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July 10, 2021

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I find it quite ironic that this old Groucho Marx quote is always taken out of context. It's one of the very few cases where Groucho is NOT trying to scam of fool someone but is the one getting fooled (and thus the question, in the particular situation, is actually sincere).

The times I've experienced something truly dangerous (e.g., the time someone broke into my house) there are a few seconds where I try to come up with a rational, non-threatening explanation for what's happening.

I think that's an automatic reaction by the mind to deny horrible reality. (Happily, the initial "this can't be happening!" response has so far worn off quickly enough that I have been able to respond appropriately.)

The self-willed ability to ignore reality and substitute one's own may in some ways be a similar process, in terms of cognitive function and response. "This can't be happening!" - and the person quickly segues to "This isn't happening," and transitions thereafter to "This didn't happen."

I know people pull this kind of denialism all the time. I'm interested in the mental process of doing so. Like any other mental adaptation, it gets easier the more often it's done - with the result that people get very accomplished at ignoring what conflicts with their chosen reality.

Like any other mental adaptation, it gets easier the more often it's done - with the result that people get very accomplished at ignoring what conflicts with their chosen reality.

It sounds like you've met my sister-in-law.

hsh - I'm sorry to hear that. Hopefully you don't have to put up with her all that often.

I know a lot of folks who do it to some degree, mainly in editing past events to make themselves look better than they did at the time. (Since memory is fallible, and none of us have unblemished pasts, probably most people do this to some degree.)

But a full 30% of the American adult public, and an entire political party/media apparatus, is infuriating. Because their delusions don't affect just themselves and those close to them; it affects all of us.

Very shitty leadership from the Repubs on this one, not to mention a really stupid unforced error.

Sorry, McK, but that's not enough.

The GOP is playing this as if they cannot survive any change of direction and don't care if pursuing this course of action breaks national politics beyond repair.

We've lost major parties before, but never (to my knowledge) had one this far out of step with the majority of citizens, but still clinging to power through electoral manipulation and refusing to moderate its direction.

I have no idea what the future holds, other than change. Either the GOP breaks or the country does. Or both...there is always both.

To take this in slightly a different direction, I don't usually post these sorts of news items, but this
https://www.denverpost.com/2021/07/27/aurora-police-excessive-force-john-haubert/

and this

https://www.kezi.com/content/news/Draft-of-new-info-on-fair-shooting--574920831.html

bring to mind this
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_Aurora,_Colorado_shooting

and this
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thurston_High_School_shooting

In a distant past, we may have thought that different places had bad energies, and people who lived there were doomed to suffer. Now, we are so immersed in the idea of individual responsibility and each of us as atomic individuals that we might not even grant the possibility that these things could even be linked. We are fooling ourselves.

The GOP is playing this as if they cannot survive any change of direction and don't care if pursuing this course of action breaks national politics beyond repair.

And their denialism is manifested in a refusal to recognize that they cannot survive without a change of direction. Which they cannot.

If they can keep it up until they themselves retire (or preferably die of old age*), why should they care about any long term strategy**?
And why should they not believe that they will get away with it for that long?

*before the law- or tax-man catches up with them
**I take it for granted that at least the GOP leadership has no actual political ideals and is only pretending knowing that the rubes will fall for it long enough.

i wouldn't be so sure they can't survive.

the perennial example: they routinely get a minority of the popular vote in NC but have 8/13 House seats.

they routinely get the minority of the popular Presidential vote, but routinely get the WH by winning the right states.

they have enough people in the right places to stay viable as long as they can get their base out. and their idiot base responds to FUD like no other.

Their base has become their greatest risk. Now there is always the danger of getting outcrazied by some true believer.

i think Trump proved that the GOP leadership is perfectly capable of aligning itself to whatever nonsense the base comes up with.

lj, I may well be being exceptionally dim, but I'm finding your last paragraph @08.17 above (and the whole comment) a bit difficult to follow. Could you expand on it a little?

Their base has become their greatest risk. Now there is always the danger of getting outcrazied by some true believer.

And crazy seems to be on the upswing. I won't be amazed if even McConnell gets a primary challenge next time. After all, he's been a vaccination supporter all along....

What I took from lj's comments:

In a distant past, we may have thought that different places [Aurora, Ferguson, Camden] had bad energies [crime, poverty], and people who lived there were doomed to suffer [violence, drugs, high rates of incarceration]. Now, we are so immersed in the idea of individual responsibility [he shouldn't have resisted, it looked like a gun] and each of us as atomic individuals [he has to take responsibility for his past, those actions don't represent this agency] that we might not even grant the possibility that these things could even be linked. We are fooling ourselves.

lj, please nuance or correct if I am interpreting this incorrectly and missing your intent.

Hmmm... I took the distant past to be a time of superstition, when people were wrong in a different way, believing that places with bad energies were cursed in some way. Now we're wrong about the amount of control people have over their circumstances, believing problems are never systemic in nature.

I guess lj can let us know either way.

I took pretty much hsh's understanding. (If nothing else, we are having an interesting insight into how differently our words can be interpreted. At least until lj lets us know what he really meant.)

Hmmm... I took the distant past to be a time of superstition

I was taking that as an analogy of sorts that gives us a mythic slant on structural and generational problems. Pre-enlightenment thinking had us believe that... but the enlightenment thinkers told us that... but now we are seeing that perhaps there was something deeper to the old way of thinking.

Argument can be like climbing route sometimes. The holds are mostly marked, but how you get from one to another is individual.

It takes a couple of intuitive leaps to get to my understanding of "the route." Hoping I'm making the right leaps.

hsh's version was my guess about what lj was getting at, with the additional wrinkle (for me) that the feng shui I grew up around certainly implied hsh's first sentence. And his (hsh's) second sentence made sense too, both as a follow-on from the first, and a concept that we often discuss here. nous, it's the second part of your formulation that still seems very mysterious to me, but something tells me that's intentional!

