Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The Myth of Gender and Heterosexuality

THE MYTH OF GENDER AND HETEROSEXUALITY - Thoughts on Butler and the Logic of Gender: The Possible Origins of Authentic Masculinity

Thoughts on Butler and the Logic of Gender

The Possible Origins of Authentic Masculinity

Judith Butler, from what I can gather in Gender Trouble, has a straightforward argument. Gender is socially constructed, it is reproduced and reconstituted (through discourse, especially) to reaffirm itself. The constructed nature of gender means that masculine and feminine behavior is a lived illusion.
     Butler denies a causal link between gender and sex distinction, and from here decides that the sex distinction itself is a social/cultural construct. Her reasoning is that we cannot perceive the distinction between male and female without appealing to gender. Once we grasp that there is no meaningful differential quality between what we claim to be the two sexes, this, and the reality of intersex, somehow renders sex distinction unstable. Using this reasoning, heterosexuality is revealed to be a social/cultural construct as well. Sexual identity for heterosexuals, then, is only real when you internalise the discourse. Gender and sexuality is thus, technically, existentially arbitrary.
     For Butler all notions of masculine and feminine, and the heterosexual, are constructs of discourse which are self-perpetuating, and have no cause other than the power structures of heterosexual domination (heterosexist social orders).
     The implication of Butler’s thought, at least from my understanding of her, is that genitalia differences are content-free; sex distinction and gender are socially constructed (along with heterosexuality). I feel it is an awfully big coincidence that the same structures of oppression and domination (heterosexist, phallocentric, whatever you like) appear almost globally across time, and seem to create the same discourses. Perhaps Butler has an answer to this, but I feel that the independent formation of heterosexist social orders, across continents and diverse peoples, demands a universal cause.
   I don’t think I misrepresent Butler in saying her conclusions amount to a denial of the sex distinction, and a claim that it exists only as the consequence of discourse. So let us take this notion of heterosexuality, which is likewise a product of discourse. In the United Kingdom, every year, around 30,000 women are raped by men, and in 2003 it was as high as 50,000. Let us imagine in a utopian fashion that the heterosexist social order is undone and discourse is gender-free, as Butler would have it. What would the rape statistics of the following year be? If Butler is right then we should be confronted with a rape statistic showing an equal number of men raping men and an equal number of women raping women; an equal number of women raping men and an equal number of men raping women. Butler’s denial of substantial sex distinction and fixed sexual orientation demands this. We can never know the truth of such a thing, but most of us know that even if a “Butler-Britain” was achieved, the rape statistics would remain at present levels: 30,000 women would be raped by 30,000 men. It is inconceivable, I suggest, for any other configuration. What does this suggest? Firstly, it tells us that there is a fundamental element that makes society predominantly heterosexual, and secondly, that there exists a fundamental element that in some fashion is sex distinction (in some form outside mundane differences in genitalia and reproduction). I’ll flesh out the reasoning here quickly to be clear: if we cannot conceive of the statistics being substantially different, then that implies an “innate” heterosexuality (outside of society and culture), and a disposition for more men than women to engage in rape, implying a distinction between the sexes.

This thought experiment is perhaps unneeded as science heavily indicates male and female sex distinction (that goes beyond mere reproduction). Male and female brains are wired and constructed differently. For example, the inferior-parietal lobule of the brain is significantly larger in men than in women. Science demonstrates multiple distinctions between male and female, but we were probably aware of the reality of biological sex distinction well before we came across Butler.
     What we also find is the question of sexual orientation. Is sexuality fluid and culturally imposed? Or is it innate? Science again, with the rapid advance in biology, is declaring homosexuality in males to be predetermined in the womb. There are, however, various theories regarding the exact cause, with the research being in its early stages. Despite this, biological determinism (in the womb) is the explanation for homosexuality, even if the precise causes are being debated and researched. Homosexuality, for the most part, is not the product of environment or nurture. There are also plenty of biological distinctions between heterosexual men and homosexual men, including brain configuration. Most theories on the cause, suggest a deviancy from the normal process of development in the womb.
     What is lacking, is research into female homosexuality, the only conclusion being that the causes of male homosexuality are not the same for lesbians (generally). Lesbianism stands as almost uncharted territory, the only characteristic being that it can be contrasted to male homosexuality (in most cases), rather than being placed next to it. It seems futile to discuss this until further discoveries are made.
