Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Chapter 3: Sex distinctions

What is it that liberalism doesn't allow?

In a liberal society, autonomy is the highest good. To be autonomous means to be self-determining. This means that whatever is predetermined is held to be a negative limitation on the individual.

The fact of being a man or a woman is predetermined. It's not something we get to choose for ourselves. Therefore it is part of the liberal project to make distinctions between men and women not matter.

If you read through liberal commentary on the issue of sex distinctions you find certain recurring themes, all of them flowing logically and predictably from the underlying premises of liberalism:

  • Since liberals want to be self-determined, and sex distinctions are predetermined, liberals will often describe masculinity and femininity as restrictions on the individual. They use terms like fetter, prison and straitjacket to describe masculinity and femininity.
  • Liberals assume that we are made human by our capacity to self-determine. Therefore, there are liberals who believe that by dropping the idea of being men or women we finally get to be human beings.
  • Liberals want to be self-determined, so they particularly resent the predetermined biological fact of being male or female. Liberals are especially resentful of the link between being female and motherhood as this is held to be an unchosen biological destiny.
  • Liberals want to be able to transcend being male or female. Therefore, liberals often describe masculinity and femininity as being artificial social constructs, as this means they are categories that can be deconstructed. Liberals usually reject the idea that masculinity and femininity are natural, or that there are masculine and feminine essences or ideals.
  • Liberals want to be able to self-define. If there is only a binary choice between being male or female, the opportunity to self-define is limited. Therefore, liberals reject the idea of a binary, in favour of the idea that there are multiple and fluid sex identities.
  • If the aim is to self-determine, and sex distinctions are predetermined, then abolishing differences between men and women will be thought of as a liberation from outmoded prejudices and injustices. Liberals therefore believe there is a moral purpose in abolishing masculinity and femininity; it is looked on by some as a path to salvation.

How do liberals themselves formulate these themes? Let's begin with Susan Moller Okin, a professor of ethics at Stanford University, who once wrote:

A just future would be one without gender. In its social structures and practices, one's sex would have no more relevance than one's eye color or the length of one's toes. [1]

According to American scholar Carolyn Heilbrun,

our future salvation lies in a movement away from sexual polarization and the prison of gender toward a world in which individual roles and modes of personal behavior can be freely chosen. [2]

Ann Snitow recalls being asked what motivated her political activism:

An academic woman sympathetic to the movement but not active asked what motivated me to spend all this time organizing, marching, meeting.

I tried to explain the excitement I felt at the idea that I didn't have to be a woman ... It was the idea of breaking the law of the category itself that made me delirious. [3]

A professor of journalism, Robert Jensen, warns us that,

We need to get rid of the whole idea of masculinity … Of course, if we are going to jettison masculinity, we have to scrap femininity along with it … For those of us who are biologically male, we have a simple choice: We men can settle for being men, or we can strive to be human beings. [4]

A liberal writer, David Fiore, explains that,

Any time a human being chooses to describe themselves as anything but a "human being", liberalism has been thwarted.

... The liberal subject is always merely that - he or she can have no group affiliation, no "sexual orientation", no gender in fact! [5]

It is Olga Silverstein’s considered view that,

until we are willing to question the very idea of a male sex role ... we will be denying both men and women their full humanity. [6]

In 2008, a European Union committee urged that ads showing women as mothers or men as builders be outlawed as such a portrayal of gender,

straitjackets women, men, girls and boys by restricting individuals to predetermined and artificial roles... [7]

In 2007, two new publishing houses for children’s books set up in Sweden. They are both committed to a liberal policy:

Vilda and another small publisher, Olika, both opened their doors last year with the express aim of making children's books that promote liberal values and challenge traditional views on gender.

“Our goal is for all people, regardless of gender, sexuality, ethnicity or other such things, to have the freedom to create their own identities ..." said Karin Salmson, the co-founder of the new Vilda publishing house.

Vilda has therefore introduced a so-called "hug label", guaranteeing that its books ... contain no details "based on prejudice or traditional gender roles that rein in individual freedom".

Olika's co-founder Marie Tomicic also says her publishing house aims to "break down traditional gender roles and offer children broader role models, allowing them to be all they can be."