The second part is informed by something like this:

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/mortality-black-belt/

There’s a map, made more than 150 years ago using 1860 census data, that pops up periodically on the internet. On two yellowed, taped-together sheets of paper, the counties of the Southern U.S. are shaded to reflect the percentage of inhabitants who were enslaved at the time. Bolivar County, Mississippi, is nearly black on the map, with 86.7 printed on it. Greene County, Alabama: 76.5. Burke, Georgia: 70.6. The map is one of the first attempts to translate U.S. census data into cartographic form and is one of several maps of the era that tried to make sense of the deep divisions between North and South, slave states and free.

But the reason the map resurfaces so frequently is not just its historical relevance. Rather, it’s because the shading so closely matches visualizations of many modern-day data sets. There is the stream of blue voters in counties on solidly red land in the 2016 presidential election, or differences in television viewing patterns. There’s research on the profound lack of economic mobility in some places, and on life expectancy at birth.

Yes, but isn't that systemic, inherited, (mostly race-related) poverty and disadvantage such as we (most of us) acknowledge exists? As in hsh's formulation? I must be missing something...

Yes, but isn't that systemic, inherited, (mostly race-related) poverty and disadvantage such as we (most of us) acknowledge exists?

We've seen here in our discussions, though, what lj was talking about with our current paradigm of individual freedom and responsibility and how that is used to undercut any assertion of structural problems.

It's a macro/micro problem, and the reliance on an individual frame for every problem cuts the macro level concerns out of the discussion.

But on the macro level it starts to look, again, like the old problems of places with problems tied to them.

Sorry, not able to stay up late as I'm going full out during the day.

Yes, nous' take is the one I want to get across and I did want to connect with past. We look at our ancestors and think 'god, what idiots' Yet they were as smart (and as stupid) as we are. We look at "our" accomplishments and take them as triumphs that validate our success. This isn't to say that hsh is wrong, but it seems to me that both takes are part of the same thing.

I wouldn't wish my facebook timeline on anyone, but if you have one similar, you have arguments about whether it's good for Bezos/Musk/Branson to do the shit they do. It's remarkable, all of us "know" that those 3 musketeers didn't build a rocket with their own hands, coming up with a fuel mix to provide optimum thrust, figure out the trajectory. They are essentially Laika, of some without the check of oxygen deprivation

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/sad-story-laika-space-dog-and-her-one-way-trip-orbit-1-180968728/

https://www.space.com/19505-space-monkeys-chimps-history.html

Every discussion seems to turn to an individual frame and it really distracts. I didn't have this in mind, but if we look at the problems we are having with vaccination and personal responsibility, it takes all those problems and puts them in a blender. I'll leave it all there before I get too ranty, but hope that helps.

We've seen here in our discussions, though, what lj was talking about with our current paradigm of individual freedom and responsibility and how that is used to undercut any assertion of structural problems.

Have we, here? Leaving aside McKinney and Marty, who clearly have a different opinion on this issue from most of us, is this something you have seen here? Or is this about some of the reaction here to Robin DiAngelo and White Fragility, or even my evolving views on trans issues? I can't exactly see how what we have been talking about applies to either of those, but it might be my blind spot...

Sorry, cross posted with lj. Absorbing.

Why leave aside McKinney and Marty, (and CharlesWT defaults to that line of argument as his starting point)? They are part of the conversation here and part of the wider political deliberations as voters.

Please note that I don't believe that they deny that we have problems with race and racism in the US, or mean to imply that they do not want to solve those problems. I'm not attacking their intentions, just pointing out the paradigm from which they approach the conversation of what should be done and how the solution should be implemented.

No of course, if you want to include McKinney and Marty and CharlesWT , then clearly their views align much more closely with those who are reluctant to acknowledge the extent and systemic nature of various kinds of inequalities. But since they are obviously very much in the minority here, in that as in so much else, I wondered if you had something other in mind. (I also should have added to my list of possible topics the issues which came up in our recent discussion of the MIT hacks.)

But yes, thanks all and especially lj, I now have something of a clearer idea of what was meant by the original comment.

If this were some period of time where I would be very rich (which would obviously be due to status and dumb luck) I hope I would have the sense to employ nous as my factotum.

(which I thought has one meaning as a ghostwriter and when I went to check, factotum sent me to
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handyman
but anyway, just to say that he packages what I'm thinking a lot more elegantly than I do. Maybe the word is amanuensis, but that looks like just taking dictation)

A phrase I often have in my head is 'It's not about you'. Looking at these larger trends, it isn't about individuals, it is about the impact on the collective. I don't say it because it can come off as totally dismissive, but when it is the system that is problematic (and something like white fragility or attitudes towards trans are systemic in their scope, or climate change or gun laws), it isn't about any one person's attitudesand their evolution, it is about the evolution of the collective weight of those attitudes.

And one thing I notice (not so much here, but in other places) is that rather than deal with that, the urge is to personalize the argument. 'you just don't like me, do you' sort of thing. 'you disagree because you are a xxx' I feel that it is at that point, rather than later, that the thread is lost.

I realize that Loomis is an acquired taste, but this is what I'm thinking

https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2021/07/the-loss-of-collective-solidarity

more later, thanks for asking questions to get me to clarify GftNC

he packages what I'm thinking a lot more elegantly

And not just you, nous is a particularly good and clear articulator of complicated stuff. Not to mention occasionally wickedly witty.

The thing I find so fascinating, is the way the evolution of the collective weight of those attitudes can move so fast. For gender-critical feminists, the speed of the evolution to what has become the majority progressive view on self-ID is astounding. For anyone who is interested, this is a piece on a Labour MP who is currently in the firing line:

https://lesbianandgaynews.com/2021/02/rosie-duffields-canterbury-tale-defending-womens-rights/

Sorry not trying to threadjack, that interview with Rosie Duffield was in February, but (partly) forms the basis for what is reported in another piece in Lesbian and Gay News dated today:

LGBT+ Labour have claimed that Duffield has engaged in “a pattern of LGBT-phobic behaviour”. Chair of LGBT+ Labour Alex Beverley added: “We feel we have exhausted all other options and now must publicly call for the whip to be removed from Rosie Duffield and for her to be suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party.”

