A question about social constructionism

Commenter Generalheinz57 asked a question this week and I always answer a question if it’s sincerely asked. I thought I’d write the answer as a post because I tend to be long-winded.

you talk a lot about gender roles, and unless I am misunderstanding your position, you seem to be of the opinion that they are almost completely, if not 100%, patterns of learned behavior. women are submissive, timid, fragile, nurturing, sensitive, empathetic, while men are domineering, gregarious, combative, independent, courageous, assertive. my question is, if you are willing to believe that there is an innate basis for MBTI personality types, and that you have to heed your nature in order to care for yourself, why do you believe that so-called “gender roles” are simply socially constructed, toxic for both sexes, and that they should and must be shed? do you think there is no value to the idea of balance between the sexes, in a yin-yang sort of way? do you not think that rather than shedding the roles entirely, there are healthy ways of embodying both sets of traits, and that it is okay for men to find feminine women desirable, or women to find masculine men desirable?

As regular readers are aware, my views have shifted a lot over the last few years. Some of my views have adjusted a bit and one of them (political lesbianism) did a complete 180. The topic of social constructionism is something I’ve shifted on.

I see a continuum between social constructionism and biological determinism where many feminists are pretty far to the side of social constructionism and many conservatives are pretty far to the side of biological determinism, although there are lots of exceptions and nuances. Feminists tend to believe that gendered behaviours are socially constructed and if we construct a different society, we can construct different behaviours. However there are a lot of different versions of feminism out there and there are some feminists who are biological determinists. Those are the “men are inherently evil” variety and from what I’ve observed they’re fairly rare. Generally it’s understood among our movement that people can change, and we don’t have to embody stereotypes and male violence can be solved by raising boys differently and holding criminals accountable for their behaviour. Feminists will sometimes point out that if we did believe that men were inherently evil, there would be no need for feminism at all because there would be no hope of changing anything.

I would say that around 5 years ago I was pretty far on the side of social constructionism, and I’ve been steadily drifting away from it. However, I’m not going to drift all the way to being 100% biological determinist either—surely both nature and nurture are factors in our behaviour, and nobody is unaffected by either force.

Where this leaves me in terms of gender roles is that I do think women tend to be more nurturing and more emotional, and men tend to be more aggressive and violent, due to the effects of estrogen and testosterone on our bodies and minds. After having listened to trans men talking about how they change going on and off testosterone injections, it’s hard to deny that a person with more testosterone in their body cries less often, feels more anger, and has a higher sex drive.

This doesn’t mean I’m giving up on feminism though. I don’t believe that men are hopelessly violent with no possibility of reform. I think they are competent people able to control themselves and behave properly. And I don’t think women are too emotional to be in positions of power. We may cry more often, but that doesn’t mean we can’t use our brains. We certainly can. There are some people who would probably want to burn me at the stake for saying there is a biological basis for masculine and feminine behaviours, but I think there is. I think we can acknowledge that while still calling for a culture that is less misogynistic and that doesn’t constantly promote stereotypes about men and women, to the benefit of us all.

This might sound contradictory because I always say that masculine and feminine behaviours are complete bullshit. When I come across as contradictory I’m always willing to examine what I’m saying to try to make it more clear.

There is a tendency in popular culture to present people as very one-dimensional and stereotyped, and we are actually a lot more complex than the way pop culture presents us. For example, it is probably true that women purchase more chocolate than men do. That’s fine and I don’t need to pretend that difference doesn’t exist. However, if you look at a TV commercial, women are senseless chocolate-obsessed animals who will run in front of a truck trying to get their hands on some chocolate. This is a silly example, but I think you can see what I mean about the difference between (a) a real-life difference that exists between the sexes and (2) that difference turned into a ridiculous spectacle by pop culture.

I don’t have a problem acknowledging a statistically proven difference between men and women, but what really makes me angry is when people expect others to behave just like the over-the-top stereotypes that pop culture sells to us.