     One might declare science to be heterosexist and part of the very discourse Butler is warning us of. As absurd as that may be, one can grant that, but still find that young children gravitate towards gender and sexual orientation, without manipulation. To speak of my own experience, I was raised in a Catholic environment with heavy emphasis on desexualisation. Yet, during infant school, when at a female friend’s house, I recall asking to see her Barbie dolls and undressing them in an attempt to observe female nudity (as you do), despite having no sexual motivation. Indeed my friend, upon seeing this, then proceeded to display her female genitalia for my benefit; there was nothing sexual about this encounter, at least on the surface. Curiosity may be at play here, and I lack the language or education to express this, but the curiosity is probably an expression of a desire to understand gender role and gender differences, to try to understand a basic building block of being (in defiance of Butler). Why, at a prepubescent age (5-7), when one was completely devoid of what I would understand to be sexuality, was I interested in the female body? I feel curiosity as an explanation is insufficient because there is an underlying sexuality about it, but it is almost counter-intuitive because a child at that age has not had the necessary physical changes (including chemical) to demonstrate sexuality, which will come only during puberty.
     Consider the singling out of the Barbie doll over other “less enticing” dolls in the room. There is awareness, in my childhood, of gender but also the division of gender. The division of ‘the other sex’ into “attractive” and “unattractive”, that is: sexually-viable-female and neutral-female. This shows the determined biological sex distinction at work. Despite being non-sexual creatures, with an inability to gain sexual arousal, the prepubescent mind is already engaged in separating out members of the opposite sex. This separation is quite literally a primary driving force behind human evolution (called sexual selection), and because it is present and active in children, at such a young age, the sex distinction and predetermined sexual orientation is explicit. Consider early childhood crushes on teachers as another example of this. I can name the exact two teachers who I felt non-sexual attraction towards, in Primary school. It is no coincidence that in adulthood I am sexually attracted to any woman who has a reasonable resemblance, i.e. is a representation of these two specific teachers. There are other factors here, including some I have not considered, but nonetheless, biological forces inscribe the act of sexual selection upon very young children. This early engagement in sexual selection produces potentially permanent affects on a child, affects that carry on indefinitely into adulthood.

With sexual orientation and sex distinction established, we are still faced with Butler’s claim that gender is constructed, rather than following causally from the sex distinction. With this, Butler is on stronger ground, but this is hardly an original idea. It is completely true, that most of what we consider to be gender is constructed, and notions of Butler’s gender performativity seems fair. There is no reason why pink is seen as feminine, it could quite easily have been blue or black. Most masculine and feminine actions (performances) are arbitrary. When a man refrains from wearing make-up there is nothing inherently masculine in the absence of make-up. When a woman wears a skirt and high-heels, there is no ‘feminineness’ to be found. Almost everything about gender performance is seemingly arbitrary and interchangeable. The ear ring, not to long ago, was a feminine decoration, but now both sexes wear ear rings.
     The rise of ladette culture demonstrates the sheer absurdity of most “masculine” gender attributes. With ladette culture, there is the danger of thinking that ‘ladettes’ are imitating men, or behaving in a masculine manner. This results from an uncritical observation, as the ladette’s behaviour demonstrates the interchangeability of gender attributes, rather than women consciously displaying male-signifiers (actions and behaviour denoting masculinity). To what end would a woman choose to display male signifiers in such a manner anyway? Outside a conscious feminist agenda, such displays of male signifiers serve no purpose. We, as Butler says, must admit that this behaviour does not stem from any sort of gender essence. To put it another way, there are no Platonian forms matching 'male' and 'female'.
     On this, then, Butler – in a general sense - is right. Is this not obvious though? It certainly is obvious to me. It certainly is obvious to most of my educated friends. If you are taught basic Media Studies at college (or even secondary school) you can reach this conclusion with a minimal application of Reason. We can all sit down, and write a wonderful list of gender attributes and behaviour that, once critically considered, are completely arbitrary. We can agree with Butler that the illusion of gender is spread and maintained through discourse. None of this is rocket science, all of this is obvious.