“The party must demonstrate that it stands with the LGBT+ community and that it will not tolerate transphobia or homophobia from our membership or elected officials.”

Some have cited Duffield’s opposition to gender self-identification and acknowledgment that ‘only women have a cervix’ as evidence of transphobia, despite the fact that Duffield is clear that she has no animosity toward those who identify as transgender. But even in the febrile environment of social media, where disagreement is often misconstrued as hatred, no evidence exists of any homophobia from Duffield.

Also, I'm definitely not trying to make ObWi a mouthpiece for gender-critical views, but I'm hoping folks here won't mind me linking the occasional piece showing how views on this issue are evolving (or not) in the UK.

Regret to inform you that it is, by definition, impossible to threadjack an Open Thread. ;-)

The thing I find so fascinating, is the way the evolution of the collective weight of those attitudes can move so fast. For gender-critical feminists, the speed of the evolution to what has become the majority progressive view on self-ID is astounding.

I tend to think of this as an evolution that begins in earnest in 1990 with the publication of Judith Butler's Gender Trouble and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's Epistemology of the Closet (with Foucault's The History of Sexuality sitting in the background since its translation into English in 1978). It was a constant feature of debates between Queer and BIPOC scholars and Women's Studies scholars for most of the 1990s and 2000s. The tipping point on this in the US happens during the Obama years when Don't Ask Don't Tell finally gave way to integration for both women and transgendered military personnel, and then, of course, the reality TV driven ubiquity of Caitlyn Jenner pushing the whole conversation into mainstream media.

It seems a rapid tectonic shift for those who only witnessed the mainstream policy debates, but it's a 30-year shift to anyone who's been part of the scholarly community debating these topics.

And for community based Women's Rights activists without much connection to Queer and BIPOC activists, the tipping point probably seems like something on which they were not consulted, whereas for the Intersectional Feminists, the current moment seems like a dissident-let backlash against a hard-won, multi-decade consensus building.

We seem to have a lot of gay activists here who oppose self-ID. But perhaps the "Queer" in "Queer and BIPOC activists" means something other than gay in the relevant academic vocabulary?

Also, for clarity's sake, when you say the current moment seems like a dissident-let backlash against a hard-won, multi-decade consensus building do you mean the objection to self-ID and its effect on women's rights, or are you talking about transphobia? Because I think if the former (defining any objection to self-ID being sufficient to legally establish someone as the sex, not gender, they feel, as being transphobic) that is self-evidently wrong. As I have said ad nauseam, I (and many like me) have extreme concern for the rights of trans people, to dignity, to protection from violence, and in every other way.

Anyway, again, I don't want to become a one-trick pony on this issue, and I don't want to constantly argue with you, nous. It's just that I don't think it's just "Women's Rights activists" who feel self-ID was something they were not consulted on, it's women, particularly women of a sufficiently advanced age to have had much experience of the multifarious ways in which their rights and protections are frequently under threat.

Of the LGBTQA letters, I have a pretty solid idea of what LGBT and A are.

Yes, I know what *word* the Q stands for, but kinda fuzzy about what "queer" actually is.

If some people don't like to self-ID that way, maybe they should use the word "weird" instead? I could identify with that.

I say Women's Rights Activists in part because those are the people who are raising the issue. I think most women really didn't think much about trans* rights issues until they started to see those issues intersecting with their own.

Meanwhile, trans* people tend also to be activists out of necessity.

And Queer as opposed to Women in my earlier formulation based on disciplinary identities, not by sex/gender identities. People whose main involvement is with LGBTQ human rights issues or people who may be gay, but whose primary involvement is with women's human rights issues.

People can find themselves conflicted and interpolated in many ways when identities overlap.

My problematic family members, by the way, insist that *they* are the real women and would gladly throw most feminists under the bus with the queer activists. There's that problematic overlap between gender critical feminists and gender critical patriarchy supporters.

"Q" in LGBTQ is meant to be inclusive of genderqueer and non-binary people, or those who know that they are queer in the larger sense, but are still trying to work out where their edges are.

it's a 30-year shift

for context, Stonewall was 52 years ago. the first AIDs cases were 40 years ago, and the AIDs epidemic was an enormously galvanizing event for the gay community. I mark it as the point when they decided they were no longer going to accept second-class-human treatment anymore.

they got tired of dying.

kinda fuzzy about what "queer" actually is.

As a tiny data point, I know one person who identifies as 'queer', using that term.

He is straight, married with a kid, looks and acts male. He identifies with a lot of things that seem feminine to him, so he sees himself as falling somewhere outside the gender lines.

I wish he felt no need to name himself anything other than "John", but we all have to live in a world we never made.

the AIDs epidemic was an enormously galvanizing event for the gay community. I mark it as the point when they decided they were no longer going to accept second-class-human treatment anymore.

My sense at the time was that the AIDS epidemic convinced the vast majority of gays (especially the closetted ones) that simple survival required coming out and demanding their rights. The closet wasn't comfortable, but it was familiar. Coming out was a change and a risk. For it to happen the risk of not changing had to be larger. (Although for some, much like today's anti-vaxxers, even a high probability of dying wasn't serious enough to convince them to change.)

This is just an observation, but there seems to be a slightly different flavor to the trans debates in the UK and in the US. Not exactly sure what it is and if it flows from differences between debates feminism, initial gay rights or something else entirely. It's not that the US is better than the UK or vice versa, it just feels different when I read stuff about it.

Another short comment, that question of who is 'real' and who isn't is one that often comes up in immigrant/expat/New Japanese(NJ)/mixed conversations. It's fraught, frustrating and can often be used by people in ways that they don't realize how dividing it can be.

Sorry, three comments in a row, but I want to tease out some things about wj's take on why the gay liberation movement happened. I don't think it is a unique take, I feel like many other people might have a similar one, but I do think it is problematic.

I also want to say that I don't think he's wrong, it is just that it is one narrative. But there are other narratives and each person is an individual, so that is A narrative, not THE narrative. And a multiplicity of narratives is necessary to allow for the diversity of experiences and opinions.

