When Men And Woman Are Social Constructs

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Re: When Men And Woman Are Social Constructs

Postby Lomax on August 29th, 2020, 6:52 am 

BadgerJelly » August 29th, 2020, 5:37 am wrote:My point is simply that if you ask me if a man is male and a woman is female I would answer ‘yes’. I wouldn’t answer ‘yes, but in some exceptional cases they aren’t,’ just like I would answer yes to the to the question ‘Are cars faster than ants?’ without the need to add ‘with some exceptions.

I find that unobjectionable - everyday conversation can't be hampered with too much pedantry. I don't think it says anything to the question of social constructivism though.
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Re: When Men And Woman Are Social Constructs

Postby charon on August 29th, 2020, 8:03 am 

Serpent » August 29th, 2020, 1:18 am wrote:
charon » August 28th, 2020, 5:42 pm wrote:Serpent -

You're not thinking, you're just having fun. I can't operate on that level, sorry.

I'm not having fun. I'm talking about the real world.
I don't know exactly what collective you mean by "we"; I'm painfully aware that there is no such entity beyond designated and delineated groups - whether they choose their own labels or have labels stuck on them by others. A good deal of the conflict at the centre of this thread is a determination on the part of one small minority to reject labelling by the majority and control their own identity.


I don't know how to answer you. By 'we' I mean all of us funny human beans on the planet, that's all.

You say you don't see anything beyond groups and their labels.

But we're not labels, we're people. It's like saying the word 'tree' is the same as that actual thing growing in the ground. It's not, the word is one thing and the actual thing is another, with all its beauty.

Do you really consider yourself just a label? And nothing more besides? This is an absurd conversation.

And, as you say, the thread's all about what labels are better than others, and blah, blah, blah. It's so trivial, so childish! Don't you think so? You should!

So why have words, terms, labels, become more important than ourselves? We don't argue about the fact that we're human beings, do we? Only about labels. Ridiculous.

We must have words for things in order to communicate and it's important to all use the same word for the same thing otherwise there's complete confusion. I'm sitting on a chair right now, not an elephant!

All right, we need terms to refer to people with gender issues. Why not call it gender issues? We don't have this problem with, say, autism. If someone is described as autistic we understand it.

So why all this fuss about gender stuff? Just call yourself whatever you are. What's the problem?

I'll tell you. Because people like to cause trouble. It's an ego thing, that's all. So the real problem, as ever, is the ever-present ego. Self-interest, self-importance, power and self-expansion. That's why they're shouting. That's why it's not important, not for me at any rate.

We are united by our humanity and divided by our labels. To see that is to be free of the label.
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Re: When Men And Woman Are Social Constructs

Postby Serpent on August 29th, 2020, 10:09 am 

charon » August 29th, 2020, 7:03 am wrote: By 'we' I mean all of us funny human beans on the planet, that's all.

I thought so. The roughly seven and half billion individuals, who each feel unique and seperate.
You say you don't see anything beyond groups and their labels.

No, I didn't. I said there is no collective "we" in which all those individuals can identify, think or act.
But we're not labels, we're people. It's like saying the word 'tree' is the same as that actual thing growing in the ground. It's not, the word is one thing and the actual thing is another, with all its beauty.

You've got that exactly backward. There is no collective identity of 'trees = they'; there are only separate individual specimens growing in the ground, which may be variously categorized and subcategorized by type as coniferous and deciduous; palms, maples, pines, stone-fruits; pygmy date palm, Japanese red maple, Jack pine, greengage plum. They can be collected in groupings like forest, orchard, copse and grove. They can be designated as landsacape trees, lumber, food crop, shade... All of those collective identifiers carries a significant meaning when humans talk about trees.
The trees don't know anything about those labels. But the labels were invented to describe the appearance, resemblance, climate preference and habits of the trees - not the other way around.

Do you really consider yourself just a label? And nothing more besides? This is an absurd conversation.

You're making it absurd by just this kind of remark. Who said 'just' or 'nothing more'? Our group identities describe something about where and how people live, what they experience, believe and do. People have physical location, ethnicity, nationality, occupation, age, economic and social positions, political affiliation, clubs, hobbies, favoured sports and entertainments, talents and handicaps, proclivities and weaknesses. Some of the group identification is automatic (If you're born into a prosperous merchant family in Calcutta, you're wearing four labels before you wear a diaper - five, including what the attendants noted on the form before putting that diaper on you.) Some are imposed or gifted throughout life by other humans; some are consciously chosen. Every affiliation adds a dimension to one's identity; every designation adds to one's identifiabilty as an individual - not just one of the billions.

And, as you say, the thread's all about what labels are better than others,

No, again, I did not say anything of the kind.

All right, we need terms to refer to people with gender issues. Why not call it gender issues?

Okay. But it's not a form of address with which I'd be comfortable greeting anyone: I prefer to call each person I meet whatever they prefer to be called. If i don't know, I settle for their name. That's a label most people agree to wear.

We don't have this problem with, say, autism.

And why is that? Because activist parents and psychologists made an issue of it. Before that, autistic children were routinely institutionalized and ignored to death.
If someone is described as autistic we understand it.
Now we do. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3757918/

So why all this fuss about gender stuff? Just call yourself whatever you are. What's the problem?

Most commonly, "the problem" is that other people want to call you, and treat you, differently from how you call yourself and want to be treated.

I'll tell you. Because people like to cause trouble. It's an ego thing, that's all. So the real problem, as ever, is the ever-present ego. Self-interest, self-importance, power and self-expansion. That's why they're shouting. That's why it's not important, not for me at any rate.

Sure. Simple. Ego.
You and I live on different planets.
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Re: When Men And Woman Are Social Constructs

Postby Lomax on August 29th, 2020, 11:10 am 

I'll come live on yours, Serpent, if there's space.
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Re: When Men And Woman Are Social Constructs

Postby charon on August 29th, 2020, 12:05 pm 

Serpent -

It's quite interesting this, you know? I see the oneness (call it that) and you see the differentiation. Mind you, I see differentiation too, it obviously exists, but the oneness precedes it. So... :-)

This is probably where we're coming unstuck, but never mind. I'm glad you're still here.

The roughly seven and half billion individuals, who each feel unique and separate.


Yes, I know. Well, you know what I say. We may feel unique and separate but I can't go along with it. I know we feel unique and separate but, to my mind, that's a real deception.

