Hu(man)ity? Part II: The Bother with Binaries…

In the last post, we explored the issue of “gender neutral” language, and the politically correct censorship of traditional words like “man” to describe humankind. The smaller issue of using male gendered terminology excluding the acknowledgement of women in public life and the workforce and as a part of humanity was addressed in the last post and why the issue is ultimately inconsequential. This time however, I address the wider issue at stake: that the very use of gendered language is evidence of an implicit patriarchal attitude that women are literally “less than” fully human and that anything associated with womanhood is bad.

This issue goes beyond just language in relation to men and women, but things one would not normally think of as overtly gendered. A few feminists have proposed a theory, that our culture is implicitly patriarchal by the very way language our is structured. They claim that things such as thinking in opposing binaries, opposites if you will, such as light/dark, good/bad, reason/emotion, white/black, man/woman, active/passive strong/weak etc… are evidence of a sexist view. The reason being is that in these opposing binaries, one of the two things is considered superior, such as light over dark, good over evil, logic over emotion, active over passive etc… The more positive traits in their examples are traditionally associated with masculinity and maleness. They claim since Western culture thinks in these opposing binaries, and that all the favorable ones are associated with men, then that must mean it is anti-woman. Some even went so far to label our language “phallocentric” as they believe it favors the male sex. They also claim that the traditional logical and analytical mindset based on reasoning and logic is also a male quality, and since our culture favors it, it is inherently sexist against women and female qualities such as emotion and more fluid structures of thought and language.

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Many adherents to this view feel that the change needed is in “deconstructing” these binaries, and placing less emphasis on logical reasoning in Western culture. The issue with this view is one, who said that qualities like “good”, “light”, “active”, “reason”, “strong” and “white” as examples, necessarily have to be associate with the male sex? Word like “good” and “light” to me at least, have no gender connotations, “white” might have racial connotations, but not gendered ones to me. “Reason”, “strong” and “active” are words traditionally associated with men, but do they have to be? And if so, does that make them any less valuable? Who said the male sex owns the ability to view the world in an objective, rational worldview based on sound evidence and logic? I find it sexist in itself to claim that such traits are exclusively male in the first place and not qualities women can have as well! I personally don’t appreciate a hysterical, emotional, subjective mess of either sex! Plenty of men ignore reason in favor of emotion in many matters equally as women! Humanity seems to have a tendency for using emotion over reason in general… I agree that reason is better than pure emotion to guide us through our worldviews and perceptions, but not becuase it is “male”, but because its merits transcend gender divisions. Conversely, are we to say that men, by nature are unfeeling and apathetic, and traits like compassion and empathy are negative for humanity on the assumption that it is associated with femininity? Try telling that to many of the great humanitarians and moral activists who happened to be male! What is wrong with being assertive and trying to take control over what happens in your life? Many women are encouraged by feminists to have more autonomy and control over their lives by being assertive. Are we to reason this assertiveness is exclusively a male trait, and that women shouldn’t be assertive because it means trying to be like men and devaluing women? I think not. Assertiveness in itself has benefits that apply regardless of gender. My point is, just because a trait might be traditionally associated with one sex or the other, doesn’t meant that the trait in itself is invalidated or any less beneficial! So what if reason is associated with men? Or compassion and empathy with women? Doesn’t it sound silly to conclude that just because certain things are associated with one gender, in this case men, one should dismiss it in order to reject masculinity?

To me it sounds pretty immature and petty. I mean seriously? Women should reject traditional methods of reason and logic or an objective worldview based on the idea that it’s associated with men and therefore patriarchal and sexist? I don’t know about you, but to me, rejecting reason would only make any sexist thoughts about women worse and only confirm the stereotype of women being hysterical hormonal wrecks! The idea that our thinking style, one of binaries or based on logic and objectivity is inherently “male” is only sexist in itself in that any beneficial characteristics in our thought processes are owned by the male sex, and not a shared treasure among humanity as a whole. The idea seems to implicitly say that women are indeed not rational beings, and are indeed lesser than as qualities labeled as theirs are lesser than men’s. Trying to “fight back” by rejecting clearly beneficial things like rational analysis, assertiveness, strength, etc… only confirm that implicit idea that they are for men only, and rejecting them to reject maleness inherently accepts such notions as true. Why can’t we see the traditionally “masculine” traits as beneficial for everyone, not just men, and embrace them as good for humanity all together? Let’s get over our obsession with whatever traits are traditionally associated with, and just embrace the benefits of them, regardless of what sex you are.