Which is important because the narrative is problematic. Here it is with some bits bolded

My sense at the time was that the AIDS epidemic convinced the vast majority of gays (especially the closetted ones) that simple survival required coming out and demanding their rights. The closet wasn't comfortable, but it was familiar. Coming out was a change and a risk. For it to happen the risk of not changing had to be larger.

So, first thing is that if we take that as THE narrative, we imply that had AIDs/HIV not occurred, they would and perhaps should have been happy to stay where they were. Is that the case for everyone? Immediately, it shifts to that individual responsibility, if you wanted to be gay, you should accept the consequences. Yet those consequences were not really things that they could necessarily choose.

For 'simple' survival, I understand what you mean, but why shouldn't being the person you want to be, finding the person you want to be with, making a family, also be 'simple'. For For gay people before liberation, it was cut off to them. It's still being cut off to them. So saying 'simple' survival implies that having complex needs is somehow something they shouldn't have had. Or if they had them, they should repress them.

There is also an underlying implication that those in the closet were forced to come out. It takes away their agency, their control of their lives and their identity. On one level, we never really control our own identity, we are not just who we think we are, we are who others think we are. So this narrative shifts all the responsibility for change on those who were being discriminated against.

By presenting this as a cost-benefit analysis, it also fails to calculate the benefits to society when people can be who they feel they are. Can we imagine that people do their best, be their most creative, be the best persons they can be if they are constantly running a check on whether being true to themselves is a plus or a minus?

I don't mean to make you a pinata here, and I'm not speaking for gay folks, but when I look at your narrative, it seems to leave out a lot of the story. And if I can see it as a cisgender male can see that, it might be even more problematic for others with actual stakes in the game.

Just to emphasize, this isn't to doubt your good will and your good intentions, so please don't take this as an attack on you, just some observations about that narrative.

There's that problematic overlap between gender critical feminists and gender critical patriarchy supporters.

So true! As I have already observed, it is incredibly uncomfortable. But I'd guess it's nothing to the discomfort of the overlap between transactivists and transactivist patriarchy supporters:


Susanna Rustin
@SusannaRustin
Anyone who thinks they are on the side of the marginalised, who also thinks a lesbian philosopher such as @Docstockk shouldn't *write about the redefinition of the word lesbian to includes males* has made a category error about themselves. They are on the side of patriarchy (1/2)
10:35 am · 20 Jul 2021·Twitter Web App
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Susanna Rustin
@SusannaRustin
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@SusannaRustin
& to avoid any ambiguity i think everyone is entitled to discuss gender identity, whose proponents make claims about every human being.
But it's truly quite hard to think of anything more misogynist than arguing that lesbians shouldn't discuss what it means to be a lesbian (2/2)

first thing is that if we take that as THE narrative, we imply that had AIDs/HIV not occurred, they would and perhaps should have been happy to stay where they were.

Apologies, lj, if I made it seem that I thought AIDS was the only factor. Clearly it wasn't. But I do think it vastly speeded up, and took national, something that was already starting, albeit somewhat tentatively, in a few urban liberal enclaves (such as the one I lived in at the time).

And I don't think those in the closet were happy with their situation otherwise. I just think it was familiar, and that they saw coming out as a serious risk. Which it definitively was, to an extent that those born since 1985 can't really imagine. I mean, liberals, even far left ones, when denouncing Reagan routinely called him "Ronnie buttf*ck". Not precisely a sign of openmindedness and acceptance when it came to homosexuals.

As with any cultural change, there were multiple causes in aggregate. And, for each individual, multiple factors as well. But I think that, in this case, we can identify one cause for the timing which was substantially more significant than any other for the overall movement.

Thanks wj and apologies for me using that as an argument. It is astonishing how much attitudes have changed and, though I don't want to make your thoughts have to carry all of my speculation, I wonder why that is the case for homosexuality, but not for racism?

Certainly some easy factors to identify, the likelihood that you would find a relative or acquaintance who was gay and be surprised was a given, but you aren't going to discover that an uncle or aunt was black ("wow, I didn't realize..."), when people began coming out, they appeared across a wide crosssection of society, one didn't suddenly discover that a CEO of a company whose goods you used all the time was black. The fact that sexual attraction exists on a spectrum means that a wider range of people are going to be sympathetic, so there was a multiplier effect that doesn't exist for anti-racism. To the extent that all this is true, I wonder if anyone has any other speculation about this.

If AIDS indeed played a major part in 'normalizing' openly professed homosexuality, it must be especially painful for the type of homophobes who welcomed the disease in the mistaken belief that it would get either rid society of gays or could serve as a pretense to put them all in concentration camps (there were 'respectable' politicians over here in Germany calling for that or at least an equivalent of the yellow star).
When I grew up, homosexuality was something I could not really grasp* and to me seemed limited to a certain strange subculture (which was concentrated in a certain quarter of town together with many other alternative lifestyles). No 'moral' prejudices on my part just not something that would fit in** 'next door'. That subculture still exists around here but is now just one form of expression, not something gays and lesbians do 'by nature'.

*still can't, admittedly. But that is more about finding quite common sexual practices icky not about the emotional attraction between people of the same sex (no or at least no significant mental problems there).

**'fit in' just in the sense of 'does not seem out of place' with no judgement involved. A gay couple next door would have been more like the neighbours having a giant anteater or an okapi as a pet.

When I grew up, homosexuality was something I could not really grasp*
...
*still can't, admittedly. But that is more about finding quite common sexual practices icky not about the emotional attraction between people of the same sex

I have the same problem, on an emotional level. I suspect that it is rather common among people of my generation, just due to the culture in which we were raised. I manage to set aside those reactions when making decisions on how gays should be treated; others apparently find that impossible. Perhaps the good news is that this generation is passing from the scene.

