I urge you all to peruse the comments on Morgan’s post. First, because of this
And this makes some people [i.e. liberals] just pig-biting mad. They want to see frumpy pear-shaped women in pant suits — or, no women at all — in any position that has visibility. Ultimately, what they want to do is eradicate gender, because gender is a definition.
They’re related, I promise.
All due respect to Morgan (who along with Philmon is my blog-godfather), but he’s wrong on this. Gender’s not a definition, and they most definitely don’t want to eradicate it.
Let’s start with that magnificent piece of ass up there. What, is that offensive? The lady in question sure seems to think so — she’s on record as being against “objectification.” And yet, there she is, bent over the hood of a car in a bikini and stripper heels.
Now, normally this is where I’d write “thus proving cognitive dissonance is bullshit” (sorry, Gary). But that’s not the case here. What Ms. Patrick is incoherently expressing when she talks about “objectification” is what these people have drilled down to a mantra — the “social construction” of gender.
Sorry about the image (and that’s the last time I’ll do that to you without warning, I promise), but the premise behind both pictures is the same, and it’s important. These young ladies aren’t objectifying themselves by writing “slut” on their chests, for the same reason Danica Patrick isn’t objectifying herself by dry-humping a Porsche — you can’t objectify yourself.
Karl Marx wrote:
The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.
This is Leftism’s core concept. Without it, Leftism is nothing but the loose, self-contradictory conglomeration of petty grievances that we all know and love. With it, those grievances cohere into dogma.
Most Leftists don’t cite this dictum of Marx’s anymore (I doubt that most of them have ever actually heard it), because it’s so obviously a Gem — we can only know what our social position allows us to know, and therefore we don’t know things as they really are. But if you change that bit about “social being” into “social construction,” it not only sounds less Gem-like, but it even seems true. It comes out of the realm of philosophy and into the real world.
So many of our social norms and conventions are just that, and a great deal of our behavior — almost all of it, in fact — can be reduced to either conformity with social norms, or rebellion against them. And it’s plain as day that these change over time — If you fell out of your cradle into a time machine, for instance, and got warped back to 10th-century Scandinavia, you’d grow up a Viking, right?
Your behavior — indeed, your very identity — back then would be “socially constructed” Viking-ness, just as your identity now is socially constructed American-ness. Capisce?
Gender works the same way. In India, for example, male friends hold hands, and the beauty salons you see on almost every street corner are presumed to be men-only (the ones that also serve women specify “unisex”). American men generally find this weird, just as Indian men no doubt find it weird that American men consider this
If you understand it in that sense –and that’s how it will be presented for the first five minutes of your freshman Humanities course — it’s interesting and useful. It explains why your great-grandma can’t balance a checkbook, why your grandpa can’t cook, why your mom and dad looked at you funny when you busted all this out for them over your first Christmas break, why you’re an American and not a Viking.
The problem, of course, is that lots of folks don’t stop there. If it’s all a social construction (which we’re taking as read), and if society can change (as experience shows), then the potential to change people themselves is theoretically limitless.
Let’s take another example from academia. Here’s Frankfurt Schooler Erich Fromm, trying to duck the obvious historical fact that Marxist regimes are police states:
Marx saw that political force cannot produce anything for which there has been no preparation in the social and political process. Hence that force, if at all necessary, can give, so to speak, only the last push to a development which has virtually already taken place, but it can never produce anything truly new. “Force,” he said, “is the midwife of every old society pregnant with a new one.” It is exactly one of his great insights that Marx transcends the traditional middle-class concept — he did not believe in the creative power of force, in the idea that political force of itself could create a new social order. For this reason, force, for Marx, could have at most only a transitory significance, never the role of a permanent element in the transformation of society.
The last sentence, which I’ve highlighted, is the crucial one. If force is “at all necessary,” Fromm assures us, it won’t be permanent force. Which, after all, is embedded in the concept — once you’ve sufficiently changed men’s social being, then their consciousness will be permanently altered. You don’t have to keep breaking eggs once the omelet is made.
Notice what’s missing from that sentence, though. Indeed, it’s missing from the whole paragraph. Who is the subject? Who, in other words, is doing the forcing? Who uses the force?
This is the key verbal slight-of-hand of the phrase “social construction.” When you put it in terms of force, as Fromm does, the trick becomes obvious — his essay was clearly written as an apologia for the KGB. Construction, on the other hand, is a positive word. And yet it, too, is active, which is why “social” is always attached to it. Society is doing the constructing… and society, as we’ve seen, is infinitely malleable.
This phrase does two useful things for the Left. First, and most important, it maintains that sense of plausible deniability, that carefully crafted passivity, that keeps individual Leftists from taking responsibility for their actions. “Society” is an abstract noun, and “construction” can mean almost anything. It allows the Left to act without fear of consequences. Something they don’t like is “constructed,” you see… but if the specific “solution” they go to the mattresses for ends up making the problem worse, then in comes “social” to bail them out. It’s the emotional — and moral — equivalent of the old saw about selling populist policies to dumb voters: Privatize benefits, socialize costs.
The second benefit is related to the first. Since we can’t define “society” (or, really, “construction”) this phrase allows the Left to be both victim and victimizer, subject and object, simultaneously. Danica Patrick can cash the check for appearing nearly nude on a magazine cover, and whine about being “objectified” by the “patriarchy.” Dan Rather can use the phrase “fake but accurate” without his head exploding. Above all, you can call yourself a “Progressive” without ever defining a goal, even though the word “progress” is by definition teleological — in normal English, “to progress” always implies “toward something.” Best of all, everything is always malleable, always in flux — it’s “constructed” — but since it’s social, you can change the “construction” by bossing people around. Change their social being, after all, and you’ll change their consciousness.
This is why “gender” will always remain undefined, and always with us. They don’t want it to go away, but they do want it to mean whatever they need it to mean, whenever they need it. It’s a definition that’s subject to change without notice, and the changes will always have the force of law, even if today’s definition is 180 degrees away from yesterday’s. Because it’s “socially constructed.”Loading Likes...