Gender Fundamentalism and Hate – part II
UPDATE. George has also commented Iddo Landau’s talk and the reaction of gender fundamentalists here.
The first example of political correctness and gender stupidity (this is taken from a serious philosophical text):
“One way to flesh this idea out is to pretend that there is a superbeing, GOD, who can comprehend very complex patterns. SHE alone grasps in full the pattern in the way that moral matters connect with descriptive ones” (Frank Jackson, Philip Pettit, and Michael Smith, “Ethical Particularism and Patterns”, in B. Hooker and M. Little, Moral Particularism, Oxford University Press, 2000, p. 90; capital letters are mine)
Two days ago I had another two examples of gender fundamentalism and gender hate. I attended two conferences at Central European University: the first was offered by the Gender Department, the second by the Department of Philosophy.
The first talk was given by Gail Weiss (George Washington University) and its title was “Intertwined Identities: Challenges to Bodily Autonomy”. She discussed the problem of surgical separation of conjoint twins. She is against this separation, because she thinks it is based on: (a) “the dominant logic of identity” – that is, “one identity – one body”; (b) the idea that “conjoint life is not a worthy life”. As an argument in her favor, she says that in the majority of cases, adult conjoined twins refuse to undergo such an operation. The conclusion is that all these can show us an alternative theory of identity, which goes beyond the “dominant” one – that is, “one identity – one body”.
Now this idea strikes me as simply false. I propose the following counterfactual situation. Suppose that a physician tells the twins: “Look, because of the very advanced technology, we assure you 100 % that the operation is totally harmless to both of you; moreover, after the operation, you will live happily until the age of 99”. Now, my question is: what would the twins say? I am sure that they would like to undergo the operation. This shows that they refuse to be operated not because they have some strange philosophical notion of identity, something like “one identity – many bodies”, but because they fear that they would not survive the operation. In what concerns the fact that the separated life is worthier than the conjoint one, I really do not think that this is necessary or logically related to the social and cultural norms of our societies, as Gail Weiss sustains. If we set aside some perverse ideas, what is so worthy in being obliged to “shut down” yourself when your conjoined twin makes love with his wife??? I think the whole talk was a good example of empty words. I mean, if you want to present me just a nice story with metaphors, then it could be interesting. But if you present me this story with propositions like “Colourless green ideas sleep furiously” (Noam Chomski) as being a scientific truth, then you have to do much more than using metaphors. That is, metaphors like this: “intercorporeality as a basic condition of human existence that doesn’t undermine identity but makes it possible in the first place”. Some of us are not that stupid, Mrs. Gail Weiss!
The second talk was given by Iddo Landau (University of Haifa) and its title was „Should Marital Relations be Non-Hierarchical? Issues in Distributive Justice and Love”. Some of the members of the Gender Department came too. Basically, Iddo Landau wants to argue against the idea of the Marital Non-Hierarchy Standard (MNHS). He says that in every human associative venture there are hierarchical relations (“in almost all associations, including many financial, professional, educational and recreational ones, in almost all spheres of life”). Because of this, it is odd to claim that one such human association – that is, marriage – should be exempted from the rule. His idea is this: if I am married and I stay with my wife in her parents’ house, it is normal for her parents to have the last word in what concern, for example, their house. Here is a hierarchy in the family, based on the fact that we stay in your parents’ house. This does not run against justice and does not diminish family love. Again, if we are married and we have a child, and if you read a lot on child rearing it is absolutely normal for you to give me directions in what concerns this domain, and it is absolutely normal for me to listen to you. This is yet another type of family hierarchy, which is based on knowledge. But this does not run against being justice and does not diminish our love towards one another. In consequence, it is absolutely normal for hierarchies to exist in a family. So MNHS, which has a strong egalitarian claim, is false.
Unfortunately, after the talk, four representatives of the Gender Department (three “female” students, one “female” professor) demonstrated that they understood nothing from this talk. Very hysterical and very aggressive, they monopolized the discussion for more than one hour, attacking Iddo Landau. The only thing they understood from this conference was that the poor guy wanted to legitimate the hierarchical status of man over woman in a marriage, and that he does not recognize the importance of the academic literature written by “female” authors. The poor man really tried to explain what he was talking about – with the only result of a considerable increase in hostility and agressivity. That was very telling, in fact. Gender hate and fundamentalism is jointly nurtured by violence and stupidity. It is sad, because this is very detrimental to the receptivity of serious academic writers in gender studies as Martha Nussbaum, Susan Moller Okin, Uma Narayan, and many others.