Together the two small publishers have so far only released about a dozen titles, including a book about a boy who wears pink sandals. [8]

More simply, Gloria Steinem has complained about,

the false division of human nature into the "feminine" and "masculine" [9]

The Australian social commentator Hugh Mackay has called for a national holiday to celebrate those who,

were prepared to fight a culture war that has radically refocused our understanding of the supremacy of personhood over gender [10]

In 1972 a children’s songbook was released called Free to be … You and Me. It sold over 500,000 copies. Judith Stadtman Tucker has summarised its political message:

its principal strategy is portraying traditional gender roles as limiting, hurtful and old-fashioned ... the creators of F2BY&M seem intent on ... imparting the value of female autonomy ... the first step to freedom and self-respect for girls is to do the same things that boys do...

The record itself included these notes written by a child development expert:

By raising doubts about traditional restrictive models for men and women alike, the record opens up for children the happy vista that all individuals, male or female, are people above all.

One of the songs, Girl Land, celebrates the future demise of a distinct girlhood:

They're closing down 'Girl Land'
Some say it's a shame
It used to be busy
Then nobody came

... And soon in the park
That was 'Girl Land' before
You'll do as you like
And be who you are.

Another song put the liberal idea of what makes us human this way:

A person should wear what he wants to wear
And not just what other folks say
A person should do what she likes to
A person's a person that way [11]

The Russian political activist Alexandra Kollontai told readers of her autobiography that as a young girl in the late 1800s she already knew,

That I ought not to shape my life according to the given model ... I could help my sisters shape their lives, in accordance not with the given traditions but with their own free choice ... I wanted to be free. I wanted to express desires on my own, to shape my own little life. [12]

Kollontai was a supporter of the “new woman” of the early twentieth century who was “independent inwardly and self-reliant outwardly”. She described the modern woman as having “broken the rusted fetter of her sex” to become “a human being”. In public lectures she wished that women were less physically distinct:

[Kollontai] longs for the female body itself to become less soft and curvy and more muscular ... She argues that prehistoric women were physiologically less distinct from men... [13]

In 2005 an officer of the Melbourne University Student Union argued that separate toilets for men and women should be replaced by “pan-toilets” to cater for “all gender possibilities”. He explained that,

Part of our intention is to break down the belief that there is just man and woman. Ideally we'd like to see a world where there are so many gender expressions that you just don't see there being man and woman any more. [14]

Australian academic Dr Michael Flood is another liberal who believes that we should not,

take as given the categories of "men" and "women". The binaries of male and female are socially produced ... [15]

A Swedish minister, Jens Orback, once declared it to be the official policy of his government that sex distinctions were not natural but were social constructs:

The government considers female and male as social constructions, that means gender patterns are created by upbringing, culture, economic conditions, power structures and political ideologies. [16]

An official of the Swedish state, Monica Silvell, has confirmed that as a result of the “sex role debate” it was no longer thought that there were natural sex distinctions:

The old view of men and women complementing one another was replaced by the notion that the sexes were basically similar. [17]

Laurie Penny, a young English political activist, believes that “liberated women” have successfully reacted “against the artificial prison of Western womanhood”. She complains, though, that our culture has been “achingly slow to even begin to let go of the archetype of masculinity”, so that men haven’t grown up to learn how to be “whole human beings”. She urges that,

we cannot allow ourselves to think in binaries - men and women, boys and girls ...

So I have this dream ... one that recognises that it is not only about liberating biological women from the constraints and indignities associated with their sex, but about liberating all human people from the cruelties and limitations imposed on them by their gender...

She sets herself against a “gender prejudice” in which things are “pre-ordained” and considers as her ally in the struggle against sex distinctions “every person trying to live their life as a complete human being”. [18]

The French writer Simone de Beauvoir thought that pregnancy compromised a woman's autonomy, by tying women to a biological role and to her children:

She regains some autonomy after the birth of her offspring – a certain distance is established between her and them [her children]...

At times when she is free from maternal servitude she can now and then equal the male

In the species capable of high individual development, the urge of the male towards autonomy – which in lower animals is his ruin – is crowned with success ... he leads a more independent life...

