The Dude Has Nowhere to Abide

quisunivForgive the title, I’m not even a fan of The Big Lebowski but the wife loves it and so I was forced to watch it last night.

Also forgive the content, because I’m going to break with tradition and talk about my ‘feels’ and my ‘lived experience’ rather than using facts, data, studies, logic, reason and evidence as I normally would. You’re welcome to disagree, but this post isn’t about arguing.

I have been trying, for some time now, to get a handle on the ‘social justice’ movements and, in particular NuFem (as I have taken to calling modern, internet and NGO feminism as a whole).

Obviously I’ve been coming at it from a position of skepticism, empiricism and all the rest, as I usually do (along with sarcasm and humour). Here’s what I’ve encountered:

  • Nobody is willing to explain or defend their point of view on these subjects. They will tell you to educate yourself and still presume you’re ignorant even after you have – if you still disagree.
  • The debate is too hostile to engage in, in any meaningful way. This is not only because of the sheer intensity of trolling on all sides, but also because any disagreement is characterised as hatred.
  • The entire analysis is dominated by a female point of view and feminist perspective – to the detriment of men’s issues and problems.

I’m an egalitarian, a humanist, anti-racist, anti-homophobia, anti-transphobia (despite being a biological realist) and yet because I am skeptical of and lampoon many of the extreme ‘social justice’ points of view (and place free expression above offense) I have somehow accrued a bizarre reputation as some sort of misogynistic, rape apologist, homophobic… well, you get the idea. Frankly you might as well point in my direction and scream ‘blasphemer’, it would get the same effect.

It would be very easy, in the face of what I see as sexist, bigoted hatred, to genuinely become a misogynist. #KillAllMen and #YesAllWomen, in the wake of Isla Vista, are just the latest incarnations of socially acceptable misandry, fearmongering and moral panic to come along. There’s a dominant narrative of patriarchy and male dominance, complicity and guilt that – at least within the west – simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Yet we’re not allowed to discuss, debunk or critique these ideas without being subjected to a degree of public scourging that would make Tomas de Torquemada blanch at the gills.

So what’s someone like me to do? As an egalitarian I want to participate in increasing fairness in the world but NuFem doesn’t appear to be concerned with fairness so much as promoting women and denigrating men. For each reasonable and more egalitarian feminist online there seem to be a dozen ranting, misandrist bigots. Were the genders reversed they would have no social currency, but as things stand that’s not the case.

Are there any truly egalitarian movements out there? What about those that are willing to at least acknowledge men’s issues?

If you go looking, two of the biggest men’s issues sites out there are:

Inglourious-BasterdsMany of the people publicly associated with A Voice For Men I’ve had positive experiences with. Studio Brule has done a great job documenting the attempts to host men and boys events (especially in Canada) and the vitriolic and hateful response these have gotten from NuFem. Karen Straughan does good work, Typhon Blue makes excellent videos highlighting men’s topics. The whole ‘Honey Badger Radio’ crew in general are good at what they do.

More recently, rather than observe A Voice for Men at a distance I decided to join the forum and, while making clear I wasn’t joining the movement, to offer my views on a few things, observe and feel the place out.

Overall the experience was not pleasant. While I think AVFM serves a good purpose the forum showed me that there’s a definite right wing/libertarian bias, that it can be a haven for arch-traditionalist ‘get back to the kitchen’ types and that some trolls are using it as a haven. In other words, it’s not for me and it’s not what I was looking for.

I was greeted with paranoia and thinly veiled hatred when I joined. Accused of being a feminist plant or spy and other ugliness. The mirror image of the NuFem I’m also rejecting. It is, important, though to state that I saw nothing indicating that they are a hate group. Any talk of violence is ruthlessly bumped off the site and while there’s a lot of frustration it’s a) understandable and b) no worse (usually a lot less so) than what you’ll see in NuFem circles on Twitter or Tumblr.

Part of their problem is a deliberate policy by Elam of courting controversy in order to garner publicity. This is in many ways aping the tactics of NuFem in whipping up public outcry about things, but much more negative and – in my humble opinion – a tactic that has outlived its usefulness.

So then, what about The Good Men Project?

