Sunday, May 07, 2006

So many falsehoods, so little time. I'll move onto something else soon

Rick decided to take issue with my analysis of his recent 'fisking' (could we please come up with another name? Naming an argumentative tactic after the most unreadable modern liberal becomes incredibly grating). He had promised a refutation of my analysis, and while I can see some holes in my original argument, he fails to raise any of them.

Let's have a look at what Rick says, and why he fails, again, to miss his target...

"Yah,As I said, it's not ad hominum[sic] if I'm arguing the issue. The success of Kate is the issue- she put it on the table herself."

Let's analyse the claims Rick made about Kate, the claims that Kate made about herself and whether or not Rick's original "fisking" is indeed ad hominem taken from the comments box of my original post.

The logical fallacy behind argumentum ad hominem is this:

1. Person A makes claim X.
2. There is something objectionable about Person A.
3. Therefore claim X is false.

Rick argues the following

1. Kate claims she is successful
2. Kate is a local body politician, and a "paracite"
3. Thefore Kate's claim she is successful is false.

At its most simple level then, this is a logically fallacious ad hominem argument. However, it goes even further than that, because the first two propositions of Rick's themselves are either untrue or do not logically follow.

As to point 1, during her speech, Kate stated:

"I was invited to speak because I am a successful woman. I must say that this is very flattering, as I do not yet feel successful."

Ergo, Kate is implying that she does not perceive herself to be successful. As a result, Kate did not "put it on the table" that she was successful. In fact, Kate makes no claim either way as to whether or not she is successful.

As to point 2, Rick states that:

"There is a name for what she is, and logical arguments to justify my calling her by that name. Politicians and beurocrats[sic] opperating[sic] outside their briefs are paracites[sic]. No apoligies[sic] for saying so."

Of course, Rick doesn't elucidate these 'logical' arguments as to why (a) politicians and bureaucrats operating outside their briefs are parasites, and (b) why Kate is acting outside her brief to appear in the AUSA Quad to speak about womens issues, and is therefore a parasite. It is just assumed and asserted and, therefore, rhetorically useless. As such, even the construction of Rick's ad hominem argument is shaky, let alone the fact that, were the points correct, it would still be a logical fallacy.

"As for Kate's lesson about unnamed abstract women who are supposed to put us on a guilt trip...useless. Maybe you, X, and you, Kate, had something in mind but the speech says nothing of it. There is no substance, just the assumption that someone somewhere is hurting and it's our fault. All X has done is to try to enter new issues that might have helped Kate's case had she thought to include them herself. Which she didn't."

This is a strawman argument on the part of Rick. If one were to read Kate's speech, one would understand from the statement that the intent of the speech is not to make the listener feel guilty. The intent of the point about the situation of women overseas was to inform the listener that women's issues are not unique to this country. Further, because Kate did not bring up any specific named examples of these instances overseas does not ipso facto prove that they are incorrect. Indeed, given that I subsequently gave numerous examples of said discrimination and abuses, proving that they are not an abstraction, Rick's point is moot. The examples that I raised were not new issues, they were simply an instance of having to state the obvious, to make it blindingly clear. Kate's biggest mistake here was assuming most people had some grip on, or knowledge of what is going on in the world. It's quite clear that they don't.

"Now another fact is that men and woman fit themselves, and are fit by nature, for differnet[sic] tasks. In a free society each individual will find their way within the limits of their will, but consciousness of gender choice will colour that. Right? Thus the lives of men and woman will be as distinct as their respective observation of sexual dimorphism. Taking to this natural state of affairs a socialist meat-cleaver and carving up a 50/50 split will please no one- except perhaps she who seeks to weild such a knife over us all".

As a student of biology and anthropology, I strongly refute much of this paragraph. In my original reply to Rick I made it clear that his and others' discussions of the 'natural' gender and societal roles of men and women within society were made on two fatally flawed assumptions: that biological sex = gender identity = gender role; and that this meta-variable was biological determined. Rick provides no evidence to support these assumptions, and attempts to support his 'point' by simply restating it. Let us make it clear: gender roles and scripts are not, let me repeat NOT entirely biologically determined. It is a simple 'just so story' to say, to assert, that it is the natural order of things that men earn more, that men have a higher proportion of leadership roles in the public and private sectors, because nature made it that way. There is no empirical evidence to suggest that these are the results of our evolutionary histories. As a result, such lines of reasoning HAVE NO PLACE in a gender equality discourse.

I am glad that Rick has recognised the value of 'the consciousness of gender choice', but I still do not accept, and he has failed to show, why those disparate gender roles are justified. Sexual dimorphism, that is the physical differences in primary and secondary sexual characteristics between biological males and females is not sufficient to cause, explain or justify the imposition of an imbalance in societal gender roles between gendered males and females. It is not a 'natural' state of affairs, as I have shown, there is very little evidence to suggest that socio-cultural imbalance of power between genders has any basis in evolutionary mechanisms.

