Make Stereotypes Humourous Again

I am going to argue that we should find the use of stereotypes in humour socially acceptable. This topic came up when I was discussing an article claiming that non-Polynesians should not dress up as Moana for Halloween, because it is ‘laughing at their culture by making it a costume.’ Now firstly, the girls who want to dress as Moana are not laughing at her or Polynesians; they are admiring her as their heroine, and wanting to look like her, just as if someone dressed as Spider-man. But this made me think about the question of costumes that do seem to mock a culture, e.g. toga costumes making fun of decadent Romans. And I will argue that such costumes should be perfectly acceptable, even if they are stereotypical. If you want the short version, Lloyd of Lindybeige does a very good job of talking about why humour about minorities is important:

Let’s Laugh at Minorities

But leaving aside the question of whether taboos on stereotypical jokes actually cause harm for the moment, let us consider the reason why stereotypical jokes are generally frowned upon.

The first reason is that stereotypical judgments of individuals are harmful to individuals. It is, for example, harmful to an hispanic who applies for a job, if the hiring board were to say ‘Well, Mexicans are lazy, so we can assume this person is lazy, and not hire them.’ That is, of course, wrong. Such judgments should be socially condemned (and, in this instance, perhaps legally regulated as well).

The issue is that this is a separate topic from the question of whether stereotypical jokes should be taboo, whereas in PC thought, these issues are confounded. This is a logical fallacy, a ‘slippery slope fallacy.’ While slippery slope arguments can have validity, this one does not: in order to prove valid, a slippery slope argument must show that there is no way to keep from sliding down the slope.

Consider an analogy: ‘driving drunk is bad. If we make alcohol legal, and socially normalize drinking safely, it will encourage people to drink, and end up with them being encouraged to drive drunk!’ This is rather clearly a fallacious argument. In fact, we have made driving while impaired both severely punishable and severely taboo. Normalizing drinking under some circumstances does not thereby normalize drunk driving. And it is not justifiable to ban people from safely drinking just in case it slightly reduces the chances of someone drinking unsafely, regardlesss.

Similarly, normalizing a joke about something does not inherently normalize prejudice against that thing. Nor would it be justifiable to ban jokes on a given topic just in case this slightly reduced the chances of someone being actually prejudiced. In a rather similar manner, I would say the holocaust was one of the worst and most tragic evils in history. However, jokes about it are fine, Anne Frankly I’d like to see more of them.

The problem, then, is that PC taboos confound ‘finding humour in something’ and ‘disrespecting that thing/approving of that thing.’ A person could find a rape joke funny without thereby approving of rape. A person could find a joke about the late Italian, or the drunk Irishman, funny without thereby being prejudiced against Italians or the Irish. We can both support clean water for Native Americans and laugh about Big Chief Whomp ‘Em.

The next argument for making some jokes taboo is that some jokes are offensive. Of course, the problem here is that literally everything is likely offensive to someone. A woman going outside with her hair uncovered could offend the hijabi next door. A gay pride flag could offend the baptist on the street. A crucifix could offend an atheist. Whether a thing is offensive is not even a question: it is offensive to someone, somewhere.

The issue with humour, as Ricky Gervais put it (and I am paraphrasing here slightly), is ‘there is nothing about which you should not joke. It depends on where the joke is coming from.’ He did not mean here ‘it depends on the identity of the person making the joke,’ but rather that it depends on intent and context.

Humour – on any topic – can, I think, be malicious or ‘all in good fun,’ as one might say. In fact the very same joke could be told in good fun, or told maliciously. There is therefore nothing that should be taboo. As Lloyd said, of course, one should be tactful, and consider the audience and how they are perhaps likely to see the joke, but nothing should be off limits, including stereotypes. Telling jokes about stereotypes does not make you a closet racist, unless you are really trying to hurt people with those jokes.

So wear whatever the fuck you want for Halloween, and stop PC policing your kids.

