If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it’s a social construct of a duck. - Helena Cronin
Some of my readers have asked why the dogma of “social construction of gender” irritates me so. It isn’t just because it’s scientifically inaccurate; I don’t get nearly as irate about creationism. One difference is that while the latter is not accepted by nearly anyone who self-identifies as intellectual, the former is; many people who have both the education and the personal experience to recognize it as a fallacy instead choose to accept because it’s a tenet of their political faith (which is no different from “the Bible tells me so.”) But that’s not really the problem; it’s that “social construction of gender” is far more dangerous to human relationships than creationism could ever be. My ex-husband Jack was a creationist, and while it did cause considerable friction in our relationship it wasn’t nearly the level that would have ensued had he demanded I adhere to male norms of behavior because female behavior is only “socially constructed”. Furthermore, even if neither were used as an excuse for government control of individuals (which, alas, both are in the modern US), “social construction” dogma is bound to cause conflict in a mixed-sex group; I couldn’t tell you how many creationists worked at the library, but I can sure tell you which believed in “social construction” because of their unreasonable expectations about co-workers of the opposite sex.
The problem is glaringly obvious if you think about it; if we understand that men and women are different, we expect them to behave differently and make allowance for it when dealing with them. But “social construction of gender” presumes a single baseline, one norm from which all gender-specific behavior is a deviation. If humans were fair-minded and truly believed that all gender expression was equally deviant from an unattainable unisex “norm”, that would be silly and false but not actually harmful. But because humans aren’t perfectly fair-minded this isn’t what happens at all; those who believe in a unisex standard (such as neofeminists or male chauvinists) actually declare their own sex’s behavior as the norm, and the other’s as a pathological deviation from it. Whether the response is to condemn the other sex as hopelessly inferior and therefore creatures to be patronized, or to attempt to force the other to change to conform to the other’s norm, is immaterial; both inevitably result in strife, maltreatment and tyranny.
I discussed one example of this sort of misunderstanding in my column of one year ago today: many women condemn men for being attracted to the characteristics to which Nature has programmed them to be attracted, which is not merely an offense against logic and biology, but against decency and human rights as well. They may even rail loudly against those who are prejudiced against others for physical characteristics they cannot help (such as skin color), but deny that sexual preferences are just as innate because to admit it would undermine their catechism. Why is it OK to decry “fat shaming”, yet insult men who are sexually repulsed by obesity in women? If a woman can’t control her reaction to food, how is a man supposed to control his sexual feelings? The idea is not only nonsense, it exposes the real motive behind most neofeminist teachings: the sick and envious need to keep men from experiencing sex in the way that is enjoyable for them. Dig beneath the surface of any neofeminist policy on sex and you’ll find the same evil, rotten motive.
Another example is in the typical feminist reaction to my old (but still popular and controversial) column “A Whore in the Bedroom”. It’s been called “misogynistic”, “fat-shaming”, “anti-consent” and even “MRA-like”, because it says things they don’t want to hear and conflicts with “social construction of gender”. The basic theme of that column is stated in this passage:
Getting married is a free choice, and carries responsibilities with the privileges. If you refuse to take care of your dog you should give him to somebody who will, and if you refuse to give sex to your husband you should either divorce him or suggest he satisfy his needs elsewhere with your blessing. You cannot have your cake and eat it, too; a man is NOT a woman, and if you expect him to respect your choice not to have sex with him, you in turn must respect his choice to get it from somebody else.
The only way to deny the truth and fairness of that statement is to pretend that sex differences do not exist, that a man’s sex drive is a deviation from the (female) norm and that it is therefore reasonable to insist that a man can “learn” not to need what he needs. This goes beyond the absurd into the totally delusional; one might as well say that a 100-kg man can subsist on the same amount of food as a 60-kg woman, or that women don’t need tampons or birth control pills because men don’t. Relationships are not for the benefit of one person; they are for the benefit of both, and if either partner denies the other things he or she vitally needs (food, sex, money, companionship, personal space, understanding, emotional intimacy, etc) without some compelling reason he or she has no right whatsoever to complain if the other partner gets it from somewhere else or abandons the relationship entirely.
There is one last negative effect of “social construction of gender” I would like to address today; it only affects a very small minority of the population, but that’s no reason to ignore it. As Ayn Rand pointed out, “the smallest minority on earth is the individual”; anyone who wants his own rights protected had damned well better be concerned with those of minorities. The group in question here is transsexuals, whose entire experience is invalidated by the concept that gender is learned. These are people who were raised and conditioned as their biological sex indicated, yet for some reason science does not yet understand feel that they are psychologically and/or spiritually members of the other sex. If gender were indeed “socially constructed” transsexuals should not exist, yet they do; whatever switch in the brain identifies people as male or female is switched the wrong way for them…and that obviously wouldn’t be possible if there were no such switch. The only ways to explain gender identity disorder under a “social construction” model are A) to deny the statements of transsexuals and insist that they were “really” conditioned the wrong way, even if other siblings of the same biological sex were not; or B) to insist that transsexualism is a “choice”, just as fundamentalist Christians insist homosexuality is. For a Biblical literalist to admit that homosexuality is intrinsic to a person’s psychological makeup would refute the Biblical definition of it as a voluntary “sin”, and for a neofeminist to admit that transsexualism is intrinsic to a person’s psychological makeup would refute the fundamental dogma that gender is imposed by society; therefore both of them must deny the facts rather than admit that their cherished belief-systems are in error.