De Beauvoir welcomed menopause as liberating women from being female:

Woman is now delivered from the servitude imposed by her female nature ... she is herself, she and her body are one. It is sometimes said that women of a certain age constitute ‘a third sex’; and, in truth, while they are not males, they are no longer females. Often, indeed, this release from female physiology is expressed in a health, a balance, a vigour that they lacked before. [19]

Anne Fausto Sterling believes that it is merely a "cultural conceit" to think that there are two sexes and she views labelling children as boys or girls as a "social decision":

A tenured professor at Brown University recently published a book in which she claims that the division of the human race into two sexes, female and male, is an artificial invention of our culture. "Nature really offers us more than two sexes," she claims, adding, "Our current notions of masculinity and femininity are cultural conceits." The decision to "label" a child as a girl or a boy is "a social decision," according to this expert. We should not label any child as being either a girl or a boy, this professor proclaimed. "There is no either/or. Rather, there are shades of difference." [20]

And how does Professor Judith Butler explain the existence of sex distinctions? She believes that they are made up, "performed":

... gender is a performance ... Because there is neither an “essence” that gender expresses or externalizes nor an objective ideal to which gender aspires; because gender is not a fact, the various acts of gender create the idea of gender, and without those acts, there would be no gender at all. Gender is, thus, a construction... [21]

Finally, there is the example of the Men's Manifesto put out by the German Green Party. Jan Philipp Albrecht, a Green MP for the EU, introduced the manifesto with this complaint:

Equal rights in the year 2010? We men see that our society is still pervaded by a deep seated spirit of sexual polarity which reduces women to femininity and men to masculinity. We have to finally put a stop to it. We no longer want to have to be macho, we want to be people! ...

You aren't born a man, you are turned into one ... Sex roles for men are also a corset, that does them more harm than good ... [22]

In this last brief quote, most of the liberal bases have been covered. Being a man, we are told, is a social construct (something that we are turned into); masculinity is a restriction (a corset) that does us harm; the sex binary (or polarity) which limits us to the choice of male or female is false; and instead of being men we should aim to be human.

The blunt, liberal conclusion: we have to put a stop to sex distinctions.

In defence of sex distinctions

So liberals have set themselves against sex distinctions. What happens, though, if you disagree with this view?

Liberalism has been such an orthodoxy in the West, that the positions taken by liberals have been assumed to be the correct, legitimate ones. So liberals aren’t likely to discuss with an opponent the evidence for or against autonomy theory. What is more likely is that liberals will see an opponent as breaking a moral category. The opponent will be called sexist or prejudiced; they will be portrayed as being backward or ignorant, in contrast to those who are modern and liberated.

In a way it’s understandable that liberals should respond like this. If you really believed in autonomy theory then you would assume that sex distinctions undermine the very humanity of individuals. So for a liberal it all becomes a basic question of social justice. It becomes an important moral issue.

Those of us who don’t assume autonomy theory to be true are likely to reach a very different conclusion. The liberal campaign to make sex distinctions not matter, or even to abolish the categories of male and female, will seem misconceived.

It’s noteworthy that the liberal campaign against sex distinctions reached a peak at the very time that science was confirming a range of biological differences between the sexes, such as differences in the effects of hormones and even in the structure of the brain.

Science, in other words, has confirmed that there are significant hard-wired, biological differences between the sexes. So sex distinctions can’t be entirely treated as social constructs; they do exist as part of our unchosen, inborn nature.

Liberals have two choices in responding to the science of sex differences. One is to deny the science or even to suppress the research. For instance, in Sweden a county government withdrew funding for a book when it was learned that it contained an interview with a leading Swedish neurobiologist, Annica Dahlstrom. She is one of the scientists who have researched differences in the brain structure of men and women.

The editor of a Swedish newspaper supported the withdrawal of funding on the following grounds:

Our Swedish gender equality policy is based on us being equal and socialised into different gender roles. Annica Dahlstrom is an essentialist feminist and believes that boys and girls are totally different. The county government cannot publish material with that opinion. [23]

So because Annica Dahlstrom did not subscribe to the political view that sex distinctions are socialised and should be abolished in the name of gender equality, it was thought right that her research be suppressed, no matter how scientifically valid it was.

Another option for liberals is to accept the science but to insist nonetheless that sex distinctions be made not to matter. Some liberals have even gone as far as to suggest that human genetics be tampered with to overcome hardwired differences.