This whole idea of our culture being “phallocentric” due to favoring traits associated with maleness that are actually neutral, and that logical reasoning is patriarchal, is absurd. Our specific thinking style and worldview might differ from other cultures, but that does not mean it shows that we think women are inherently “bad” or subversive, or less people than anyone else. Associating male traits with a fuller personhood is sexist in itself as it confirms the belief that maleness= personhood. Yes, the idea of the autonomous agent, the assertive, reasoned, logical, objective person, able to control one’s own destiny and choices in life, strong in body and character is describing the ideal man. However, this image of the “ideal man” can equally apply to women, and the traits in themselves that make up this now “ideal person” are still beneficial regardless of who possess them, man or woman. Rejecting them only serves to cut off your nose to spite your face, so to speak! Let’s be reasonable here: men and women can benefit from traditional binary traits deemed historically to be male. Crying “patriarchy!” whenever something remotely associated with men come up in life is like crying “wolf!” when there’s none: pretty soon, no one listens!…

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No traditionally male cultural ideas allowed! (That means you, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle…)

Hu(man)ity? Part I: Gender Neutral Language

Many have heard already that there is a movement to change the English language to include more “gender neutral” terms. Basically, “gender neutral” terms are words that seek to omit any reference to the male sex in them, the reason being it excludes women and is sexist. Examples of this new trend are instead of saying words like mailman, fireman, policeman, etc… one must now say “mail carrier”, “firefighter”, or “police personnel”. Even the word “freshman” is now banned in some colleges, with the new politically correct term being “first year student”. Notably, sophomores, juniors and seniors are exempt from this politically correct tirade! On its surface, the movement to be more inclusive by using gender neutral language seem like a step forward for acknowledging the other half of humanity, but in reality, it only serves as an inconsequential and quite absurd issue.

The crux of the matter rests on the assumption that our Western Culture, and other cultures around the world are deeply patriarchal and do not view women with the full personhood of men. The male sex is the default for “humanness” or personhood, and women are excluded for being full persons. A sub section of this wider concern brought up in most everyday uses of the “gender neutral” movement is that unlike in the past, women are entering more parts of public life and the workforce, so it is outdated to refer to people in various professions as “men”. While this seems like a big deal, it is really inconsequential in the grand scheme of women’s issues. Firstly, it was historically the case that the overwhelming majority of people such as policemen, firemen, businessmen and such were indeed men, hence the term. Since women have entered these professions much more recently, it is not unreasonable that such terms are a holdover from when it was men exclusively. While many may argue that it is just as easy to change the terms to reflect a more current reality, it is unrealistic for everyone to just stop and drop using terminology they grew up using their entire lives.

Another argument is also that if one is talking about a female person in any of these roles, terms like policewoman, businesswoman, etc… do exist. Not to mention, in other languages, like Spanish and German, terms for male and female professionals are the norm, even to the extent that we do not have in English. Masculine and feminine endings exist in many languages and both are used in contexts that we do not have, such as addressing people, introducing yourself to people, even describing people! Examples include the word for “farmer” in German (Der Bauer vs. Die Bäuerin), which do not make that gendered distinction in English, and to describe a hardworking man in Spanish one would say he is trabajador, but for a woman, she is trabajadora. In some languages including Arabic, one uses different masculine or feminine endings on words used to ask people things like their name or “how are you?” for examples, depending on gender or even for talking about yourself if you are a man or woman!

An Arabic example:

How are you? m – (kayfa ḥālak) كيف حالك؟
f – (kayfa ḥālik) كيف حالك؟
Reply to ‘How are you?’ أنا بخير شكرا و أنت؟
m – (Ana bekhair, shukran! Wa ant?)
أنا بخير شكرا و أنت؟
f – (Ana bekhair, shukran! Wa anti?)

An Ancient Greek example:

I’m … years old Ἔτεα … γεγονώς (Étea … gegonōs) – m
Ἔτεα … γεγονυῖα (Étea … gegonuía) – f

It is clear from many many languages around the world, the female sex is represented and acknowledged in language alongside the male sex to an extreme extent, compared to English! “Man” is clearly not the default linguistically for many peoples! Perhaps some of the claims that the male sex is the inherent default state is a bias for English speakers whose language is highly simplified grammatically compared to other languages, and do not use heavily gendered language. Maybe English speakers view being male as more prominent judging from language alone, but that would mean everyone else is far more aware of the other half of humanity, which I disagree with in that English speakers aren’t.

Another prominent example of how the “gender neutral” movement has gotten more ground is in academia. The word “man” in the more general sense of “humanity” is not banned or heavily discouraged in scholarly works. Again, the argument against it is that it is sexist and excludes women being considered too, but this does not hold up. A traditional definition for “man” is a human of the male sex, and for humanity as a whole. “One small step for man, but one giant leap for mankind” shows these two distinctions: it was literally a small step for a man to go onto the moon but it was a great “leap” for the knowledge and achievements of humanity as a species.