   This all being said, are all notions of gender really arbitrary? Is there really no substantial causality between gender attributes and the sex distinction? Let me state that how Butler describes culture and society, as constructed, through power structures and discourse (and so on), is reasonable. This does not mean, however, that this structure is invalid, illogical, or immoral. Cultural matrixes are not unjustified merely because they are constructed; the immorality of rape is a social construction.
     Humans, if left to their own devices, can become feral. Actually, it is misleading to say we ‘become’ feral. We are denied a feral nature in the first instances of socialisation. ‘Animalistic’ is perhaps a more accurate description, but I won’t concern myself too much with the language. It is clear that human behaviour, in part, is necessarily constructed by others. If this were not the case, we would probably have not come far as a species; we would not have reached the hunter-gatherer phase.
     It is also equally true that some human behaviour is related to, what I will clumsily call, ‘residual genetic information’, which is passed on through our ancestors. I do not mean immediate or necessarily human ancestors here, I mean passed down through the whole drama of human evolution. For example, fear of heights (acrophobia) is hereditary, and is actually an attribute selected over the process of your bloodline’s evolution. This is because it has a positive benefit, i.e. avoidance of situations that lessen your chances of falling to your death.

With the understanding that at least some element of a social/cultural structure has a positive purpose, and that humans are not just guided by the creation of sex distinction and sexual orientation in the womb, but are also swept along on a wave of genetic, hereditary forces, we can make our way towards a repudiation of Butler.
     In trying to isolate gender attributes that are causally linked to the sex distinction, I am confronted with one single male attribute. There are several ideas I have to outline before arriving at what I suppose I am arguing is the gender distinction.
     Firstly, I will quickly describe what I want to call Agenda, which is basically the real reason behind any human action or thought. Agenda is the isolation of cause without subterfuge, it is the attempt to describe and map out the causality of human actions, behaviours, beliefs, thoughts and interactions. It is basically asking, “what’s the real reason?” to every utterance and every silence, but all the while questioning your own Agenda. These descriptions shows Agenda as a mundane notion, but understand it as heavily influenced by the behavioural sciences, with an emphasis on recent advances in areas such as neuroscience and genetics.
     Secondly, when we come to trying to establish Agenda, we find what one might call ‘Primary Drives’. I am concerned with the following two Primary Drives: Replication and Ego. Replication is replication-of-self (genetics) and replication-of-species (survival of the species). Replication-of-self amounts to sexuality; it is the Primary Drive that is the most self-evident. The vast majority of humans are wired to engage in the process of self-replication; genetic replication. Sexuality, for the most part, is biological programming disguised as free-will. It is the Drive that has evolved throughout the evolution of the species, with the internal logic of pushing us to reproduce ourselves, and to allow our species to live on. Note this is heterosexual sexuality, completely predicated on the demand for reproduction. When I speak of prepubescent children engaging in the process of “the division of the other sex” (sexually-viable, and sexually-neutral), I am pointing out the biological drive, the Primary Drive of Replication, manifesting itself in a preliminary manner. Children do not know the purpose or logic behind separating out members of the opposite sex; nonetheless, they experience it vividly and engage in it. Not even a child can escape the evolutionary and ancestral forces that flood their biology, and directly penetrate being.
     I have put replication-of-self and replication-of-species under the same Primary Drive. It is intuitive to do so, however, I suspect that they may well be distinct, upon closer inspection. I do not feel that it is necessary for me to make this distinction, or discuss this, at this time. It is sufficient for my purposes here, to combine them.
     The second Primary Drive is Ego. I came across this concept of Ego whilst deconstructing a piece of propaganda presented as a cinematic documentary. To understand the power of certain forms of propaganda, especially some documentaries, I had to develop this idea of Ego, for my own purposes. Once I understood Ego it allowed me to deconstruct certain kinds of texts to a degree of greater accuracy. This notion developed and expanded as I was educated. I found nourishment for this idea in the writings of Nietzsche once I reached University. I will quickly explain it here, as understanding Ego is necessary for us to understand gender attributes that are not causally related to sex distinction.