Can you stand a fairly long post? I'm sorry in advance, but bear with me.

First, what are the effects of this feeling 'I am unique and separate'? Separate from what? This is a serious question. Separate from what?

Naturally we are separate physically. We have separate bodies. I'm here and you're a long way away somewhere. But talking psychologically and subjectively, are we separate? Separate from what?

Are we separate from the human race? Obviously not. We're all here on this planet. We're a species, evolved through time to be what we are now. So you and I are products of evolution. Our brains are the result of that. There are obviously superficial differences, like not all leaves or pebbles aren't quite the same, but we're actually just the same.

Are we so different psychologically? Don't we all think? Don't we all share the process of thought? Of course. And is what we think about so different?

Superficially the content of our thinking isn't so different, is it? Aren't we all concerned with exactly the same things? Work, health, money, survival, relationships, old age, youth, beliefs, ideas opinions, love, death... it's a long list of extreme similarity. Deeper than that there are all the human feelings of fear, hope, loneliness, envy, greed, despair... also a long list.

So we're not so different from others at all. And we also share this feeling 'I am unique', that's also apparently common to us all! So are we unique? I'm afraid we're not.

Now either we realise our connection with everything else or we don't. Of course, if we adopt a label, the label separates us. I'm a Muslim, let's say, and you're a Christian. Or I'm Swedish and you're from Timbuktu. The colour of our skins may be different (but not different from millions of others) and we may speak different languages (but not different from millions of others). And so it goes on.

So are we actually separate apart from physically? There's more to communication than words. We recognise atmospheres, moods, problems, in others because they're like us, human.

Anyway, as I say, either I continue in the idea (and it is just an idea) that I'm a unique entity or I don't. Obviously it's conceit that says that, isn't it? It's a delusion. Superficially, yes, but not really at all. Quite the contrary, in fact.

I said there is no collective "we" in which all those individuals can identify, think or act.


But we are acting collectively. It may be in separation but everything we do affects everything and everybody else, doesn't it? It produces the culture, the society, the ambiance of that society, and also globally. BUT, when we act in separation it produces disorder, which is what we have now.

See, we don't have a global outlook. Apparently we're only interested in our own part of the world, our own family, our own interests, our own selves. It's a 'me first' world, whether it's 'Britain first', 'America first', 'my political party first', 'my career first', 'my faith first', and so on. Occasionally we're nice but most of the time it's not like that. The truth is we're really not very interested in other people at all. As long as we get what we want we don't care.

What is cooperation? We cooperate when there's an incentive. We have to be bribed to cooperate. As long as there's something in it for us we cooperate. But that's not cooperation, is it? Cooperation is for its own sake and we don't do that.

What would happen if we forgot about our stupid selves and all got together to make this world a good place? It can be done but who is doing it? You'll see very clearly that what is stopping it happening is, precisely, individuals, governments, groups, religious factions, who only concerned with their own business and nobody else's.

So the 'we' is all of us, globally, but our thinking has destroyed that feeling. It's all about 'me' and that's what's wrong with it.

To get back on subject, that's what the gender people are doing, isn't it? It's all about 'me', my body, my sex, my problem, my rights, my label. That's all. They're buried in it and there's no global outlook. They're too identified with their own group, their own problem, just the same as most people.

Who said 'just' or 'nothing more'?


Well, you did:

I don't know exactly what collective you mean by "we"; I'm painfully aware that there is no such entity beyond designated and delineated groups


Our group identities describe something about where and how people live, what they experience, believe and do. People have physical location, ethnicity, nationality, occupation, age, economic and social positions, political affiliation, clubs, hobbies, favoured sports and entertainments, talents and handicaps, proclivities and weaknesses. Some of the group identification is automatic (If you're born into a prosperous merchant family in Calcutta, you're wearing four labels before you wear a diaper - five, including what the attendants noted on the form before putting that diaper on you.) Some are imposed or gifted throughout life by other humans; some are consciously chosen. Every affiliation adds a dimension to one's identity; every designation adds to one's identifiabilty as an individual - not just one of the billions.


But isn't that how you're describing it? You, or someone else, puts these labels on them. How do you know those actual people themselves think in terms of labels?

I don't. It would be very easy to 'classify' me but I don't see myself that way. I'm just a person. Others can think what they like. It's all completely superficial anyway. Deep down I'm human, same as the rest, same as you, that's all.

Most commonly, "the problem" is that other people want to call you, and treat you, differently from how you call yourself and want to be treated.


Well, ask them nicely and if they don't want to, too bad. Why make a fuss about it?

You and I live on different planets.


Unfortunately we don't :-)
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Re: When Men And Woman Are Social Constructs

Postby Serpent on August 29th, 2020, 3:00 pm 

charon » August 29th, 2020, 11:05 am wrote:It's quite interesting this, you know? I see the oneness (call it that) and you see the differentiation.

To be precise, I see differentiation as the evolutionary process resulting in dissimilarity.

Mind you, I see differentiation too, it obviously exists, but the oneness precedes it.

That's the crux - or one crotch, anyway - of our disagreement. I do not think there has ever been homogeneity in any organism since long before algae. Yes, I insulted them before by calling them all the same.

We may feel unique and separate but I can't go along with it. I know we feel unique and separate but, to my mind, that's a real deception.

Perpetrated by whom?

First, what are the effects of this feeling 'I am unique and separate'?

Causes come first. Effects come after.

Separate from what?

Everything and everyone else in the universe. That's a serious answer, whether the barrier is a cell wall, a skin, a bark or a shell, every self experiences its own sensations, its own needs, its own impulses, its thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, relationships; its own life - and no other. That is a condition of life that no amount of wishing and spirit-invoking can change.
It's the ritual communion achieved through chemicals and self-hypnosis that's illusory; that's why it doesn't last and has to be re-achieved at regular intervals to maintain group solidarity. And, of course, even that religious oneness only includes a small number of individuals in any one congregation.
When ritual solidarity is whipped up in a large crowd, they become mindless mobs or hordes. They disperse naturally when the spell wears off and autonomy is regained, but can be very destructive when controlled and reinforced by an external manipulator.
It is just such a collective that cannot tolerate variation and individuation in its ranks.

Are we separate from the human race? Obviously not.

Kingdom‎: ‎Animalia; Class‎: ‎Mammalia; Family‎: ‎Hominidae; Species‎: ‎H. sapiens
Labels. Useful collective labels that continue to be subdivided into smaller and more more particular groupings, until we arrive at a name with a dob and social insurance number.