The word “man” has many a time been used clearly in the context of meaning humans as a whole, not just males specifically. Many argue that this is reflective of a patriarchal view for men being more “human”, and that when one says “man’ in that context, they are really thinking only of what men think, do or experience. However, one cannot prove that simply by using “man”, or by extension, “he” as the default pronoun. Stylistically, alternating “he” and “she” or “s/he”, “he/she” and “they” in the singular can be very confusing! Just because it is the traditional habit of choosing “he”, it is too far a projection to say it was done with sexist intent or implications. One could easily write “she”, but it is simply the stylistic convention to use “he”. Nothing more, nothing less. Not to mention, the words “humanity”, and “humankind” still contain the word “man” in them! One could just as easily argue these terms are built around the word “man” as a stem, even the words “human” and “woman“! Therefore, they are sexist and unacceptable too! Some feminists have indeed altered the spelling of “woman” to “womyn” just to get rid of the word “man” in it! At least this level of ridiculousness has not yet reached mainstream academia or the mainstream media, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it did! We already have gender neutral pronouns!

I find this whole “gender neutral” movement, banning the word “man’ to mean humanity, or forced usage of gender neutral words for different occupations to be ultimately illogical and inconsequential. Women face much more concrete issues than whether or not some academic uses the word “man” in their journal article or philosophical treatise or someone says the word “policemen” or describe the police force as a whole for an example! The fact that these terms were traditionally used, and reflect a different era does not make them detrimental to women any more than any other historical cultural holdovers we have from our past! The reason why we call boats “she” comes from Old English, when we had grammatical genders. Do we need to call boats “she” anymore? No. We can change it to reflect our current situation today, but it is a harmless holdover from a bygone era. Same with using the word “man” as in humanity, or talk of people in certain jobs with the suffix “-men”, without implying that women are not in the human race, or in the workforce. People who use such terminology have no hidden sexist or patriarchal agenda, they are simply speaking to people who should intuitively know they mean both men and women. English simply does not have that distinction in its grammar like other languages. To me, the whole issue is mainly another case of politically correct censorship and newspeak tying to force its own agenda by controlling how we express ourselves linguistically. Overall, this issue I argue, should be blamed on English’s lack of gendered grammar, not on the inherent sexism of “man” 😉

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A “gender neutral” being conceived by the comic play write Aristophanes. The story he wrote said that men and women were once one creature, who must now find their “other half”.

More Consequences of #metoo Hysteria

I’ve mentioned the hypocrisy and hysteria of the #metoo movement before in great detail, how it hurts women as well as any real perpetrators. How it infatilizes women into little children, naive and helpless victims against the whims of men in power, instead of strong empowered women who can spot when a line is crossed and act accordingly. However, the hysteria the #metoo movement and ones like it have even further reaching consequences.

Scandals involving crossed lines and improper conduct in academia and the workplace have been around far before the #metoo movement got started, bosses have been propositioning their secretaries, teachers seducing students, coaches “coaching” on more than just sports, priests doing ungodly things etc… It would be wrong to state that every instance of improper conduct was indeed false, and one should not worry about it ever happening. However, due to overzealous efforts to prevent such conduct and an atmosphere of witch hunts and no due process, the pendulum has swung the other way. Among the consequences including infantilizing women into helpless little victims and demonizing men, comes what happens when good men with good intentions over correct for any perceived improprieties.

In today’s climate, many male bosses, teachers, mentors, coaches, etc… feel like they must walk nearly on eggshells to make sure they don’t say the wrong thing, or send off implicit “signals” that their interest in a woman is inappropriate. Almost anything a man could say to a woman could be construed as a “come on”, even body language, unconscious facial expressions, even leaving a door closed during a private conversation in an office could lead to gossip by others! In today’s climate, nothing is ever purely “innocent” or innocuous. Everything could be a “sign” or red flag of impropriety! Any man who might fall victim himself to a false allegation will most likely lose his job and good standing. Even if he is proven innocent, the allegations have done their damage, as many parents of girls and female employees naturally think, “better safe than sorry”. One baseless allegation can decimate a man’s career and reputation irreparably. This atmosphere of hysteria, to many liberal feminists, ensures that women would not get unwanted advances by men in power, but ironically, only serves to create a bigger divide between men and women in public life.

