The no-gender agenda

It’s a strange time to be a person. Apparently the solution to all of our sexism problems is to remove the gender distinction. We are all the same. Now, I’m going to take my Christian hat off for the moment, and ignore that the Bible suggest gender is part of the created order (male and female he created them…). And I’d like to open this post by acknowledging that there are disparities in the way men and women are treated that are wrong.

I don’t even care that much if women want to fight on the front line. If a woman is big enough, and strong enough, and is able enough to take the place in a unit that would otherwise have been held by a man, on merit, then who am I to tell them they can’t. I just don’t think that’s particularly likely, and I think it opens a Pandorah’s box of issues within a unit, which isn’t, of itself, a reason not to allow it. Do I think women should be on the front line? No. But if some want to, then that’s their decision, not mine. This whole push to revolutionise the military’s gender agenda off the back of some demonstrably shoddy sexual ethics seems like the symptom of a broader social push to mimimise the difference between genders. I think this move is driven by good motives – but it’s just incredibly stupid.

Doesn’t this just seem completely loopy to everybody else. Boys and girls are obviously different. They don’t just have different parts. They have different hormones. Hormones that produce different emotions. Gender is predominantly a “nature” issue, sure, there are “nurture” aspects to it – but the social side follows the natural side in this case.

I’ve held off saying anything on this topic for a while. But events in the last few weeks are tipping my hand. I just feel annoyed as I watch this issue have bizarre and dangerous outworkings.

A few months ago a Christian student in the US sparked a massive furore in the blogosphere, and probably on talkback radio, when he refused to wrestle a girl on religious grounds. The Friendly Atheist thinks he should have grappled the girl into submission (and a follow up). Angry commenters there suggested it is wrong to recognise differences between the genders. And in many cases it is. I’d say issues of physical strength aren’t one of those cases – the world records in every athletic event out there are pretty clear.

Now. I was told, all my life, not to hit girls. It didn’t stop me bullying my sisters, sometimes physically, until I was old enough and big enough that the physical disparity was clearly unfair. This happened when I was about 15. It should have happened earlier. In hindsight I feel pretty bad about the way I treated my sisters. The older me would beat some sense into the younger me in a number of areas. This would be one of them. Hitting girls is wrong. Guys are stronger. It’s just facts. There are some girls who are stronger than some guys. I’m not denying that there exist myriad women who could beat me in a fight. A girl in my grade 9 class beat me in an arm wrestle. And I was trying. It wasn’t humiliating. She was strong. But there would have been 30 guys in my year who would have beaten her.

I’m sorry, but boys and girls are different. I would have thought that was pretty clear.

It seems that gender is now a fluid concept (unlike sexuality, which you’re apparently stuck with, if recent furores surrounding gay-to-straight conversion apps on the Apple App Store are indicative). Some have suggested that gender is the new frontier post the gay marriage debate. It’s post-modernity meets feminism. And it’s weird. A Swedish couple made headlines in 2009 when they refused to apply a gender label to their child Pop. Or, at the very least, they refused to tell people if Pop was a boy or a girl. A Canadian couple followed suit with their thing, Storm. Part of the problem, I think, with de-genderising a child is you end up dehumanising them as a by-product, in terms of what options are left.

“In an interview with newspaper Svenska Dagbladet in March, the parents were quoted saying their decision was rooted in the feminist philosophy that gender is a social construction. “

A behavioural psychologist pointed out that this exercise was almost entirely pointless.

Pinker says there are many ways that males and females differ from birth; even if gender is kept ‘secret,’ prenatal hormones developed in the second trimester of pregnancy already alter the way the child behaves and feels.

She says once children can speak, males tell aggressive stories 87 per cent of the time, while females only 17 per cent. In a study, children aged two to four were given a task to work together for a reward, and boys used physical tactics 50 times more than girls, she says.

Now, a Swedish preschool is doing its bit to destigmatise gender by refusing to describe boys and girls as boys or girls. Because we wouldn’t want to assign anything to a child that they haven’t asked for – this post was actually prompted by rumours of a similar thing going on somewhere in Australia, but I can’t find it anywhere.