     Ego as a Primary Drive, is basically the human need to feel superior to others. I could write forever on this as my belief of its fundamentality is the filter that I view the world through. Traditional or current descriptions of egotism and narcissism do not sufficiently express what I mean by Ego, though there is a relationship to be seen. Ego is often a subtle, underlying principle which is present everywhere. Ego is a drive within humans to feel superior and above others. It can be expressed purely in one’s own mind (or imagination), or it can express itself openly. Ego is the search and accumulation of its own sustenance (I’ll call it ego-sustenance for now). Ego places man as a creature that is constantly looking for examples of his or her own superiority to the other. It is a force that radiates around the subject. The subject pulls into its ‘egotistical field’ anything that sustains the Ego and creates or implies superiority. Note the field pulls in material items, people and ideas, sometimes irrespective of Reason, that is, the ‘truth-value’ of what is pulled in. The field also repulses that which is deemed to be detrimental to Ego; facts are stripped of their essence when thrown into this confrontation. Ego corresponds to self-worth. Ego also has a relation to the other, in that Ego (generally) is sustained only through a presumed acknowledgement of selected others.
     In some social groups, I would suggest, Ego is the ‘glue’ that holds a social group together. Each member finds ego-sustenance in the other members of the group. By this I mean that each member of the group has been selected because they view all other members of the group, in such a way that acknowledges and affirms the means to which each member gains ego-sustenance, indeed, each member is also a source of ego-sustenance.
     Big Brother can serve as an example. In the first week of any Big Brother series, what usually happens is that someone is targeted for what is essentially bullying. A group will form, and will bond, through the act of singling out and delegitimizing this one person. Criticism and bullying will occur, all of which are ego-sustenance. The Ego is sustained through this process in two ways. Firstly, the downgrading of one person (victim) stimulates the Ego of each member of the bullying group, because they are placed on a higher level than the victim. Secondly, the group stimulate and sustain the Ego of one another, at the expense of the unlucky individual - when they single out a ‘character flaw’ of the victim, the implication for all members of the group is that they are devoid of that very flaw. Additionally, the victim will often be targeted for nomination, so there is also a tactical undercurrent in this example.
     When you view the construction of ego-sustenance as a method of manipulation, you can see the implications in areas such as propaganda and media. You can also see the avenue to power and influence, available to those purporting to be carrying out deconstruction or criticism. Ego must, however, not be seen as some simple drive to feel better about yourself, but rather, a potentially all-encompassing state of mind that can cause one to bully someone in the work place, and another to invade another tribe’s land. Military historians have often pointed out the primary motivations of many wars were not wars for material goods and land, but rather pride and prestige: all can be traced to Ego. For example ancient Greek soldiers would march and fight over the most worthless, degenerate pieces of land. They would die, in actual fact, for something seemingly irrational.
     Honest introspection can also be an avenue for seeing Ego at play. This is difficult, and demands an honesty that Ego itself will try to repulse. Please understand I am not engaging in some sort of sophistry here. Ego, by my above definition and description, implies it is undone by honest introspection, and that the removal or self-negation of sources of ego-sustenance can have a ‘damaging’ affect on one’s self.
     Before I finish this rough and speedy picture of Ego, I would like to make a few more comments for clarity. Whilst Ego is the Agenda behind so many things, it is not by view that Ego is absolute or all-encompassing, in its totality over being. I also point to Replication as a Primary Drive. The level of Ego in each individual, as with everything, varies in the extreme from person to person. Nor is it necessarily innate. I suspect Behavioural Science will uncover the truth of Ego in the future, if it has not started to dissect it now, but I must state I cannot demonstrate the physical location of Ego at this time, or am someone equipped to do so. I say Ego is not necessarily innate, because some religions (specifically Christianity and Buddhism), if practiced authentically according to their theological foundations, are actually ego-destructive. A character reading of Jesus and his purported words would demonstrate the overt antagonism towards Ego; you cannot enter heaven unless one is in a state of child-like innocence.
     Love (true-love) is also a Primary Drive I suspect. It is ego-destructive in absolution, and can be seen as problematic for the Primary Drive of Replication. When I was in love, I would have happily killed myself to prevent the object of my love from having even a mild wound. The Ego is plundered and cast aside, when someone is in Love. The human-in-Love would ‘burn the world’ for the object of their love. Sex selection, the division of the sexes, is at the very least forgotten, and perhaps even destroyed. I can see however counter-arguments to this and so shall leave it, but I mention Love as a Primary Drive to emphasise that I am not reducing humans to merely the two Primary Drives I have mentioned above. If Love is a Primary Drive, however, it exists for most of us as a dormant Drive.
