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This is the permanent top post for Mikhail Ramendik’s blog.

All opinions in this blog, unless explicitly stated otherwise, belong to Mikhail Ramendik alone. Mikhail Ramendik does not represent any company, organization, church, or any other entity except himself.

Mikhail Ramendik’s Russian language blogs:

http://ramendik.livejournal.com -general

http://ramendik.diary.ru – fandom

 

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A theory of mind: suggestions regarding Asperger Syndrome

Abstract: I propose that Asperger Syndrome is not a disability but a natural response to a particularly contradictory society. The response is socially beneficial while it can sometimes hurt the individual and those around them.

“I am going to argue,” he said, “the very thing that you said was so ludicrous and impossible.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m going to base the defence,” said Father Brown, “on the fact that the prosecuting counsel has a bald head.”

G.K. Chesterton “The Mirror of the Magistrate”

Full disclosure. The author has something like “Schroedinger’s Asperger’s”. Diagnosed with Aspergers by an Irish clinical psychologist (not self-diagnosis; the lady has, I think, since retired), diagnosis not confirmed by Pakistani-Irish psychiatrist. This may have to do with cultural difference between them or, more likely, mean that the psychological symptoms are there but the maladaptation needed for a formal DX is not there. Anyway the clinical psychologist view means this is not an external subject for me.

So, to the point. The conventional wisdom about Asperger Syndrome seems to have something to do with “theory of mind”. It ascribes to people with the syndrome some inability that has to do with understanding other people, with forming a theory about how their mind works. But many people with the syndrome, including those with a full proper DX, are actually very good at building systematic theories of everything from mathematics to the cosmos itself. Why would just one element of the cosmos – the mind – suddenly become an exception? That would be like a person who generally has perfect eyesight but somehow can not see elephants?

I think that a different angle understanding this particular syndrome – specifically “high functioning” Aspergers in verbally proficient people, as distinct from Kanner syndrome – might be useful. It could also put the focus a bit less on alleged “abnormality” or “disability” of such people and more on the peculiarities of society that might be leading to the problems between them and other people.

And to reach this understanding, I would do the thing traditionally considered unscientific. Ad hominem. I would look at the researchers who described the syndrome. Starting, of course, with Hans Asperger himself.

Hans Asperger. The officer in the German army. No, I am not pushing the “Nazi Asperger” thing here. He was not in the SS and was generally not evil; many people were caught up in the military machine of the Reich and were still trying to be good people and did the best they could in the circumstances. Asperger got pretty far on this road. He did not kill people; he did not torture or persecute people; instead he (with a Roman Catholic nun) opened a school where he educated and helped children.

This school was in Croatia, under a regime of a group known as the Ustasha. The Ustasha were a local version of the Nazis, with a twist. They did not care very much about Jews and indeed some Ustasha hid Jews from Germans. Instead, their big enemy were the Serbs, and they massacred about 300,000.

For a German Nazi, the enemy had a distinct face. The typical Jew looks different from the typical “Aryan”. Not so for the Ustasha. Serbs and Croats are basically identical ethnically and linguistically; the only distinction is ancestral religion.

The children in this school spent their formative years in the Ustasha totalitarian environment. They were bombarded with social messages that made some people just like them into “enemies”, based on something completely intangible. Basically, the entire environment did not make sense. (Not that the Nazi one did, but here is was even more obvious). People were devising ways to survive under this regime, so social messaging, verbal and non-verbal, became a mesh of interwoven half-truths and outright lies that contradicted each other at every level.

Now that I described it this way, would anyone find it abnormal that some children did not manage to respond properly to all cues in this kind of society? Or was it perhaps more abnormal that most actually did? Who was disabled – the child who needed Hans Asperger’s help to survive this hellish mess, or the child who rolled with it perfectly? And was social isolation in such an environment, which Asperger described in his subjects in 1944 (!), even a bad thing at all?

Very importantly, I am not blaming Hans Asperger for the mess. He did not create the regime. He did not even really uphold it – that was the job of armed henchmen and of propaganda hacks (one can argue that one of the hacks was Aloysius Stepinac who was later made a saint by the Roman Catholic Church – so much for general norm). Asperger helped people, innocent children, survive under the regime. But, being only human after all, he might not have fully realized the enormous abnormality going on around him. And he might have seen some natural reactions to it as more abnormal and more disabling than they objectively were.