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‘Privilege’ is a bad term

The word ‘privilege,’ as used in social justice, is a bad term. There are a few reasons for this. The biggest one, though, is that most of what is called ‘privilege’ are actually rights, which are being denied to some people.

For example, we have the right to not be murdered by cops. That cops frequently get away with murdering black people is not ‘white privilege;’ if anything, it is white normalcy. A ‘privilege,’ on the other hand, is something which some people receive over and above their rights. Example: diplomats receive the privilege of diplomatic immunity. This is something which ordinary people don’t, and shouldn’t, have (arguably the diplomats shouldn’t either); it is thus not at all a right.

The problem is that most of the things SJWs speak of as ‘privilege’ are actually not privileges at all, they are merely a lack of disadvantage. Often it is not even a lack of disadvantage, but merely a lesser disadvantage. After all, white people are murdered by cops as well. Black people are murdered at a disproportionately high rate, of course, but no group is immune from having members murdered by police. Yet, I’m supposed to consider myself ‘privileged’ because I’m less likely to be murdered by a cop?

A similar issue occurs with the term ‘systemic.’ What, exactly, is ‘systemic?’ Often, it seems to be used as a synonym for ‘widespread.’

I’m not demanding a precise, rigorous definition. Not all terms need to be fully precise to be useful. There is a famous linguistic/philosophical puzzle: what is a ‘pile of sand?’ If you begin putting individual grains of sand one at a time onto a table, at what point does it become a pile? It’s not really possible to say, but the term ‘pile’ is still useful.

But with ‘systemic,’ this does not seem to be the case. If it means ‘widespread,’ then it’s merely a synonym. On the other hand, if it means ‘inherent in the system,’ well, that is not the way it is used. There is nothing inherent in our criminal justice system that lets cops get away with murdering black people; racial bigotry in some police officers and some jurors is to blame. There’s no law saying that being black is a mitigating factor when it comes to cops killing suspects/civilians, or anything.

The problem is that, if systemic merely means widespread – as it would seem – then why replace the words? The only reason would appear to be that, by calling it ‘systemic,’ SJWs hope to evoke a feeling of collective guilt.

Why Sexual Selection Matters and Why Cordelia Fine is Wrong

Yeyo's Corner

Last week The Royal Society awarded the polemic writer Cordelia Fine with their Science Book of the Year award for Testosterone Rex. The central thesis in the book is that the behavioral differences between men and women are better explained by culture than by testosterone and that the theoretical framework that evolutionary scientists regard as the root cause of several of the robust cross-cultural sex differences we see, namely Bateman’s principle and sexual selection, have been largely debunked, at least when it comes to humans. Since this runs pretty much contrary to the broadly held consensus in evolutionary biology the choice has naturally elicited criticism from both biologists and evolutionary psychologists.

Ad Hoc Hypotheses and Occam’s Razor

In her quest to deny that biology is responsible for sex differences in behavior Cordelia Fine has a huge advantage, she benefits from that fact (which the award has made clear) that…

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What is an SJW?

One of the problems in today’s sociopolitical climate is that there are lots of terms, used by lots of people, often in somewhat distinct ways. A good example is ‘alt left.’ I’ve seen the term ‘alt left’ be applied to Berniecrats, to IdPol progressives, to leftists who aren’t democrats, and so on. ]

However, the term ‘SJW’ (‘Social Justice Warrior’) seems to be fairly consistently applied, although it is not easy to give a precise definition of an SJW. And this does not make the term useless. We have many terms which are hard to define precisely (Wittgenstein spent much of his philosophical career trying to understand this fact). The classical example is ‘a pile of sand.’ We all agree that a ten foot tall mount of sand is a ‘pile,’ and a single grain is not. But when does it become a ‘pile?’

(I am a technicalist, and a mathematician. I maintain a ‘pile’ is when there are enough grains of sane so that at least one is stably raised off the supporting surface. The minimum number to do this is 4, but it requires the correct geometric setup to make it happen.)

