December 11, 2012
In the discussions on the question of anti-imperialism versus the necessity of intervention in the wake of the ‘War on Terror’, the gender dimension has been a much undertheorized one. While I am by no means a scholar of gender studies and barely qualified to speak at length on the topic, it has struck me that in the political dynamic around the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan this dynamic presents itself at least in part in the form of a politics of masculinity. This is true, it seems to me, of many of the major participants in the political and military conflict regardless of which ‘side’ they were on, and with an underlying drive not as dissimilar as has often been suggested. I can do no more than to vaguely sketch out my impression of this politics of masculinity, in the hope that some greater specialist can perhaps correct or elaborate upon this hunch. Nonetheless, I think it is a point worth making, because the interaction between gender and the ideology of politics is a potent one and has been throughout history, and it may serve to deflate somewhat the arrogance and pretensions of the different parties concerned with regard to their own significance and motives. Read the rest of this entry »
April 1, 2011
Reading Cordelia Fine’s most excellent work of popular neuroscience, Delusions of Gender, reminds me once again of the importance of opposing the reactionary scientism that has taken hold in increasingly large sections of the population.(1) This way of thinking manifests itself in a revival of many old stereotypes, clichés and damaging rigidities of cultural and social roles that once seemed on the verge of eradication, but are now back in vogue. What has given them a new lease on life is the supposed support they have in intuitive appeals to scientific knowledge and the bamboozling use of neurology, sophisticated statistical testing, and social psychology in order to underpin them. In the New Left period of Western politics it was seen as obvious that we would soon not only do away with racist and sexist structures and beliefs in our society, but overcome gender and race as parts of our conceptual apparatus altogether. Now very few indeed seem still to be interested in such a proposition of politics or even to deem it feasible. This is because the great counterrevolution in the West from the 1980s to now has been accompanied not only by a new pseudoscientific orthodoxy in economics and statecraft, but also in ideas about cultural norms and roles. ‘Scientific racism’, once seemingly utterly banished, is now making a creeping revival, and ‘scientific’ sexism is sold everywhere in mass market paperbacks. Few on the left, even in the radical parties and groups, make any real attempt at countering this or even providing a serious analysis of the arguments at hand. Instead, the focus is all too often on the outward sexist appearances of certain religious or cultural practices. This is justified enough of itself, but we must win the battle on all fronts, and that includes dispelling certain important ‘intuitions’ many people, even the middle class intelligentsia, now (again) have about gender and race. Read the rest of this entry »
September 17, 2009
Recently some controversy has erupted around the person of Caster Semenya, a very succesful athlete from South Africa who has broken world records and was poised to compete in the 800 meter finals in Berlin when doubts were raised about her sex, and thereby her eligibility to compete in the female olympics. There are conflicting and uncertain sources as to the results of the subsequent tests for sex, but it looks like there may be a case of hermaphroditism or pseudo-hermaphroditism involved. In this case, the person has high testosterone levels and a Y chromosome, yet has developed as a woman, possibly due to insensitivity to testosterone in the phase of physical development.(1) This would make her a ‘genetic male’, yet for all social purposes a female (female-gendered), for which the term ‘intersexed’ could be used (but need not necessarily).
Of course, there is some argument about her eligibility, not in the last place because of her excellent performance so far – she won the gold medal in the aforementioned Berlin race. Read the rest of this entry »