     In order to further emphasise the degree of non-reducibility for humans here, I point to Reason (linked to Intelligence) and Empathy as the free-spaces between the two Primary Drives I am concerned with. Both Reason and Empathy are increasingly shown to be hereditary (genetic), found in the configuration of the brain, but in varying degrees from human to human, rather than a fixed quality.
     At the basic level we can see the use of Reason overriding the Primary Drive of Replication. Even though a woman cannot remove her sexual desire, which is unavoidable, as it is a biological drive that has evolved (so that she will be driven to replicate herself through reproduction), she can use her Reason to use contraception, or demand he pull out in time. Or she (or he) can use Reason to choose abstinence. Empathy can serve to tame Ego, or even overrun its defences. I would suggest Reason and Empathy are the foundations of free-will, and the autonomous individual.

I have quickly touched on Replication and Ego. With these two Drives explained, and the idea of Agenda, we can finally reach what I think is the one authentic ‘male gender role’ that causally follows from the sex distinction itself.
   The author, Robert A. Heinlein, never claimed he was a philosopher despite the philosophy infused within his works. In one speech, The Pragmatics of Patriotism, which he gave to the U.S. Naval Academy in 1973, he demonstrated what he believed were the first principles of morality. Within this speech, we find explicitly the purpose of what is perhaps the only male ‘attribute’ that derives from the sex distinction itself, the purpose of this piece.
     Heinlein identifies first principle moral behaviour in the behaviour of baboons. A younger baboon will take to the top of a tree, as the others in the group relax or eat, and will act as a lookout. The baboon will sacrifice its personal needs, and will instead watch for predators. This, Heinlein says, is moral behaviour, at its most basic, instinctual, primitive form. The baboon on some level understands the need to protect his group; he is displaying an awareness of the importance of protecting the ‘species’. Heinlein points out that baboons who fail to exhibit this form of morality, “wind up as meat for the leopards”.
     Heinlein then describes an event that happened in the area where he lived. There was a park with a train track running across it. One day a young married couple were walking in the park, when the woman trapped her foot in part of the track. The husband tried to free his wife but could not. Then a male tramp appeared, and along with the husband, they both desperately tried to free the woman. Sure enough a train came along the track - the husband and tramp continued to try to free the woman’s foot. The train hit all three and killed them. Heinlein says the behaviour of the husband is self-explanatory, but the behaviour of the tramp, who gave his life to save a young woman who he had never met before, is something that requires analysis. After all, he could have pulled away at the last second but refused to do so. Heinlein says that there is an understanding, in many males, that females are a priority, in the scheme of things. This tramp, Heinlein suggests, was engaging in a passed on, evolutionary instinct. An instinct that demands the male does everything it can, to keep the females of the species alive, even if it leads to his death. I suggest that authentic masculine behaviour stems from this instinct. Heinlein says that there is a rational calculation for this, but one that evolution long ago calculated: women have more worth (from the prospective of the replication of the species) than men. You could cull two thirds of the male sex and the human species would still carry on, but if you culled two thirds of the female sex the species would suffer massive population decline, and probably die out. This is the Replication Drive, the replication-of-species, playing itself out. This is the Agenda of authentic male gender behaviour. Evolution pushes men to perceive their place as servants to the continuation of the species. “Women and children first,” Heinlein reminds us. This is not sexist jargon, but an expression of a biological instinct that repeats itself, because evolution understands the harsh reality of the natural world, and evolution makes arrangements to respond in kind.
     This is the only behaviour that is gender-specific, and derived from the sex distinction. The rule that men are expendable - women (and children) are not. This notion is likewise enforced and reproduced through discourse and structures, in the manner Butler describes, but there is purpose behind it (moral and evolutionary). Butler is too short-sighted, too academic, to understand this; her fingers are not muddied in the earth that sustains us.