Now, Hans Asperger was not the only person to describe the syndrome. It is commonly accepted that the same set of symptoms was earlier described by Grunya Sukhareva, a psychiatrist sometimes incorrectly described as Russian (she was Ukrainian, or Jewish, or – th identity she would probably consider primary – Soviet). While her work was published in 1926, it was mainly based on her work with children in Kiev in 1917 to 1921.

During that time, the ruling regimes in Kiev were, in various periods, more or less in chronological order:

– The Russian Empire

– The Ukrainian “Central Rada” which at a point proclaimed a republic federated with Russia and later independence

– Early Bolshevik/Soviet Ukraine (Red Army)

– German-backed “Ukrainian State” under Hetman Skoropadsky

– Ukrainian People’s Republic under Hetman Petlura

– Second Bolshevik/Soviet Ukraine

– The White Russian Army under General Denikin

– Third and final Bolshevik/Soviet Ukraine, which ultimately became a constituent part of the USSR

The comparative benefits of the regimes (who killed more people and who killed less, etc.) is beyond the scope of this study. (It was a typical civil war with no “good guys”). But importantly, every single regime change brought about its own ideology, its own set of assumptions, its own attempt at social conventions. The children whom Sukhareva studied had to navigate a society that was being constantly re-created and modified by the changing regimes, again creating a contradictory mess of verbal and non-verbal messaging.

So, again some children totally failed at navigating it and ended up isolated… what was abnormal there? (I would suspect that Sukhareva, unlike Asperger, knew exactly how abnormal the situation actually was, but might not have been able to articulate that fully under Soviet constraints. Unfortunately I have not actually seen the work, and I’d love to see it – would be very interesting to try and read between its lines).

For all I know, there have generally been “epidemic flare-ups” of Aspergers in societies where social messaging became especially contradictory. This includes the late years of the Soviet Union and subsequent post-Soviet states, all seeking a new identity in a changing world. Also, the times in the West when social mores were shifting significantly (for reasons beyond the scope of this text).

And so here is my “theory of mind” for Aspergers, the stuff that Aspergers “sufferers” are not supposed to have (or something):

There is a feature of the human mind that lets it adapt to a society that is not exactly driven by logic. No society, in fact, is fully logical, and humans evolved along with society, so evolution created a social response mechanism. Verbal and nonverbal cues are all processed into a system that is never fully consciously realized. Responses expected by the particular society are duly produced. This helps the person gain cohesion with society. As cohesion is the main positive product of the mechanism, I will now use the term social cohesion mechanism.

There are always some contradictions in the cues. But when a particular society becomes especially contradictory, some people have their social cohesion mechanism overloaded. It usually happens in childhood as that is when they start to be immersed in society and the mechanism gains its data. When the mechanism is overloaded, it shuts down. The person still has intact conscious intellectual facilities, and often overdevelops some of them to compensate. (Or perhaps some of them, notably the ability to concentrate on a topic, develop more freely as the social cohesion mechanism is normally impairing their development to a degree?)

I would tentatively suggest that, far from being a disability, this is an evolutionary adaptive development, much like the social cohesion mechanism itself. We are talking social evolution here; the situation might not always be beneficial for the affected persons but it is vitally important for the affected society. The “aspies” are the guardians, those who bring a society going mad some sanity, a chance to right the wrongs. Remember the monarch who went out naked? Those who shouted “the emperor has no clothes” were the “aspies”. They failed to respond to all the social cues typical in a monarchy.

Now, “adaptive development” does not equal “great thing”. Compare a fever: it is an adaptive development, a response to an illness, a fever is never the illness itself. But we often take paracetamol to calm the fever, and we have a reason, as the fever exhausts us while also killing some microbes. Likewise, the unadjusted “aspie” might sometimes be a herald of social sanity but also can sometimes create problems for themselves or others. So, yes, help with asjustment can be a real and needed thing. But, like a fever, Aspergers can be an inconvenience but is not a “disability”, not an “abnormality”. It is, perhaps, at its root a social mechanism that balances other social mechanisms when they go runaway.