If masculine and feminine behaviours are biologically determined, that may appear to justify trans people’s claim that they have the mind of the opposite sex based on the fact that their natural personality reflects the usual gendered behaviour of that sex. But I’m not buying that line of thinking, because there are always exceptions—there are men with “feminine” traits and women with “masculine” traits and this is because humans are all unique. Just because a person is an exception to a rule doesn’t mean they are literally a member of the opposite sex.

If I was born with a personality called “INFJ,” then yes, that does mean I believe other people are also born with personalities. They might be born with certain traits that are classifiable as masculine or feminine, and they might be born with tendencies to be violent, and they might be born with tendencies to develop dysphoria, and any number of other things.

When someone describes what INFJs are like, they are definitely generalizing about a large group of people. Stereotypes can definitely emerge. Sometimes when I see a narrative posted online about how an INFJ would behave in a certain situation I identify with the overall message but disagree with specific details. We are all, of course, individuals. I’d say about 95% of what I’ve read about INFJs deeply resonates with me, and that’s enough to make me unlikely to worry about a few details I don’t identify with.

I hope that answers your question, and if anything is still unclear, feel free to ask.

I’m going to throw in one more subject I’ve been shifting on lately, just for the fun of it. It’s regarding the subject of how much blame should be given to structural and external problems versus our own attitudes and behaviours in creating our personal life problems. I used to be really far over to the side of blaming structural problems, such that I’d be full of rage when anyone suggested that a change in attitude and behaviour might help a person. My blood would boil and I’d shout that there’s no way that the way a person thinks has any effect on what bad things happen to them in life. Bad circumstances surely are born from the physical world around us and are not created by our thoughts! Ridiculous!

I think that’s partly because people are not sufficiently nuanced for my taste when they talk about this. It’s pretty easy to scoff and dismiss someone who says that the physical world is literally created by our thoughts. Because the physical world is literally not created by our thoughts. But if these people would stop being so simplistic about it and say something like “If you keep expecting bad things to happen you’ll be super sensitive to anything that can be perceived as bad and you’ll feel as though bad things are always happening” then I would be able to buy into that.

With a bit more life experience, I’ve come to see that some people react to bad experiences and circumstances by milking them for all the suffering they can get, rather than trying to rise above it and overcome. And I’ve come to see that I can heal myself and gain a better quality of life by changing my limiting and negative beliefs. I’ve actually started doing some new-age healing methods that I would have dismissed as ridiculous bullshit not too long ago. However, they are working.

Well, since I’ve already wandered down a tangent into the topic of “other things I’ve been thinking about lately,” here’s something that’ll feel kinda random to leave you with. I’ve been researching how people lived in historical times, and it’s been giving me amazing perspective on life today. For example, I watched some YouTube videos of people making soap out of ashes and animal lard. Our ancestors had to collect ashes from many fires, mix them with water, boil them, strain them, mix them with exactly the right proportion of animal fat from animals they had to hunt and kill themselves, stand at the pot stirring for hours, and then end up with a finished product of one bar of soap, which they then had to use to wash with. These days we just buy detergent at the store, pour it into the dishwasher, and press one button. Voilà! Instant clean dishes. This just shows you so much about why people are the way they are these days. People have become much less resourceful and brave and strong, and they’ve become much more entitled, lazy and spoiled.

I don’t know if I’ll ever manage to write a historical novel, and maybe I won’t, but the journey so far has been so rewarding. I’m fascinated by human behaviour and learning about the past is really quenching my thirst for cultural analysis.

I have even more disdain for people who think “misgendering is violence” these days. These overprivileged college kids sit in their ivory towers with all their modern conveniences and cry oppression over nothing, when their ancestors experienced more hardship every day before breakfast than they’ll ever experience in their whole lives. What a disgrace!

Well, thanks for the question GeneralHeinz, and sorry about the long tangent!

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Merry Christmas, friends!

Hello! Here is an actual post! This is a little Christmas present for any of you who still might be lurking on WordPress even though most of the feminists have been kicked off.