For example, in 2005 the President of Harvard University, Lawrence Summers, sparked a controversy when he speculated that there might be more men than women with an innate ability for high-level science. The establishment liberal magazine Time ran an eight page story on the issue which accepted recent scientific research into differences between the male and female brain; the Time reporters suggested however that human biology could be genetically “tweaked” to overcome the effects of these differences:

Now that scientists are finally starting to map the brain with some accuracy, the challenge is figuring out what to do with that knowledge. The possibilities for applying it to the classroom, workplace and doctor’s office are tantalizing. “If something is genetic, it means it must be biological. If we can figure out the biology, then we should be able to tweak the biology,” says Richard Haier, a psychology professor who studies intelligence at the University of California at Irvine. Maybe Summers’ failure was not one of sensitivity but one of imagination. [24]

There are other problems with the liberal denial of sex distinctions. An obvious one is that most of us identify as male or female. We don’t think of ourself in sex neutral terms but as men or women. If we deny sex distinctions we attack a significant aspect of who we are – of what we hold ourselves to be.

Heterosexuality, too, is based on an appreciation of sex distinctions. A heterosexual man doesn’t observe a beautifully feminine woman and wish that she were less distinct. He isn’t likely to long for her to be less womanly and more androgynous.

Which raises a further issue. Sex distinctions are important to our identity and our sexuality. Therefore, it won’t be easy for anyone to live consistently by a liberal politics. Most people will be forced to resort to what the American political writer, Lawrence Auster, has termed unprincipled exceptions.

What this means is that liberals will call in public for sex distinctions to be abolished, whilst finding in their own private lives that sex distinctions continue to matter. They will therefore make exceptions in their own private lives to the liberal principle, according to their own comfort level, without admitting to themselves or others that they are doing so.

Nor does the liberal position on gender work well even on its own terms. It is based on the idea of maximising autonomy so that individuals can be self-determining – so that they can choose to define their own individual self.

But the end result of the theory is to place a major restriction on how we may define our own self. We are no longer supposed to define ourselves in a significant way as men or women.

This contradiction in the theory was picked up on in one of the sources I quoted earlier. It was Judith Stadtman Tucker who described the liberal political message of the 1972 children’s record Free to be … You and Me. She went on to make the following criticism of this message:

I have a problem with children's literature - no matter how well-meaning - that assures boys and girls "A person should wear what he wants to wear/And not just what other folks say/A person should do what she likes to/A person's a person that way," then turns around to suggest that being a certain kind of girl - the kind of girl who likes to wear perfume and play in "Girl Land" - will lead to a bad end. [25]

In other words, there is a contradiction in a politics which tells girls that they should be free to do as they like but not act like girls. A major restriction is being imposed in the name of freedom from restrictions.

Nor has liberalism succeeded, in spite of all the social changes in recent decades, in raising women’s sense of autonomy: their belief that they are determining their own lives rather than being controlled by external forces. According to Australian researcher Clive Hamilton, things have even gone backwards:

we are told endlessly … that the course of our lives is a matter of personal choice. The evidence, however, shows that the opposite is the case. Compared to the 1960s, young Americans today are substantially more likely to believe that outside forces control their lives...

Even more remarkably, the same studies show that ... the increase in 'externality' is greater in young women than young men. [26]

What all this suggests is that the liberal approach to freedom is mistaken. It would be better to seek a freedom to live our lives as men and women rather than to deny the legitimacy of sex distinctions.

Next chapter: The family

[1] Susan Moller Okin, Justice, Gender, and the Family (New York: Basic Books, 1989), 181, 171, quoted in David Blankenhorn, Fatherless America (New York: HarperPerennial, 1996), 91.

[2] Carolyn Heilbrun, Toward a Recognition of Androgyny (New York: Norton, 1993), ix-x, quoted in Blankenhorn, 269.

[3] Ann Snitow, "A Gender Diary," in Conflicts in Feminism, ed. Marianne Hirsch & Evelyn Fox Keller (New York: Routledge, 1990), 33.

[4] Robert Jensen, "Men being men is a bad deal: guys should evolve beyond masculinity," SFGate, 8 October 2006.

[5] David Fiore, http://www.ynot.motime.com1074827498#204625 (accessed September 2007).

[6] Olga Silverstein and Beth Rashbaum, The Courage to Raise Good Men (New York: Viking, 1994), 76, 237, quoted in Blankenhorn, 91.

[7] "EU wants to ban 'sexist' TV commercials," The Telegraph, 5 September 2008, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/2686538/EU-wants-to-ban-sexist-TV-commercials.html

[8] "Kids' books become ideological battleground in Sweden," The Local, 4 August 2008, http://www.thelocal.se/13474/

[9] Gloria Steinem, Moving Beyond Words, (Simon & Schuster, 1994), 274.

[10] "Lest we forget ... what?," The Age, 22 April 2000.