"And why not equalise male/female ratio in all industries? Why just the high-paying flashy desirable ones and not freezing worker and criminal ones? X says that would be silly, and it is. But it's as silly for these latter things as well as the former."

Rick failed to see my original point. It is silly to call for equality in criminal statistics, by trying to increase female participation in the criminal sector (I can't believe I just wrote that, but that's essentially what Rick called for). We should be trying to decrease all participation, irrespective of gender, in that particular 'sector'.

As for the comment regarding freezing workers, well, yes, women should be able to be freezing workers without being hindered on the basis of their gender identity. I would like to see women being able to enter any field of their choice without facing barriers because society sees them as having breasts and therefore 'naturally unsuited' to such tasks. It just so happens, however, that it is the higher paying 'flashy' jobs that women generally find the greatest barriers to participating in. Men also find themselves facing discrimination in certain sectors: childcare, teaching are two well known examples, along with, until quite recently, nursing. These are also societal impositions, assumptions about the 'roles' of gender and equating them to the 'natural inability' of men to perform such roles. They are just as flawed, and just as unfair.

"Men and woman must have equal rights, but they are not equal. X wants men and woman to be equal sexually? Let that be his personal bedroom fantasy. Men and woman are different creatures and most of the rest of us rather enjoy that fact."

Rick fails to see my point. As a predominantly androphilic queer person, I can assure Rick that I hold no sexual fantasies about biological women, whether biological men are involved or not. On a gender level, I choose not to operate from a 'male'/'female' dichotomy, and I do not identify as either a gendered male or female, so comments about my sexual behaviour from such a space are irrelevant. But I digress! Rights are about power: who holds it, who exercises it, who bows to it. Men and women should be sexually equal; Women should have the right to have intercourse with someone without being labelled a slut, where, in the same situation, a man is hailed as a "stud". When such double standards exist, women and men are not sexually equal. When women are expected to act as the sexual gate keeper to men, women and men are not sexually equal. When men impose restrictions and barriers to a woman's control of her reproductive life, men and women are not sexually equal. Sexual power goes beyond the actual act of sex, which Rick seems to be preoccupied with in his response. Men and women are biologically sexually different, as Rick correctly points out. That doesn't, however, justify a disparate power dynamic that revolves around male and female sexuality.

"Gender is a determinent[sic] of what one can do and of what can be done to one. If not then it would be a non-concept, lacking all identity- it wouldn't even be a word but just a sound. But in our age, and in our society, we choose genders- we like it, benifit[sic] from it. We have it. Deal with it."

Actually, no, gender is not a determinant of what one can do and of what can be done to one, just as ethnicity, cultural identity, religious affiliation or sexual orientatation aren't either: these are aspects of identity that range from the purely chosen to the blindly determined. And none of them are acceptable as determinants of 'what can be done to one'. Identity reflects whakapapa, as well as turangawaewae, where one acknowledges one has come from, as well as how one chooses to live ones own life. They are not tools for, or justifiers of, societal impositions, predetermined roles or restraints on individuals or identity groups. This brings us to the argument previously presented by Rick, but which fails to stand up to scrutiny. If women chose, as part of their identity as women, to avoid leadership roles in the public and private sector, then there would be very little to worry about. However, there is no evidence to support that the lack of women participation in the public and private sector is the result of an 'identity choice', and more evidence to suggest that such statistics are a manifestation of a culture that actively discourages the advancement of women in these areas: women who do find themselves in leadership roles overwhelmingly describe experiences of having to surrender aspects of their female identity, in order to 'make it', not because those aspects of their identity make them 'unsuited' to perform the tasks at hand, but because the culture they find themselves in is hostile to the expression of that identity.

We often don't choose many aspects of our gender, despite our ability to do so. In part the identity of being of the 'male' or 'female' gender is innately correlated with being biologically male or female. Further yet, the identity of 'male' or 'female' is reinforced (or rejected, in the case of transgendered individuals) by how society reacts to our genitalia, and later, secondary sexual characteristics. Further still, our gender roles (relatively distinct from gender identity) how men and women are supposed to act, the roles they are supposed to fulfill within society are most definitely not chosen. It is these predetermined assumptions about the 'roles' of 'men' and 'women' in society that form the basis of gender inequality and gender power imbalance.

"You say we're not quite there yet, when it comes to fighting for womens rights? Well to the extent to which you're right about this libertarians have your back. It is our main occupation- defending rights. But that ain't what Kate's talking about."

Kate is talking about the fact that gender identity should have no bearing on the level that society allows an individual to participate. I would assume that this was totally compatible with libertarianism, or any ideology that placed a premium on individual liberty.