Few would argue that gender stereotypes aren’t in some way the product of social conditioning – stuff like boys wearing blue and girls wearing pink, or even skirts being girls clothes, are products of particular cultures operating in particular times and particular places. Ads for boys and girls toys demonstrate a sort of circularity here where culture reinforces natural differences and essentially amplifies them (some have suggested these ads are essentially symptoms of a disease rather than simply a reflection of nature), that’s what I reckon is going on. I don’t feel like I was manipulated to want to hit stuff with sticks, or to enjoy fire and explosions. I had plenty of opportunity, with three sisters, to play with girls toys, but they were boring, and I was much more interested in more combative play with sticks and glove guns. It was all my choice. Back in my day we had to make our own fun with bits of wood we picked up in the yard. But all the brainwashed people say that.

Boys’ toy ads look like this:

Girls’ toy ads look like this:

Boy, oh boy (or person, oh person) this whole issue is stupid and it makes me want to pull out my Playstation and shoot some bad guys (or people).

That is all.

The perils of so-called “privilege”

Sometimes I feel like being a straight, white, anglo-saxon protestant, with a physically imposing stature and strong (some would say over-inflated) sense of self worth, means I’m not allowed to voice an opinion on any minority position, or indeed any power imbalance… and indeed, when I dare to question a gay atheist, or contribute to a discussion on gender politics, my contribution is somehow invalid because my shoulder is not chipped the same way. What really gets me though, is when this happens in discussions about social conditions in an egalitarian, democratic society with universal suffrage. Life’s tough? Well vote the other people out and change it. Whiners. Sure, some WASP guy just took the job that you thought you were entitled to and is going to get paid more than you would have… well, perhaps he’s a better negotiator than you. Perhaps he went to the right school. It’s not always about gender. I don’t know about you, but if I ran a business I’d be wanting to hire the most competent candidate for the job. Gender is only an issue if you make it an issue. As is race. Sure, Andrew Johns made a profane and offensive statement, I’m not going to condone it, but do you think he thinks poorly of Greg Inglis because of his skin colour? His whole statement was predicated on Inglis’ extreme talent. I’ve got no doubt Johns said similarly derogatory things about Darren Lockyer. South Park’s Hate Crimes episode had it right – normal people these days don’t tend to pick on people of different races because they think they’re inherently less valuable than their own race. They just pick on people because of their own inherent sinfulness (all crimes are hate crimes).

Oh, to be an oppressed first world minority.

I think, if I ever want to tell people to just get on with life, I’ll need to invent an alter-ego who is a female, Muslim, gay midget from a third world African country with 18 children.

I could listen to Rage Against the Machine or enjoy other forms of artistic protest without feeling pangs of privilege induced guilt. Like a celebrity member of PETA. Then I could comment on any issue with impunity. And nobody would be able Most of the time my advice would be “life is not fair, suck it up, and get on with it.” Does anybody know of anybody with the aforementioned qualifications who voices such a message. I would buy their books.

As a member of this aristocratic class by a quirk of happenstance and genetics I feel like I’m missing out on plenty of opportunities to tell other people what to do, and can’t do so without appearing to be a bully.

I read all these minority reports online wishing I could be part of a minority so that I could passionately own a cause. Even the teams I support in sport are the “overdogs” – though there was a period of about ten years when Manly were lucky to win a game. There is no area in my life where I can call out “help, help, I’m being oppressed,” I’m not a member of any proletariat or suffrage movement. I didn’t ask to be who I am. There is not a majority position that I do not instinctively support. I am as boringly conformist as Kevin Rudd. I don’t even belong to a fashionable subset of society. I can’t dress to express myself, to distinguish myself from the masses of which I am a part. I am bland beyond individuality. A sunflower in a field of sunflowers. My cause du jour is the cause de rigueur.

There are many like me. Many not interesting people. Without exotic foibles. Without histories of oppression. Without an inherited sense of entitlement engendered by years of ancestral persecution, or the memory of a past wrong. For us there is no “audacity of hope,” but in its place the mendacity of hope.

White anglo-saxon protestant males earned their social standing. There is not a skerrick of progress in the western world in the last two thousand years that we have not worked for. That’s why we get paid more. That’s why the cards of society seem to fall in our favour. We see opportunities and we take them. Carpe diem.

If those in the minorities feel aggrieved by the power imbalance and wish to protest our implicit superiority – then why not stage a revolution. That’s how minorities achieve their ends. It’s not through whining and holding conferences or talkfests. Knock us off our perches. Don’t just complain that we’re on them. Just do something.

That is all.