Archives for category: Gender and Sexuality

Many people perceive the feminist quest as finding its ultimate success in complete equality between men and women, but this is quite easily disproved. Consider the following marital situations as a simple example:

  1. The husband and wife each have the exact same job, and earn the exact same pay. They both do an equal amount of dishes, an equal amount of vacuuming, an equal amount of yard work, etc. Each parent spends identical lengths of time with their children contributing in equal fashion in every aspect of their development. Each duty, household and career-oriented, are identical for each partner to promote total equality.
  2. The husband works as a police officer and the wife works as a nurse. The wife does the dishes, vacuums the carpets, and makes dinner while the husband mows the lawn, takes care of financial obligations, and maintains the family vehicle. The wife is responsible for prepping the children for school in the morning while the husband takes them to their extra-curricular activities. This could be considered the equal-but-different model.
  3. The wife works as the head of a large corporation while the husband stays at home. The husband does most of the childcare, while the wife provides financially for the family. The husband does most of the household chores as well because the wife frequently works long hours, though she does help out around the house on weekends when she has the time. This would be considered a reversal of traditional roles.

Which of these is considered the most feminist? The first is absurd. It’s like calculating the pennies when splitting up the cheque at a restaurant. No one ought to care that much. The second, though equality could be argued, is not feminist because it is representative of conformity to rigid gender roles. The last, though the relationship is unequal in its distribution of wealth dependency and household responsibilities, is the most feminist because it is clear that each partner in that relationship was not pressured to conform by outside social norms. Their roles are a definitive choice.

Feminism, therefore, is clearly not about equality but about the abolition of gender roles. If there were no roles forcing individuals into certain lifestyles, then presumably women and men would naturally navigate freely toward their own preferred choices. The distribution of pay and household responsibilities would become arbitrary since each family would have different motivations and goals.

Feminism is about each gender’s freedom to choose the life they want to live. Some might argue that it is equal opportunity that is necessary for this freedom to exist, but gender roles are the obstacle that must be overcome before equal opportunity can even exist. We must first believe that women and girls are capable of becoming doctors and lawyers or that men are capable of becoming nurses or homemakers before we give them the opportunity to do so.

Transgendered people are individuals who believe that their self-hood does not align with their sex at birth. So for example, someone who was born male but identifies as female would be called a transwoman. This apparently causes problems when it comes to bathrooms, but something I once read, but can now not find to cite, said, “If you care about the gender of the person in the stall next to you, you don’t have to pee badly enough.” That about sums up my feelings on that controversial topic.

Where does transgenderism come from? Well, some say that it is a mental illness. Transgendered people are delusional; their genitals ought to have precedence when determining their mental make-up, so if there is a discrepancy, a quick peak beneath the trousers should clear up any confusion. Let’s go with that for right now. For the sake of argument, being transgender means that you are suffering a mental illness.

I’m going to make a patently false assumption and say that when we consider someone with a mental illness, we want to help them get better. We wouldn’t want to abuse them, sexually assault them, murder them, or commit violence of any kind against them. We wouldn’t want to vocally condemn them as freaks. We would want them to get better. People who abuse the mentally ill are typically considered monsters.

Perhaps transgenderism is morally unacceptable. That certainly would make bullying and harassment a reasonable reaction, I’m sure. The Bible is quite clear in its endorsement of throwing stones. Except we can’t be morally responsible for things outside of our control. If someone declared you morally bankrupt for failing to save the life of a child trapped in a coal mine on the other end of the planet, that would be absurd. It is an impossibility. If you were local and had the skills available to rescue that child, then yes, some degree of culpability could be admonished, but in order for moral responsibility to be present, a measure of ability to perform that action must be present as well. Transgenderism, which research has shown develops concurrently to the overall identity development of the child, as a mental affectation is not a choice, and therefore moral culpability, whatever your argument against transgenderism might be, cannot apply.

What can we do to help transgendered people if judging them and abusing them is out of the question? If we compare their plight to another delusional and incurable mental illness, say, dementia, perhaps we can discover an appropriate treatment plan. Dementia patients frequently believe that they are living in the past, and mistake their adult children with their own siblings, and so on. As it turns out, if well-being and quality of life are our goals, the best treatment plan available to patients with dementia is to acknowledge their delusions and allow them to live in the reality within which they identify. In the context of transgenderism, this would mean that acknowledging the preferred identity is the superior treatment to… verbal abuse, I think is the predominant method today. Some might say that tolerance “encourages” transgenderism, the same way I suppose that treating schizophrenia to a degree that their lives become livable encourages people to become schizophrenics.