For a personal update, over the last few months I actually haven’t been working on fiction as I was supposed to be doing. Instead, I was taking care of a lot of tough stuff in my personal life. After making some massive changes, I am now living in a new location, working at a new job, and newly single. I’ve matured a lot this year and I’m much more aware of my boundaries, more aware of my needs and limitations and more likely to give myself what I need in life. It hasn’t escaped my notice that I’ve also developed some new lines around the corners of my eyes. Hopefully they make me look “distinguished,” as they say.

My latest research obsession is the Myers-Briggs personality types. I started reading more about my type, INFJ, and it’s been making so much sense, and it’s been so validating to actually see my whole self intricately and accurately described by other people. Because of my personality type, I am easily over-stimulated by noise, chaos, and people, and I need a lot of quiet alone time, and if I don’t get this, I literally lose my shit and can’t function. Instead of thinking there’s something wrong with me, which is what I’ve always done, now I know that I’m just wired this way and I have a right and a responsibility to organize my life in a way that gives me the environment I need, so that I’m not continuously losing my shit. I’m in a much healthier state now, and I no longer feel like I need to be medicated.

So, let’s talk Complaints about Christmas. I’ve made peace with the dumb political comments my extended family makes when we all get together—I’ve perfected the strategy of suddenly having something important to do in another room whenever someone brings up fun topics like how great a job conservative politicians are doing at “improving” our country by taking more money away from poor people, or how minority races are weird and scary, or how sexism is fun and hilarious. Yeah, I can deal with that now because I’ve made my views clear and I’m no longer interested in putting my energy into being angry and yelling. But this year brought with it a brand new nuisance—people who have dumb, ugly opinions on the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” No one particularly cared about the song before, and would have never even noticed had the song not played for a year, but now that people have pointed out the obvious problem that the man in the song continues pestering the woman even after she clearly says “the answer is no,” and that this very closely resembles a lot of the sexual assaults that women endure in real life, now suddenly this particular song is of supreme importance to everybody’s holiday celebrations and must be preserved at any cost, despite the literally hundreds of other Christmas songs available. Not only that, but people have inexplicably decided that feminists are only concerned about this particular Christmas song and that we aren’t concerned about the myriad of much worse problems that women are facing, and they gleefully mock women for not having identified the actually serious problems. But if people had ever listened to anything that feminists had ever said before, they would know that in fact we are much more worried about the bigger problems facing women, such as pornography, prostitution, wife battering, child molestation, poverty, racism, etc, than we are about a Christmas song. Banning a song that sounds pretty rapey is just a small, achievable goal that we can make on the way to creating a culture that values women, which is an extremely large, long-term project. Duh! The lyrics to that song have always made me cringe, but now I cringe doubly when I hear it because I’m bracing myself for the really fucking dumb and ignorant comments I’m about to hear about the banning and subsequent unbanning of this song on the radio in Canada. Barf!

Thank goodness for the presence of smart, confident, well-spoken, brave, and fierce feminists in the world who keep me sane. Did you see Meghan Murphy’s new YouTube channel? Best Christmas present ever!

Now to the second order of business. Or is this the third? I’m not really keeping track. Here’s a heterosexual couple who was not really feeling the compulsory traditional gender roles that most of us are understandably not comfortable with, and therefore concluded that they are a “lesbian” couple. Now, I do enjoy the idea that the word “lesbian” is synonymous with “defying gender roles” in these people’s minds, because lesbians are definitely hella awesome and gender-defiant, but no, a heterosexual couple doesn’t become “lesbian” just because they do a few superficial things that straight couples don’t normally do. This is yet another case of the word “lesbian” being appropriated as meaning anything that men/straight people want it to mean.

For those of you who aren’t going to click on the article, let me summarize: a boy and a girl fell in love during their late teenage years, and were happy together except for “an unnamable discontent” resulting from feeling “pushed to fill roles neither of us had any interest in playing.” These roles are then described more specifically as “the cis-het (or, cisgender, heterosexual-centric) culture into which we had been immersed.”

