Fatalism & Gender
Original video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykaM7h-ZqCY
Hi there, Kevin here!
I am fascinated by the many differences between men and women, both biological and psychological. I think it’s these differences that make men and women so interesting. I don’t really know what it’s like to be a woman. There is a certain amount of mystery in that. It reminds me of the philosophical question of whether or not we see the same colors, whether or not you and I see the same greens and reds, or if they are flipped, or they are some totally different set of colors.
I was surprised to learn that men and women’s eyes actually are built differently. I doubt women see green where men see red, but it does changes things a bit.
Because of the structure and quantity of the rods and cones in our eyes (types of photoreceptor cells), men see more contrast in light and women see more contrast in color. Men are actually more likely to go colorblind, probably for this reason.
But there is a rare condition called Tetrachromacy where a fourth kind of cone cell is in the eye that extends the color pallet in such a way that the tetrachromat herself can see hundreds of millions of colors, adding another primary color to her visual pallet, the way we add an axis in adding a physical dimension in space. (Most people can only see seven million colors). They see many colors in between the colors we see. And the only known human tetrachromats have been women. They are incredibly rare, though.
There is a powerful resistance many people feel against what feminists call “essentialism”. Essentialism in this sense means that men and women are different in their natures, rather than by social conditioning. These feminists contend that it is simply television commercials tricking little boys and girls into wanting to play with trucks and dolls respectively, and forming expectations around gender roles that make boys more likely to go into the stem fields, and girls more likely to go into fields like psychology and veterinary medicine.
Extending the logic against essentialism, instead of having a binary set of genders: feminine and masculine, some take it nearly to the point of having so many genders that gender as a concept becomes meaningless. If this rainbow technicolor of gender identities is built into our natures as men and women, it does seem to run contrary to the feminist position on essentialism, and if our wildly differing gender identities are not built into our natures, then this whole business about gender identity and Queer Theory in the first place, seems, at least to me, to be completely asinine.
To me, it makes about as much sense as choosing to say that you belong to another species called “giggly o’ rifficon” and when someone else doesn’t recognize this arbitrary classification, they are portrayed as bigots. “You just hate giggly o’ rifficons!”
Clearly there is a logical problem with denying male and female nature, but the problem I want to talk about today is on the opposite side of that visual spectrum of perspective. That is, the fatalism of saying that something is male or female nature.
This is by no means a logical proof. There are still things that need to be worked out, so I’m very happy to receive any feedback you have. Here goes.
Rules and Logic
In proposing that something is part of male or female psychology, or in their nature, this has certain logical consequences that people do not seem to be aware of. Let’s look at what being part of a person’s nature looks like.
Consider the Incredible Hulk. When Bruce Banner becomes the Hulk, not by his own choice, he is a giant uncontrollable rage monster. He is inclined to smashing things into tiny pieces with his other worldly might. And he very badly injures and kills people in this state.
Could you, as a judge presiding over this case sentence Bruce Banner to prison or death? Maybe some precautions should made to protect people, but I can’t find it in me to hold him morally accountable for something which he literally had no control over. Certainly, the man who harms other people in a premeditated fashion is more culpable than our friend Bruce.
As people, we are, whether we are aware of it or not, constantly thinking in logical consequences. And if you believe that people are not in control of something, you are not going to see them as morally equivalent to people who have near infinite control.
If we believed that it was female nature to be hysterical and incapable of logical rigor, then it would hardly make sense to hold them responsible for a lack of level-headedness or critical thinking skills. That’s just what it means to be female, after all.
If we believed that it was female nature to abuse the power they have over men in a completely narcissistic manner, that is, without concern for her disposable appliance of a man, what is the consequence of that belief?
Let’s say that she means well and is aware of her ongoing lack of compassion and respect, and she tries hard to stop, the way an addict tries to stop taking drugs. She relapses occasionally and dehumanizes her man. How culpable is she, really?
The narcissistic woman, unlike the violent man, has some choice in her behavior, and that takes the form of something like addiction management. She is surely more responsible than someone who has no control at all, but I also don’t feel comfortable holding her as responsible as a person who chooses to harm someone in that way and is fully aware of that choice.
Let’s push the scenario even further and say that the woman treats her husband poorly, not because it’s in her nature, but because she has been conditioned, brainwashed into adopting these dehumanizing beliefs and attitudes. Does she have any more control or less control based on this fact? I don’t think so. I think it’s basically the same consequence.
