Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Soil between Buildings

If I had to depict the differences I have with those immersed in feminist culture (which is a large group in feminism as a while, but by no means even the majority of those that would agree with fundamental tenets of feminism; I dislike much of the contents of feminist culture but, like many I know, still am recognisably accepting of/interested in the basic tenets of broader feminism), I'd say it comes down to the basic theory/approach I take to the issues.

My feminism flows from philosophical waters near my transhumanism; a fascination with human potential and the means to produce it and an anger at laws and culture that waste that potential. It's closely akin to my deep anger at inadequate educational opportunities for youth and inadequate safety-net/retraining programs in the workplace. Each human has a brain, and that brain, properly educated and aimed, can do amazing things. Even those who lacked the right opportunity for intellectual/personal growth in youth can still better themselves (with more difficulty and limits) later in life, given the chance. In that light, it's just bloody stupid to systemically exclude and waste the potential of women in that light, and limits the economies of the scale and richness in the cultural encouragement of intellectual growth. If we take the personal and intellectual growth of all humanity as a sacred task, the struggles for strong social programmes, some form of feminism, and a number of perspectives become features of that larger task. This means that for me, feminism is a fairly light identity; feminist theory remains alien but like any alien philosophy might be worth sampling for interesting ideas (adopting it wholesale is very unlikely). Feminist discourse is a pale imitation of philosophical discourse and is avoided, and the explicitly feminist subculture has little direct interest for me (except insofar as it has cool people in it and solidarity in the face of injustice is worthwhile).

I note as well that the flavours of feminist theory I have sampled heavily from have now been significantly been replaced as an ideological foe (postmodernist/multiculturalist liberalism) has come (my perception) to control that discourse.Also, parallel to how Marxian discourse overemphasises class-struggle, feminist discourse overemphasises privilege. Class struggle and class interest, as well as privilege, are powerful lenses through which to view conflict, but it is also easy to overemphasise their power or use them to reach conclusions that are problematic; some privilege or class difference doesn't require a response (either in itself or taken in the context of other theoretical commitments, including even philosophical self-consistency), and not all actions are designed to preserve class or gender power. I particularly reject the notion of marking as racist/classist/sexist things that have no racist/classist/sexist intent; one might legitimately draw attention to things rooted in bad foundations, or criticise notions of justice that see property as foundational as being surprisingly suited for those who were born into privilege, but we must recognise the diversity of possible reasons people take positions and also draw a strong line between intended protection of privilege and included protection of privilege. The point is not to consider these stop signs so much as argumentative detours in which one is prepared to be sensitive to surprising other priorities being brought in that might block the argumentative headway we might otherwise like to have. Some of this is also a commitment to try to reach and convince others and enjoy what partial solidarity we can find with them rather than finding ways to misunderstand and fence off those who don't entirely disagree with us; we commit to dialogue and discourse as our hermaneutics, not construction of a hyperbaric chamber of discourse.

Moving in to the theory I have to deal with gender issues specifically, one of the ideas that most struck me in youth came from an examination of the struggles of blacks in the south; the notion that separate-but-equal institutions are almost intrinsically unequal. This suggests to me a priority; whenever we can, we should merge institutions (formal or informal), to both make injustice maximally visible (through shared experience) and make fixing it possible. This is a challenge for the topic of gender, as men and women have bodies that differ (genetically, developmentally, neurologically, functionally, and bio-strategically). We can't solve gender as (theoretically) easily as we can/will solve racism (that is, by making visible how fuzzy the borders are and by accepting interraciality and letting it solve the problem for us in the long run).

I am also hostile to femininity and masculinity. As clusters of behaviours and traits, I see them as limits to human potential. As norms, they will always be tempting to hold people to. These are two very different analyses, but they lead me to a common conclusion.

My idea of the right way to proceed with gender concerns flows from these; we recognise the natural categories of XX and XY (and that not everyone has these genetics), and they are a thing we call sex/gender. We recognise as separate the idea of preferred pronoun sets and let people choose between she/he (primarily because we need a separate layer for those with unusual genetics; for nonhumans we don't bother with that and just pick based on a traditional genetic mapping). And we deconstruct everything else. I believe people should accept their body, but these norms of behaviour, clothing, ways of talking, job roles, dominance/submission, masculinity/femininity, and the rest of that should be tossed, replaced with a single set of very very loose norms that cover all of humanity. We no longer judge men for walking in a swishy way or having nonmasculine body language (something my parents yelled at me about a fair bit), we no longer tell women that they need to be ladylike to be respected as a person. Limiting people's careers or personal development because we've marked some careers as only being right for one sex becomes ridiculous as we really start seeing male and female as being mostly mundane descriptions of body-variances that we significantly stop seeing at all. Sexual identity might become more complicated (are you looking for someone with a certain gender or some flavour-of-person in the space mostly vacated by through deconstruction of gender?). The thin content of what replaces masculinity and femininity still should remain hostile to masculinity and femininity as each were because of their harmful content; we aim to remember them as being significantly mistakes that we surpassed.


Hostility regarding preferences in sexual partners also disappear with the deconstruction of norms, at least to the extent that the hostility does not stem from other sources (e.g. some forms of religion); once gender is just a body thing and everything else is individual variance, straight/gay/bisexuality are no longer pushed against/for by norms.

I should note that for those who either have read or will read my stories, none of the characters I've worked with in any of my stories have a very postmascufeminine identity per se; Elya (from the 「X-odus」 storyline that I posted parts of sometime back) is not exactly traditionally feminine, but she's not solidly postfeminine (one example: the kinds of approval she seeks is in line with what I've come to identify as feminine social validation rather than masculine social validation or one of the other kinds of social validation (e.g. philosophical)).

I recognise that some people may see this as being potentially a long-term goal paired with other values in the meantime; that is fair, but it is the direction I am pushing for now. Others, agreeing with basic feminist tenets or not, might reject the basic idea of it; that's fine by me, and while I will think from my position and argue for its greater adoption, it is theoretical enough (and reached through philosophical paths that have many reasonable alternatives) that I'm not pushy about it. I also recognise that I have not yet made a very substantial case against masculinity and feminity here, and that I also have not provided the set of terms I use within this framework. At some point I intend to do that.
Tags: feminism, philosophy

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