I’ve been struggling to write a follow up post on gender identity over the past week, but I haven’t been able to because I’m not seeing a clear baseline for what the term even means. I have my own ideas, but am hesitant to build other points off my own assertions without having that fundamental discussion. So, today’s post we start there:
You meet an alien robot that has recently found its way to Hypothica and the two of you begin to converse. You bring up some recent gender debates with the robot, wrongly thinking that politics makes good small talk. The robot is wholly unfamiliar with the concept and asks you what gender is and what gender identity means. The robot is familiar with related concepts such as mammalian anatomy, sex, sexual dimorphism, and culture.
How would you describe what gender is?
For all the praise that Star Wars: The Force Awakens has received, I find myself more and more disappointed with the film as time passes and the initial excitement behind me.
Many of the complaints have surrounded the fact that the plot is copied and pasted from episode 4, which is true. But enough has been said that I won’t rehash it. Instead I’ll argue the piss-poor quality of the film’s narrative structure, with Starkiller Base as my case study. I won’t even get into how lazy, stupid, and repetitive it was, and how unbelievable it was even for Star Wars (I cannot suspend my disbelief so far as to accept that planet can swallow and store a star, then shoot it through hyperspace, and then not subsequently freeze over).
Instead l argue that it simply didn’t work as a plot point. It was storytelling at its worst.
The hot topic of the day in america is all things gender identity and all things bathroom. Why, after a million years of non-issue this has become a crisis ripping society at the seams is an enigma to me.
But I’d like to focus on a small part of the issue rather than question its contrived genesis altogether. That is, what constitutes “wrongful” discrimination?
It’s difficult to qualify “wrongful”, but that’s the task here and to then decide whether the gender identity-bathroom issue falls into the same thresh hold. Now for sake of scope, I’m not specifically discussing whether a particular side on the issue is reasonable or not, a goo idea or not, safe or not, etc. This isn’t about opinion of whether such situations should be accommodated.
This is about how top-down mandating of such accommodations should be understood through the lens of discrimination based on our current social/political context.
Discriminating at is most broad is not wrongful. It is simply making preferential distinctions. You discriminate between candidates when you hire an employee. It’s generally agreed that if your discriminating is limited to skills and relevant qualification for the job, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s simply picking the best candidate. But there is a line where it starts becoming “wrongful” in people’s minds. Different folks might have different ideas about where that line is. If you didn’t hire a skilled and competent candidate because you found them personally annoying, some might find that perfectly acceptable while others might find your point of discriminating unfair.
Usually the line centers around whether the attribute is “relevant” to the situation. Color of skin is reasonably irrelevant to an engineering job, but reasonably relevant to an acting part. In the bathroom issue citing relevance doesn’t help because it is the entire point of debate. It is similar to questioning whether “Boy” is relevant to “Boy scouts”. It’s ultimately as relevant as you believe it to be. So let’s appeal to the current standard instead of personal opinion.
In america we have this idea of “protected classes”, attributes that can’t be the basis of treating on person favorably or unfavorably in certain situations. I have personal issues with the entire concept, but let’s leave that for another post. Instead let’s use that as a basis for understanding what constitutes “wrongful” discrimination. This is the list of what United States classifies as protected classes (from Wikipedia):
- National origin
- Age (40 and over)
- Familial status
- Disability status
- Veteran status
- Genetic information
Now my question is, what factors make an attribute qualify for this list? And does gender identity meet those qualifications? It seems to me that gender identity would be the only thing on this list that is not particularly empirical. It is by current knowledge, solely a matter of self perception. Nothing else on the list is categorically the same. Religion is a admittedly a bit grey, but it also is not tautologically evidenced and can be qualified with actual attributes. That is, if I say I am of a certain religion, I can articulate to a specific points of belief or practice that I hold that are more than subjectively a part of that belief system.