[11] Judith Stadtman Tucker, Mommies are people: Revisiting Free To Be…You and Me, http://www.mothersmovement.org/features/07/06/f2b_1.html, (2007).

[12] Alexandra Kollontai, The Autobiography of a Sexually Emancipated Communist Woman, http://www.marxists.org/archive/kollonta/1926/autobiography.htm, (2001)

[13] Anna Rotkirch, "New woman with old feelings? Contrasting Kollontai's and Colette's writings on love", in Ebba Witt-Brattström (ed.) The New Woman and the Aesthetic Opening. Unlocking gender in twentieth-century texts (Södertörn, Södertörn Academic Studies, 2004), http://www.valt.helsinki.fi/staff/rotkirch/kollontai%20and%20colette.pdf

[14] The Age, 20 July 2005.

[15] Michael Flood, "Between Men and Masculinity: An Assessment of the term "Masculinity" in Recent Scholarship on Men," in S. Pearce and V. Muller, Manning the Next Millennium: Studies in Masculinities (Black Swan Press, 2002), 210. http://www.xyonline.net/sites/default/files/FloodBetweenmenandmasc_0.pdf

[16] "Swedish Government bans science on gender differences," Secular blasphemy, (12 February 20005), http://blogs.salon.com/0001561/2005/02/12.html#a6795

[17] http://www.human-rights.hr/dokumenti/speech-Monica%20Silvell.pdf (2004)

[18] Laurie Penny, "Gender anti-fascism and the fourth wave," 10 January 2009, http://pennyred.blogspot.com/2009/01/gender-anti-fascism-and-fourth-wave.html

[19] Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex ("Chapter 1, The data of biology"), http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/ethics/de-beauvoir/2nd-sex/ch01.htm

[20] "Are boys and girls hardwired differently?," 15 February 2005, http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/6941270/ns/today-today_books/page/3/

[21] Judith Butler, “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory” (1988), http://www.mariabuszek.com/kcai/PoMoSeminar/Readings/BtlrPerfActs.pdf

[22] The Green Men's Manifesto, 9 April 2010, http://blog.gruene-nrw.de/2010/04/09/maennermanifest/

[23] "Swedish Government bans science on gender differences," Secular blasphemy, (12 February 20005), http://blogs.salon.com/0001561/2005/02/12.html#a6795

[24] "Who says a woman can't be Einstein?," Time, 27 February 2005.
[25] Judith Stadtman Tucker, Mommies are people: Revisiting Free To Be…You and Me, http://www.mothersmovement.org/features/07/06/f2b_1.html, (2007).

[26] Clive Hamilton, "The Disappointment of Liberalism and the quest for inner freedom," (The Australia Institute, August 2004), 40. https://www.tai.org.au/file.php?file=DP70.pdf


  1. Mr Richardson deserves combat pay for ploughing through all those deranged liberals' effusions. I would rather be forced to swim in the most shark-infested waters than read any more of Jens Orback or Simone de Beauvoir. But Mr Richardson has read them so that we don't have to.

  2. V. Walter, thanks.

    I sometimes forget how difficult it is to stomach some of these opinions. It used to be for me too, but I reached a certain point at which I treated it all in a more detached way. I really wanted to try to understand a certain mindset that was foreign to me but influential in society.

  3. This series has been most helpful in my gaining a better understanding of the liberal intellectual programme (such as it is). Thank you for your meticulous work Mr Richardson.

    One aspect that struck me in reading this post is the seeming inability of anti-gender proponents to integrate thought about what they think is socially ideal and selections from alternative, but not necessarily traditional, views. For example, a heightened sense of one's humanness can be desirable but why does it need to be so extreme as to reject gender in the process? I don't see daily life taking on a flavor of gender for most people-- we are all human when we stand in line at the post office. If we consciously adopted a gender identity in our generic transactions with others it would be difficult to get through the day.

    What these ideologues may be harming in their quest for abstract "equality" is the exploration of a transcendent human identity that is *beyond* gender but not in its place or at its expense. This can be on a metaphysical or philosophical level and I don't think it is foreign to the Western experience. I can be simultaneously a man and a human. Was that so difficult? For me it it the desire to destroy that marks liberalism brightly, more than what it offers up as a menu for change.