However, the point remains: it is hard to distinguish between ‘some grains of sand near one another,’ and ‘a pile of sand.’ So, terms which are a bit fuzzy can still be very useful.

What, then, is an SJW? What characterizes such a person?

When I first engaged in social media, as a naive tweeter, I thought to myself, ‘SJW must be a pejorative used by conservatives to smear liberals. Who could possibly oppose social justice?’ How soon I learned my mistake. I liked a few statements by SJWs and followed them, and then, as soon as I dissented in any way, I was swarmed with attacks. I quickly realized that their form of ‘Social Justice’ differed from real social justice (i.e. providing equal opportunity to everyone, providing educational opportunities to everyone regardless of their birth conditions, and creating a society where people were judged on individual merits instead of their group identity), and I understood why even liberal people would condemn the SJWs.

So what is an SJW? Well, again, it is a bit of an amorphous term. But these are some telling features of SJWs. Some SJWs just have one, or a few, of these characteristics. However, we should remember it is a bit of an elastic term.

In its most general form, an SJW is a person who advocates for social justice as understood by postmodernist collectivism, as opposed to individual fairness. They may or not be explicitly aware of how their notion of justice differs from the notion of justice in classical liberalism. This can manifest itself in many different ways; the following is a very incomplete list of some of the forms it can take:

  1. If you believe a person’s individuality is defined by their demographics, you are either an SJW or basically a nazi. SJWs tend to have an approach to identity which assumes that all people of Demographic X are interchangeable. As an example: while we might argue against the James Damore memo, his claim was merely that more men are interested in/skilled at coding than women. He did not say that the women who worked as coders at Google were unworthy of being there, or were tokens, or that women should not be hired. However, I saw many people claim that Damore’s memo claimed that women are not coders, do not like coding, and are not as good at coding as men! This was not at all what the memo claimed, right or wrong. It suggested only that there are fewer women who are interested in coding and highly skilled at it than men, and that this could explain hiring gaps.
    To give an analogy, I might say ‘Men are taller than women.’ But of course, there are many pairs of one man and one woman where the woman is taller than the man. There are just more pairs where the man is taller than the woman.
    But for SJWs, it is often the case that all individuals in a given group must be interchangeable. Therefore, if someone asserts that there is a difference in averages between groups A and B, they must be asserting that everyone in group A has that difference from everyone in group B, since all members of group A are interchangeable, and all individuals in group B are interchangeable.
    So, one way to be an SJW, is to assume that group members are (implicitly) interchangeable.
  2. Of course, individual members of a group are empirically not interchangeable. However, some people claim that members of an ‘oppressed’ group, who disagree with the postmodernist-leftist narrative, are co-opted victims of the oppressors. Thus, blacks who think racism in the US is limited are ‘uncle Toms.’ Women who disagree with 3rd wave feminism, or who fight for sex workers’ rights, have ‘internalized misogyny,’ and so on.
    This sort of logical error is a weird mix of an ad hominem argument and a ‘no true Scotsman’ error.
  3. ‘You can’t understand Y because you are X.’ The notion that people cannot empathize or sympathize with members of another demographic is a common SJW theme.
  4. Differentiating bigotries based on who is bigoted against whom: Everyone would agree that if a white man refused to sell a car to a black woman, this was racism, misogyny, or both. But if a black woman refused to sell to a white man: ‘This might be prejudice, but racism and sexism can only occur to the “oppressed!”‘ is the SJW way of looking at things. In this view, bigotry becomes bad, or at least worse, solely by virtue of being a prejudice by a member of an ‘oppressing’ group. Thus:
    – A women-only space is oppressive when it is created by white christian men, but not when created by Arab muslims.
    – A ‘blacks only’ space is fine, but a ‘whites only’ space is racist segregation.
    – A ‘men only’ space is misogynist, but a ‘women only’ space is fine, as long as they allow self-identifying transwomen with penises (otherwise, they are evil TERFs!).
  5. ‘Prejudicial behavior against oppressors is okay.’ This could sort of make sense, if it meant ‘prejudice against individual people who support oppression is okay.’ But for some SJWs, it means: ‘If a black man, whose parents immigrated to the US in 1995, disses a white man, that is okay, because it is payback for slavery, even though that white man is an immigrant from Poland who came to the US in 2014.’ Again, relates back to point 1, where all members of a group are interchangeable – in this case, despite demographic differences. So if one person in the white demographic can be deemed an oppressor – in the last 600 years – it justifies oppressing any white person you see, since they are interchangeable with that oppressor. (Note: this does not apply to Arabs, who engaged in a great deal of oppression themselves – they are oppressed and thus it is not okay to be prejudiced towards them!)
  6. Pretty much anything based on ‘critical theory.’ This includes gender studies, race studies, etc., as practiced by postmodernists.