I've read a dozen plus articles that attempt to trace the current anti-trans* moment in England and while I see some trends and consistent beats in the conversation (legacies of colonialism, the influence of the Sceptic Movement of the 1990s on a particular view of biological determinism), trying to chart a course through it to make sense of it all is not something that can be done in a single, readable comment on a blog.

I will say, however, that all that reading has left me with the impression that the trans* scepticism is related on some level to Euro scepticism and has parallels with the Brexit arguments. It's about policing borders and a suspicion of migrancy.

For this reason, some of the more interesting accounts of the moment (to me, anyway) come from Irish feminists.

the impression that the trans* scepticism is related on some level to Euro scepticism and has parallels with the Brexit arguments.

Like those similarly inclined in the US, it sounds like the common thread is a dislike of society changing from the way it was half a century (or more!) ago.

When I grew up, homosexuality was something I could not really grasp

i don't have that problem. on the other hand, i was certainly taught that i should have that problem. so i tend to lay low when people around me make the kind of casual homophobic comments that i wouldn't make and i think they shouldn't be making. i know i should say "why such a hater?" or whatever, but i also learned that saying anything like that could raise suspicions about me among people who might have problems with gays. and i'd rather not deal have to with that. easier to just make a mental note about those people and move on.

Can't remember any open homophobia in my surroundings in those days as opposed to e.g. anti-Turkish xenophobia. Gay jokes clearly did exist but were universally aimed at the stereotype of the subculture gay person and were of the 'these guys are silly' type (more like very diluted blond jokes). Anti-Jewish and anti-Turk jokes on the other hand were often extremly nasty. Black jokes were a mixed bag and often subverted the stereotype (e.g. the 'savage' encountered by whites in the African jungle usually turns out to be highly educated).
Even the (then) harmless jokes are of course often highly questionable these days but one could say the same about traditional jokes made by different German 'tribes' about each other (stingy Swabians, stupid East Frisians etc.)

I like okapis

the current anti-trans* moment in England

***

the trans* scepticism is related on some level to Euro scepticism and has parallels with the Brexit arguments

Just as long as by "anti-trans*" and "trans* scepticism" you are not referring to people like me. I am absolutely not anti-trans, or trans-sceptical, as I hope you understand after all our back-and-forths so far, and any formulation which seeks to so describe people with views like mine is totally inaccurate.

As far as Euro-scepticism and the Brexit argument are concerned, I understand what you are saying, and I bet that for certain kinds of "gender critical patriarchy supporters" there is a connection. For myself, most people here will remember how passionately pro-European I have been, and how desperate and upset I was after the Brexit referendum. The result, to me, was analogous (and a precursor) to the Trump phenomenon, with many of the same associations (such as racism, anti-immigrant feeling etc), and this is true of almost all gender-critical feminists of my acquaintance (there is only one somewhat Euro-sceptic exception, and even she voted Remain).

In fact, I am starting to be quite uncomfortable with the description "gender-critical". After all, I have no problem at all with people choosing the gender identification with which they are comfortable, am perfectly happy to conform to their choice in the matter of pronouns and language etc, and fully accept the argument that gender is a social construct. Can anybody explain why somebody with these views should be called "gender-critical"?

Can anybody explain why somebody with these views should be called "gender-critical"?

I suppose it's not too likely that "critical" is being used in the sense of "extremely important," rather than in the sense of "disapproving." But that's the only way I can see it making sense.

Isn't it that for gender critical thinkers, the biological facts are immutable (therefore 'critical') so any other aspects have to acknowledge that fact? Thus identifying yourself by a feminine pronoun is 'wrong'. I don't know if Jordan Peterson is 'gender critical', but his crusade started when he argued (falsely) that new laws would punish him if he didn't acknowledge the pronouns someone else wanted to use.

sorry, identifying yourself with 'her' when you are a man is wrong. And vice versa.

In fact, I am starting to be quite uncomfortable with the description "gender-critical". After all, I have no problem at all with people choosing the gender identification with which they are comfortable, am perfectly happy to conform to their choice in the matter of pronouns and language etc, and fully accept the argument that gender is a social construct. Can anybody explain why somebody with these views should be called "gender-critical"?

If you don't think that the "gender-critical feminist" label applies because you disagree with their views about gender being a patriarchal trap, then it probably doesn't apply to you as a label.

If it doesn't apply, though, then the question of how to negotiate the sex/gender question becomes one with no single standard of "factually a woman," and legal standards need to recognize the possibilities.

The sceptics want everything to be physics (in the ancient Greek sense of "natural, with fixed and knowable qualities). But given what we know of the biology and genetics of sexual expression in bodies, I'd say that a lot of our most crucial questions are metaphysics, rather than physics, and need to be allowed wide enough tolerances to account for this.

Also, the "gender-critical feminist" label was chosen by the feminists themselves to step away from their earlier self-labeling as "trans-exclusionary radical feminists" after TERF started to be used as a pejorative. Either way, though, it is as lj explains it. They are critical of the received notions of gender as being products of patriarchy meant to subjugate women. For them, all that matters, essentially, are bodies, and those bodies are immutable scripts.

Can anybody explain why somebody with these views should be called "gender-critical"?

Besides, if individuals have a right to choose what gender pronoun they are addressed by, then shouldn't they also have a right to choose what other labels are appropriate for themselves?

Of course, that would make denunciations more difficult....

Isn't it that for gender critical thinkers, the biological facts are immutable (therefore 'critical') so any other aspects have to acknowledge that fact?

But what does the biological facts being immutable (not exactly how I would put it, but still, good enough) have to do with "gender"? If I read you right, shouldn't that be "sex critical"?

If you don't think that the "gender-critical feminist" label applies because you disagree with their views about gender being a patriarchal trap, then it probably doesn't apply to you as a label.

Hmm. Well, I'm not sure I do think that gender is altogether a patriarchal trap, although it is noticeable that many trans women opt for a gender identity very much on the hyper-feminised end of the spectrum (i.e. the end often perceived as being a creation of the patriarchy). But not all trans women, that's for sure. Not the trans women I have known personally.