  4. Are we really genderless when we are in line at the post office? I don't think we are. If there is an attractive woman in front of me in line, I will notice her as a woman, in a gendered sense. And you can bet the same for the male postal clerk when she comes to the front of the line. Sex/gender is always on the table, it seems to me, when it comes to members of the opposite sex (for most people who are straight) who are attractive ... the less or un-attractive members of the opposite sex are, ironically, more likely to be treated as un-sexed, or in a way that is completely neutral as to their sex (which doesn't always make them happy, either).

    Mark -- this is a well done piece.

    I would add that I would not put it past liberalism to keep on trucking well into the realm of "tweaking", in biological terms, once it becomes obvious that sex differences are, to a significant degree, hard-wired. The argument will be that these differences, even if they are "natural", are still oppressive straitjackets that we, as humans, with our evolved brains, have evolved to be able to do away with through science and medical technology. After all, what could be more liberating to women than mandating that all men are equipped with wombs and so on so as to "share the burden". That seems very far-fetched technically and socio-politically, but liberalism tends to work that way. If anyone seriously talked about gay people being allowed to marry 50 years ago, the idea would have been similarly dismissed as laughably paranoid and far-fetched. Today's far-fetched is the liberal agenda of the day after tomorrow, really.

    It's also quite telling that liberals will use any justification -- even at the cost of self-contradiction -- to achieve their desired ends. In the gay context, we're constantly told that being gay is not a matter of choice, but a matter of "just is" -- which goes well against the liberal-touted idea that a fixed sexual orientation is a social construct -- for tactical reasons, because the idea that it is a chosen behavior makes it much less susceptible to a sympathetic treatment by skeptical non-homosexuals. So even liberals will adopt an essentialist stance which is at odds with blank-slatism when it suits them, and even when it contradicts the core message of blank-slate liberalism. This is why I think liberalism will simply adapt to the new science and turn it against everyone -- demanding that it be used to "tweak" people biologically to ensure social and, to coin a new phrase, "biological justice".

  5. Novaseeker,

    Point taken re: p.o. behavior. However, I didn't say we are genderless in such situations, only that we are all human. This is a point that is lost on the writers that Mark cites. Sometimes gender is asserted, often it is not. This is only a contradiction or a problem for those with fixed ideas of "biological justice".

  6. One thing worth noting is the amount of effort that must be put into forcing androgyny and maintaining it. Consider the issue of science, technology, and medicine (STEM); women do not participate in these fields unless there is active discrimination against men in order to reserve quotas. Liberals go to great and ever more complex lengths to explain this situation, when a simpler explanation exists: variance of IQ.

    IQ tests are valid predictors of performance in demanding courses of study. Generations of data tell us that in the aggregate, women's IQ has lower variance than men's. This means that there are fewer women with IQ below 90 than men, and no one objects to that. However, it also tells us there are more men with IQ in excess of 110 than women, and the courses of study in question require above average intelligence.

    This is science, as is the fact that men in the aggregate have superior spatial visualization to women. Ironically, both higher IQ variance and superior spatial visualization make perfect sense from an evolutionary perspective, and liberals endlessly drone on about their faith ... er ... belief in evolution.

    The same observations can be made about military fighter pilots, about tank commanders, about fire fighters, about police, and so forth. The average man is going to be better at any of those things than the average woman, and those men who excel at such things will always far outnumber women, because of variance in the relevant curve (be it aggressiveness, intelligence, or what have you).

    In order to counteract these naturally occurring variations, we have had constructed for us ever more Byzantine regulations to force some number of women into places where they arguably do not belong.

    Yes, I'm aware there is always an exception; I personally know some good engineers who are women, ditto for accountants and physicians. But they are the outliers in a statistical sense and no one is denying they exist. What should be obvious by now is that exceptions do not prove a rule; because some number of women can be computer scientists, it does not follow that any woman can be one.

    And so we must be tied into ever more complex mental knots in order to square the circle, to pretend that IQ variance is the same for men and women. We must deny reality, and our own observations; we must be forced to live a kind of lie.

  7. 'In the gay context, we're constantly told that being gay is not a matter of choice, but a matter of "just is" -- which goes well against the liberal-touted idea that a fixed sexual orientation is a social construct"

    Novaseeker, this is certainly a problem for liberals, which is possibly why they have come up with the idea of the "sexual continuium". The idea is that yes, are sexuality is biologically determined, but that because there are so many variations in sexual identity, we must have liberal laws and attitudes in regard to it.