Postscript on gender issues

With this theory of the syndrome, we can look at the high prevalence of “gender issues” in “aspies” without referring to some dinosaur-type views. (The biggest dinosaur is “Aspergers means extreme male”. No, it’s just that the traditional male gender role is somewhat more accepting of ignoring social cues, perhaps in the name of being more successful at some form of domination or conquest. So someone with a reduced reaction to them can be read in that role).

Gender is a social mechanism. It starts with the way society handles biological differences between the sexes. But many things in the gender mechanism have no obvious current link to biology; rather they have evolved from the way biology affected society hundreds or thousands of years ago. To take a very rough example, “ladies first” was probably a means of preserving society’s reproductive capability; if a set number of people is to die, more men and less women killed means more children in next generation. But how many people thought about this on board the Titanic?

A society’s notions of manhood and womanhood, and (separately) masculinity and femininity, are complicated systems. They are taken as “natural” only because of the social cohesion mechanism. The “aspie” has this mechanism shut down but other intellectual facilities intact or overdeveloped (importantly, including emotion). Therefore the “aspie” can, for various reasons, identify with, or be drawn to, things that are seen as some gender or other. And they process it in various ways, including, yes, developing an “opposite” or otherwise “unconventional” gender identity.

This leads us to a hypothesis: other aspies might process the same situation by developing a hostility to the idea of gender in general or of masculinity or of femininity. (Or to men or to women; this requires additional reasons, Aspergers in itself does not lead to increased aggression, but it might increase the chances of trauma that does lead to it).

Therefore there might be many aspies among the radfem crowd. Which possibly makes the radfem-trans controversy a huge aspie battle? Wonder how that could be verified.

Very tentative postscript on practical conclusions

If any actual practitioners are reading this, they might be fuming. “Okay, this uppity brat is proposing some smart-assed theory, which does exactly nothing to help people who are measurably suffering from the condition; telling them they are some sort of brave guardians of society won’t make them into actual superheroes”.

Realising that, I got thinking about possible, tentative, practical applications of the theory, which itself is quite tentative. So we get to “very tentative” – and I continue with this disclaimer:

If “aspie” is no a disability but a reaction to society, perhaps try creating a small society that does not have the problem?

Aspies already flock to subcultures that have a modicum of logical organization; there are many in the open source developer crowd (Eric Raymond mentions this in his article http://www.catb.org/esr/faqs/smart-questions.html#keepcool ; note he proposes a somewhat similar theory but with an organic slant, missing some of the brain circuitry that lubricates “normal” human social interaction. I am not proposing that the “social cohesion mechanism” is quite so identifiable on the cellular level).

Unfortunately, such subcultures are often only logical where they diverge from “normal” society because of their mission. There have, for example, been issues with treatment of women in the open source developer crowd. And this is quite natural because there is no reason for open source to proclaim a logical method of negotiating sex-related communications – so the regular awkwardness applies. Clear sexual negotiation protocols are present in some other circles, which in turn have their own illogical spots.

It might be an interesting approach to try and develop micro-societies (for example, in a live-in summer camp) where all social interactions are guided by a clear and logically consistent code, and therefore interaction does not require the “social cohesion mechanism”.

There are huge pitfalls in this approach, of course. Such a “clear and logically consistent code” is supposed to exist for a large subset of human interaction, in the form of law. We all know how political the act of lawyering can be, how things can rely on irrational, unquantifiable influence on judges and juries even when no foul play is involved. So any micro-society with an attempted logical code might get lost it its own lawyering battles. Or it might try to avoid lawyering by having a few “omnipotent” leaders who define what “logical” is – and then things quickly turn into “influence the leader”, again by means having more to do with iffy social games (extolling the value of logic) than with actual logic.

So I’m not claiming to have a solution. Not even a very tentative one. This is only the start of an approach. Instead of trying to change “aspies”, how about trying to create small societies that work the “aspie way”? It is not easy. But if it succeeds, we might find that they work well for other people, too. And this could amplify the kind of evolutionary influence that “aspies” as a group are, in my theory, supposed to have – while attempts to “cure” them deprive society of their necessary balancing influence.