The Good Men Project is primarily a site of male feminists. If AVFM is the ‘Inglourious Basterds’ of the gender wars, then The Good Men Project is the Vidkun Quisling. While there’s some good articles the site represents total capitulation to feminist claims and accusations towards men, without enough energy, determination or commitment to really challenge them. It’s simply too timid.

So what’s a chap to do? NuFem is too committed to hating and blaming men to reform and has enormous political sway. Dissent is treated as blasphemy and ‘it’s not my job to educate you’ is a mantra. Empty concepts like ‘patriarchy’ and ‘privilege’ replace robust debate or the demand for evidence and nobody listens.

The MHRM while laudable and useful as a resource is simply too toxic, due in no small part to a deliberate policy of courting controversy, while the male feminist section of the manosphere fails to really stand up for men.

Censorship is running rampant, the public conversation is toxic, the situation for men and boys is getting worse and worse and there’s nowhere for someone like me to offer their critique or say their piece without being either monstered or associating with arseholes. Even when views are expressed independently they end up being associated with the worst dregs, reframed and mischaracterised.

The reason this shit gets to me in a way trolling doesn’t is twofold:

  1. The accusations are 180 degrees of who I am.
  2. The people hurling them genuinely believe them. It’s not just to get a rise.

the-dudeI don’t know how to solve it. I want to be part of a solution but I don’t want to constantly be battered with irresponsible accusations and I don’t want to have to weather the vitriolic hatred of men evidenced in the recent hashtag wars. Ignoring it and leaving it alone doesn’t feel like an option, but it’s what my friends seem to want me to do – for the sake of my sanity.

There’s nowhere for me or the men like me who should be allies to anyone genuinely seeking equality. The ones being hurt and alienated by having to constantly point out that – indeed – it’s not all men. The ones who can’t even say ‘I’m not so sure about that…’ without being called a misogynist, a word that’s losing its currency through overuse.

I feel lost, frustrated, misunderstood, threatened and ‘oppressed’ and there’s no cure for it or even any way to address it without getting more of the same.

I’ve been brought up by the inestimable Laurie Penny on the misandry in the #YesAllWomen. I’m willing to put a lot of #YesAllWomen down to miscommunication, but I don’t think a lot of women understand why the reaction is so defensive and that regarding it as derailing just deepens the insult. This miscommunication goes in both directions but I want to try and explain the reason what’s said is being received as misandry, whatever the intention.

It’s…

Probably not your intention, but when you talk about ‘male violence’ it is received in the way ‘welfare queen’ would be. You are implicitly accusing all men of violence and of violence being a defining male quality.

It’s…

Probably not your intention, but when you talk about the need for ‘pink knuckledusters’ and pepper spray you are making the implicit presumption that you will inevitably be attacked at some point and that violence is the correct and useful reponse. This reads similarly to the justifications for concealed carry and ‘home defence’ and even ‘stand your ground’ where we saw the tragically deadly end result of whipping up fear and justifying violence. I doubt many of you are pro gun, I’m certainly not, but the language is markedly similar.

It’s…

Probably not your intention, but when you talk about ‘patriarchy’ you’re implying that society is run by and for the benefit of men. This simply isn’t true. Men suffer at every level of society and lack many of the insulating structures that are in place for women. To think that the relative prevalence of men in positions of power is indicative of male benefit in society as a whole is insulting, presumptive and dismissive of male experience. ‘Patiarchy hurts men too’ is a self-refuting statement. Patriarchies do exist of course, but not in the modern west.

It’s…

Probably not your intention, but when you talk about violence against women or domestic violence in terms of women only, you are erasing a huge amount of male suffering. Up to half of domestic violence victims are male. Men are victims of random street violence one-and-a-half to two times as often as women. Bringing this up is not derailing, it is trying to raise awareness that this is a relationship problem and something that we all face and need to fight together.

It’s…

Probably not your intention, but when you complain about online abuse and represent it as a women’s issue you’re erasing the suffering of men who suffer as much, if not more, online abuse which seems to contribute to disproportionate instanes of male suicide. Bringing this up is not derailing, it is trying to raise awareness that this is an internet problem and something that we all face and need to fight together.