    The sexual continuim idea, though is greatly exaggerated. Let's take homosexuality for example. Most men are heterosexual, some are bisexual and some are homosexual. This is not a continuum, its more like a bell curve, with perhaps bisexuals at one end and gays at the other, and the staight majority in the middle. There are not large numbers of men who are a 'bit gay' and sometimes think about sleeping with other men. The situation may be a bit different with women, but again there isn't really a continuum, as the majority of women are basically straight and have feminine temperaments and interests.

  8. Mike,

    I can confirm that the sexual continuum idea is being pushed in the school curriculum here in Australia. Students at my school are taught that only about 10% of people are heterosexual, about 10% are homosexual and the other 80% are somewhere inbetween.

    It's fantasy. In the UK the Office for National Statistics found that 1.3% of men and 0.6% of women are homosexual. 1% are homosexual and 1.5% are either homosexual or bisexual.

    Instead of a continuum, there is a 98.5% heterosexual majority.

  9. The odder claim that some liberals make is that there is a continuum of sex itself, i.e. that instead of a male/female binary there are many sexes existing along a continuum. The only evidence they can cite for this are people who are born with rare chromosomal abnormalities.

  10. Free to be you and me was made into a puppet movie shown in classrooms during the 1970's in the States. We watched it every year of grade school. I remember two skits distinctly, one featured a song titled "It's OK to cry" and the other a song about what children want to be when they grow up.

    Anyhow, it was definitely standard automony theory fair but I don't think it had quite the affect the creators intended. Most kids were happy not to have to listen to their boring teacher for a couple of hours. Meanwhile, on the playground, boys did not start sharing their feelings and girls did not stop playing with dolls.

    Perhaps reassuringly, there is a (large) segment that simply will not accept this notion of reality.

  11. Their propensity to give so much importance to the external influences is striking in its resemblance to the nature of the feminine.
    That it can be molded into such and such without any internal character and then the claims of "society told me to do so".

  12. Thanks Mark, I didn't realise the sexual continuum idea was already
    being pushed in schools.

    I remember a few years back, being surprised when an otherwise relatively conservative young person told me they believed in it, which may indicate it's being pushed over here in New Zealand as well.

    Regarding the percentage of the population that is gay, left wing liberals used to say in the early 90s that it was about 10 percent, but I don't know where they got the evidence to support this claim.

  13. Mike, the 10% claim for homosexuality came from a study carried out by Kinsey in the late 40s.

    Kinsey did not use a representative sample of the population. He was a very controversial researcher with a radical agenda. He also had "issues" himself (he once tried to circumcise himself with a pocket knife).

    All the major studies since then give much lower figures, with male homosexuality being somewhere between one to two percent.

  14. Perhaps reassuringly, there is a (large) segment that simply will not accept this notion of reality.

    Yes, sex differences have never been suppressed.

    There is, however, a lingering sense that there is something wrong with women being feminine - and that is disappointing.

    Young girls are certainly allowed to be girly. And young women are allowed to assert their sexuality in a feminine way.

    But in everyday life, adult women seem to be caught between retaining elements of femininity and proving themselves in terms of masculinity.

  15. When I started college in 1989 I remember there being a slogan "11 percent of U" which addressed gay awareness and tolerance. 11 percent always seemed high to me - 1 out of 10 people I knew were gay? How come I was surrounded by gay people and didn't even know it?

    Because I wasn't.

    That's a good point, Novaseeker, about liberals going against their own dogma to promote homosexuality. We straight traditionally gendered people are just defaced slates, but gay people came down from heaven just as they are and are not to be tampered with in any way.

  16. Mark,
    Have you written anything about what we might call the metaphysics of liberalism? Reading the quotes you've assembled here, I keep wondering what sort of entity a liberal supposes is making these choices? It would seem to be some sort of divine spark, with no organic connection to the body, rather like that proposed by Gnostics. And if the body is irrelevant, what could possibly constitute a reason to chose one alternative over another? One could not make choices to bring about some desired state of affairs, since states of affairs are a matter of indifference to a self so completely detached from physical reality.

    If I test quoted author's repeated claim that androgyny makes one more human by looking at people I know, it is manifestly false. Extremely feminine women can be a little hard to take, as can extremely masculine men; but they do have a sort of Rabelaisian gusto, a sort of Elizabethan vivacity, that is altogether human. The unisex crowd is, in contrast a very drab bunch. They don't laugh as much, for one thing.

  17. Have you written anything about what we might call the metaphysics of liberalism?

    A little. I'm certainly interested in the issue of gnosticism and wrote an item on it here.