 

Heroics, obnoxiousness, and winning allies

In today’s ‘oppression olympics’ climate, people try to demonstrate how oppressed they are, and to call out others as oppressors. Which ironically both appeals to something which appears to be a part of our human evolutionary psychology, and also repels something which appeals to be part of our evolutionary psychology.

I recently watched a video on Youtube, by Lloyd of Lindybeige, about two LARP (live action role playing) characters which he had previously portrayed, and how they taught him about life and human nature. The first was a character named Agin, who was stupid, trusting, and quick to anger. Lloyd’s intention was that Agin would be easily exploitable. However, this turned out to be not so much the case. It seemed that other characters, when they would seem Agin being in a situation where he might be exploited, tended to stand up for him, and try to prevent this exploitation.

The second character was Barkan(?). This was a guy who, like many on the left today, believed that those in power were exploitative and that anyone with any power simply uses it to exploit others. He found that this character was frequently mistreated, even when it was somewhat obvious to everyone that he was being mistreated. Indeed, after heroically sacrificing himself, this character was passed over for being resurrected (according to the rules of magic in the LARP universe which only allowed for 5 people to be resurrected in that situation), even though he had personally defeated the big monster, at the cost of his own life!

Lloyd concluded with some text, as is his wont, but in this case, I think the text was rather appropriate. It read: ‘So, if you think the worst of people, they will think the worst of you/People like to be heroes, and most will help someone in need/And there is no justice.’

Okay, disregarding the last sentence, I think the first two bear keeping in mind. Let us compare them to the situation among what we might call the regressive left or ‘social justice warrior’ movement. I will focus here upon whites vs. people of colour, and males vs. females, although similar concerns apply to any of the SJW causes.

First, the regressive left likes to think the worst of ‘white/male’ people. These people are told they are the evil oppressors, that they are racists/sexists even if they have no racial bigotry or sex-based bigotry themselves, and so on. What are the natural consequences of this?

First, these people will say the regressive left are ridiculous and horrible. Second, they are more likely to become actual racists/sexists, because if you are going to be accused of such things, you may as well actually be those things.

But what are they unlikely to do, as a result of such accusations? Care about helping fix any real problems, that is what. Because if you blame such problems on them, you are inherently going to make them less likely to want to help you, and perhaps even want to deny such problems exist.

Let us try to bring this consideration into the real world for a moment. Suppose that a white male, we will call him WM, deplores racism and sexism. It’s possible that an employer picked them because of their race or gender, but they were not involved in this decision, and if they knew what had motivated the decision, they would be appalled. But we cannot even be sure their hiring was motivated by racist or sexist concerns. They constantly fight for women and people of colour.

Then one day someone comes up to WM, and tells him (and this paraphrased from something I actually read): ‘Being an ally of people of colour and women means unlearning your sexist and racist attitudes and acknowledging your part in oppressing them, not just in opposing those systems. That means you are a racist and a sexist, whether you think you are or not.’ But before we ask how WM is likely to respond, let us consider a couple of similar situations in the past.