Are we so different psychologically?

How big is "so"?
Don't we all share the process of thought?

No. We use similar hardware, but we each have our individual sources and content of input and must do our own separate processing.

Of course, if we adopt a label, the label separates us. I'm a Muslim, let's say, and you're a Christian. Or I'm Swedish and you're from Timbuktu. The colour of our skins may be different (but not different from millions of others) and we may speak different languages (but not different from millions of others). And so it goes on.

Those are, in fact, labels that gather up individual persons in a collective. They unite groups of dissimilar people by raising a particular common identifier above their personal differences.

There's more to communication than words. We recognise atmospheres, moods, problems, in others because they're like us, human.

We also have communication, both verbal and non- with other species. It's easier with the intelligent mammals most like us, just as it's easier to communicate with humans of the same nationality, and even easier with people of similar class, age and interests; two mathematicians might not even need words or facial expressions to get a message across.
But none of these modes of communication would be needed if we were all the same. What would we have to say that all the other cells don't already know?

But we are acting collectively.

In designated, delineated groups, for short periods of time, under the direction of some individual.
It may be in separation but everything we do affects everything and everybody else, doesn't it? It produces the culture, the society, the ambiance of that society, and also globally.

Those are aggregate effects of individual and collective actions and reactions.

BUT, when we act in separation it produces disorder,

Also art, science, architecture and technology. Every idea is the product of an individual mind. Every decision, whether to commit a crime or run away from a battle or jump into the lake after a drowning classmate is made by an individual, in the privacy of his own skin and skull.

See, we don't have a global outlook.

Collectively, no, we don't. Quite a few individual persons do - each from a slightly different POV.

The truth is we're really not very interested in other people at all.

That's nowhere near the truth. Explain all the newspapers, magazines, television, internet; before that, novels, handbills, ballads, cave paintings, jungle drums --- gossip.
As long as we get what we want we don't care.

Palpably and demonstrably false.

What would happen if we forgot about our stupid selves and all got together to make this world a good place?

We'd be one enormous ant-hill. Only after killing off the other 12,000 species of ants and everything else that's not useful to our particular species of ant. Ironically, we'd still be classified into castes.
A similar concerted Earthling response might be achieved if we had sufficient, reliable warning of an invasion by aliens... No, it couldn't. There would be armed protester calling it a hoax...

So the 'we' is all of us, globally, but our thinking has destroyed that feeling.

You can't destroy something that never existed.
To get back on subject, that's what the gender people are doing, isn't it? It's all about 'me', my body, my sex, my problem, my rights, my label.

Yes. Of course.
How do you know those actual people themselves think in terms of labels?

Ask them before you rip one off.

I don't see myself that way. I'm just a person.

Nobody, afaics is disputing how you see yourself. A taxonomist would have her own ideas about you, as would an economist or an ethnographer - and there'd be nothing you could do about it.
Deep down I'm human, same as the rest, same as you, that's all.

It's the last bit I don't believe. That's not all you are.

["the problem" is that other people want (to control)]
Well, ask them nicely and if they don't want to, too bad. Why make a fuss about it?

To get what we want.
It's what life does: it swims upstream of entropy.

TWIMC - Apologies for length and straying from topic.
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Re: When Men And Woman Are Social Construc

Postby BadgerJelly on August 30th, 2020, 1:19 am 

Lomax » August 29th, 2020, 6:52 pm wrote:
BadgerJelly » August 29th, 2020, 5:37 am wrote:My point is simply that if you ask me if a man is male and a woman is female I would answer ‘yes’. I wouldn’t answer ‘yes, but in some exceptional cases they aren’t,’ just like I would answer yes to the to the question ‘Are cars faster than ants?’ without the need to add ‘with some exceptions.

I find that unobjectionable - everyday conversation can't be hampered with too much pedantry. I don't think it says anything to the question of social constructivism though.


Well, I don’t quite know what the question is or how it’s framed. I would argue that if a position is riding on the idea of ‘social constructivism’ it is starting on shaky ground - as the very idea itself can be brought into question by itself! It also suffers from non-experts falling into the very misconceptions and ‘influences’ how they perceive other positions - or rather whether or not they reject them out of hand (I’d prefer to just say ‘environments effect people’).

If society wishes to ‘build’ a new meaning for ‘gender’ it will. If people reject it that is the way things are - for now and maybe for ever.

People treat other people differently, and said people also change how they treat others throughout their lives for better and/or worse.

People will, I hope, always react with a mixture of fear, disgust, curiosity, intrigue and adventure toward what is beyond their norm (their experienced ‘environment’ - physically and mentally). Beyond that statement I don’t really see what ‘social constructivism’ does other than try, and fail, to act as some weird kind of reason to point doubt in one direction rather than another.

In terms of rationality it looks more like it’s taken the principle of questioning the obvious in order to reject the ‘obvious’ in the face of overwhelming experience and evidence to the contrary - simply because the seat it’s sat on allows supreme authority to cast doubt any which way it wishes.

Maybe I’ve not addressed what you’re asking of me? If not let me know and I’ll do my best to express what I mean.
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Re: When Men And Woman Are Social Constructs

Postby Lomax on August 30th, 2020, 6:49 am 

I think it's on shaky ground to the extent that all ongoing philosophical questions are on shaky ground. The idea of a social construct is that the meaning and the concept have something to do with social relations, not just raw data. Charon (I think) mentioned chairs earlier as an example, and a chair is a perfect example of a social construct. Nobody is saying chairs don't exist, but we delineate them from other things you can sit on by means of their intended or actual usage. If that makes sense.

Similarly, I (and other trans rights activists, and trans people on the whole) aren't saying that chromosomes, genitalia, endocrines etc don't exist. We're saying they don't always come packaged together, and never have, and some of them can now be altered, and the way we push people into binary and immutable categories has always been a matter of social relations rather than biological precision. Two people can agree entirely on the empirical facts - the mathematically formulable, testable predictions - but disagree on the taxonomy. I'm saying that taxonomy is a pragmatic question, and suggesting we don't ignore 2-2.5% of the population, and the effects on them, when taxonomising.
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Re: When Men And Woman Are Social Constructs

Postby Serpent on August 30th, 2020, 8:51 am 

^^That's probably as good a summary as we can hope for.
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Re: When Men And Woman Are Social Constructs

Postby BadgerJelly on August 30th, 2020, 10:29 pm 

Lomax -

I think it's on shaky ground to the extent that all ongoing philosophical questions are on shaky ground. The idea of a social construct is that the meaning and the concept have something to do with social relations, not just raw data.