    There do seem to be certain philosophical positions conducive to liberalism: nominalism, empiricism and gnosticism spring to mind. It's not always easy untangling which one might be driving the others. A leading liberal like J.S. Mill, for instance, was both a radical empiricist and a gnostic (a Manichean).

    Your explanation of how gnosticism might lead on to an indifference toward sex identity seems reasonable to me.

  18. Mark,
    Thanks for the link to your article on H.G. Wells and gnosticism. I knew a little of this from Maurice Cowling's book on Religion and Public Doctrine, and have an interest in the various (failed) attempts of modern intellectuals to invent a serviceable religion. It's odd, given its hostility to nature, but gnosticism seems to come naturally to humans, so that in the absence of active opposition all systems drift in that direction. This might be part of the reason why the modern world, which attempts no intellectual discipline, drifts ever deeper into liberalism.

  19. Strictly speaking, Harvard President Larry Summers did not speculate that "there might be more men than women with an innate ability for high-level science."

    He only suggested that there were some indications of a different Gaussian distribution of their abilities, with more men on the tails, and this might be worthy of research.

    Of course, Summers's enemies, for whom human natural equality is an absolute dogma, took him to be saying the former. -Thucydides

  20. Is it about undermining predetermined states of being? or is it about undermining Western Man himself?

    If it's good for a black or brown male to be macho, why is it bad for a white man? Cultural Relativism? If the white man was able to conquer the known world several times--and most of it conquered in modern times by a tiny island nation, is not the white man the ultimate expression of machismo? I think so. So why then should he alone be singled out to be disallowed this?

    Isn't it really about tearing down the family structure--said structure being unique to Western Man, as part of the over all goal of destroying The West? Marx himself understood that the family unit is the primary and primal political unit. Given that the left believes the white man is the center of all evil (he invented capitalism, after all) isn't it therefore about destroying him? Making him a rootless individual, cut off from the pack, forcing him into the wilderness to die on his own?

    On the "right" to be a woman in a man's body, I'll agree with Kalb on this one, it's just one of the items the totalitarian state allows on it's menu of perceived "freedoms". Anything that helps make the white man look low is okay by the state. Want to wear ear rings and dress like a woman? Great, go ahead. Want to dress like white man exuding testosterone, shame on you, you're an evil "White Supremacist"

  21. So.... Let me get this, er, straight, for lack of a better word --

    (a) Liberals are especially resentful of the link between being female and motherhood as this is held to be an unchosen biological destiny.

    and yet

    (b) Liberals endlessly and tirelessly defend homosexuality, because this is held to be an unchosen biological destiny.

    So... it seems they don't really have a problem with biological destiny per se -- only with biological destinies that THEY DON'T LIKE.

    Either that or they don't really believe (b), they're just using the "born that way" assertion as a temporary ideological weapon.

  22. Van Rooinek, nice comment.

    I think you're on the right track when you conclude:

    Either that or they don't really believe (b), they're just using the "born that way" assertion as a temporary ideological weapon.

    In the sexuality classes at my school the students are taught that only 10% of people are heterosexual, with 90% being bisexual along a continuum. That's the kind of assertion that liberals are likely to make in the longer run.

  23. Great post RobertB.

    "Anything that helps make the white man look low is okay"...

    Yes, very much so - do a Google search for "interracial cuckold".

    Maybe there is a Marxist agenda behind that as well?

  24. This story seemed to be more of an attack on Liberals. I am a liberal but do not support the extreme view points such as the one portrayed in this. I believe men and woman are different but I want to advocate that they are equally people who deserve the same rights and abilities to achieve certain employment's and salaries.
    When we start writing articles stating men and woman have different brain architecture thats fine but present facts more clearly. This is because many people who are not educated may interpret this as woman are stupid and men are smart because we have different brains.
    Also I don't think attacking liberal believes is the right way because moving towards a more open society will achieve a new level of respect and love. As humans we need rules and regulations and a society to keep us in line. Unfortunately going around stating men and woman are different liberals are wrong freedom is unnecessary we lead into a society similar to the bible. Where rape is constant slavery is everywhere torture and murder is a daily activity.
    Finally I would like to add that this article was not objective and in my opinion very one sided. Also very obvious it was written by a man. I do agree with what it had to say men and women are different but to just assert they are extremely different leads people to interpret that as women being less relevant and less capable, or vice versa.