I want to take a bit of a detour here. What is an illness, especially a mental illness? If we wish to attribute illness to transgenderism, it’s important we know what we’re calling it. The initial thought could be, “an affectation of the mind or body that produces an uncomfortable feeling.” This is why we consider headaches and the flu to be illnesses, since they make us feel uncomfortable. This can’t be attributed to transgenderism though, because it is their assigned gender that makes them uncomfortable, which would mean that transgenderism is actually the cure to the illness of gender. We’re working under the assumption that transgenderism is the illness here, so this cannot be the case.

Perhaps a better definition might be, “an affectation that produces abnormalities.” The transgendered are a small minority of the population, which would make them technically abnormal, but this is unfortunately too inclusive. Left-handedness is abnormal, but certainly isn’t a mental illness. Nor are green eyes a physical disability. Just because something does not bear a likeness to the majority does not mean it is an illness.

The best definition of illness is something that prevents suitable integration into society. The flu prevents us from working or functioning properly at all. Bipolar disorder produces unpredictable behaviour which leads to social discord if left untreated. The destructive aspects of dementia lead to an inability to communicate with others, or participate in society, and ultimately the greatest alienation from society of all: death. If someone is compelled to deliver puns at every opportunity, this is not considered a mental illness despite how I might think because it only alienates them from people with taste. If someone is compelled to drink at every opportunity, this is considered an illness because they can become destructive, and the long-term physiological damage prevents future social function.

If we view illness as predicated on social ability, then this opens up a serious question. If someone is paralyzed from the waist down and is stuck in a wheelchair, we consider them disabled because they cannot function in our traditional, stair-filled world. However, if there are ramps, suitable desk jobs, household and work accommodations to allow general independence, then wouldn’t this person not be considered disabled at all? If there was a legless human commune somewhere that functioned autonomously without difficulty, then this detriment in our society would be considered the norm and conceiving of it as a disability would be impossible. Left-handedness was once considered a sinful mental affectation because the world was built for right-handed people. Illness, therefore, is not dependent on anything outside of society’s ability to allow it to adapt.

So yes, of course transgendered people are mentally ill because they are indeed unable to adapt in a society that hates them. A society filled with intolerance would not allow a transgendered individual to flourish in the way that a more tolerant society would. I invite you to wonder, then, as to a possible cure.

The term ‘womyn’ is occasionally used to signify a feminist exodus from male-dominated language. Woman has the suffix -man in it, after all, and wome(y)n no longer exist only as a derivative of man! Eve, born of a male rib, is no longer in style.

However, an assumption about the historically patriarchal nature of language would reasonably require looking at the history of language. ‘Woman’ originally comes from the word wifman where wif refers to her status as a female, and man refers to her status as a human being. ‘Man’, as we know him today, was initially called werman, with the wer referring to his male-ness, and the man, again, referring to the fact that he is a homo sapien.

It turns out ‘woman’ isn’t historically oppressive at all, and ‘werewolf’ is in fact the more sexist term, as it would etymologically be transcribed as a male-wolf (Same with ‘android’, which literally is something that is like a male; andro + oid. The neutral version would be ‘anthroid’). Somewhat ironically, altering the –man part of ‘woman’ would seem to lessen her humanity, rather than embolden it.

Similarly, ‘female’ is not derived from male, but from femella, whereas ‘male’ comes from masle derived from masculus. In addition, ‘history’ is derived from a long series of words that all essentially mean a chronicle of the past, ultimately leading back to the ‘account of an inquiry’ definition from the Greek word historia. It is not actually the masculine-possessive’s story. As it turns out, the western languages were not conceived with patriarchal maliciousness in mind.

Does this mean that feminists are crazy for wanting to change ‘mailman’ to ‘mail carrier’ if the –man part refers to the human being-ness of this mail carrier rather than their gender? Of course not. Language evolves over time. No gay man has ever taken comfort in the fact that they were etymologically called a bundle of sticks. The evolution of ‘man’ from its gender-neutral origins has been murky, and ‘human’ is still used quite uncontroversially, but today it generally means male. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that werman is going to be making a comeback any time soon.

Changing ‘woman’ to ‘womyn’ is still stupid, however, and here’s why: it is not oppressive to refer to a woman as a female human being. Having -man as a suffix to a career could serve to identify its inclination, but wo- on its own is meaningless today, so the man does not alter its meaning (its meaning being ‘female’, remember). If anything, the word has already undergone a feminist revolution. Can you imagine if we still used the root of ‘wife’ to define our women?

This etymological history is not entirely benign, however, and the damage that was caused had nothing to do with the term ‘woman’, but with ‘man’. It all happened back in the late 13th century when werman evolved into ‘man’. It made males the default human being. When we discuss gender and focus only on women, perhaps it is because men lost theirs back during the founding of the Ottoman Empire. I doubt the two are related, but who knows.

Post-script: All my etymology info has come from here.