There is an element questioning the foundation of the sciences too ... it is something that I’ve been incredibly interested in and why I’ve looked at Husserl; who was never doing anything other than trying to possess the sciences with a better grounding. In strong social constructivism the flaw - in my view - is precisely to view all science as a social construct (ie. nothing to do with the nature of reality).

This point can become worrisome when there are groups of activists who have poor a understanding of how science functions, but are all too willing to undermine it to suit their agendas.

Similarly, I (and other trans rights activists, and trans people on the whole) aren't saying that chromosomes, genitalia, endocrines etc don't exist.


Of course not. But a reasonable are cherry-picking studies that bolster their positions are then saying that studies opposing their position are the products of ‘social constructivism’ - true enough, they may not be scholarly people but many of them find it easy to find a voice online and do an injustice to the cause they claim to be fighting for.

I'm saying that taxonomy is a pragmatic question, and suggesting we don't ignore 2-2.5% of the population, and the effects on them, when taxonomising.


And I would imagine that sentiment voiced loudly enough could be perceived as patronising. It is anyone’s duty to research and weigh in on every plight of human life. It is not that people ‘ignore’ they just might prefer to focus their attention on matters that are more directly to hand for them that may effect sections of humanity that aren’t identical in terms of sex, religion, culture or any other ‘arbitrated’ trait imposed by our, what should we call it ... ‘innate social constructivism’ ... the point of such strong social constructivism is that it is utterly illogical and self-defeating. I’m sure there are some out there already working on papers that frame logic and reason as ‘social constructs’ too.

The main issue is that Foucault became ‘fashionable’ for some reason. Likely because anyone reading him could quickly begin to draw their own conclusions without the need to back it up with empirical data.

One thing is for sure. It will be interesting to look back in 10-20 yrs and see what kind of progress has been made in terms of how comfortable the trans community feels in society at large. I imagine it will be better for them because I truly believe people at large can adapt and possess enough empathy and curiosity about others to reframe their views of the world.

Some will always be complete dicks though, but the ‘fun’ of life is precisely in its messiness imo :)
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Re: When Men And Woman Are Social Constructs

Postby BadgerJelly on August 31st, 2020, 1:57 am 

Lomax -

Something that might interest you is something I read fro Levi- Strauss regarding the structure of tribes and parental roles.

We live in a society that is largely based on a ‘mother and father’ dynamic but this appears not to have been the ‘norm’ throughout human existence - there are plenty of cases where what we consider ‘normal’ is not a general ‘truth’ in other cultures.

There has been a lot of talk about how family units have altered over the last several generations, and perhaps you see the problem transgenders are having is equivalent to the way the roles of parents (the idea of ‘mother and father’) has shifted. I don’t actually see these as equivalent though simply because children will be raised in some manner or another, and the roles of the care-takers doesn’t remove the need for care-takers - regardless of how they are named.

This probably has some interesting parallels that you could use to further express your point of view - meaning although the birth of a child requires two people having sexual intercourse it doesn’t necessarily mean they are the ‘mother and father’ in terms of caregiving, but in another sense they are defined as the ‘biological parents’. Taking such an example may help you help others distinguish the issues at hand regarding how people assign titles to each other and how there are ‘grey areas’ that are more tangible to them.
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Re: When Men And Woman Are Social Constructs

Postby Lomax on August 31st, 2020, 5:59 am 

We could debate whether gender is a social construct - as per the OP - or we could attack strawmen. Nobody here has said anything about Foucault, or claimed that all science is a social construct, or that logic and reason are too. Are we here to debate the question at hand or to argue with people we "imagine" are out there cherrypicking and saying things we can more easily argue against?
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Re: When Men And Woman Are Social Constructs

Postby BadgerJelly on August 31st, 2020, 10:35 am 

Lomax » August 31st, 2020, 5:59 pm wrote:We could debate whether gender is a social construct - as per the OP - or we could attack strawmen. Nobody here has said anything about Foucault, or claimed that all science is a social construct, or that logic and reason are too. Are we here to debate the question at hand or to argue with people we "imagine" are out there cherrypicking and saying things we can more easily argue against?


I believe I’ve offered plenty above?

Is gender a ‘social construct’? Yes and no. That is precisely the problem of the whole philosophical problem of epistemology and something I have myself repeatedly tried to approach on this forum in the past.

The question becomes more or less to what degree is or isn’t it a social construct, often without enough thought put into how we’re meant to, or even able to, measure such a thing.
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Re: When Men And Woman Are Social Constructs

Postby BadgerJelly on September 1st, 2020, 12:02 am 

Lomax -

To repeat ...

“This probably has some interesting parallels that you could use to further express your point of view - meaning although the birth of a child requires two people having sexual intercourse it doesn’t necessarily mean they are the ‘mother and father’ in terms of caregiving, but in another sense they are defined as the ‘biological parents’. Taking such an example may help you help others distinguish the issues at hand regarding how people assign titles to each other and how there are ‘grey areas’ that are more tangible to them.”

It would probably, I imagine (?), be useful to distinguish how ‘gender’ and ‘parents’ different in terms of being ‘social constructs’. I’m happy to start by saying there are marked differences and BOTH have, or could have, exceptions to the rule (with the possibility of gene-editing in mind).

Note: you may be expecting more from my posts, but maybe I’m expecting more from your posts too. If you aren’t interested in talking about Foucault’s influence no problem. I’m interested in checking out what some actor or novelist thinks, but if that is significant for others I’m not going to try and shut down any discussion about a specific celebrities take on the matter.

Anyway, when are ‘men and women’ social constructs? I don’t pretend to have a clear answer. If we go far enough it could even be said that the equivalent term in each language is different enough to warrant how the terms are perceived (and the context they’re framed in). To stay on track, I do think it goes without saying that ‘male’ and ‘female’ are significant in terms of reproduction and therefore that ‘men and women’ are traditionally, and biologically, different in terms of how they contribute to the continuation of the species - a man and a woman in this are required to produce a child. This is, to state the obvious, essential to the continuation of any culture! This is also why family units are part and parcel of what constitutes a society of humans. If these are accepted without pedantry, but with more uncommon caveats I’ll continue (if not voice the issue/s).