Huge hole in the Nashville Statement: origin of Southern Baptists

So a group of, apparently, Southern Baptists has released the “Nashville Statement” that can be found here https://cbmw.org/nashville-statement/

And I immediately found a huge hole in it.

Article X says: “WE AFFIRM that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism and that such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness.”

I will not pick apart the “homosexual immorality or transgenderism” thing (though it lumps together a few very different issues). The hole is in the “essential departure” and has to do with the principal signatories being Southern Baptists. Let us accept, for the sake of the discussion, that approval of “homosexual immorality or transgenderism” is grave error in the area of morals, and see how Southern Baptists fare in that regard.

The Southern Baptist Convention has been formed in 1845 as a split from a national Baptist convention. And as for the reason for the split, I will quote the proceedings of the founding convention in 1845, which can be found at http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu/cdm/fullbrowser/collection/ml-sbcann/id/1931/rv/compoundobject/cpd/1951

“” It is a question admitting no debate, that the Triennial Convention
was formed on the principle of a perfect equality of members, from the
South and Noith. And what is all important, the very qualifications of
missionaries are prescribed by the original constitution of that Conven­tion,—
the fifth article providing that “such persons as are in full com­munion
with some regular church of our denomination, and w h o furnish
satisfactory evidence of genuine piety, good talents and fervent zeal for
the Redeemer’s cause, are to be employed as missionaries.”
” Besides this, too, the declaration of the Board, that if ” any one should
offer himself as a missionary, having slaves, and should insist on retaining
them as his property, we could not appoint him,” is an innovation and a
departure from the course hitherto pursued by the Triennial Convention,

(such persons having been appointed.) And lastly, the decision of the
Board is an infraction of the resolution passed the last spring, in Philadel­phia;
and the General Board at their late meeting in Providence, have
failed to reverse this decision.
“Amidst such circumstances, your committee esteem it absolutely neces­sary,
that the friends of the Constitution of the Triennial Convention,
and the lovers of the Bible, shall at once take their stand, and assert the
great catholic principles of that Constitution, and of the Word of God.
“Your committee therefore submit the following resolution, as embody­ing
all that they are now prepared to suggest to your body:
” Resolved, That for peace and harmony, and in order to accomplish
the greatest amount of good, and for the maintainance of those scriptural
principles on which the General Missionary Convention of the Baptist
denomination of the United States, was originally formed, it is proper
that this Convention at once proceed to organize a Society for the propa­gation
of the Gospel.”

We see most clearly that the Southern Baptist Convention was founded upon the approval of slavery, namely, upon insisting that those engaged in keeping slaves be accepted as missionaries.

I hope we can all agree that keeping slaves is, and was in 1845, a violation of basic Christian morality. Therefore, approval of such actions was grave error in the area of morals.

My question now is: does official, church-wide grave error in the area of morals constitute an essential departure from the Faith?

If if does, then the Southern Baptist Convention, because of the manner it was founded, is not a legitimate Christian community, and therefore the signatories of the statement should first repent of belonging to it and rejoin American Baptists USA (the successors of the convention from which the SBs split).

Or if it does not, then Article X of the Nashville Statement is invalid.

As the principal signatories remain Southern Baptists and at the same time have included Article X, we can suspect that they are hypocrites. Or else they do not agree that approval of slavery (including appointment of slaveholding missionaries) is grave moral error. In which case, they should say so openly, and be relegated to the margins.

Matthew 7:5 “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”

And that’s the end of it.

(By the way, I see no Scriptural justification for altering the definition of church marriage, as opposed to secular marriage, as it exists in most churches including the Church of Ireland of which I am a member. This has no bearing on anyone’s rights because marriage rights exist against the state, not a church. I disapprove of the Nashville Statement’s approach to the issue because of its lack of thoughtfulness in pretty much anything – including a total abject failure to analyze “transgenderism” in any way at all. Yet the biggest hole in it is, I think, the one I have just described).