     Keep in mind, Heinlein points out, women if called upon, make excellent warriors and protectors, and there is an evolutionary logic to the mother violently protecting her offspring: women will happily engage in violence if called upon, they are not defenceless. Nonetheless, he says, the calculation is ever present: that the species could do without males, but females must be protected so the species can continue. Again, this is not a sexist view, that women cannot protect themselves, or that women are weak. This masculinity is the product of both rationality and evolution. Without the instincts in the male to protect the female, tribes and societies can die out. Male gender attributes are only authentic, that is, they are not arbitrary or interchangeable, when the Agenda is examined and found to stem from the Replication Primary Drive (specifically replication-of-species). Consider elements of chivalry and you will see this Agenda present. Of course a female may well sacrifice herself trying to free that married woman from the train track, but she might be acting in an altruistic manner rather than a species-conscious manner (good luck explaining altruism). If she is acting in a species-conscious manner, then the implication of my argument is that she is acting in a masculine manner; she is taking on a male-role gender (which can be logically necessary under some circumstances).
     If the Agenda of authentic masculinity lies in the dualism of rationality/evolution directed at/from the replication-of-species Drive, then the following question must be asked: why are so many cultures and societies composed of mostly inauthentic ‘masculine attributes’, and the kind of phallocentric discourse that Butler concerns herself with? Inauthentic male gender attributes appear to serve no purpose if this conception of masculinity is to be believed.
     The answer lies in understanding that you can have two identical actions (or gestures), carried out by two separate agents (humans), and yet the Agenda of the agents can be radically different from each other: one is authentic, the other is performance. Consider two females and a male sitting downstairs in a student house. They hear a loud thud from upstairs, despite the rest of the house being empty. The male springs to his feet and declares his intention to investigate. We understand this as male behaviour, a male attribute (let us be honest here). However, what of Agenda? On one hand the male is merely displaying behaviour that is befitting someone who has “internalised” the replication-of-self Drive, and the logic behind it. He could be experiencing that gut feeling of disgust, some men feel, when the possibility of a female being hurt presents itself. This is an authentic display of masculinity: women and children first, the man is expendable. That is not the only Agenda that can be found in this situation, however. There is another. The male’s behaviour might not stem from replication-of-species, or the codes of honour which codify this notion. His behaviour could in actual fact stem from Ego. The male is choosing this attribute, this performance of masculine behaviour, to assert his masculinity which in his eyes corresponds with superiority. He hopes the women see him in a positive light and thus Ego for him, finds ego-sustenance. We should consider this more carefully.
     Butler is rightly horrified with a world that is dominated by males and masculine-discourse. We should go back to Shulamith Firestone’s The Dialectic of Sex, where she claims the first form of oppression is man’s oppression of women. At first they use their physical strength to dominate women, along with the oppression of pregnancy. As civilisation advances, men concoct as many ways as they can to keep women oppressed. Firestone is more perceptive than Butler, even if the rest of Firestone’s arguments fail. She is absolutely right: this is the first “dialectic” in human history. I use dialectic loosely understand, but Firestone’s point still burns bright. What is the cause of this dialectic? Recall the example above where the male performs masculine attributes because it makes him feel superior, it stimulates his Ego. This is the cause of the dialectic of sex that Firestone rightly lamented. The two most obvious biological differences between the two sexes: pregnancy and male superior strength, unfortunately, acted as a ‘perfect storm’ of ego-sustenance for males. This is half the essence of sexism. It allowed men susceptible to Ego to siphon off half his tribe (half the species in fact), under the label of ‘inferior’. Males who are driven by Ego, which is what Firestone points to, will not freely give up this ego-sustenance. Power is a consequence of Ego. Men draw ego-sustenance from the phallocentric (re)classification (the ‘siphoning off’ I mention) of women as the weaker ‘other’, they translate psychical strength into power, and hold that power over females, providing yet more ego-sustenance. I spoke of the difficulty of honest introspection earlier, the difficulty of seeing Agenda in yourself and finding Ego inside you. This is, as Firestone touches on, why men will not let go of the power structures they have built, the structures that keep women oppressed: their Ego is resistant to being starved of its sustenance. With Firestone’s help, I think I have described the Agenda of male sexism, though I believe there is an element of rape in sexism, which should be explored, perhaps academics and others have already started investigating this, it is important.