In terms of ‘father’ and ‘mother’ we are quite used to saying ‘fatherly role’ and ‘mother role,’ and likewise we’re used to hearing ‘male role’ and ‘female role’. As everything in existence is on some kind of spectrum we require terms for each end. In sex and gender the terms are male/female and man/woman. I think anyone would have a hard time suggesting these are completely different terms without any relation - far from it, they are clearly used historically as synonymous in many situations. There are other elements of speech outside technical jargon that are carried in colloquial speech in quite different ways (examples of these in psychology would be ‘extrovert’/‘introvert’ and ‘masculine’/‘feminine’ which are technical terms but terms that are nevertheless used in a quite different way in public life).

Let us set up a scenario ... two people have a child, both identify as being ‘women,’ yet one is biologically ‘male’ (father) and the other is biologically ‘female’ (mother). Now when it comes to ‘parental roles’ we can quite clearly see these are good candidates for social constructs, but the ‘biological paternity’ is unquestionable and clearly NOT a social construct. From here I can easily imagine, and I’ve seen arguments put forward like this, that this is suggesting that ‘being a parent’ or even ‘potential parent’ (biologically) defines someone’s sex ... obviously this is untrue for infertile people. I think that is a poor argument though, but something of import in modern society as more and more people are choosing no to have children and thus may very well feel slighted by the suggestion that sex is defined by the ability to be a parent - also, if children are adopted then how does this contribute to the identity of the parents involved when they know they are not the ‘biological parents’? Here we have a clear example of someone ‘feeling like’ a biological parent, yet not actually being a biological parent - something that even the children accept too and look at their adopted parents as ‘biological parents’.

Do you agree that this is a reasonable position to bring people into this discussion if they are presenting misunderstanding and/or misinterpretation of the situation for transgenders? I do btw.

The example I previously mentioned where a ‘male’ was born with the inability to produce testosterone (a real case btw) would obviously throw a spanner into the works. There we cannot simply refer to reproductive ability to define sex as this obscure example shows that we have an XY person who is, in some regards, ‘more’ of a ‘woman’ in that they have no testosterone, yet they’re not a woman as they are incapable of reproduction. For me this person is a woman regardless of possessing XY chromosomes. This exception to the rule doesn’t remove a basic understanding of the difference between the sexes in terms of reproduction.

In the above respect I don’t see ‘gender’ as being purely a ‘social construct’ as it is clearly bore from an explicit differentiation within social interactions in regards to how reproduction functions. How do I ‘measure’ and ‘validate’ this position? Harder to say, it is what I feel and believe to be true after much thought and consideration of the epistemic problem embedded whilst putting to one side my subjective position as best I can.

None of the above is to say that ‘gender’ is definitively a ‘natural fact,’ but rather that the term is an extension from an undeniable reproductive function - we were all born! It is even a psychological state expressed by people who cannot have children and say they ‘don’t feel like a man/woman’ because they cannot have children (people feel like this, wrongly imo, but they still feel inadequate). I can only imagine how this feels for transgenders as personal identity and possessing a sense of value and position within society is a large issue for most people (from what I‘ve observed). Such people certainly need to be shown empathy, yet it is quite hard to bring someone to something approximating what they feel - maybe infertile people who’ve had psychological issues regarding their sense of identity would be closer to understanding the transgenders have to cope with, as would some people with differing sexual preferences. Every human being is capable, and has experienced, isolation and a sense of not feeling ‘human,’ surely? This is something most, if not everyone, face in the form of some kind of existential crisis.

I’d really like to hear how, and why, you measure something in terms of being a ‘social construct’. What suggestions do you have for people who find it difficult to make use of such a means of measuring?
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Re: When Men And Woman Are Social Constructs

Postby Serpent on September 1st, 2020, 1:50 am 

Not to agree or disagree, just interjecting an anecdotal scrap of information.
My partner and I each may have been biologically fertile, but chose, for different reasons, not to test the hypothesis. When we became adoptive parents, neither of us - again, in different ways - felt like biological parents, and the children were not merely cognizant of the fact, but quite prepared to use it as leverage whenever we denied them something they wanted. Nobody outside the family was aware of the dynamics, since we all behaved like the good little nuclear family society constructed for us.
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Re: When Men And Woman Are Social Constructs

Postby Lomax on September 1st, 2020, 8:35 am 

I would say that gender (a social term) by all means has some connection to sex (a biological term) - the concept of medically transitioning wouldn’t make much sense without acknowledging that. It is contingent of course - the gender roles that conservatives take as immutable in modern Western society are not ubiquitous throughout history.

You’re probably right that it’s hard to measure the extent to which something is a social construct. I actually think AJ Ayer was right to say that all objects are social constructs - but we’d be getting into a debate about phenomenology vs physicalism, and I think that’s probably too far off-point. My position is that trans people have the same right to claim their pronouns even if we abandon our physicalist paradigm for a phenomenologist one, and I certainly wouldn’t want to make the sociological issue so heavily dependent on a comparatively obscure metaphysical one.

That’s why I think Blaire White’s parent analogy is so good. We know there’s a biological difference between a birth parent and an adoptive parent, but they’re all parents. That’s a linguistic choice we made, because it focuses on what matters most, and we’re not in reality denial by perpetuating it. Nor are we erasing anyone, performing mental gymnastics, etc. They’re just words, and as Donald Davidson put it: understanding gives rise to meaning, not the other way around. So it’s a question of what we need to understand, in daily life.

The sex question is separate, and I think, a lot more complex. As I said it’s more like a taxonomy puzzle - if we must force people into two, and only two, biological categories, what rigid designator are we going to focus on? Which of the various and variable sexual markers? On the other hand: must we?
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Re: When Men And Woman Are Social Constructs

Postby neuro on September 1st, 2020, 10:04 am 

Lomax » September 1st, 2020, 1:35 pm wrote:if we must force people into two, and only two, biological categories, what rigid designator are we going to focus on? Which of the various and variable sexual markers? On the other hand: must we?

Why would we need to? probably most of us don't even care so much about forcing anybody into a category.

On the other hand, for some people (those who can be taxonomized in alternative ways) being "forced into two, and only two, biological categories" seems to be the most (only) important problem in the world.

So, it seems to me that such a number of social aspects and problems are linked to the way "people are forced into two, and only two, biological categories" that we actually must focus on a designator, and the problem of "what rigid designator are we going to focus on" does stand...