Draft petition to human rights orgs re Ukraine

I would appreciate corrections and suggestions for the following draft. I will probably create the petition mid-week. Note that I am trying to keep many evaluations neutral so that people of various political positions could support the petition.

Since the Maidan events and the ascension of the new government in Kiev, there was a sustained attack on freedom of speech in Ukraine. Recently, international human rights have reacted to a new development in this attack, the blanket ban on certain social networks. Amnesty International has also criticized some arrests made during the Victory over Nazism celebrations on May 9, 2017, for displaying Communist symbols that are inextricably linked to the actual victory.

This reaction is very welcome. However, it is limited to recent developments. As far as international human rights defenders are concerned, a wall of silence seems to exist around the people who are now detained in Ukraine for extended periods solely for the act of disseminating political information.

Moreover, at least in one case, a Ukrainian human rights defender has openly exonerated the government. In a May 2017 press conference, Evgeny Zakharov, the leader of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, has claimed that there are no political prisoners in Ukraine at present.

Also, the most recent report by Reporters Without Borders notes imprisonment of journalists and bloggers in Russia but fails to note the very same issue in Ukraine.

This is not a new issue; some people have been imprisoned for words alone for over a year now. Their rights require an urgent response. Given the current government’s pro-European declarations, a clear position of international human rights bodies can be a material deterrent. Note that in the one case where they did speak up loudly, that of Ruslan Kotsaba, the prisoner was eventually exonerated and released.

We call upon Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, and other international human rights organizations and bodies to provide a speedy initial assessment of the cases, followed by an impartial investigation that would not be hindered by any ideological attachment to the Maidan revolution or by revulsion towards Russia or pro-Russian separatists. None of the actions of Russia or the separatists can justify the widespread repression of people for their opinions and for disseminating information in Ukraine, especially while Ukraine is not, according to its own legal system, in a state of war.

Some of the people currently detained by Ukraine for extended periods solely for the dissemination of information are:

  • Dmitry Vasilets and Evgeny Timonin. They are Ukrainian journalists who published online videos exposing government politicians under the name “media lustration” (note that “lustration” is actually a pro-Maidan term). As a part of their research they visited the separatists in Donetsk for three days. The official accusation is that they have provided technical assistance in starting and running a separatist television channel. As the separatists are labeled “terrorists”, this is described as “terrorist activity”, but nothing except dissemination of information is involved, even according to the accusing side. A widely held suspicion is that “working with separatists” was only a pretext for their arrest, while publications strongly hostile to key government persons were the actual reason. These two people are detained since November 2015; they have not, at present, been convicted, but are kept detained with endless delays.
  • Roman Kolesnik. He is a private citizen who has relatives in Slovyansk, which was under separatist control for a few months. He expressed his private opinion online that Ukraine is likely to split up and that people of some territories have a right to self-determination. For that alone, without any claims of him ever engaging in violence, Roman was arrested in May 2015. In September 2015 he was sentenced to four years of imprisonment and is currently serving the sentence.

There have also been reports of arrests of numerous bloggers for “propaganda” where their real names were not published. Sometimes, online nicknames were published. In a notable case, a woman who signed her name as “Muza Pronkina” was reported as arrested in 2015 for a blog post where she, as a private citizen, expressed a personal desire for a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Further information about her fate is absent.

Yet other people were detained and prosecured for words, but were exchanged for prisoners taken by the separatists. They are now unable to return to Ukraine. For example, Maxim Grindiuk was arrested solely for posting anti-government leaflets (with no calls for violence on them), and later exchanged. He was held incommunicado for some months before the exchange.

When people on the other side of this conflict see that the present Ukrainian government can persecute political opposition for mere words withoug causing any international human rights outcry, these people understandably believe that human rights defenders have a double standard, that human rights as an idea are not extended to them. This sadly causes disdain for the idea of human rights itself, contributing to deterioriation of conditions in separatist-controlled territory.

To protect people who are being persecuted and to restore respect for human rights as such, it is essential that international human rights organizations speak up on this issue as a matter of urgency.