Of course! No one likes being forced to act out a stereotype instead of being themselves. Totally legit stuff. But is their solution to ignore traditional sex stereotypes and be the people and the happy couple they want to be, in their own way? NO! Their solution is to consider the man in the couple to be really a “woman,” because that’s the only way he could possibly get out of playing the masculine role in a relationship. God forbid a man refuse the masculine role and still call himself a man.

After he made his announcement that he was really a “woman,” their intimacy deepened because he was able to solidify his identity as a woman with his partner by doing fun things together like hair, makeup and nails.

Even the woman in the relationship, who had previously identified as straight, suddenly realized she was a “lesbian.” Both of them found much comfort in their newfound “lesbian” identities. He claims:

“For my girlfriend and me, our lesbian identities have given us both personal freedom and blissful security in our relationship that once felt impossible. I like to think that we challenge each other to be better women, and I know that my transition has facilitated personal and relational growth for both of us.”

Unlike heterosexuals, who feel they gain “freedom and bliss” from identifying as homosexuals, actual homosexuals face everything from mildly uncomfortable interactions with straight people to physical violence and murder, as a result of people hating their same-sex attraction. Said violence can sometimes occur even without the homosexual in question actually declaring their identity out loud. Because the discrimination is not resulting from a person’s self-declared identity, it’s about the actual same-sex attraction itself. The couple in this article have not reported ever having experienced same-sex attraction.

I wonder, if you did a survey of all the actual female homosexuals in the world, would any of them describe being a homosexual as “freedom and bliss”? I mean, the love and sex are blissful, but the awkward “coming-out” conversations, the hate from self-righteous religious people, the debates over whether or not we should have basic civil rights, the laws banning our relationships, all of this is kinda limiting the amount of “freedom and bliss” we get to experience.

Trans activists literally can’t speak without throwing in a few strawman arguments, and the chosen strawman in this article is that “It is an act of tremendous resilience to assert a trans identity in a world that tells trans people we do not and cannot exist.”

I’ve been studying this issue for years, and I’ve never come across anyone who is arguing that people who identify as “trans” literally don’t exist. For sure if you find an article online somewhere where someone is arguing that the trans-identified people who exist in the world literally are a figment of our imaginations and aren’t actually there, please send it my way so I can laugh at it, but I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for it.

Nobody is arguing that trans people don’t exist or that they shouldn’t have rights. We’re only saying that biological sex is real, words have meanings, and homosexuality is a sexual orientation based on attraction to the same sex. Further, although conservatives are in favour of enforcing masculinity on men and femininity on women, feminists who challenge the assertions of the transactivist community are actually in favor of gender nonconformity. We actually want heterosexuals to experiment with different roles and cast off traditional expectations. We want people to be true to themselves and dress how they want. We’re just saying that when male-bodied humans put on nail polish, their male bodies still continue to exist and continue to be significant in a world that treats males and females differently.

Although I’m considered a “bigot” for saying it, I think the man in this couple should feel free to do his hair, makeup and nails, and should go ahead and enjoy himself while doing that, without giving a shit about other people’s sexist expectations. I just don’t think he needs to rewrite the entirety of his identity, claim to have physical biology he doesn’t actually have, or make body modifications in order to justify his doing so.  Horrible of me, I know!

Well, that felt good. You know, blogging is a very good outlet for INFJs.

So friends, what have you been up to? Got any Christmas Complaints this year? Heard any particularly gruesome opinions about Baby It’s Cold Outside? Leave them in the comments below! I miss y’all.

Petition in support of Meghan Murphy

Hello friends,

I’m just dropping in to say there’s a petition going around to support Meghan Murphy who was banned from Twitter. You can sign it here.

In a relatively short time, several gender critical feminist blogs were removed from WordPress and Meghan Murphy was banned from Twitter. We need to do what we can to support our sisters. Please sign and share!

Thanks,

Purple.