And since all the related problems are social and not epistemological, we may speculate on the epistemology and phenomenology, but in the end, whether we decide "men" and "women" are social constructs or biological features, in any case we have to behave as if they were social constructs.
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Re: When Men And Woman Are Social Constructs

Postby Serpent on September 1st, 2020, 12:53 pm 

I accidentally revisited the question of fair division in competitive sports.
Through no fault of my own, I've been watching the US open tennis tournament. They do everything electronically now: refereeing, scoring, timing and recording the speed of every serve.
Yesterday, two tall, big-boned, heavily muscled women played against each other and their average serve speed was 102mph, ranging from 88 to 119. Then came two long, lean, sinewy men from the top ranking. (That's redundant, btw; all top-ranked male tennis players have that same body type.) From what I read on another thread here, I expected their serves to be consistently at least 10mp faster. but they only averaged 106 or so; from 90 to 124. Today, I saw two fine-boned, slim women. Their serves range from 72 to 105 mph, averaging in the low 90's.

Eureka! No urine tests, no groping; just class them all by size. That way, the biggest will be probably all male - leaving room for the atypical large female - while the smallest will be all or nearly all female - leaving room for the unusual diminutive male - and all the middle sections will be mixed. So the macho types can brag that men are still the bestest of all; Edy's daughter can be champions in their class and still beat some boys; best of all, normal-sized men will finally have a chance at trophies.
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Re: When Men And Woman Are Social Constructs

Postby charon on September 1st, 2020, 8:43 pm 

Oh, goody, no more males and females then, just big, small, fat, thin, hairy, not hairy... I like it!

'Ah, you haven't met my small thin hairy, I don't think. This is Isabel, we've been together about six months now'.
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Re: When Men And Woman Are Social Constructs

Postby TheVat on September 1st, 2020, 10:55 pm 

I might have gone out for wrestling in high school, if it had offered the possibility of pairing up with girls in my weight class.
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Re: When Men And Woman Are Social Constructs

Postby BadgerJelly on September 1st, 2020, 11:54 pm 

TheVat » September 2nd, 2020, 10:55 am wrote:I might have gone out for wrestling in high school, if it had offered the possibility of pairing up with girls in my weight class.


Weight is insignificant. The issue is the difference in strength (especially upper body!). Women would be pummelled and likely incur prolonged injuries if they were to compete with men in contact sports. Likewise, in other sports - like tennis - they wouldn’t exist within the top few hundred ranks in the world and I’d only be guessing how far down the rankings top women would be able to compete against men (the Williams sisters themselves cannot compete against the top 200 men in tennis - with a chance of winning).

Lomax -

As I said it’s more like a taxonomy puzzle - if we must force people into two, and only two, biological categories, what rigid designator are we going to focus on? Which of the various and variable sexual markers? On the other hand: must we?


Absolutely not! Sadly we’re just human and we’re reliant on mapping out the world as best we can by using dichotic terms like ‘conservative’/‘liberal’ and ‘physical’/‘mental’. They are necessary to navigate through life but clearly not absolute nor of string necessity in such items as ‘gender’.

Note: I’ve been fascinated for some time about the different categories of antonyms :)

There has been issues in this very forum when the idea of ‘race’ was used in a manner other than strictly scientific. People will react against anything that threatens their general paradigm. If the voice is small they will just brush it off, but when it starts being more widespread we can expect a natural resistance (often irrational and volatile).

If someone wishes to be called ‘him’ or ‘her’ I’m fine with that. If someone wishes to be called ‘zer’ - a term I’ve literally never been in a position to use - I’d be willing to try and adjust my speech for a friend ... not likely for a complete stranger though, but that would depend upon the circumstance.



Neuro -

And since all the related problems are social and not epistemological, we may speculate on the epistemology and phenomenology, but in the end, whether we decide "men" and "women" are social constructs or biological features, in any case we have to behave as if they were social constructs.


I would agree with this, but not for those espousing ‘strong constructivism’ of the ilk that actively undermines certain groups of people they have qualms with - be they religious or scientific. Ironically as these two groups are often at odds with one another they have a bad habit of using such ideas to belittle the other (by doing so they essentially undermine their own ‘belief’).

Also, if we’re talking about social constructs here it makes sense to address what it means for something to be a social construct, and how we categorise each claim of a social construct (brute or institutional facts). Note: I’m aware how closely related to Husserlian phenomenology is to strong constructivism, so I have a certain interest here because I’ve spent a good amount of time pursuing how these ideas relate.
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Re: When Men And Woman Are Social Constructs

Postby charon on September 2nd, 2020, 6:54 am 

these two groups are often at odds with one another they have a bad habit of using such ideas to belittle the other


Which is a war. I do wish we'd grow up.
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Re: When Men And Woman Are Social Constructs

Postby Serpent on September 2nd, 2020, 10:36 am 

Contact sports are falling victim to C-19 anyway. If I had anything to say about it, combat sports would have been eliminated a long time ago. Two people with no animosity between them are paid to beat each other deaf, blind and stupid for the entertainment of a bloodthirsty crowd - I just don't think gladiator culture indicates a healthy society, whether you're paying to see men or women being hurt.
(Co-ed wrestling might cause the boys disproportionate discomfort. Greek style, it might become a spectacle before it was a competition.)

I said size, not weight. For example, the top ranked male tennis players I mentioned all have enormous long legs and arms. They bestride the court like a Colossus - while a more compact opponent, even of the exact same weight, has to run and leap for each volley. As for basketball, it's simply closed to the majority of athletes, by height alone, as American football has a pre-requisite bulk.

Keep in mind: fair play is not at the center of professional sport. It's business, status, national pride, fan solidarity, tradition, entertainment, vicarious excitement, sentiment - but mostly business. When changes are proposed, it's those things that are being jealously defended in the name of Sport.

Get one of those templates they use for clothing patterns, that allows you to adjust for size. Draw the outlines on a wall. You have to match this shape for Class A; that shape for Class B. Teams could be mixed gender, as long as they're all the same size class. That would mitigate some of the injustice of ethnic size differences and would make all sports both more accessible and more interesting.
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Re: When Men And Woman Are Social Constructs

Postby charon on September 2nd, 2020, 12:42 pm 

Get one of those templates they use for clothing patterns, that allows you to adjust for size. Draw the outlines on a wall. You have to match this shape for Class A; that shape for Class B. Teams could be mixed gender, as long as they're all the same size class. That would mitigate some of the injustice of ethnic size differences and would make all sports both more accessible and more interesting.