However, the entire idea that underlines gender identity theory is that no specific attribute or combination of attributes define me as a specific gender. It is solely self-identification. Simply stating that I am Jewish does not make me Jewish and although there is debate about the line, the argument is where that line is, not whether it exists. Nearly everyone would agree that belonging to the a given faith and enjoying it’s protections requires some sort of ascent to a standard of belief or worship. Gender identity, however, is founded on the rejection of any standard. My knee-jerk perspective is that this makes it qualitatively different.
So I open the question. Is a gender identity empirically measured by more than self-perception? And does an attribute of self-perception fit on this list of “wrongful discrimination”? I’m open to hearing perspectives on this because I don’t know. And I think most people on both sides don’t either, yet want to argue a position without examining any underlying principles.
The concept of the engineered city was among my favorite topics that Scott Adams used to trot out on occasion and Whtllnew’s recent post got me thinking about the idea again. So let’s open up the idea here.
If we were to design a Hypothican city, ground up with ideas like sustainability, growth, efficiency, and sheer pleasantness in mind, what suggestions would you have? For fun, we’re tipping the scale away from individual choice, but feel free to discuss where you think the limits should be in city planning. (In reality, I’d probably never want to live in such a city, because it would be an HOA on steroids and it would only be a matter of time before ridiculous rules started being enacted)
If I were designing a city from scratch, these would be among my suggestions:
1. Bike paths. It would be pre-planned with bike lanes and an interconnected web of walking and biking trails that spanned the city in mind. Not only because they are useful, but also because they are an obnoxious pain to put in after the fact.
2. Strategically placed grocery stores to be within walking distance of basically every neighborhood.
3. Neighborhoods would also be built around a central park. Allow some to have have pools club houses, and associated fees, and others to not.
Those are just jumping off points. How would you engineer an “ideal” city?
Below is a moderately humorous video where a guy tries to see how far he can push college students into accepting assertions about his identity and attributes. There are the obvious flaws with the video, and I’m sure beyond selective editing you also have to account for the subjects being savvy enough to think, “I don’t know who this guy is and I’d rather not become the next victim of internet mob justice”.
But the responses made me realize something very sad. The students in question are pained to articulate the distinction between tolerating an expressed opinion and empirically accepting the assertion. When the interviewer asks about claims that he is 6-5, the students quickly begin down a path of what it would take for them to accept that identity as reality. What the students are trying to articulate is “You are free to believe that, I don’t have any need to create tension with that belief, and I would accommodate your actions based on that belief as much as reasonably possible”.
But they seem unable and unwilling to clearly express the second half of the situation: “However, your belief would be objectively and measurably false”.
It becomes somehow incredibly difficult to say that an objective reality could exist that is empirically at odds with any personal assertion of identity and why that is so.
This particular social trend is frighteningly anti-science and kids are literally being taught to disregard objective empirical data. Yes, deep down all students would “know” that he’s not 6-5. But the language being pushed with the tolerance trend is doing its best to suppress such distinctions and choke out any ability to articulate a reality that isn’t servant to emotional whims.
These students are either oblivious of or scared to state the fact that certain attributes are measurable, and I’m not sure which is worse. The video shows that most eventually have a point of pushing back, but it’s murky and difficult for them to express how that line is drawn. Our society is losing the ability to tell the difference between accommodating speech and accepting the message as true.
At Hypothica University, there have been an increasing number of sexual assault and rape accusations among the students and all sorts of activism about raising awareness. Hypothica U. directs these situations to the police, being criminal accusations and all. This in turn, leads to a whole lot of media circus and political pressures to improve the situation. The local legislature decides to pass stronger legislation to protect victims of sexual assault. However, there exists an opposing viewpoint which disagrees with the premise of increased incidence of sexual assault.
Cutting through any political vitriol, it is obvious that the opposition isn’t pro-rape. Nor is the support pro-false accusations. Basically everyone agrees that assault is a serious crime that should be deterred and prosecuted accordingly. So what’s cause for divide?
The legislation revolves strongly around the word “consent”. The unresolved issue is that there is strong philosophical divide over what constitutes consent and what factors mitigate the ability to give it.
As the Prime Debate-Resolver, you are called in to deliver decisive rulings on such political disagreements. (Hypothica tends to panic under divisive issues and suspend democracy).
