Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Post-Nap Roundup

It was such a wonderful day outside. I have no idea why I came back to my apartment and collapsed into an 1.5 hour nap.

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Uganda's "kill the gays" bill is back, albeit it sounds like the execution part itself has been removed.

Adam Serwer comments on the President inviting Common to the White House.

In the burgeoning intra-Iran feud between Ayatollah Khameni and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Geneive Abdo explains why we should root for Khamenei. Recognizing the force of her arguments, nonetheless, I myself am rooting for injuries.

Anti-Shariah laws -- bad for religious liberty, hence, bad for the Jews.

Robert Farley on Chomsky the IR theorist.

Do my homework with me! Read Martha Nussbaum's critique of Judith Butler.


Rebecca said...

Thanks for the link to Nussbaum's article - it's great! I have tried to read Butler, without success - her jargon defeated me, and I had the same thought as Nussbaum: what does this have to do with feminist activism? How can ordinary women living in the real world even understand what Butler is saying? It is a very self-enclosed way of writing, and always seemed intended both to create and maintain an elite.

David Schraub said...

If you liked that, you'll love her review of Harvey Mansfield's "Manliness".

Anonymous said...

Amazing critique. I wish I had professors who assigned that piece. (Every prof. who assigned Butler during my schooling was deferential towards her.)

Girondin said...

Butler actually admitted to me by email that biology is a significant factor in determining one's gender. This is an obvious, indisputable point, but she evades it in her work. (So much so, one prominent anthology of literary theory declares flatly, "For Butler, gender is entirely imitative." An absurdity.)

There is a disease called cloacal exstrophy, in which baby boys are born without functioning penises. During the heyday of gender theory a few decades ago, they were sometimes castrated and raised by their parents as girls and treated by everyone around them as girls. According to case studies, they still exhibited typically male attitudes of play and interests. In one case study (consisting of 25 subjects) more than half spontaneously declared themselves to be male at very young ages.

So prenatal hormones probably matter more than the color of one's nursery or the type of toys one is encouraged to play with.

By and large, you won't hear about these kinds of empirical studies in courses on gender theory.

It's funny -- the same people who (rightly) flay Republicans for ignoring empirical science on climate change for ideological reasons will, when the subject turns to gender, ignore empirical science for ideological reasons.

The tacit calculation is that, even if the belief in socially constructed gender turns out to be false, it would be salutary if people nonetheless believe that gender has nothing to do with biology.

However, overestimating the degree of gender malleability is not without cost. The famous David/Brenda case is a heartbreaking story. An 8-year-old boy lost his penis in a botched circumcision. His parents consulted with a fashionable gender theorist and decided to raise him as a girl. As Steven Pinker reports, the NY Times stated that "Brenda" was sailing happily through childhood as a genuine girl.

The facts were suppressed until 1997, when it was revealed that "Brenda" from a young age felt that she was a boy trapped in a girl's body. At fourteen she decided to assume the name David and live her life as a man, but sadly, a few years ago David committed suicide.

His life was made a living hell partly because of a faulty theory of gender.

Anonymous said...

8-month-year-old boy.*

Rebecca said...

I teach a course on gender theory and I definitely bring in empirical evidence. I found the case you mention very disturbing and read more about it - which I tell my students about. Don't paint with such a broad brush. Also, the parents did not consult a "fashionable gender theorist." They consulted Dr. John Money of Johns Hopkins, who was one of the world's experts at the time on gender identity.