It’s…

Probably not your intention, but when you present genital mutiliation as a uniquely female issue you are erasing the needless violation of bodily autonomy that one third of all men in the world face. Bringing this up is not derailing, it is trying to raise awareness that this is a human problem and something that we all face and need to fight together.

Perpetuating the perception of women as victims (objects) and men as oppressors (actors) erases harm to men and by women. It buys into an existing and invalid narrative that harms everyone.

This needs to become a genuine, honest dialogue without dogma, without any pre-existing assumptions, without taking any concept for granted on either side, but that’s not going to happen. What might be possible would be a plain-English sort of ‘Charles Simonyi Chair in the Public Understanding of Science’ for feminism, using plain English rather than parochial, impenetrable language that only serves to alienate.

The two-minutes hate of ‘hashtag activism’ is only alienating huge numbers of people and while that’s a ‘tone argument’, tone is important – IF your goal is to actually win anyone over.

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Gender Ideology Over Reality?

delusions_of_gender_the_bad_science_of_brain_sexismThis story came across my feed and I found it fascinating, not so much because of its content per se, but rather for the chain of thoughts it set off in my head.

Put briefly, the story runs as follows. A school district in Florida streamed some classes based on gender segregation, rather than ability and tailored girls’ classes to girls and boys’ classes to boys. This prompted the ACLU to get involved filing an objection that this violated anti sexism legislation and that it was based on junk science about gender differences (contentious topic).

I’ll offer no particular comment on that, save to say that while gender-separated schooling is often praised for higher standards, this may well be because it tends to only occur in private institutions. I would also say that I think schools provide an excellent opportunity to socialise and to learn to deal with the opposite gender that segregation can rob kids of.

Still, the question that was missing was whether or not standards had improved, in other words, whether the different teaching approaches had made a difference to grades and attainment while they had been running. The actual impact of the experiment appears nowhere in the news stories or summaries and doesn’t appear to be a question worthy of consideration.

If standards had improved, wouldn’t this be worth examining? Same if they had declined?

Men and women, boys and girls are different, though the extent of that difference is a contentious subject, especially when it comes to behaviour. Might it be possible that different approaches might work better for different genders? Well, we’re not going to find out from this.

This isn’t the only example though, we can look to another case, and this might not be the kind of instance you might think.

Before December 31st 2012 women used to get cheaper car insurance. Why did they get cheaper car insurance? Well, that’s a complicated matter but insurance companies rely on reliable calculations and as far as they were concerned women were – on average – safer drivers. This was based on hard data, collected by companies whose livelihood depended on accuracy.

However, in a rare case of total gender parity, the EU decided that this was unfair and that discrimination on the basis of gender – even factually based – wasn’t allowed. You might think as an egalitarian I would be happy about this – as a rare case of men being treated as equals. That’s not the case though. If men are higher risk drivers, it’s only fair that men should pay more for car insurance, just as it would be fair that women would pay more for private health insurance.

In theory, spreading the risk should bring down the prices for the high risk group, since the low risk group takes up the slack. Of course, this being private companies, this didn’t really happen, it was an opportunity to gouge.

Taking equality to mean being identical then, in this practical case, didn’t result in a positive for anyone except the companies. Men’s insurance barely went down (10% at best), if at all and women’s insurance leapt up by as much as 25%. Nobody won.

Sometimes we’re just going to have to accept that there are differences, whether they’re innate or whether they’re (temporarily) cultural and to ensure everything’s fair and appropriate. That’s going to necessitate studies into our differences but we need to strip these studies of their ideological taint and not attack them – or even interest in them – on an ideological basis in order to find out what’s true.

Shortly after hell freezes over…

#Genderweek ‘Male Privilege’

IcaD3i1399117104As you’ve probably gathered from previous posts, I loathe the cynical manipulation of the word ‘privilege’ when talking about ordinary people who should be granted the same basic rights and freedoms as everyone else, but I’ll concede the use of the term for this post while still disagreeing with the fallacy of redefinition involved in its use.

It’s a common claim across multiple strands of social justice that you have privilege for being white, or male, or heterosexual and that this makes life easier for you. Objecting simply gets you told to ‘check your privilege’ and is taken as evidence you have it (kafkatrap) and being white, male or heterosexual apparently means that your arguments, points, statistics and observations are automatically worthless.