Your job here is to define what exactly constitutes consent. This will be legally binding on the country of Hypothica.
Suppose your son or daughter came to you and asked you for dating advice. What would you say is the top 2-3 most important factors or considerations in deciding on a spouse?
Recently in America, musicians Bryan Adams and Bruce Springsteen cancelled concerts in Mississippi and North Carolina respectively, each over a state law or bill that affects LGBT issues. Both singers’ reasoning was over conscientious objection to the law, (only Adams used the word “conscience” specifically). I’ve read some interesting comparisons to their attitude and the “same-sex wedding cake” controversies that constantly arise. Basically that both are appealing to their sense of right and wrong and denying service to individuals because they object to circumstances relevant to the event.
So let’s get to the hypothetical
Here in Hypothica there are all sorts of hot-button social issues that directly affect citizen’s engagement in commerce.
- A musician don’t want to play in cities that have laws she don’t agree with
- A Christian baker doesn’t want to make a cake for a wedding he doesn’t approve of
- A liberal print shop owner doesn’t want to print banners for a pro-life rally
- A Jewish hotel owner doesn’t want to rent his meeting space out to a meeting of Holocaust deniers
- A group of nuns don’t want to pay for a healthcare plan that pays for abortion.
- A black bar owner doesn’t want a known racist to host his birthday party here
- A national men’s group doesn’t want to allow women to join their club
- A comic shop owner hates Iron Man and doesn’t want to let the Iron Man fan club meet here, but will allow all other hero clubs.
As you can see, there are a variety of reasons people want to deny service, some religious, others personal preference. Some events are directly associated with the objectionable attribute (Holocaust deniers meeting) others are discrete (the racist’s birthday party). In every circumstance the provider feels they are justified in not doing business and the consumer feels discriminated against. In none of these circumstances are there lives on the line.
What kind of laws should Hypothica adopt to determine how and when services must be provided? What freedoms are being taken into account and what is their priority?
I’m going to give my personal opinion:
Citing freedom of religion is too messy. I don’ think the government ought to be in the business of deciding who has a valid “conscientious objection” and who doesn’t and how far that objection can extend. I’d rather see a system that supported freedom of association. Anyone can do business with anyone else. Some people will discriminate and that’s unfortunate, but not an abuse of rights. There should be limits on human necessities (groceries, medical, housing, clothes) and anything provided by the government, even indirectly.
On the Island nation of Hypothica, we have North Hypothica High School, and try-outs are beginning for basketball season. This year the woman’s basketball team has four interesting prospective players all wanting to join the team. All four are seniors, but have not played on this team before. If any one of these players makes the woman’s team, they will be the MVP and beat out last year’s returning MVP, Plain Jane for the last remaining spot on the team at the prestigious Hypothica University next year.
As the Athletic Director of NHHS, which of these players would you allow on the woman’s team?
Player 1: Born a male, identifies as a girl. Has had full hormonal/surgical treatments available.
Player 2: Born a male, identifies as a girl. Has not had any hormonal/surgical treatments.
Player 3: Born a female, identifies as a boy. Has not had any hormone/surgical treatments.
Player 4: Born a female, identifies as a female. Paralyzed neck down in an accident at the age of 3. Has a permanent robotic exoskeleton that allows regular movement
For niceties, let’s also assume that the rest of the students at NHHS are very mature and respectful. In any outcome no bullying is likely to ensue, and although each student has their respective religious beliefs, all agree this situation doesn’t need to be evaluated in a “morality of gender identification” lens.
Today’s post is rather open ended. Under what conditions should Hypothica go to war? Or get involved in military engagements in general?
Let’s assume that Hypothica is a secular democratic nation without an official religion or an explicitly coded moral system. So any military engagement is likely guided by principles outside of any given citizens personal morality.
Should we allow Hypothica to get involved in based solely whether it benefits its own self-interests? If so, are we just to hope that Hypothican leadership/populace never has immoral interests?
Should we put legal limits or guidelines on how and when to get involved? If so, how is this done without basically endorsing a militarized moral code Hypothica exerts?