References (in Russian):

Information about Mr. Vasilets, Mr. Timonin, Mr. Kolesnik, Ms. “Pronkina” and other people who are being persecuted for political reasons can be found at http://www.politvyazni.in.ua/politzakluchennie/ (some other cases do involve accusations of violence)

Information about Maxim Grindiuk: http://antifashist.com/item/zhitel-zaporozhya-popal-za-reshetku-iz-za-listovok-o-cenah-i-pensiyah.html (the article was penned before he “disappeared” for some months and was then exchanged).

The claim of a Ukrainian human rights defender that there are no political prisoners in Ukraine can be found here:

https://www.unian.net/politics/1931626-pravozaschitniki-konstatirovali-otsutstvie-v-ukraine-politzaklyuchennyih-i-politicheskih-presledovaniy.html

How US conservatives brought Obergefell on themselves

There is that peculiar US trend when people expand the scope of government, then get very surprised and indignant when it is brought to bear on them.

The Super Example is, of course, the South in the middle of the nineteenth century. They expanded the federal government dramatically with their Fugitive Slave Law and their Dred Scott ruling.

Then, when the other side got hold of that shiny new machine, the Southern Ascendancy, instead of living with the fruit of their labours and adjusting as best they could, decided to secede. The newly mighty Feds kicked their backside. And that should have been a lesson! But it was never learned.

Even when it was no longer possible for governmentto support some people enslaving others, they still had to push government into the very heart of a person’s private life. The bedroom. Laws against “sodomy” and “miscegenation” proliferated. In that way, the government was made a bizarre arbiter of what is legitimate and not legitimate between consenting adults in the privacy of a home. And thus, the foundation for the Obefgefell v Hodges decision, requiring all US states to license and recognize same-sex marriage irrespective of the will of their peoples, was laid.

Without “sodomy” and “miscegenation” laws, what licenses each state issues would be a simple matter – what kind of privileges are the state’s people willing to give to what kinds of couples? People’s fundamental rights would not be affected What one states denies, another state could grant.

But as things went, marriage licenses became licenses for the kind of private activity that should never be subject to licensing. This also led to perverse state laws criminalizing getting married in other states. And all these things started to come to fruition in Virginia vs. Loving.

Richard and Mildred Loving were a usual couple by any objective measure. Just a man and a woman. But failed nineteenth-century theories assigned them to different so-called “races” (though it was never really clear what “race” Mildred was assigned to, it was definitely not “white”, to which Richard was assigned). Based on that, the state of Virginia would not give them a marriage license, so they acquired one elsewhere. However, the peeping tom state would not eave it at that – the police raided their house and charged them with sleeping in the same bed!

If this were not to happen, if there was never a chance of this happening, states might still have the freedom to define marriage in whatever way they darn please. Some would probably have same-sex marriage, some would not, some could perhaps have polyamorous marriage. (Look at the European Union, where Ireland voted to have same-sex marriage and Croatia voted to not have it; in both cases the peoples made their decisions without a court hanging over them).

But the government of Virginia had the nerve to violate the sanctity of the family home for no good reason. Things eventually came to the Supreme Court. And that is how federal judicial regulation of who can get married was born. Marriage, originally a public institution that had to do with inheritance, was intertwined with the very private right to intimate choice.

And eventually, that intertwining found its logical expression in Obergefell vs Hodges. Sodomy laws were overturned in 2003, and with the legacy of the Loving case tying permission for sexual relations with permission for marriage, things slowly worked up to same-sex marriage. The SCOTUS decision does not recognize anything about “orientation”; it simply affirms the right of personal choice, which is natural, and the link of marriage to that choice, which is by now well established. Established originally by conservatives, not liberals.

What now? Now there is a clearly proclaimed right to choice in intimate identity and beliefs. I believe conservatives should use it to their advantage, notably when overreaching anti-discrimination laws require them, in a totally unreasonable way, to use artistic expression in support of ideas or relationships they do not personally approve of.

(The peak of foolishness, I think, is extending non-discrimination requirements to marriage photographers; a photographer’s results depend on personal feelings in a way that can not be quantified. At any event of mine, I would ideally want a photographer who is genuinely enthusiastic about it – or genuinely sad about it if it is a funeral. So for best results, photographers should be able to discriminate on any reasons at all, and simply by personal taste too.)