This is a very complicated issue (specialist subject: stating the bleedin obvious), but when discussing this about a year ago with someone she said "What does it even mean, to feel like a woman inside? That is an incomprehensible and meaningless thing to say!", to which I had to reply "You have just given the perfect example of feeling like a woman inside. There is zero discontinuity between how you feel, how you were brought up, how you are perceived, and how you are treated. It has been so obvious and natural to you that you are a woman, that it has never occurred to you to question it, or examine it." Clearly, this is the opposite of the experience of many trans people.

Anyway, FWIW, that is my rather jumbled feeling about gender. I accept and want to accommodate the need for some people to change their gender identity. I don't want them to have to suffer because of it. But I don't want women to have to suffer for it either.

Thus identifying yourself by a feminine pronoun is 'wrong'.

OK, definitely not me.

Either way, though, it is as lj explains it. They are critical of the received notions of gender as being products of patriarchy meant to subjugate women.

This is getting increasingly confusing. lj said "critical" in gender-critical meant absolutely necessary (like immutable), not "critical" as in being critical of received notions of gender being products of the patriarchy.

In any case, it looks like this label does not apply to people like me. There is more than one spectrum involved in this issue, and although I am on the end of the spectrum which says you cannot change your sex (as biologically defined), I absolutely say you can change your gender if you choose, and should be free to do so, and not discriminated against for doing so.

We obviously need an enormous amount of new vocabulary. And an enormous amount of good will, so as not to believe that people who take opposing views are necessarily cruel bigots or ill-intentioned predators and misogynists.

I accept and want to accommodate the need for some people to change their gender identity. I don't want them to have to suffer because of it. But I don't want women to have to suffer for it either.

Could you say more about this? Because I think that this formulation with *people who change their gender* on one side and *women* on the other could point either to an implied categorical distinction between *transwomen* and *women* women or to an attempt to shorthand a complex problem that went a bit awry in its brevity and haste.

At least I marked it as a potentially problematic ambiguity in the argument.

(Arguments like these about language are probably why sceptics hate poststructuralists.)

Yes, Marty, okapis are cool.

The problem with having a Giant Anteater as a pet is getting a supply of Giant Ants to feed it. So an okapi is a better choice.

i'd rather not deal have to with that. easier to just make a mental note about those people and move on.

there is a kind of triage involved, I think.

do you know this person?
do you care what this person thinks?
does this person care what you think?
is this someone you are going to have to interact with with any frequency?
how likely is it that this person will receive anything you have to say?

if you have any credibility with the person, and they're a part of your life in any consistent way, could be that it's worth challenging their point of view.

otherwise, less so.

there's kind of a sliding scale.

I accept and want to accommodate the need for some people to change their gender identity. I don't want them to have to suffer because of it. But I don't want women to have to suffer for it either.

this makes sense to me.

there are going to be cases where not everyone is going to be happy. ideally, everyone involved will be acting in good faith, in which case there is probably a solution suitable to the case at hand.

if not, probably not, but at that point it's no longer about acceptance and getting along, and more about making a point(s).

which can be legitimate, but is also inherently going to involve conflict.

there isn't an easy answer. among the easy answers that don't exist is for gay, trans, bi, and queer people to just shut up and go away.

not saying anyone here is arguing for that, just pointing out the obvious.

I accept and want to accommodate the need for some people to change their gender identity. I don't want them to have to suffer because of it. But I don't want women to have to suffer for it either.

Any time you make a choice, there are both positive and negative consequences. ("Easy" decisions are those where the negative consequences are minor.) Sometimes, maybe even often, choosing something means that your choices in other areas are constrained. If you choose to enter astronaut training, you won't be able to train for the Olympics. If you choose to live in Colorado, professional surfing is off the table.

Similarly, those who are transgender and choose to transition may have to accept that competitive athletics are no longer available. And for those are transgender, but have not yet transitioned, certain other choices (gender-segregated facilities, for example) may not yet be available.

We can argue about just which choices should or should not be limited, and why. But to insist that no limits are acceptable is posturing, not reality.

But to insist that no limits are acceptable is posturing, not reality.

Yes, but it's tapping in to something that is pretty bog standard American, right? Anyone can be president!

https://www.awakenthegreatnesswithin.com/25-inspirational-quotes-on-limits/

It's kind of a own goal, right? Spend all your time telling people that there are no limits and damn if they don't take you seriously...

Good memoir that explores a lot of this territory: The Fixed Stars, by Molly Wizenberg. The Amazon description gives only a pale shadow of the complexity of the story.

The passage that follows is possibly relevant to this from GftNC: it is noticeable that many trans women opt for a gender identity very much on the hyper-feminised end of the spectrum. Although Wizenberg's partner is far from being hyper-feminized, the point about having to stick the landing seems relevant, IMO.

I wonder about this elusiveness in relation to my non-binary partner, who was assigned female at birth, raised as a girl, and identifies more with women than with men, but is both and neither. Ash’s power comes from someplace else. Androgyny is not gender’s absence; it’s the negotiation made visible. The word trans is convenient shorthand for anyone living as a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth, but a person may not be “transitioning”—may not be, as the artist Harry Dodge puts it, on their way anywhere. This is where Ash lives—as sturdy a shelter as any, though frequently pummeled by the elements.

Ash spends more time grooming than I do, and early on it puzzled me. Ash tweezes, blow-dries, gels. It makes sense, because they’re more meticulous than I am. They like to look neater than I do. But I think there’s also this: as a cisgender woman, I have more wiggle room than Ash does in how we “put on” our genders. Even with the standards that Western culture imposes on cis women, there is more forgiveness for me. Ash has got to stick the landing.

A trans friend says that the period of his transition—between living as a woman and “passing” as a man—was almost too difficult to withstand. When you don’t look the way we expect a man to look or the way we expect a woman to look, your gender becomes glaring. It was like I was on display, he said; people always asked me to explain. When he started to pass, to blend in among other men, he got his privacy back. The soft marrow of his gender was once again hidden away, like we keep the parts between our legs.

They are critical of the received notions of gender as being products of patriarchy meant to subjugate women.