Certainly would. I think I'd go for that :-)
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Re: When Men And Woman Are Social Constructs

Postby TheVat on September 2nd, 2020, 1:02 pm 

BadgerJelly » September 1st, 2020, 8:54 pm wrote:
TheVat » September 2nd, 2020, 10:55 am wrote:I might have gone out for wrestling in high school, if it had offered the possibility of pairing up with girls in my weight class.


Weight is insignificant. The issue is the difference in strength (especially upper body!). Women would be pummelled and likely incur prolonged injuries if they were to compete with men in contact sports.


It was a joke, Badger. And the reason I joke is because how people identify themselves has never been much of an issue for me, so I find it hard to join in with all the needle-threading that goes on. Of course, any gender-open sport would have to have objective measures of bone density and UBS for entrants, so that players are not, as you put it, pummeled. Or pulverized. Pulverized is especially unpleasant and generates lawsuits.
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Re: When Men And Woman Are Social Constructs

Postby charon on September 2nd, 2020, 1:49 pm 

You're working well today, Vat :-)
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Re: When Men And Woman Are Social Construct

Postby BadgerJelly on September 3rd, 2020, 12:48 am 

Biv -

I know :) I thought it was worth mentioning though because it is something that has caused problems this particular area as people who’ve transitioned have competed with what appears to be a quite obvious physical advantage over others in the same ‘gender’ group they have been assigned to.

Lomax -

To rewind a little:

The sex question is separate, and I think, a lot more complex.


This is something I don’t really agree with fully. I think I’ve outlined enough why this is so in colloquial speech - the terms ‘gender’ and ‘sex’ are, and have been, used synonymously for a long, long time. It does tie deeply into linguistics in general with the issues of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ for grammar ... it does certainly start to get rather messy, rather quickly! I have mo intention of needless pedantry here, but it would be against my better judgement to suggest that ‘sex’ (a definition of) is separate to ‘gender’ (a definition of). For this reason I don’t really agree that it isn’t worth addressing the epistemic importance of this and/or to bracket it out as ‘metaphysical’ - it is here where the issue of the concept of ‘social construct’ relies for its authority in academic and public debate today.

‘Men and women are social constructs’ in that they are items of concern within societies. When a difference is noted then people look for groups to categorise differences; which has been a useful thing to do. Societies and human interactions are highly complex and we’re unable to do more than offer up best guesses and rough estimates (that change from second-to-second or day-to-day) due to unforeseen events impacting on the current state or condition under scrutiny.

Ultimately, from my perspective, to class ‘sex’ as wholly separate from the issue of ‘gender’ is not an honest approach. I have a feeling people like to do this because it suits their cause not to hold up certain relations that don’t help strengthen their position - it makes sense if you’re debating to ‘win’ the argument rather than explore the flaws on either side of the debate (such just turns into wordplay in my experience, so I try my best to avoid doing so, yet inevitably fall prey to this myself! What can I do?).

Anyway, to distinguish how much of a ‘social construct’ the terms ‘man and woman’ are I feel the need to return to the issue of ‘race’. We are all happy to address that ALL humans are of the same ‘race’ in technical scientific terms, yet we’re also blatantly aware that this term is a ‘social construct’ in colloquial speech based primarily on outward appearances I would say, although I most certainly wouldn’t say that is the ONLY attribute - I’m quite happy to say that former use of ‘race’ is a ‘social construct,’ and also to add that it is more of a ‘flavour; of a broader range of delineations humans make based in native tongue, clothing, class and a number of other pieces that intermingle in what we loosely parse as ‘culture’. As for homosapien we clearly understand this as not being a ‘social construct’ even though there is variability - of course there is no ‘pure human’ (leave that for the racial supremacists to put forward) even though there are quite certainly some minute differences between individual humans.

The point for the above is to set out what a clear ‘social construct’ is, and here we have the ‘colloquial’ term ‘race’ as an obvious example (if you disagree please explain how and why if you can). From this point of reference how closely related to ‘race’ the term ‘gender’ is on the scale of ‘nature/nurture‘ - aka how much of a ‘social construct’ it is (of course, apply disagreement here if you think I’m trying something tricky by comparing the old nature vs nurture debate to what is and isn’t a ‘social construct’ - obviously I think it’s a reasonable comparison!).

I don’t think ‘gender’ is anywhere near as strong a social construct as the term ‘race’ is. Yet, in both technical fields both have come into the world and shifted usage over the last century or so. The reason being, if it isn’t clear enough, is that ‘race’ is WHOLLY removed from the technical term ‘race’ in taxonomy - there is literally only ONE ‘human race’ in scientific circles - whereas with ‘gender’ the term appears to be transitioning (pun intended!) from its association to ‘sex’ yet it doesn’t apply to a majority of people (as ‘race’ does) so it is, rightly or wrongly, going to take more time to depart from its ‘sex’ relation as even today the term ‘race’ has (with more ramifications are we use the very same term for two completely different meanings!).

Now I’d like to highlight the differences between strong and weak social constructivism ... the later is generally split between ‘brute facts’ and ‘institutional facts,’ yet the language group we’re born into doesn’t seem to settle well into either division with much satisfaction, for me at least! I guess we could settle on saying that ‘language’ is an ‘institution’ and that when I say ‘man’ or ‘woman’ it is due to institutionalisation (or more simply, because language is used in that manner), and as I said before a ‘man’ is a fact just like a ‘horse’ is a ‘brute fact’ to me by observation - the brute fact of the matter would shift to dissection perhaps and DNA analysis (the issue of ‘sex,’ which could be argued as being too ‘thin’ a descriptive approach by some wishing to cloud the waters).

Note: If the issue is to shift the argument to the application of language as ‘arbitrary’ that is NOT ‘weak constructivism’ it is ‘strong constructivism’ and it is not a view held by people in my imagination.

To preempt something I believe you may mention ... I believe a great number of people may be using what Wittgenstein meant by ‘language’ to suit their arguments and/or I’ve completely misunderstood what he meant by ‘language’. From my reading Wittgenstein defines what a language is and then say the opposite isn’t ‘language’ - which didn’t exactly blow my mind as an argument against ‘personal language’ as such is obvious if, and only if, language is parsed as that which is used between people only (my qualm being that I don’t require a ‘vocabulary’ to ‘think’ and act in the world - this opens up a messy area as we’re unable to express experience as ‘meaningfully’ as we would like and have to rely on assumptions - likely unconscious - to overcome this issue).