And perhaps they are learning that the state is best kept out of things where it is not essential (“save lives” kind of essential). *Perhaps*. Or perhaps not. They are so much into free speech, except when the free speech goes against what they believe – see how they dumped Milo for suggesting the age of consent is not set in stone and *some* teenagers *might* be able to consent earlier. (Given that the age of consent in the Western world varies from 14 to 18, his words were really pretty trivial – not necessarily correct, but trivial).

“Gender-critical” is not gender-critical

Wrote a comment in someone else’s blog then realized it’s probably important enough for a post of its own.

There are some radfems and their allies who define themselves as “gender-critical” or even “gender abolitionist”. I think the self-definition is simply false, at least using universally accepted definitions, so I always put the terms in quotes.

They are only “critical” of “gender” in an uncommon definition. a definition that they have basically made up. They are actually supportive of gender in its WHO definition. They will deny this, but look at the facts.

WHO: “Gender” refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women. http://apps.who.int/gender/whatisgender/en/

Now, “gender critical” people say that males should be in the men’s bathrooms and females should be in the women’s bathrooms. Is going into a bathroom “behaviour”? Yes. So they assign appropriate behaviour to males and females – thus, they support gender!

Next, many of them will claim that males and fdemals should use “biologically appropriate” pronouns. But this is, again, behaviour. So, again. gender! (The original meaning of the word, too).

How about “only females can be feminists”? Obviously gender! (Disclaimer: I am not female and do not claim to be a feminist).

There is a *part* of gender, a *part* of “roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women”, that actually involves hierarchical oppression of women by men. What “gender critical” authors do is define “gender” as just that part, while keeping the sex-linked behaviour distinction that is not oppressive (or even protective of females, in ways they recognize) out of the term “gender”. But this is not the academic definition of their term, it is their very own invention.

Real gender abolition would mean a total destruction of all difference in “roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes” that would be in any way assigned to biological sex. And they are fighting *against* such gender abolition by insisting on the distinctions they like – even while claiming to want to abolish gender.

Whether gender abolition is a realistic aim, and to what degree it is a desirable aim, is an interesting discussion, involving reproduction, social resilience to adverse factors, the need for protection of females in certain situations (including protection from male violence – yes, sex-specific protection can be good, but it still is undeniably a part of gender) and what not.

But gender abolition is certainly not happening tomorrow. So the question then is how to accommodate maximum individual liberty in a world that is, as a given, gendered – and way too gendered for all of our liking, too.

Freedom of activity choice and of self-identification – including change, and unlinked from reproductive characteristics – appears to be one way of doing it. What do the “gender criticals” propose instead? Pretty much the same regarding activities, but with an insistence on “correct labels”, because they help their beloved class analysis.

News flash: real people don’t exist for the sake of somebody’s class analysis. News flash two: just because you call something “sex class”, it does not cease to be gender, and in fact identifying as a part of a “sex class” is by definition a part of “gender”.

P.S. I hope to be adding a series of posts soon, where I describe my current view on how the current gender setup arose and also discuss the thorny issue of religion, sexual identity (including orientation), and gender identity. My positions in the secular world and in the religious world might not seem to align so I need to get through that apparent difference before I can blog about the religious side here. (But first things first –  I defend the right of every person to choice of religion and abhor any attempt to default people into religion, including the one I follow, which happens to be Anglicanism. The Church of England must be disestablished forthwith, as the Church of Ireland, which I am a member of, thankfully is, otherwise I don’t think I would have joined with a clear conscience).

Scott Anderson, or how an academic mistake can ruin your life

I’ve just encountered the big debates around the experiences of Scott Anderson. Currently an esteemed, and happily married, computer science professor, he spent school years as an unhappy nerd. A big part of that was that he was.. not even rejected by girls, but rather, ashamed to ask them out for fear of being labeled a monster.

He mentioned feminism as a cause for such labeling, and mentioned reading Andrea Dworkin (and I suspect his list would also include McKinnon etc).