WordPress censors GenderTrender. Gallus Mag responds

The removal of Gender Trender is a targeted silencing of lesbian feminist journalism. Shame!

4thWaveNow

4thWaveNow reached out to Gallus Mag of GenderTrender after WordPress dumped the site yesterday. In her most recent post, Gallus Mag  broke the full story of a Canadian MTF trans activist who has launched “human rights” complaints against a group of women’s salon workers who were unwilling to touch and wax male genitalia. GallusMag revealed other details about the activist’s prior social media activities, some of which pertained to underage girls.

GenderTrender’s importance as a groundbreaking investigative reporting outlet covering the excesses of transgender activism cannot be overestimated. The site has also served as an incubator and launching pad for many other bloggers and writers; 4thWaveNow’s founder counts herself among them. The loss of GenderTrender is a huge blow. It is also the latest casualty in a growing clash between–on one side, a loose coalition of feminists, parents, gay and lesbian people, detransitioners, free speech advocates, and many supporters; and…

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Anxiety and depression

I’m a person who struggles with anxiety and depression. I wasn’t born depressed, but I definitely have a tendency to develop depression as a part of my personality. I remember being 13 and feeling a “dark thing” enter me and it left me in shadow most of the time ever after.

Anxiety and depression limit what I do in life. There are some normal activities I steer clear of because they cause me too much anxiety, and I could probably be capable of having a higher-level career if I was able to handle anxiety better. Sometimes I find myself wanting to do something but unable to do it because I am paralyzed with a sort of dark heaviness that drains my energy beyond reason.

The dark heaviness is often coming from life circumstances and although it might look like a chemical imbalance if someone were to scan my brain, I don’t think it’s an inborn trait. I have a sense of weariness that comes from the frustration of identifying problems every day that I want to solve that I can’t solve, and knowing that each day will bring new problems, many of which I still will not be able to solve. I have a sense of hopelessness from knowing that the world I live in is totally wrong and yet the task of fixing it is unfathomably large and hardly anyone around me is willing to even look at what the problem is. I am very emotionally sensitive and sometimes when I’m feeling tired, frustrated and hopeless it causes additional effects like trouble concentrating, feeling “spaced out” and forgetful. When I’m in this state, tired and spaced out, I make stupid mistakes, and then I get more frustrated, which causes a snowball effect where I keep feeling worse and worse until I just want to escape from my life. All these factors are a part of the Dark Thing.

I have found cognitive behavioural therapy very useful, and I took medication for a few years. I am not on medication now, but sometimes I’m on the verge of needing to go back on it because I’m not doing well.

There are a few reasons why I don’t want to be medicated. I have a belief that medicating depression just covers up the problem without solving it. I hate the pharmaceutical industry and I don’t want to give them any money. I hate drugs and don’t want them in my body. I’m scared of side effects–both known and unknown. I’ve been on medication before and I know that it numbs me—I feel less anxiety and depression, which is good, but I also feel less joy. I am capable of feeling joy sometimes, and I want to keep that capacity. I also know that anti-depressants kill my sex drive, and since sex is one of my favourite things in life, I don’t want to lose that. It’s a contradiction to give up one of the few things you enjoy in order to feel better. It’s just trading one problem for another problem of equal magnitude. Not worth it.

My official plan is to manage my mental health by meditating. I know that meditating helps me a lot, because I’ve done it before and it has helped me a lot. It helps me by relaxing me, which makes it easier to sleep, easier to think clearly, and easier to deal with problems. This prevents the Dark Thing from building up too much. Sitting quietly and listening to my body also means that I acknowledge feelings I’m having that want to be acknowledged, which means that when they feel heard they can finally let go, and I feel better. If I don’t listen to my feelings then they build up until I can’t ignore them, and at that point I’m usually not even a functioning human being anymore.

I don’t necessarily follow my official plan though. I don’t do meditation very often even though I know I need it. It’s hard to explain why this is, but my best guess is that it’s exhausting to process emotions and our default habit as humans is to find distractions in order to avoid them. I also have an underlying attitude that it’s silly or frivolous to just sit and listen to my body for a while. This is an attitude I need to let go of. It’s not silly or frivolous to take care of yourself, and emotional care is as important as any other kind of care.