It’s patently obvious to anyone with a passing interest in logic or debate that this is a fallacy with no place in debate, but more to the point is it true?

It’s genderweek so let’s restrict ourselves to the discussion in terms of that frame of reference. Gender.

Do men have it easier? Do men have it better? Is it purely down to gender or is anything else going on?

  • Here’s some examples of what radical feminists consider male privilege: LINK
  • Here’s some examples of what MHRAs consider female privilege: LINK

 

A huge number of both are petty and a good few of both are factually wrong (perhaps most notoriously the 1/4 rape statistic and the supposed pay gap).

However, there’s another factor to a lot of these that doesn’t seem understood by either ‘side’ and that is that each side sees things through a different lens.

I’ll use two fairly important instances to make my point.

Gender Lensing: Divorce Court

From a feminist perspective the fact that women get custody so much more often isn’t a sign of female privilege, but rather a patriarchal imposition of the childcare role upon women and a judgement based on that bias. The same or similar with financial settlements, child support payments and their suggestion, perhaps, that women can’t cope without support, assistance and the involvement and care of a man.

From a men’s rights perspective this is an instance of female privilege. The assumptions favour the women, fathers frequently don’t get custody even if the woman is at fault, even if the woman is a drug addict or otherwise unfit mother. What the feminist might see as patriarchal role enforcement, the masculinist sees as in inherent bias in the system in her favour – surely a privilege?

To me such things should be settled based on merit, finances and fitness but it does expose the intellectual weakness of the concept of ‘Patriarchy’. When the system open and specifically works against the interests and desires of men how can it be called patriarchal? It’s a conspiracy theory term, one into which anything can be twisted with enough rhetorical gymnastics.

Gender Lensing: Military Service

From a feminist perspective putting women in light duty – if any duty at all – and their exclusion from the military in times past can be seen as yet more patriarchal oppression. Why shouldn’t they be able to serve their country, fully, in every capacity? Why shouldn’t they fight on the front lines? It can only be sexism preventing them from doing so.

From a masculinist perspective women have been granted special status (privilege) by being allowed to opt in to dangerous duty, but men not being able to opt out. Women being excluded from the draft would be another sign. From a man’s perspective this can be seen as a duty and imposition, not a right or privilege and so it goes for a great many other things as well. Men have been called ‘disposable’ and war is a situation that makes this abundantly clear. In exchange for these duties men were rewarded by society in the past. Now the rewards have been very much eroded, but the demands remain.

 

Is this reconcilable? Can each side see the other’s perspective and compromise, recognise that what they see as an advantage can be seen as a disadvantage by the other? I doubt it, but I hope.

#Genderweek – A 21st Century Boy

asbcCm1398849261What is it like, what does it mean, to be a man in the 21st Century?

A lot of what is bandied about in discussion of gender is anecdote, which I find horribly frustrating since anecdotes are necessarily subjective and are practically useless for determining the actual truth of anything. However, I’ll annoy myself for once by giving my subjective experience and opinion on my life, growing up from 1975 to today and what it’s been like for me.

A little background then.

I am British, of normal gender expression, white, male and heterosexual. To many people that would make me the enemy.

I am, however, also a house husband, involved in a creative profession for my work, am out-earned by my wife and, until I got ill, took care of most of the looking after the house, making meals and all the rest. I want kids – apparently a rare things in a man.

Pretty much from the get-go, being a boy of nerdy and cerebral interests, I was bullied on the basis of being too feminine, not being manly enough, not liking football and other sports and – at a younger age – having a Betty Boop kiss curl. Liking some popular things like Star Wars etc wasn’t enough to compensate for all that really and it all only gets worse once puberty sets in. That’s when you have to more aggressively defend your sexuality, not necessarily because you hate or dislike gay people, but more to assert and advertise your own heterosexuality. The pressure on guys does come from other guys, but also, hugely, from the girls you’re seeking in your first, clumsy, faltering steps to get the attention of.

It’s weird, today, to think that nerdish pasttimes are considered a boys club, given the amount of shit you absorb over the years telling you how unmanly it is to like to read, draw, geek out over science fiction etc – again, much of it from women as well – but that also explains the defensiveness of the geek community. It has been a masculine safe-haven for the unmasculine male for a very long time. Safe from having to perform for men or women or endure judgement, bullying or shaming. This is less true today than it was, but it is a part of the culture and I wish more people who elbow their way in and try to change the community instead of add to it would give the same consideration to that, that they do to their own spaces.