He got loads of flak for loads of things, many of those patently untrue. His response at http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=2119 (and yes I am hoping for a trackback) seems to have caused more waves. Some people made him out to be a misogynist, conflated his statement with the “nice guy fallacy” despite key factual differences (“Nice Guys TM” claim they are rejected while Scott was ashamed to ask to start with), and there were a lot of other things. There was also a generally awesome response by Laurie Penny, and they apparently agreed to work together.

But I still think something here is missed. And given that Scott is a professor I think I should mention it – if only because it might ultimately help with that advice post he seems to be still working on with Laurie.

WARNING: the following text is PERSONAL OPINION based on LIMITED information FROM INTERNET POSTINGS. This is in NO WAY a complete analysis and VERY WELL can miss facts. I’m only writing about it because I feel it’s a seriously dangerous intellectual “trap”.

I feel that young!Scott may have contributed to ruining his personal life at school by something that professor!Scott would probably be horrified with if he saw it from the outside. Academic bias, of all things!

He admits that he was “drawn” to the likes of Andrea Dworkin. But these are not toys we’re talking about, nor political journalists where you go pick a party and follow its pundits. This is research. And so the high school nerd has committed a nerdy mistake. He failed to read up on the opposing views.

There were, by the time, two coherent intellectual strands in opposition to Dworkin, and each would have provided its own pathways out of the impasse Scott had.

One was conservatism. Not the modern-day MRA radicals with their “game” and stuff – I think these were, thankfully, still not there – but good old conservatism with family values etc. It had an answer: that you just don’t “ask” for sex because sex outside of marriage is not a Good Thing. You get *yourself* ready for marriage while you also seek marriageable, as opposed to sex-able, female contacts. There are ways to do that. He mentioned the shtetl, but guess what – match-making still very much exists in Judaism. I am a Christian myself – of Jewish lineage but Christian by choice – separate discussion though; whatever religion he chose, he could have followed its arrangements to seek women interested in courtship towards marriage, while skipping the secular dating scene entirely. Or else one could just seek out friendship and companionship, with an outlook to “propose” the status of a “fiancee” (if not outright marriage) in *good* time – without bothering to compete with the “neanderthals” who want a quick bang. Wait with sex, all the way until marriage, because it’s the Right Thing To Do. I’m not sure if it would be less miserable (though it actually worked for me, more or less). But at least it was a different and coherent option.

The other strand opposing Dworkin was early feminist sex-positivism. Oh, the big feminist split, the world-shaking (well, America-shaking) censorship battles – I am rather baffled how one could research Dworkin and miss those. For the sex-positivists, consent was key. Their solution, as far as I can understand it, would be basically “ask but be ready to step back”. The “creepiness” is not the asking but the persistence. No means no, maybe means no. In words from a very different field (and apparently penned later, so not available to young!Scott), “fail early, fail often”. While “fail-readiness” might take some training it was still a coherent alternative. For the modern nerd, the obvious and funny similarity to Agile software development might be of help.

It appears – though I might very well be wrong – that young!Scott did not work out either of these pathways because he latched on to the Dworkin view without examining the alternatives. But Dworkin was writing in her own context. For many other people, mostly women, her words had, and still have, immense therapeutic meaning. And she did not set herself up to be The Only Voice.

She did try to push for a level of censorship, but not in the social sciences; so she never intended her works to be the only source of someone’s viewpoint. And it was not drummed into him at school, either.

Radical feminism, which I do NOT agree with, is still not to blame for someone choosing to read just its stuff and getting life lessons from it that it was just not designed to give. The radfems did not close the libraries to him. He should have checked the other viewpoints. And I am sure that Professor Scott would not make such a mistake when reading up on a subject these days. I hope he can advise new generations to be wider in their outlook.

And if Scott thinks he had it bad, he can just imagine – yeah, that argument again – someone transgender in his time and his situation with his reading preferences. If a transgender person made the same mistake of being drawn into collectivist radfem literature exclusively, suicide would have been a very likely outcome. They shamed Scott for any idea of asking girls out, but they would shame the transgender person for existing. (Not Dworkin herself but many of her colleagues).

TL;DR: Don’t choose to read just one academic strand in a relevant area of the social sciences. It will feck up your life. If you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail, unfortunately including your own head.