     This line of reasoning allows us to differentiate between authentic and inauthentic masculine behaviour; authentic and inauthentic male gender roles. We can understand (we must grant Butler this) that the phallocentric power structures have negative foundations which must be broken down. That same power structure does, however, have a few building blocks which have positive purpose behind them. I will say to you that Ego is the underlying causality of many of our relationships, interactions and experience. Ego can, however, have positive consequences. It can drive one to be a doctor and it can push someone through barriers, but the positive is rarely disentangled from the majority negative. The root of female oppression is wrapped up in an almost elusive driving force. A force Nietzsche is very much aware of, but mislabels as Will to Power, where in fact, I think, Will to Power a symptom of Ego.

There is a phallocentricity about the above, which I cannot escape, for I cannot escape my penis. Perhaps authentic feminine gender attributes/role lies in that six pounds of mother cat, that Heinlein mentions, that becomes so fierce when her offspring are threatened, that she can summon the strength and violence to ‘drive off a police dog’. Or perhaps, the truth is that, there is only the masculine behavioural attributes, dictated by evolution, for the purpose of protecting females in order that the species survive; there is no distinct female gender that derives from her sex.
     Males are mutilated, deformed females, remember. A man is occasionally confronted with this when he looks in the mirror at his upper torso and finds himself perplexed by his nipples. In the back of his mind, in a dark place that his Ego tries to conceal, he understands that his body is female, with male parts fixed on.

As for Judith Butler, she refers to Nietzsche in Gender Trouble but has not received the gaze of Nietzsche. This mighty philosopher speaks of Agenda, when he says to understand Socrates you must understand that he was ugly. Perhaps to understand Butler you must understand that she is a lesbian.Gender Trouble is her attempt, her demand, that sexuality be reduced to a blank slate. That way, there are no majorities; we are all exceptions. Or, to look at it another way, she is the majority, and we would see this if we stripped away the heterosexist power structures that enslave us. She knows she is classified in heterosexist discourse as an ‘other’, and Gender Trouble is an attempt to move the goal posts, so that she finds herself sitting in a universal ocean of intersexuality, and polymorphous perversity.
   Butler’s mistake is her failure to accept that male homosexuality, and overt lesbianism, is not normal. Of course it isn’t normal, we intuitively know this. If humans were as Butler insists, then the species would simply not be able to replicate itself. Humans have not always existed in a state where the discourse-creating structures, she describes, exist.
     As soon as we suggest homosexuality is ‘not normal’, the sting can be felt. “If you say homosexuals are not normal, you are saying they are abnormal,” is the angry response. The objection to the term ‘abnormal’ comes from a deep-rooted misconception of being itself. Notice if I refer to homosexuality as ‘exotic’, instead of abnormal, the sting lessens. These are just connotations, but the signified is the same. When the offended individual hands out condemnation for your assertion that homosexuality is abnormal, or a deviancy, they reveal their own prejudice, for the implication of their indignation is this: it is wrong to be abnormal or a deviant.
     When you insist that humanity fall under one single, unified definition with a uniform consciousness, you sow the seeds that will grow into oppression or violence, as those who do exhibit the required consciousness are subject to corrective methods. The consequences are often slaughter.
     I am not suggesting Butler has murderous intentions, but this element of uniform consciousness is the implication, I find, in my reading of her. It is disguised under her misleading pining for a heterosexually free world.
     In regards to homosexuality, the majority of humans are heterosexual, and the vast majority fall under two distinct sexes. This is predetermined. The error is corresponding ‘human’ with the qualities that the majority exhibit. This is a mistake, and I insist I am not playing with semantics here. When we invoke the term ‘human’ it is an absolute term, but, when we speak of ‘the human race’ we must be critical of to what we are referring to. When Butler conceives of humanity, she does it in a uniform manner, even if that uniform has all the colours of the rainbow. She insists that if not for oppressive structures, we would all find ourselves of the same consciousnesses. In a similar manner, to how the working class would unite and overthrow the small bourgeoisie (they themselves dehumanised as minority), if only they achieved a true uniform consciousness. Butler falls into a trap that implies uniform consciousness as the aim.
