Absolutely no one has a moral obligation to sleep with anyone else. Denying someone sexytimes with you on any grounds is fully 100% supported and anyone who says differently is welcome to a free voucher redeemable for a tall, cool glass of 'STFU'. But I think part of the frustration for those talking about the cotton ceiling was less 'Why won't you sleep with us?' and more 'Why won't you acknowledge that you do treat us differently, particularly in matters of sex?'. IE, don't claim that you embrace someone's gender 100% unless you actually embrace someone's gender 100%. It's fine to be unwilling to sleep with someone based on the gender they were assigned at birth--but don't say that birth-assigned gender doesn't matter to you when your actions clearly demonstrate otherwise. Acknowledge that this is a 'thing' for you and move on.
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby Роберт » Fri Sep 21, 2012 5:26 pm UTC

setzer777 wrote:
Shivahn wrote:As for definitions and easy categorizations having value, you should ask yourself what you're tryin to categorize for. If you're doing it because you have a patient presenting with certain symptoms, maybe it's useful to know of chromosomal abnormalities. If you're looking for someone to date, perhaps genitals are important to you. If you're interacting with someone socially, maybe you should categorize people so that you have pleasant social exchanges.


Yeah, though I do think there's the issue of hypocrisy when it comes to categorizing people differently in different contexts. If I understand it correctly, the "cotton ceiling"* argument was essentially: "Lesbians** claim to consider trans women to be 'real women' in every sense of the word, but if that were true one would expect to see roughly equal outcomes when it comes to romantic partnerships in lesbian communities, and this definitely does not happen. Therefore in the context of looking for sexual partners, it seems that most lesbians do not consider trans women to be 'real women'."

It's a super dumb argument. Do all lesbians really claim trans women are real women? I would assume some are openly transphobic. I don't see the point of focus on lesbians.

So on to the "romantic relationships" argument. It's completely senseless non-sequitor. Did you know that straight 20 year old men claim to believe that 37 year-old women are "real women" but we don't see roughly equal outcomes when it comes to relationships in straight communities? *LE GASP* THEY MUST NOT BELIEVE THAT 37 YEAR OLD WOMEN ARE REAL WOMEN!!!!

The Great Hippo wrote:It's fine to be unwilling to sleep with someone based on the gender they were assigned at birth--but don't say that birth-assigned gender doesn't matter to you when your actions clearly demonstrate otherwise. Acknowledge that this is a 'thing' for you and move on.

Birth assigned gender doesn't really mean anything. If my parents decided to call me a girl at birth and somehow got the doctors to sign a birth certificate saying I was female, I sincerely doubt that this difference would affect people's opinion of whether or not I would be an ineligible candidate for romantic partnership with them. In some cases, fertility is important. In other cases, having a penis is important. But nobody really cares what gender I was assigned at birth, do they?
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby The Great Hippo » Fri Sep 21, 2012 5:36 pm UTC

Роберт wrote:So on to the "romantic relationships" argument. It's completely senseless non-sequitor. Did you know that straight 20 year old men claim to believe that 37 year-old women are "real women" but we don't see roughly equal outcomes when it comes to relationships in straight communities? *LE GASP* THEY MUST NOT BELIEVE THAT 37 YEAR OLD WOMEN ARE REAL WOMEN!!!!
But you're adding another variable to the mix besides gender--you're adding age. If 20 year old men are less likely to sleep with 37 year old women, then this at least tells us that 20 year old men are less likely to consider 37 year old women as sexual partners. And we might want to know why. And in this case, the answer seems fairly obvious: Because, on the all, young men seem to prefer to sleep with young women.

Although in reasoning over that, it does seem to bring up an alternatively credible reason that defies what I was suggesting in my post above--that the reason you don't see an equality in outcomes is because women who were assigned 'male' status at birth are more likely to acquire traits which make them less attractive to women who were assigned 'female' status at birth and prefer women-identifying partners.

That is to say, a credible explanation for the cotton ceiling strikes me as 'Because being a member of group X increases the likelihood of Y traits, and Y traits reduces your relative attractiveness to group Z'. Similarly, the reason 20 year old men are less likely to consider 37 year old women as partners isn't because of that 17 year old difference--its because of the traits that 17 year difference carries. A 37 year old woman who is otherwise indistinguishable from a 20 year old woman is probably going to have no problems (unless her age somehow comes up). A woman assigned 'male' at birth who is completely indistinguishable from a woman assigned 'female' at birth is probably going to have no problems (unless her birth-assigned gender comes up).

EDIT: There's a term for this I'm trying to recall--'backward signaling', perhaps? '37' signals to a 20 year old man that you possess traits he finds unattractive (wrinkles!). But if he meets you, and you have none of these traits, and he's attracted--but then discovers that you're 37--and suddenly he's no longer attracted--we're encountering some sort of backward signaling problem. The same for a woman assigned male at birth who attracts you, and then stops attracting you when you discover they were assigned male at birth.

Checking for this problem is tricky because it requires us getting into a person's head. We need to know that it's the '37' that's generating a lack of desire, rather than the traits associated with '37'; we have to know that it's the notion that you were assigned a different gender than you identify with that's the reason she's not attracted, rather than some of the traits you may carry as a consequence of this.

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby setzer777 » Fri Sep 21, 2012 5:45 pm UTC

Yeah, I can see how that makes sense. Extending beyond lesbian communities (which I naturally have limited experience with), it does seem like a lot of people have problems with trans people in the abstract. It's one thing to not be attracted to somebody because of their physical features, but in my experience there are a lot of men who would suddenly lose all interest in a woman they perceived as a sterile cis woman if they were told that she is trans.

I agree that you're not obligated to have sex with anyone, but I think that some reasons should be scrutinized. If you reject someone (whom you were previously interested in) because you discover that their great-grandfather was a black man, I'm going to strongly suspect that you hold some pretty racist views.

Edit:

Hippo: I would say that the existence of the "trans-panic" defense and the meme of "traps" (when applied to trans women) is evidence that there's a lot of backwards-signaling going on in society.
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby The Great Hippo » Fri Sep 21, 2012 5:52 pm UTC

setzer777 wrote:I agree that you're not obligated to have sex with anyone, but I think that some reasons should be scrutinized. If you reject someone (whom you were previously interested in) because you discover that their great-grandfather was a black man, I'm going to strongly suspect that you hold some pretty racist views.
Oh, yes, absolutely. I don't think people should be attacked over these things, but I do think we should encourage people to challenge their notions of sexual preference. Self-transparency and self-awareness is always the best policy--if finding out your partner is older or was assigned a different gender at birth is sufficient grounds for you to terminate that partnership, I think it's a good idea for you to try and understand why that's important. But understanding why doesn't mean those reasons are no longer important to you.
setzer777 wrote:Edit:

Hippo: I would say that the existence of the "trans-panic" defense and the meme of "traps" (when applied to trans women) is evidence that there's a lot of backwards-signaling going on in society.
Those are definitely big giant flashing neon signs that point toward backward signaling, yeah. I was thinking more in the context of the 'cotton ceiling', though.
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