Imagine a one on one business meeting with a female client, or a private conversation between a male boss and female employee being construed as something else by other coworkers, or even the woman wondering why its only her and a man in the room. Would an innocent man feel totally comfortable interacting one on one with a woman in an environment primed to implicate him in some sexual misconduct scandal that he can only be seen as guilty in the eyes of society? What about a male teacher talking one on one with a female student, or coach telling a female athlete how to do a certain move in gymnastics or in a game, or a male adviser working closely with a woman on something like a research project or her senior thesis?

All of these scenarios could be liable for some misinterpretation by paranoid parents, colleagues, even the women being mentored or taught or collaborated with. Considering the immense risk men face in working with these women and a paranoid society all too willing to condemn them, I wouldn’t be too shocked if more and more men see women as a liability rather than a collaborative coworker or star pupil, or someone they can take under their wing and mentor. Employers may not want to hire more women in fear of possible “issues” and lawsuits related to nonexistent misconduct in the workplace, or schools may not want to hire as many male teachers or mentors for young women in paranoia about misconduct. While misconduct does happen in rare instances, an atmosphere of paranoia where men must walk on eggshells and have a witness present at all times when interacting with women professionally only serves to foster mistrust and demonization of men by women and society, and an environment where women are pushed away by men in public life, widening the “gender gap” the liberal feminists say they want to close. If women are now liabilities and scandals waiting to happen, what reasonable man would want to come anywhere near one?

These possibilities are not theoretical either. They have happened to me personally as a woman, to other women I’ve heard about, and in the wider news.  One such story was in high school, my male psychology teacher told the class a girl accused him of misconduct because he said she was “the best student ever”. The context was that she took charge of an important project for the National Honor Society, and did very well, and he sent her a thank you note congratulating her for a job well done. Within that context, was anything improper implied? Was he trying to proposition her? Obviously not, however, even the act of writing any note from a male teacher to a female student is taken as crossing a line in the eyes of the #metoo society.

Personally, I’ve had two big stories happen to me. First one was back in my high school days when I’d talk to the school psychologist, an older man who had earned three masters degrees and a PhD and was by far the most qualified and intelligent person in the school. We’d talk all about psychology topics as I was deeply interested in his field with no issue. However, once he had left, I emailed him like we would talk, but only got very curt answers. It didn’t take long to realize he was afraid of being construed by people as being “too close” to me. There was never even a remote hint of improper suggestions in our discourse in his office or via e-mail, but the fear was still the same. The second was back in college where I’d talk to a professor about history. Again, not one hint of any improper topics or any “come ons” by either party, but one day he told me not to show him what I created using his ideas from his class as they quote “crossed the line”. Now, some topics we discussed would have been suggestive with no context, but they were strictly in a historical context in what we discussed in class.

It’s clear in all those scenarios wider society cannot seem to differentiate an inappropriate come on from talking in a strictly scholarly way about a topic. Even the innocent sending of a thank you note for a job well done by a teacher to an exceptional student is construed as an improper advance, never mind discussing pederasty in Ancient Greece, in my case! With such a stifling atmosphere, it’s a miracle a male teacher could teach female students anything without it being construed as an inherent come on. With male teachers walking on eggshells all the time, any intellectual atmosphere and growth for women in academia is stifled, which is bad news for any woman seeking to collaborate on research projects, write their thesis or dissertation, or have intellectual conversations with male professors. Even my own father, who has worked with young people for over 30 years is afraid to create lasting bonds with students over the fear of decimating allegations. I commend his will to mentor these young people even in the face of the witch hunts…

Indeed, the issue has even poisoned the family unit! Mothers are taught to make their daughters doubt the intentions of their male relatives, even their own fathers! Children can no longer hug say, Grandma or Uncle Joe in fear that it will teach them to submit to inappropriate conduct by adults or submit to sex by powerful men in their future, according to the Girl Scouts!

What was strictly business in the workplace is now more than just “business”. A male teacher could only teach the “wrong” things. An innocuous doctor’s appointment is now a liability waiting to happen.  A male role model is now a predator. Your own family members, even your own father is not to be trusted! This Salem Witch Trials atmosphere around men and women only serves to widen the gap between men and women being able to work side by side in society. The only “safe” option is to be completely segregated by gender in all areas of life! Because of the liberal feminist hypocrisy in trying to remedy the issue, it has only spawned a host of new issues! Just because some rotten apples exist, must we throw out the whole barrel??? When will we be able to have scholarly discourse with out teachers again? When will we be able to collaborate with our male coworkers and bosses? When will we be able to accept the wisdom and guidance a mentor can give us, including a male one? When will this insanity end?… I say #NotMe!

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Intellectual seduction, perhaps?…