     When we use notions and words like ‘humanity’ and ‘the human race’, we must reject this trap. We must understand that the human race consists of a heterosexual majority (the norm), a homosexual minority, and other minorities (intersex and so on). We must understand that minorities are not ‘normal’, in the sense that they are not comparative numerically to the majority: and that that is all there is to it, when we accurately present this notion of a minority. We must understand that, to be human, is to be someone who at some point in his coming into existence, had the potentiality to be any of those labels that make up the human-race (empirically). It serves no purpose to claim homosexuality is ‘normal’, as it is intuitively and scientifically not so, and people react negatively when they think they are being deceived; it is counter-productive. If we mean ‘normal’ by virtue of it ‘happening’ every so often, we are saying it is normal in the same way we say it’s ‘normal’ for there to be earthquakes, or it is ‘normal’ for us to become ill. The language is inaccurate, even deceptive, as we know it is not ‘the norm’ for there to be earthquakes, or for us to become ill. To use ‘normal’ in this way belies a sense of highlighted irregularity. We must reject this sort of language and, I suggest, rethink the way we use words like ‘humanity’ and bring them in line with the suggestion above: where, when we speak of humanity as the signified, it is an authentic, empirically accurate definition that we bring to mind. When we understand humanity, in terms of sexual orientation, as what it statistically is, and see the experience of being human as one of normal and abnormal, we peel away the demand for a uniformity of consciousness because our language now understands humanity as a multiplicity of consciousnesses by definition. To put it another way, we must remove the negative connotations of notions of the abnormal, not by pretending the abnormal are somehow normal, but by re-understanding humanity. Then, when we view ‘the other’ who is a stranger, we see them as a potentiality within this definition of humanity.
   Consider the subtle consequences, if we do not internalise this way of grasping and defining humanity. We can see in modern Britain, homosexuals and heterosexuals agreeing that they are both ‘normal’, because their sexual behaviour is within the norm of their respective sexualities, and that they both come together under a respective classification of ‘normal’. What do they do, then, when confronted with heterosexuals and homosexuals who engage in sadomasochism? They will label them as abnormal even if they do not judge this activity in negative terms. This way, those who engage in the sexual pleasures of sadomasochism are almost dehumanised, as they are not positioned within the field of humanity but, rather, almost on the periphery. When we define normal as anything outside of the literal, physical, statistical truth, we give space for prejudice, and in discourse, Ego makes itself heard. We give space for prejudice because we allow for a sliding scale of normality which allows us to infer negativity. We could replace ‘abnormal’ with ‘rare,’ but the consequences would be the same. In terms of sexuality, ‘rare’ sexual practices cannot lose their abnormal definitions or connotations, it is inescapable. Only by uniting normal and abnormal as human can we solve sexual alienation without Butler’s subterfuge. We must project humanity (in terms of sexuality) as a large circle or field, and within that field are a majority of pink heterosexual pins; a minority of blue homosexual pins; and smaller minorities of other coloured pins. When we look upon this field of pins, we know that there is a majority, a ‘statistical norm’, but we understand that each pin is within the same circle, and that each pin is no more or less a pin than any other pin next to it. ‘Normalism’ does not imply humanity. Homosexuality is not normal, but it is human, and homosexuality is no more human than heterosexuality or bisexuality.
     Consider the various theories on the causes of male homosexuality. Some might think it probable that twenty years from now we’ll realise there are multiple causes, rather than a single cause, and that the brain configurations differ perhaps significantly according to cause. We then see different hues of blue in the pin-circle I have described above: humanity is a tapestry.

I hope I have painted a picture of humanity as a complicated, multifaceted, unpredictable subject, hammered from all sides by the logic of its biology, (a product of millions of years of evolution), whilst being assailed by social/cultural structures with their own internal logic, some of which are arbitrary, some of which are necessary for the continuation and maintenance of our species.
     I realise that I have avoided commenting on how some masculine and feminine behaviourisms, which directly grow out of the sex distinction, are, according to theories of sex-selection in behavioural science, ‘performed’ specifically to attract a mate of the opposite sex. I felt this would add another confusing layer to the discussion, so I bring it up only as an afterthought.

1 comment:

  1. I am surprised that the "gender is a social construct" idea is still bandied about. It has been thoroughly discredited multiple times, and the public knowledge of people born with "ambiguous genitalia" being surgically altered and raised as one sex to only forcefully insist that they were the opposite at puberty is widespread.

    The only reason I can see for someone to continue such a discredited "theory" is to provide justification for themselves and to rage against a seemingly uncaring society at large that largely tends toward non-inclusion on many fronts.