Let me take another whack at this. It is interesting that 'critical' has that double valence, 1)absolutely essential and 2)the ability to take apart logically. It reflects no small amount on the pedestal we put argumentation on. We know 'they were critical of the proposal' means that they were against it, but the general implication is they had good reasons. It also plugs into a trait I've noticed coming to Japan, if foreigners are asked to evaluate a proposal, they _have to_ find something wrong. If they don't, they are 'uncritical' and aren't expressing and care in the answer.

I believe that similarly 'gender critical' tries to have it both ways. People who label themselves as gender critical thinkers are placing gender as something that preceeds everything, but they also want to say that they are 'critical' of notions of gender. As nous pointed out, the idea that gender roles are the result of the partriarchy trying to enforce gender norms is then something that can be rejected.

It is interesting, because we also have critical race theory, which is doing a similar thing. It wants to criticize theories of race, but it also wants to deny the idea that the law is somehow colorblind (it originated, like intersectionality, within legal scholarship) So you have to talk about it to try and figure out what it is, even if you don't think it _should_ matter.

Wikipedia tells me it is related to Critical Theory
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_theory

which also leverages that double valence.

PS to my 12:15: How people perceive me I'm bemused to say I'm not sure, but I can't imagine anyone would describe me as "feminine." I consider myself to be androgynous, at least mildly; if I were young instead of old I might even consider calling myself non-binary. The entire reason the passage I quoted was in front of me tonight was that I went looking for the core of it, which I find apt and memorable:

Androgyny is not gender’s absence; it’s the negotiation made visible.

Amazing how important prepositions are in English.
"they were critical of the proposal" means that they were against it,
"they were critical to the proposal" means that they were vital in creating it.

And “they were critical at the proposal” means they probably aren’t getting a wedding invitation.

How people perceive me I'm bemused to say I'm not sure...

I guess I was thinking more about people I know when I wrote that. As for strangers, when I was a young adult, I was mistaken for a young man on several memorable occasions. It is not rare for me to be called "sir" before someone hears my voice or actually pays attention. I just don't think about it much anymore.

Life is interesting.

there's kind of a sliding scale.

definitely.

I had no idea what "stick the landing" meant. Another win for the ObWi educational department!

nous, in response to your request for clarification @08.56, I thought you might have followed the discussion on another thread, where I said that after learning more about this issue than my original, highly supportive stance on trans people had entailed, I was now no longer willing to say, for example, "trans women are women."

Although I still feel I am highly supportive of trans people and their rights, once I saw how things were developing, I made the following decision. I will never knowingly call a genuine trans person by the pronoun of their birth, and will do everything I can to be supportive of them. But I oppose the redefinition of the words "woman" and "man", and instead am in favour of creating new categories of "trans woman", "trans man" and "non-binary" (and who knows, as we find out more about this phenomenon and the heat goes out of the debate, maybe more categories than that, for example relevant to the stage of life at which the individuals transitioned). And I support the retention, where necessary, of "women-only" spaces.

Where language is concerned (and I know that lj thinks this part of the debate is more live in the UK than the US), I oppose eliminating the words "woman", "girl", "mother" etc and replacing them with "people with cervixes", "people who menstruate", "birth-givers" etc. In order to give consideration to trans men, I support, for example, the usage "women and other people with cervixes".

None of this is ideal, or even comfortable. But we are in a time of rapid and contentious change, and we do what we can to try to treat people of all sorts with respect and compassion.

...I oppose eliminating the words "woman", "girl", "mother" etc and replacing them with "people with cervixes", "people who menstruate", "birth-givers" etc.

This strikes me as something like saying that you oppose a worldwide ban on wristwatches. ;^)

I understand, hsh, but nobody has proposed (or put into effect) a worldwide ban on wristwatches! Whereas, hard as it is to believe, this has been done in some semi-official documentation because of the hijacking of the debate by extremist trans-activists. And in fact, it was when she semi-humorously tweeted an objection to the use of the phrase "people who menstruate" in something from (I think) the NHS, that J K Rowling got saddled with the reputation of being the world's most famous "transphobe". I have never heard or read her say a transphobic thing, and in fact, it is the phenomenon of this subject becoming something about which you cannot speak or debate without being anathematised which galvanised me and many non-extreme women to reevaluate our attitudes to the trans issue.

So if the words woman, girl etc become obsolete because of worldwide evolution of a consensus that they are no longer necessary, in the way wristwatches have, that's fine. But nobody boycotts, threatens or tries to have fired people who like wristwatches, or still wear them.

I oppose eliminating the words "woman", "girl", "mother" etc and replacing them with "people with cervixes", "people who menstruate", "birth-givers" etc. In order to give consideration to trans men, I support, for example, the usage "women and other people with cervixes".

Me too. Indeed, it's hard for me to take a lot of this seriously. We actually don't always need to make these distinctions, and when we do there are terms available.

If you tell me Jane is John's mother I usually won't care if she actually gave birth to John. If it's important for some reason - maybe a medical issue - then the perfectly clear terms "adoptive" or "non-biological" can be used to distinguish.

"people who menstruate" excludes a lot of women.

i recommend ignoring the vanishingly small minority of people who say they want "woman" and "girl" to be replaced with clumsy jargon that adds no useful information. it's never going to happen. people simply are not going to accept fundamental changes in languages in order to accommodate trans- people.

it's never going to happen

To some extent, it had already started to happen in the UK. Perhaps this is why the UK backlash on "trans rights" has (by US consensus) been more extreme than the one in the US, and not exclusively (or mainly) by RWNJs gleefully seizing a wedge issue.

And alas, ignoring this kind of issue is what almost got the self-ID law passed in the UK - it came within a whisker.

Iirc wristwatches were, if not invented, made common in WW1 only because the proper watch on a chain turned out to be too impractical in the trenches.