I don’t know what the sweet spot is between control and lack of control that determines culpability, but clearly, different degrees of control are possible, and the degree of control determines in at least the one respect a person’s level of culpability.
When we make these sorts of judgments about men and women as groups, this is a rule. And rules, logically, must apply to everyone. This includes the person putting that rule forward.
When you pull out the boomerang called “aggression is human nature”, that boomerang comes back. The rule excusing people, to whatever degree they lack control over their aggression, excuses you as well. And that’s a dangerous thing.
What you excuse in others, you excuse also for yourself.
People act according to what they believe about the world, and if you believe that it’s perfectly okay to just kill anyone you want for any reason, you are a dangerous person to be around. If you believe that your children owe you obedience, then you are going to resent them when they act according to their own opposing will. “The child must be punished!”
People who are assholes tend to have these sorts of irrational beliefs about how other people should relate to them. I’m sure you know people like this.
Making generalizations about men or women, and even saying that something is essentially male or female nature is not necessarily a problem. I think that’s a very interesting and important discussion to have. It is just that without self knowledge, this is dangerous business. Without an intimate knowledge of how your own minds function, what is hiding in your shadow, without recognizing your own capacity to deny things that you don’t like about yourself, you are almost certainly going to project onto other people those bad traits in an effort to distance yourself from them. Like a form of invasive denial.
Consider the phenomenon that the most militant of feminist women are often the most masculine. I don’t believe that this sort of cliched stereotype is a coincidence.
Let’s take the example of the charming embodiment of social justice that is Big Red, the feminist who came out to scream at the men’s rights activists who were protesting in Toronto listed her feminist talking points and how they all were the fault of the patriarchy. In doing so, she portrayed men in a nasty light, seeing the men protesting there as unbelievable assholes worth condemning and needing to be told to “shut the fuck up” repeatedly.
I’ve got to imagine that her image of patriarchy is of dominating, callous men who work to deny women a voice. I think it is not surprising that she repeatedly insulted and talked over the men there at the protest. She has absolutely no sense of irony that she herself is the asshole. Just imagine a man coming down to a feminist rally and screaming at the women there telling them to “shut the fuck up”. That would be incomprehensible, at least to me.
Some would say that when you see yourself as being morally self-righteous, you give yourself permission to do terrible things. And maybe there is some truth to this, I don’t know, but I think that Big Red’s actions here are something else.
The reason she has no sense of irony about being such an unbelievable asshole is because this is just psychological projection, informed by her erroneous beliefs about the world and a rejection of what is really herself. It is the least sophisticated form of emotional defense, after denial.
People like this do not work on themselves and own their shit, but rather, they rationalize and reframe everything like a postmodernist’s whirlpool of denial. She’s not an asshole, she’s a social justice warrior! She’s not attempting to shut these people’s message down, she’s giving a voice to the poor western women who are subjugated under the tyrannical rule of men over women. Her whole world is upside down.
She herself would probably not say that it is male nature to be assholes. After all, feminists tend to reject the idea that something is male or female nature, but their alternative doesn’t escape the problem simply because they replace the words “male nature” with “male conditioning”. It still implies a lack of control over that behavior. And as we’ve established, a lack of control is an excuse.
I don’t know if it’s people who, hypocritically, already are the things they reject that like to come up with a supporting ideology to confirm their own biases, or if in adopting these irrational beliefs the result is adopting the traits that they reject. My guess is that both things are true. But this irrationality is certainly infectious.
But if they are so irrational, then why? Why do many feminists believe that men as a class are morally compromised beings? And why do some men in the men’s movement believe that women as a class are morally compromised beings?
It’s almost cliche to say that a “woman hater” has mommy issues, and likewise man haters have daddy issues. I think it’s cliche because there is an element of truth to it.
One big reason that people adopt these sorts of universal beliefs about men and women is as a result of their own childhoods. Consider the fact that, as children, we are completely and totally dependent on our parents for survival. Like baby ducklings who imprint on the first thing they see outside the egg, human infants try and form as powerful a bond with their parents as they can. The degree to which they can’t do that is the degree to which they form attachment disorders and have problems that can continue into adulthood.
It is pretty clear to anyone who thinks about it for any length of time that our experience of our parents sets our expectations about what men and women should be, since the bond is so important and because of the amount of proximity the child has with their parents. Dad is the model of masculinity and mom the model of femininity, to a considerable degree. This is probably how it should be.
There is another dynamic though, which I am convinced is very unhealthy, and I think it goes a long way in explaining what I’ve been talking about until now.