Sometimes I have a really bad time, where I either cease to function entirely and just sit still feeling paralyzed, or when I lose it and start sobbing. In these moments I face the fact that I either have to start meditating or I have to take antidepressants again. It’s one or the other, I don’t get to choose neither. And yet old habits are hard to shake. I’m still at an impasse where I haven’t done much of anything and I’m letting myself just be a mess.

Just this month I did finally sit quietly and listen to my body again, and I was amazed that I got all sorts of insights and clarity in a short time. I also felt more relaxed. I know that the brain gets into habits with emotions, and when the brain is in the habit of feeling anxiety it jumps right to that feeling all the time and stays there. I know that retraining the brain to feel something else is a process that requires a change of habits and a practice over time. I know I can do this is if I stick to it. I should do this regularly, not just when I’m in a crisis, because that’s how you prevent a crisis.

Even though I don’t like taking medication, I did for a while because I wasn’t going to be able to get through my life otherwise. I went off it a few years later when I got more stable.

Even though I don’t like taking medication, I wouldn’t try to stop someone else from taking it. We all get to make our own decisions about how we take care of ourselves, and we all respond differently to medication—some people might like it better than I do.

Some people might look at my situation and think I’m absolutely crazy for not being on medication. I clearly am losing out on some things in life because I have mental illness that is untreated. This is where values and priorities come in. I value the feelings of joy that I feel really strongly when I’m unmedicated and I value having a sex drive. Feeling sexual desire is actually one of my sources of energy. I have a right as a human being to feel joy and to feel sexual desire and to be energized by that. I have the right not to have that numbed. If I had less anxiety I might be able to move into higher positions at work, but I don’t think this is something I need. I don’t have much money, but I also don’t think money is that important.

I don’t think children and youth should be medicated, because there is a risk of side effects, one of them being increased suicidal feelings, which is a very big deal. I think young people need to learn how to manage their emotions and they shouldn’t be encouraged to see drugs as a solution to problems, because that’s the wrong approach. Medicating a person numbs them to emotions, good and bad. When you medicate a young person, they might lose the opportunity to learn to experience joy as well as pain.

If there was a large lobby group insisting that everyone with depression necessarily had to take pills, and that was trying to cover up other ways to deal with depression, and that was calling people “bigots” for managing depression in ways other than medication, then I’d be really pissed. This would limit the choices available to people for how to take care of themselves, and it would steer everyone toward the method that generates money for capitalism instead of the method that connects us to our humanity. If there was such a lobby group, I’d call them a part of capitalism and I’d say they didn’t care much about depressed people.

Feeling the emotional impact of the shitty world humans have created is a part of the human experience, and we can decide that it’s a reason to make things better, or we can decide to blame ourselves for being defective and just numb ourselves to it. Some people might have to numb themselves because they have no other choice, they can’t manage otherwise. I’m not trying to judge those people, I know it’s rough. I have been there. But anyone who can should fight for a better world so that people don’t have to feel this way in the first place.

You have probably guessed by now why I decided to write this post—because my attitude toward anxiety and depression is the same as my attitude toward gender dysphoria. I think our natural feelings are a part of who we are and can be managed, and I think that being born with a tendency to feel uncomfortable doesn’t necessarily mean we have to use medical interventions. This is my attitude toward mental illness, including my own.

Male art that dehumanises women vs. female art that illuminates the reality of sexual violence and female objectification

Nordic Model Now!

Rae Story reflects on how when male artists create works that dehumanise women it is taken to be a comment on society as a whole, while women’s resulting brutalisation, isolation and objectification is seen as little more than a sideshow. She compares this with the powerful art of Suzzan Blac who mines her own traumatic memories of abuse and prostitution to create a blistering commentary on pornographic, female objectification and paedophile culture.

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