Into adulthood and you’re a bit more secure and confident in your sexuality but you still have to be performative in it. Especially if you’re not a manly man and double-especially if the only people to really hit on you in clubs and bars are gay men. It is wearing and constantly reassessing what level of flirting is appropriate and acceptable is a minefield. The world, in many ways, seems out to get you. Some of these seem petty, but amount to the ‘microaggressions’ some feminists talk about, others are more serious.

  • Women unjustifiably acting terrified of you when you happen to be walking the same way or waiting behind them to use the ATM.
  • Having to stand on a train or bus rather than sit next to a woman who is, again, unjustifiably terrified of you.
  • Risking being ‘outed’ on social media for sitting in a comfortable way on public transport.
  • Being unable to share off-colour jokes with friends.
  • Having ones hobbies and other spaces invaded, unilaterally, and forced to change.
  • Never being allowed to strike back physically or verbally when such comes from a woman.
  • Being subjected to enormous scrutiny when applying for certain jobs, far more than women in the same fields.
  • Little to no educational assistance despite plenty being available for women – even though they’re already advantaged there.
  • Lower priority access to medical care.
  • Being told off for bringing flowers as a token of affection as that’s sexist somehow.
  • The same for opening doors.
  • Being held accountable for the presumed actions of indirect ancestors hundreds of years ago in a perverse version of original sin.
  • Insults and accusations merely for being skeptical of feminist or gender oriented claims or pointing out flaws in methodology.
  • Media representations of men growing progressively more insulting and terrible in favour of women, and this going unchallenged or remarked.
  • Concern over men’s rights and issues being summarily dismissed with hypocritical fervour.
  • The ludicrous idea of ‘patriarchy’ as an all-pervasive, male conspiracy.
  • Offence culture and censorship.

I can’t say that I’ve ever been inherently advantaged, as a man. The ongoing pressures to conform to certain gender norms and the judgements for not doing so are on me as much from women as from men, even though I’m married. I am interested in gender relations issues, yet I can’t comment or question without insults, dismissal and comments about my appearance. Any disagreement is not tolerated. I’ve lost job opportunities due to being male and feel that I have to apologise for simply walking down the street. Judgement and wariness is now so ingrained I barely feel I can look at a woman – because apparently objectification rays shoot out of my eyes as though I were a sexist version of Cyclops.

As a man it feels as though one must constantly apologise for taking up space, for being attracted to women, for daring to look, for enjoying pornography or making crude jokes. Women seem to demand access to male spaces while denying access to female spaces – using the same justifications in both instances. There seems to be endless legislation to advance, protect and extend women’s rights but not for men. A moral panic over a non-existent rape culture infects society and especially academia, leading to the erosion of men’s right to a fair hearing and the enforced participation in awareness courses of dubious providence. There is a very real threat that a man’s right to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence in sexual conduct legal cases will be eroded or even overturned – this already being the case in many academic tribunals. As someone into ‘kink’ there’s a very real threat my sexuality will be criminalised at a time when alternative sexualities are otherwise being embraced, and this despite consent being baked in at every level to the BDSM scene,

What is the role of a man when ‘men’s work’ is less available, when women are told they can do everything a man can and men are told they are worse than useless or everything that’s wrong with society? What is the role of a man when taking on traditionally feminine roles – such as child care – earn him the scorn of men and the indifference, suspicion and disapproval of women? Why are we still expected to sacrifice everything for women and children when we no longer receive the commensurate rewards for doing so? Why are so many things a choice for women but a duty for men and why is this seen as the ever nebulous ‘privilege’?

To be a man today is to be blamed for everything, past and present. To be a man today is to endure endless insults without the capability to push back. Interest in these issues is brushed off – provided you don’t agree with the slightest thing – and the only acceptable position seems to be obsequious self-loathing for the crime of having a penis.

Men’s Right’s Activists, like feminists, have some good points but, like feminists, seem consumed by bitterness and ideology.