I’ve had a lot of people tell me something along the lines of “I really hope I don’t turn out like my dad”. I’ve also seen women take offense at being compared to their mothers, considering that a terrible insult. I sometimes feel like saying something along the lines of “yea, your mom really is a bitch” just to fuck with them, because I know how they will respond. Like a sudden anxiety fills them and they rush to make excuses for their parents. You might think that this is a sign of respect for their parents that they would make those excuses, but I’m not convinced.
I think this excusing is the source of all the problems I’ve been talking about until now. I think it’s also the reason that despite my co-worker telling me “I wish I don’t end up like my dad”, without really working on himself, he has a lot of inertia pushing him in that direction.
What he excuses in his dad, he excuses for himself. That will form his beliefs about the world and how people should relate to one another. And based on these belief he will act in ways which are consistent with them.
If an abusive man has two sons, and one of them develops a sense of repulsion to that abuse while the other makes excuses for it. Which one do you think is more likely to continue that cycle of abuse when it comes time to father their own children?
It’s hard to imagine how a good father could bring up a woman like Big Red. It’s much safer for her to blame men as an abstract than blame her own father. And in blaming men as a whole for patriarchy and oppression of women, this rule that men are assholes gets universalized.
In her misdirection, she has to deny reality, and the degree to which she does that is the degree to which she has blinded herself. She cannot see asshole-ishness directly and can become an asshole herself without realizing it.
A friend of mine came up with a slogan for feminism which I think is great, and captures Big Red perfectly. That is, “Feminism: eliminating sexism through sexism”.
My own mother is not particularly deep, or principled, and she had a number of serious character flaws I couldn’t help but notice growing up as her son. I observed her closely and as I was becoming a man, I noticed how unhappy she had been in all of her relationships. She had friends who were similar, and my sisters shared some of the same qualities, so my model of what I could expect from a love relationship was not something I really looked forward to. Instead of limiting my perspective to my own mother and other women in my life, I thought that women generally were opportunistic, shallow, unnappreciative of good men and entitled. I didn’t want to get involved with any women like that.
But I also, unfortunately, had such a strong surge of hormones in puberty that I was practically convulsing and humping the air at times. My thoughts were consumed with sex, so I was in a pretty awful conflict with myself. I would flirt with girls in my school, but I was never interested in them beyond their physical appearances. In my own blindness, I wasn’t really aware that women could have depth.
I realized years later that this lack of awareness actually served a purpose. I didn’t respect my mother, but even still, I didn’t really hold much against her, and more than that I felt sympathy for her, because I figured that she was just a mere mortal female afflicted with the same fate all women must share. Instead of holding her responsible for her incredible irresponsibility and even immorality at times, I felt at most, disappointment and despair.
If I had not become aware of the lack of responsibility I was assigning her, and the fatalism in the beliefs I held about women, I almost certainly would have ended up dating and getting married to a woman just like my mother. I’m happy to say that now, the idea completely repulses me.
I always hedge in the direction of adding more responsibility rather than less. I think as a general rule, as it has been true for me in the past: people slide way too easily into rationalizing their own behavior (or others) by suggesting a lack of control, where the reality is not so simple.
I try and hold myself responsible for anything I have control over, and it has forced me to be a lot more honest with myself. I’ve known people to portray themselves as lacking control in an attempt to avoid responsibility, and the most intimate knowledge I have of this involves my own mother, who, in my own family mythology, is a dainty little dandelion blowing in the wind, with no agency, no control over the circumstances of the lives of her young children. She could literally get away with murder.
There are certain segments of the men’s movement who portray women in the same light my mother portrayed herself, and so when I hear that, alarm bells go off in my head on the scale of the Mormon Tabernacle Organ.
I try and hold women as accountable as I would any man. This has made things occasionally very awkward for me. I’ve been portrayed as hating women and called nasty names for it. And I can certainly understand the appeal of thinking that women are all entitled and shallow and expecting that from women, rather than calling women out in your own life who are entitled and shallow, and challenging them to act like rational adults, the way we would treat men.
In my experience, women are not used to being treated like men in terms of criticism. I suspect that the stark contrast between my criticisms and the cowardly and deafening silence of other people, is taken as me being an asshole, and I fucking hate that. I absolutely hate that so few people are willing to criticize women when it is warranted. And the more that fatalistic depictions of “female nature” serve to prevent men from doing that, the more I resent these sentiments.
Who are they really serving?