As for banning specific words, "Fräulein" in German has turned from a respectable and even insisted on word to one detested and fought against. It's a diminutive of "Frau" and means that the female in question is an adult but not married (in the present or past). During my lifetime it became a minefield with some (usually older) never married women insisting of being referred to as Fräulein while others considered it at best as patronising and at worst a personal insult*. I guess many kids these days have to get the word explained to them because they do not know it anymore.
It used to be also in general use for women in public service probably because in the past women that got married had to quit those jobs (in particular schoolteachers**).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fr%C3%A4ulein

I do not know, whether the English "Miss" underwent a similar change in perception.

*carrying the perceived connotation of either "spinster" (if old) or not yet properly grown-up (if young).
**leading to the ugly prejudice and stereotype that female schoolteachers were bluestockings (when*** young) and ugly (when old), so in both cases unable to find a husband due to flaws in character or looks.
***not sure, if 'if' or 'when' is more appropriate here since in this case it seems more temporal than conditional (as in the case above).

Where language is concerned (and I know that lj thinks this part of the debate is more live in the UK than the US), I oppose eliminating the words "woman", "girl", "mother" etc and replacing them with "people with cervixes", "people who menstruate", "birth-givers" etc. In order to give consideration to trans men, I support, for example, the usage "women and other people with cervixes".

No one is eliminating those words. No one is creating jargon to avoid those words. What the NHS was doing was being precise.

There are many different reasons why a woman may not have a cervix or a mother may not ever have given birth to a child.

"Women and other people with cervixes" gets it partially correct, but then it becomes "women with cervixes and other people with cervixes" when you really start to think about the category you are talking about.

It's not a trans activists issue, this has been an issue raised by BIPOC feminists and disability advocates as well, as part of that 30 year history I mentioned.

I'm not overly concerned with policing casual language or enforcing the use of non-offensive terms. I get irritated with that sort of thing as much as anyone.

But sometimes language must be estranged and denaturalized in order to provoke a reassessment of our understanding of the world.

Wedge issues only create division when the people who are conflicted choose solidarity with bad actors over carefully compartmentalized matters of principle rather than maintaining a united front with their allies.

Wedge issues only create division when the people who are conflicted choose solidarity with bad actors over carefully compartmentalized matters of principle rather than maintaining a united front with their allies.

No comment.

My inner nerd compels me to note that ‘girl’ originally referred to children of either gender.

Language does change over time, but normally does so as a more or less organic process. It sometimes changes due to ideological or political imperative, but that isn’t the norm.

The handful of trans people I know basically just want to live their lives without being hassled or discriminated against. That seems like a reasonable ask, to me.

Wedge issues only create division when the people who are conflicted choose solidarity with bad actors over carefully compartmentalized matters of principle rather than maintaining a united front with their allies.

Important point. I often watch an issue evolve and come to the point of having to say: well, the situation is more nuanced than either side wants to recognize, but look who's on which side, and who my actual allies are. "My allies" (like me) are fallible, but that doesn't mean I'm going to side with the devil to make that point.

I do not know, whether the English "Miss" underwent a similar change in perception.

Not going to do any research, but you might check out the evolution of the use of "Ms." -- which didn't exist when I was a child, as far as I know.

Not going to do any research, but you might check out the evolution of the use of "Ms." -- which didn't exist when I was a child, as far as I know.

OED says that it was first suggested 10 Nov. 1901 in the Springfield Sunday Republican.

Its use was being debated in the NYT by the 1930s, but it was used when a woman's marital status was in doubt, and not as an emancipation statement.

The magazine of that name launched in 1971.

nous, I do believe it began to be used as an emancipation statement when I was a teenager or young adult, which synchs roughly enough with the debut of the magazine.

My only point was to indicate that "Miss" became problematic in English as well as German, along with "Mrs." for that matter.

It may have been invented and debated much earlier, but it was rarer than facial hair on men during my childhood.

Understood, JanieM, just filling in the research because I had easy access to it and was curious.

I recall, when I was very young - somewhere from kindergarten to second grade, so 1973 to 1975 - a young teacher in my school insisting that she be called "Ms." I think it was the first time I had heard it. I was too young to know what it was about, but I remember that she seemed very serious.

It probably doesn't need stating here, but as far as I understood it (and still do), the central point of "Ms." was that we shouldn't need to know or name women's marital status to address or refer to them any more than we need to know or refer to men's.

Exactly.

As for banning specific words, "Fräulein" in German has turned from a respectable and even insisted on word to one detested and fought against.

How a lot of baby boomers in the US learn the word.

Bobby Helms - Fraulein (1956) & Answer Song.

For me it was probably watching Hogan's Heroes reruns.

While I have no problem understanding negative reactions to "Miss" (and "Fräulein"), I'm not sure that there are many English-speaking women that would object to being called "Mademoiselle".

It's possible that a solid majority would be tickled pink, to abuse an old expression.

It must be some sort of intersectionality thing, perhaps depending on the local curvature of space-time.

I'm not sure that there are many English-speaking women that would object to being called "Mademoiselle".

Hmmmmmm. Nicely hedged, but I can't fathom what you're basing this on. On the other hand, when the alternative is "Madame"......

Offered without comment, in fact, without giving it more than a quick skim myself.

meanwhile, GOP Congressman proudly displays his Remember The Terrorist Who Came To Kill Pelosi bracelet.

https://twitter.com/brianklaas/status/1421064779725213697

that's Paul Gosar, one of the four Congresspeople who allegedly planned 1/6.

Not going to do any research, but you might check out the evolution of the use of "Ms." -- which didn't exist when I was a child, as far as I know.

I have a fairly clear recollection of Ms. coming into use circa 1970 when I was a 10th grader. Back to lurking.

On the other hand, when the alternative is "Madame"......

Perhaps there's an issue due to the connotations of "madame" in colloquial English.

Perhaps there's an issue due to the connotations of "madame" in colloquial English.

That was my joking point, unarticulated.

As the slatternly woman at the entrance to the rundown apartment block says to Zero Mostel in The Producers when, asking for directions to the nazi writer of Springtime for Hitler, he grandiosely addresses her as Madam:

I ain't no madam, I'm a concierge!"

Italiexo! Sorry all.

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