So what is there to do? Where is the place in this world for a) a heterosexual, conventionally gender identifying person who doesn’t conform to the roles and b) someone interested in gender issues who isn’t a feminist, or an MRA but is a skeptical enquirer?

I don’t know.

I think that ‘I don’t know’ is the position a huge number of other modern men are in and the lack of a male identity while simultaneously being constantly hated simply for being male has certainly contributed to my depression and anxiety.

I don’t know what the answer is either. So many of us are, quite simply, adrift.

 

#Genderweek – What is Gender?

R7J4qR1398783935(This was meant to go up yesterday)

Feminist Times is having a Gender Week event, with the hashtag #genderweek but predictably the only gender they seem to really be interested in is women. Gender issues, however, affect both genders, male and female, in various ways so I felt it important to have an alternative, reasonable voice speaking from a men’s perspective.

So then, if we’re talking about gender, what even is gender?

And please, read the whole damn thing through before commenting or being outraged.

I prefer hard science and tend not to like parochial neologisms which only confuse people when they interact with the ‘real world’ so I take a harder, scientific and medical view of these kinds of matters. That means I take the scientific, biological and medical definition of gender. That is, the gender binary (male, female) that you fall into given your chromosomes and the resulting gametes, morphology etc.

Within those parochial gender studies groups and related fields, there’s a concerted attempt to redefine the term gender to mean gender identity and sex to mean biological gender, but I prefer to use qualifiers as I think it retains the proper meaning and makes things more clear, rather than less.

Some believe gender identity is entirely a social construct (male and female associated behaviours being spun out of convention and tradition rather than anything innate).

Some believe gender identity is more innate, stemming from biology and associated brain structures, hormone levels, sexual dimorphism and so on.

Personally I reject both extremes and think it’s somewhere in the middle, at least for the bulge in the bell curve. It seems ridiculous to me to think that human beings are somehow the only binary-gendered species on Earth where behaviour etc is not as divergent as our bodies. Social roles and expectations also play a role that should not be ignored but we seem built and pre-programmed with tendencies that transcend culture, something that suggests a biological basis.

Where this goes tits-up is when you get to transsexuals and intersex conditions. While neither of these are of any relevance to the debate when talking about normal gender expression (normal in the sense of majority, commonality etc) these are the far ends of the bell curve and where we start having problems.

Biologically intersex conditions are still either male or female (look them up) but their bodies etc may grow more female or more male and this may be at odds with their ‘on board software’ or their chromosomes. It’s a case-by-case basis and very hard to know what’s best for the child at a young age.

Transsexuals are a bigger problem and the source – apparently – of a great deal of conflict within feminism, with a wing of radical feminism insisting that transsexuals are not real women/men and in reverse, transsexuals claiming that they are. I can see aspects of both sides that make sense, but the venom involved doesn’t seem to make sense at all. Why would anyone turn away allies?

Now, I don’t really know how to characterise gender dysphoria and with friends who are trans or who are on their road to transition I’d rather not upset them, but I think it’s pretty much impossible to avoid. As a sufferer from mental illness (depression) I acknowledge that mental issues are real and that it’s not necessarily ‘all in your head’ and can be linked with many other things. If I could undergo an operation to cure my depression I would. People with gender dysphoria have the option to have surgery and hormone treatments to better fit their body to their internal image of self. The question is then, whether this is pathological (as in anorexia, cosmetic surgery addiction etc) or not and again, that seems to me to be a case-by case thing.

The fact, however, remains that you cannot change your biology. No matter what operations you have, what hormones you take, what clothes you wear or mannerisms you adopt, you will always still be your biological gender. At least until we develop Culture level technology allowing for a true and absolute gender transition.

Therein, I think, lies the rub between trans groups and trans-excluding feminists. Trans people accept the concept of gender identity in that they adopt one and they do so in a performative and transformative way. So being female is something that can be ‘adopted’, despite not sharing formative female experiences and biology. On the other side trans people consider themselves to be and live as their new gender.

For my part, I would say you can’t change your actual gender but that your chosen gender identity should still be respected. I would also say that men, women or anything in between shouldn’t be excluded from participating in feminism (or men’s rights for that matter, or anything else). It makes no sense to me that a movement would set out to alienate its allies or that movements purporting to be for inclusion and rights would exclude people who want to join the fight.