Just bring this up now as playing by certain ‘rules’ within communication requires enough participants to agree to the ‘rules’ of play - and of course to recognise digressions from the ‘rules’. This is a quite distinct problem with ‘gender’ in colloquial speech, but it is slowly being overcome in the English speaking world at least. Which is certainly an interesting argument against what I am saying in terms of language as an ‘institutional fact’ rather than as parsed off into ‘strong constructivism’ - one glaring flaw within the machinations of the ‘social constructivist’ perspective.

Again, I admit there is a VERY distinct parallel with Husserl’s work in regards to bracketing and the whole phenomenological approach he set out - with what appeared to me to be the intention of ‘reinforcing’ the scientific foundation and guarding against such attacks (rightly or wrongly I think this was his main concern). I should also note that I am all for doubting as much as I can manage to - painfully sometimes - but I have to revert to a focal point and then shift as I see fit (however much that is?).

I apologise if this isn’t a discussion you wish to pursue. I don’t see ‘men and women’ as ‘institutional facts’ I see them as ‘brute facts’ even though the scientific world (biology in this case) isn’t as rigid as physics and our strict definitions will shift just as our means of measuring gravity have shifted with further refinement. Neither do I buy into what I see as wilfully ignoring ‘phenomenon’ as social construct theory does, and by stating that ‘objects’ have no impact upon us and that our ‘naming’ something defines it. I just see it as something like what Husserl was attempting to point out, yet very few people have bothered to go beyond the surface - it looks to me like they’re observing the surface of the ocean as if that is all there is to know of it (and yes, ‘ocean’ is a ‘construct’ too, just as Heidegger pointed out that where the wall meets the table there is no separation and we ‘construct’ it. This is, as far as I can tell (neuro can offer input here if he wishes to), to wilfully ignore the ‘brute facts’ of neuroscience that can provide a significant amount of detail in explaining how we ‘see’ what we see and the process of ‘filtering’ out information in order to actually ‘act’ in the world - albeit in a somewhat limited capacity which in intermittently forced to reassess itself due to fluctuating between a rigid and stable ground and an investigative and free-wheeling curiosity.

Note: Still working on shorting my writing and putting things across in a more precise and clear manner :D
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Re: When Men And Woman Are Social Construct

Postby Lomax on September 3rd, 2020, 4:57 am 

BadgerJelly » September 3rd, 2020, 5:48 am wrote:Ultimately, from my perspective, to class ‘sex’ as wholly separate from the issue of ‘gender’ is not an honest approach. I have a feeling people like to do this because it suits their cause not to hold up certain relations that don’t help strengthen their position - it makes sense if you’re debating to ‘win’ the argument rather than explore the flaws on either side of the debate (such just turns into wordplay in my experience, so I try my best to avoid doing so, yet inevitably fall prey to this myself!

Perhaps you do - you're making up your own facts, after all. The word "gender" had nothing to do with men and women - it was a term for grammarians to use - until Dr John Money applied it to his scientific work when clarifying a sex-gender distinction. They've never been synonyms.
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Re: When Men And Woman Are Social Construct

Postby BadgerJelly on September 3rd, 2020, 5:38 am 

Lomax » September 3rd, 2020, 4:57 pm wrote:
BadgerJelly » September 3rd, 2020, 5:48 am wrote:Ultimately, from my perspective, to class ‘sex’ as wholly separate from the issue of ‘gender’ is not an honest approach. I have a feeling people like to do this because it suits their cause not to hold up certain relations that don’t help strengthen their position - it makes sense if you’re debating to ‘win’ the argument rather than explore the flaws on either side of the debate (such just turns into wordplay in my experience, so I try my best to avoid doing so, yet inevitably fall prey to this myself!

Perhaps you do - you're making up your own facts, after all. The word "gender" had nothing to do with men and women - it was a term for grammarians to use - until Dr John Money applied it to his scientific work when clarifying a sex-gender distinction. They've never been synonyms.


I’m not making up facts. I clearly stated that gender and sex have been used in a synonymous way for a long time - that is not a dishonest statement in the slightest AND given that I’ve shown a reasonable amount of obsession with etymology in the past I’d have thought you’d have assumed I wasn’t completely ignorant as to its technical use in grammar.

Here: https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dicti ... ish/gender

Maybe saying ‘synonymous’ was a poor use of wording as your ‘arbitrary’ was, but I did - so I thought - fortify against this by previously stating that many people use ‘gender’ in the same manner they use ‘sex’. This is a fact of written history, but I’m certainly not applying this to technical speech and that is why I mentioned Dawkins ‘meme’ as an example of how a technical term can take on a life of its own.

If you think its a separate issue regardless of what I’ve said then you can either express the how and why of your position relative to mine rather than make out I’ve said something that I went to some lengths to guard against expressing.

Note: I’m extremely interested in this area (meaning the broader implications on thought, knowledge, speech and general communication coupled with subjective perception - I see considerable value in social constructivism, but feel it is prone to getting attention from its mistakes more than its triumphs).
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Re: When Men And Woman Are Social Constructs

Postby Lomax on September 3rd, 2020, 6:27 am 

Maybe some clarification's needed here. Nobody has denied that there is some connection between sex and gender (as I said before, that is why trans people medically transition, when they do). When I say the sex question is separate from gender I don't mean that sex and gender are "wholly" separate phenomena (do I accuse you of dishonesty for inserting that word? Is that to be the way this debate is held?) - I mean that the complexities of sex classification are a question of their own, and it is a different question to that of whether gender is a social construct (presumably if you didn't consider that dictionary link an authority on definitional questions you wouldn't have linked it, and its first definition says that gender exists in relation to social norms, so surely we agree on that question). When I talk about the taxonomy puzzle I mean that sex isn't binary unless we strip it down to one of its constituent parts (and even then we might struggle). "Bimodal" might be a better word. So what to do with the bimodal distribution? Ignore all the people who are not at either end? Come up with another fifty words for different sexes? Come to an agreement about how to weight all the different sexual markers? I don't know - but I say that whatever option we choose here, we'll be doing it on the basis of social relations, not new data. What would an empirical approach to the question even look like?
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