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Old 05-06-2016, 11:41 AM   #1
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Default Political heretics and heresies

This is an fork from the Presidential election thread.

Dark_crystal wrote:

"I expressed concern with Judith Butler in my Critical Theory class and the professor was shocked! Shocked! There seemed to be an expectation that being the token queer in the room meant I would be thrilled we were covering her.

But doesn't her idea that gender is a social construction kind of mean that she also believes that everyone who is medically transitioning is putting themselves through a great deal of pain and expense for nothing?

The class was like, no no no it's not like that really she comes around if you read her later stuff, but I have never gotten around to it. What is your take?"

Ninety days from now, at this time, my surgery will have been going on for two or three hours. I am deeply grateful this is the case because, in my bones, I think that the Butlerian 'gender is nothing but a social construct' idea has caught on like wildfire and the activists, following Butler and with *no* reflection on possible consequences, are going to wind up screwing up insurance covering transition related costs *just* as they were starting to recognize the medical necessity if those services. The logic is really straightforward an inescapable.

If gender is a social construct then the statement 'I feel that my body is one gender but my brain is another' is a meaningless statement. It has no more informational content than "I feel that I'm a baked potato in an oven at 450 degrees". I'm most obviously *not* a potato--baked or otherwise--so if I am saying that then whatever else is going on, I'm *not* actually a potato and I'm *not* actually in an oven being baked so that I can be dressed with butter, sour cream, cheese, etc. So, I think that there's a window that has opened up.

Honestly, I think that the social construct idea has been taken way too far. Everything is now a social construct if it is politically convenient for it to *be* a social construct and it is the rhetorical and political convenience which drives this not any actual serious thought about what might be intrinsic and what might not be.

If gender is a social construct then there are, quite literally, no such thing as transgender people because, quite literally, no one is even capable of feeling intrinsically male or female. Saying it must be metaphorical or devoid of all content whatsoever. "I'm so hot, I feel like the core of a star" can never actually describe my real physical condition since I'm most certainly not even the smallest conceivable star. Likewise, I knew I was always a girl has no content because I couldn't know that because no one knows that they are a girl because there's no such thing as feeling like one.

If I had the opportunity, I would like to ask Ms Butler what psychological problems she believes transsexuals like myself have that makes us believe that we feel something it is impossible to feel. Because when I started transition, this was my *last* option. I had ruled out being a gay man who was really fucked up in the head. I ruled out that I was suffering some kind of psychotic delusions. All that was left was gender orientation but Butler's theory precludes any possibility of my actually being transsexual as it is currently defined.

My kudos to you for actually speaking out against Butler in a university classroom. You, lady, have got ovaries made of titanium!

Cheers
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Old 05-06-2016, 01:00 PM   #2
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"Why Critique has Run Out of Steam," by Bruno Latour

What has become of critique, I wonder, when an editorial in the New York Times contains the following quote?

Most scientists believe that [global] warming is caused largely by manmade pollutants that require strict regulation. Mr. Luntz [a Republican strategist] seems to acknowledge as much when he says that “the scientific debate is closing against us.” His advice, however, is to emphasize that the evidence is not complete. “Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled,” he writes, “their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific
certainty a primary issue.”

While we spent years trying to detect the real prejudices hidden behind the appearance of objective statements, do we now have to reveal the real objective and incontrovertible facts hidden behind the illusion of prejudices? And yet entire Ph.D. programs are still running to make sure that good American kids are learning the hard way that facts are made up, that there is no such thing as natural, unmediated, unbiased access to truth, that we are always prisoners of language, that we always speak from a particular standpoint, and so on while dangerous extremists are using the very same argument of social construction to destroy hard-won evidence that could save our lives.

Was I wrong to participate in the invention of this field known as science studies? Is it enough to say that we did not really mean what we said? Why does it burn my tongue to say that global warming is a fact whether you like it or not? Why can’t I simply say that the argument is closed for good? Should I reassure myself by simply saying that bad guys can use any weapon at hand, naturalized facts when it suits them and social construction when it suits them? Should we apologize for having been wrong all along?

Or should we rather bring the sword of criticism to criticism itself and do a bit of soul-searching here: what were we really after when we were so intent on showing the social construction of scientific facts?


For my final paper I set Butler against Donna Haraway and then rebutted them both with the Latour, if I recall. It was fun lol.

I just have no patience for the philosophical argument that says we should not think of things as having essential, non-constructed thing-in-itselfnesses because of the limits of our perception. My argument was that dogs cannot perceive the color red, but they would be wrong to assume that therefore there can be no such thing.

It's true that we are not able to perceive most of our reality, but it's not useful in any practical way. It is also true that "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" is "just a bunch of dots" when you stand too close, but the "too close" perspective is not the perspective that "counts"

I feel like constructivists are always standing nose-to-nose with a Seurat, saying "what monkey??"

Fine, every manifestation of a platonic form is so unique as to make it impossible to isolate any one quality that is always there or never there.

Fine, the inability to isolate a single quality that can be said to definitively belong to the form negates the form's ability to exist.

However, pattern recognition is still a thing, so why can't we just talk about platonic patterns instead of platonic forms? I feel like a pattern can exist somewhere between essentialism and constuctivism
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Old 09-13-2016, 04:50 PM   #3
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I have never read a single word Judith Butler has ever written, so I have no idea what Butler means when she says gender is a social construct. I have heard the term and I know what the statement means to me. But what does it mean in general? So let me ask, when Butler, or anyone, says gender is a social construct do they mean that one's actual gender is a social construct or are they saying that what defines the meaning of gender is a social construct? Does what makes someone female or male depend on the functions and roles attributed by any given society? Are man and woman devoid of definition beyond sex? Or is there a concrete definition of gender, a concrete definition of what makes female and male? Are there feelings, desires, needs, interests and a host of other intangibles that exist in just one gender, while a host of different one's exist in the other? Or would these feelings, desires, needs, interests vary depending on any given society's definition of what makes someone male or female? If the definitions for male and female are concrete and not social construct, then what are the definitions? Where did the definitions come from?
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