There are those who want to abolish gender as a concept, but I cannot see that as useful or helpful so long as most people seem to get on fine within those roles and expectations. Acceptance and understanding doesn’t necessitate eliminating something most people are happy with. I don’t think you could even if you tried anyway because, right at the very root of it all, the beginning spark of gender role is biological gender.

It’s just not the be all and end all.

Antisocial Injustice

Two Sneetches-Taunt -Trans

But the straight, white, middle-class, cisgender sneetch had no stars at all.

Prompted by the unjustified hate and nastiness of the trans community towards @giagia

Write what you know they say.

Here’s what I know.

‘Despite’ being a white, straight and male and growing up in rural England I have man aged to achieve adulthood without any of the egregious prejudices that I’m supposed to have.

I didn’t encounter anyone of any other race who wasn’t on the television until, I think, a Sikh door-to-door salesman when I was maybe eight or nine years old. He was alright, but otherwise my formative encounters with practically any minority you care to mention – sexuality, disability, unconventional gender identity – have been negative. Still, I didn’t come out the other end of that with any real prejudices.

Sure, I’ve made mistakes now and then. Some genuine, some what people happen to consider mistakes, upon which I disagree.

I was raised ‘right’. I was raised to be as polite as possible, to treat people fairly and equally and to give them a fair crack of the whip whatever my first impression. To ‘judge people by the content of their character’, if you will.

If my friends exhibit racism, sexism or other prejudices, they get my disapproval and often a stern word. Yet, I find myself unaccountably tolerating the exact same prejudices in people who are of a minority or subjectively oppressed group.

Why?

I learned my lessons well. That treating anyone differently on the basis of race, gender etc was wrong. Surely these people – activists even – who have been on the receiving end of prejudice themselves should know this better than anyone, shouldn’t they?

If someone wants their feelings and problems taken seriously then they should extend the same to others, you would think. Yet that doesn’t seem to be the case.

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. We need not wait to see what others do.”

Instead I find that people who claim to be activists, who claim to be fighting for equality and fairness are amongst the worst bigots I have ever encountered and the most dismissive of anyone else’s point of view.

If I am against racism, and I am, how am I supposed to react to someone who broad-brushes all white people or dismisses anything I might say simply for my relative lack of melanin?

If I am against sexism, and I am, how am I supposed to react to someone who regularly insults men as a gender, laughs off misandry as not existing and undermines genuine men’s issues?

If I am against the persecution of LGBT people, and I am, how am I supposed to react to someone who derisively refers to heterosexuals as ‘breeders’ or ‘cis’ in a sneering tone?

If I don’t think people should be judged for being poor, and I am, how am I suppose to react to someone who dismisses me (wrongly) for being affluent middle class?

Yet I find myself, more often than not, letting these things pass. Not because I don’t find them as objectionable as I do in other contexts, but because of the hypocrisy, the vitriol, the denial, the insults, the swarming pack tactics, the lies and misrepresentations are incredibly stressful and hurtful and aggravating.

And disappointing.

Here are the people who should be on the same page as me, succumbing to and excusing their own bigotry. Redefining *ism from prejudice to prejudice plus power to try and tell you people literally can’t be racist against whites, men, or heterosexuals. Something that is patently untrue.

Here are the people who want you to take their feelings and concerns seriously, no matter what any facts might be, but who will write off anything you say as ‘white tears’, ‘manfeels’ or some similarly dismissive variation thereof.

A person’s colour, gender, sexuality, gender identity etc has absolutely no bearing on the value of their ideas. Nor does being offended by something. I am offended by ‘cis’, ‘privilege’ and many other items of social justice terminology and ideology. Should you stop using them simply because I’m offended?

No.

You should stop using them because they’re useless bullshit that add nothing to discussions and instead anger, alienate and are used as ad hominems and to poison the well before a discussion even gets off the ground.

So what to do?

Being even handed, applying the same call-out culture rules will get one rapidly labelled a bigot, even if you oppose genuine bigots just as vociferously. A blog like this will doubtless attract some sarcasm and the very behaviour I’m talking about. Do I value friends and acquaintances over and above their attitudes? Then why not for the more typical bigoted views, rather than the less typical bigoted views of the activists? Why should activist bigots get a free pass from me that they don’t even give each other? (See the trans/TERF war).

It feels like an insoluble problem.

Here I am, white, straight guy, brought up to treat people equally finding the largest groups I know that don’t do this are the people supposedly campaigning for it. Further, before they know anything about me, they’re already ignoring and prejudging me on the basis of my sex, race, assumed social status and sexuality. I refuse to be held accountable for the actions of my ancestors or for people who aren’t me. I refuse to be tagged with some bizarre new version of ‘original sin’. I want to hold people to the same standards, after all…

If it’s wrong, it’s wrong.

Right?

Transapologies

rainbowA couple of years ago now (2011) I had a particularly nasty run in with a quite horrible person named Kynn Bartlett that would kind of set the stage for my various clashes with the ‘Social Justice Crowd’ for some time to come. In the course of that argument I allowed their obnoxiousness to bait and goad me and made the mistake of referring to them as ‘it’ (though in my defense, in trying to track down who exactly they were there were a ton of conflicting names, genders and other bits of conflicting data scattered around the net).

Since then I’ve been on a bit of a journey with regards to the trans community. Even prior to Kynn/Caoimhe (or whatever else they go by now) my brushes with the community hadn’t left a good impression. Though they weren’t as awful as Kynn would turn out to be. Still, perhaps that coloured my perception a bit in a way I hadn’t allowed it to with other marginalised groups and it shouldn’t have.

I still find a great deal of Social Justice activism pointless, stupid and self defeating (even if I agree with the goals) but in this instance I acknowledge that I ‘done wrong’.

Even someone accused of the things Kynn has been accused of is owed an apology, however late, for insults offered that go beyond the pale- even in the heat of the moment. So I offer it.

Sorry.

That said, my intellectual position on the topic hasn’t changed much. I consider gender in biological, chromosomal terms and gender identity to be separate to that. Others divide this as sex and gender but my preference is for a biological, scientific model and as such see the terms as interchangeable (gender identity just sounds better than sex identity to me and may cause confusion with sexuality). So, from my perspective, you are born male or female (with some rare intersex conditions also possible) but you can choose to present with a male/female/other identity. That doesn’t change what you are and so long as you’re respected as a human being and your choice is respected – so far as is possible given biology – I don’t see that as a problem. Ideology must always conform to reality. I do think there are limits on exactly how far you can expect people to be willing to bend though.

  •  I think prospective partners should know that you began life different to how you are now. Honesty in all things.
  • I do think trans women should be excluded from women’s sporting events. A lifetime of androgens and muscle development creates an unfair advantage and was the reason sports segregation occurred in the first place (biological basis).
  • I do think trans people should be allowed to use the toilet etc facilities of their expressed gender, rather than their biological gender. At the same time, I understand how this might upset people.
  • I don’t think trans people should be offered up as freak-fodder for television and newspapers. At the same time I understand why people are fascinated with people who are different and why they might be curious and/or shocked. Though, frankly, anything anyone does will shock or offend somebody.
  • I don’t think gender identity is (entirely) a social construct, rather that this is an overlay over our innate, biological gender.

What I’ve found especially interesting on this journey is the interaction between the trans community and ‘TERFS’ (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists). Each group – radical feminism and transexual – seems to innately upset and grind on the nerves of the other.

The trans community simultaneously provides empirical evidence that different hormone mixes can change behaviour, physiology and emotions. They change their bodies to conform to a female ‘norm’ and – by and large – present ‘feminine’ behaviours, clothing, adornment and traits that others would reject as impositions of patriarchy or meaningless social constructs. At the same time the TERF types are trying to argue for some ineffable ‘femaleness’ (which has some basis in biology and in lived experience growing up as a girl) and excluding people who might otherwise be allies and friends on that basis.

It’s interesting to me because this clash exists at the fundamental fracture point of all gender theory and everything that stems from it. Nature versus nurture, biological versus memetic, mind versus body. Not that it stops TERFs being huge arseholes.

Anyway, there you go, like everything else my opinions are always in flux and subject to new evidence. I was just reminded today that I should (and prefer to) admit when I’m wrong and I’ve been keying up to do this for a while.

Sorry again Kynn. You’re a horrible arsehole, but you’re also a lady.