For an analogy: suppose that we have person X, who lives under Nazi controlled Europe, and who wants to save Jews. So X helps Jews to escape, provides them shelter at great risk to themselves, and generally tries to make sure Jews get to safety. Then along comes Jew SJW: SJW tells X ‘Well, you have benefited from gentile privilege, which makes you a racist against Jews, whether you think you are or not! You need to repent of this racism!’

What is person X going to think? It’s not their fault the Nazis are rounding up Jews. They don’t want it to happen, and they would like to stop it, and they are doing whatever they can to keep it from being carried out. Yet, suddenly, they are being lumped in with the Nazis who want to kill all the Jews, simply because the Nazis aren’t also trying to kill them! Why keep working for the people who lump them in with the Nazis, anyway? If these Jews think X is just as bad as the Nazis trying to kill them, is he going to feel very motivated to continue rescuing them? (There are, ethically, still reasons to save them, but psychologically, a big motivator is lost).

To give another example, what if a white person, in 1855, were harbouring slaves and helping them on the underground railroad, and one of these escaped slaves started lecturing them on how ‘white privilege’ meant they weren’t a slave and how they ‘benefited from living in an economy that involved slavery’? Wouldn’t they say ‘No shit, but I’m fighting against slavery, so why are you mad at me for some shit that isn’t my fault and that I oppose? I don’t want to benefit from slavery; that is why I am helping you now, you insufferable nag!’

Well, person WM is likely to feel rather similarly. After all, they’re trying to end ‘white privilege’ and ‘male privilege.’ If they benefited from such things, it was not deliberately, nor do they approve of this, and thus, it is hardly morally their fault; in fact they are devoted to putting an end to such things. Yet they are being demonized as nearly equivalent to Richard Spencer (racist) or Mike Cernovich (rape apologist)!

Now, WM might respond by thinking they really are racist, and being driven into feeling guilt for things that are obviously not morally his fault. That is irrational, and few rational people will fall into this reaction (though there are people who will fall into this, whether because they are irrational, or simply need approval and so will, Stockholm-syndrome-like, look for approval from the SJWs even as they are demeaned). On the other hand, they might recognize that the accusation itself is irrational, and deny it. Of course, this will likely result in ostracizing from the regressive left. So in this case, what could happen? If WM is rational, they will see that the principle is still worth fighting for, even if they are wrongly accused, and they will keep fighting, even as the regressive left refuses to consider them an ally. However, if WM is not 100% rational, they might think ‘Hey, if I am going to be accused of racism and sexism just because I was born the way I am, why should I care about the people who are accusing me? Maybe I should just go whole hog and really be racist and sexist! Especially against these people who are accusing me, because they definitely don’t deserve me standing up for them!’

I disagree with this last reaction. It is not rational, for two reasons: first, not all people of colour/women agree with the SJWs who accuse white males of racism and sexism regardless of their personal opinions, and second, because we should stand up for what is right no matter who calls us names. However, in practice, there are big psychological discouragements involved in the way white/male ‘allies’ are currently treated by the regressive left. Is it any wonder that, in response to identity politics, over half of whites, including over half of white women, chose to go with Trump?

So, I am going to give a few suggestions, based upon Lloyd’s conclusions, for how social justice advocates can win allies:

  1. Make allies feel like heroes. There’s a stigma against this, because it feels like asking for ‘white knights.’ But you need to recognize that, e.g., white people who are advocating against racism really do not want to benefit from racism, and are actively trying to end something that benefits (or could benefit) them. This is heroic (at least in the sense that they are fighting for a cause that does not benefit themselves). Even if you don’t like calling it heroic, recognize that calling it heroic (perhaps not in those words) will psychologically reinforce their devotion to your cause – perhaps even attract more supporters (who doesn’t want to be the hero?). Of course, people of colour/women/other ‘oppressed’ groups don’t want to sound ‘weak,’ like they are looking for heroes. But appealing to allies by holding them up as heroic supporters (who are helpful, though perhaps not necessary) is a really good way to both psychologically reward your allies and also to attract new supporters.
  2. Recognize that shaming people is a bad approach. If you shame people, they are likely to avoid that shame by simply dismissing you and your argument. Now, I get it, there are some people who legitimately are so bad, they deserve to be shamed. But when someone is trying to help you, don’t shame them. If you think they are ineffective or overlooking something in their own attitudes/lives, try to help them see it without shaming them.
  3. Recognize that people who feel like no matter what they do, they will be called oppressors, are somewhat likely to actually decide to engage in more oppression, since they may as well get as many perks as possible from being oppressors, if the name is going to stick regardless.

In other words, the current SJW approach may be pretty much psychologically the opposite of effective. Demonizing everyone outside your group and demonizing those in your group of the wrong (white/male) skin colour/sex is not an effective method of keeping or attracting support, from a psychological perspective. On the other hand, trying to reward your supporters psychologically by making them feel ‘heroic’ could be a very effective way to win support.

To put it a bit more colloquially: if you treat others as obnoxious gits, don’t be surprised if they return the favour, and even end up opposing the causes you champion. On the other hand, if you make people feel like they’re being helpful, even heroic, they’re likely to want to help you. So instead of claiming that ‘being an ally means unlearning your oppressive nature,’ try asking people to ‘stand up for the little guy.’

Is white the new black?

The race question is in many senses the big elephant in the room. An issue so utterly diluted in recent decades thanks to lazy, unfounded slurs dished out by the regressive left to anyone with (heaven forbid) concerns over immigration, foreign aid, or the ‘migrant crisis’.

Racism, in the true sense of the word, is despicable whichever direction it is aimed in. The fact that the colour of someone’s skin should dictate how other people are treated is a stain on the human race yet it is an uncomfortable reality even today.

We’ve come a long way since Britain’s post-war era where signs reading ‘No Irish, no blacks, no dogs’ adorned B&B windows and public houses. In many ways times have changed as evidenced by Barack Obama becoming the first black president to reach the White House or the KKK and National Front falling into relative obscurity.

Yet in the…

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The semantics of gender

Inspired by a recent video from Laci Green, discussing how many genders there are, as well as by a post from Sarah Reynolds, I want to discuss the issue of gender, pronouns, and the function of language, whether gender is a spectrum, and why it is important.

When discussing language, there are really three levels that must be considered. The first is the ‘stuff in the world.’ Philosophers call these things ‘particulars.’ Examples of particulars are ‘that specific chair,’ ‘that specific person,’ and so on. Next, there are the concepts which describe those specific things. Finally, there are the words with which we label those concepts.

Semantics deals with the question of which words label which concepts. In theory, any symbol can be used to represent any concept. However, in order for us to be able to communicate, we need to have a consensus on which symbols (words) to use for which concepts. As a side-note, the other aspect of language is syntax, which deals with the form of language itself.

Now, I maintain that when it comes to gender and pronouns, there are, roughly speaking, four ways in which these terms have been used, or in which is has been proposed they be used:

  1. Gender referring to biological sex. This is not a spectrum, of course, because biological sex is binary (with rare intersex exceptions). It cannot be changed via surgery or chemicals.
  2. Gender referring to the public presentation of male or female sex characteristics. Again, this is binary. It can, however, sometimes be distinct from biological sex. It can also be changed via surgery and chemicals.
  3. Gender referring to masculinity and femininity. This is sort of a spectrum, although I would suggest that a person can have highly masculine and feminine traits, so it is better to see it as a two-dimensional grid.
  4. Gender referring to how you feel about yourself.

As Green pointed out in her video, then, part of the problem of trying to answer the question ‘is gender on a spectrum’ is that different people are probably using the same word to refer to different things. Some of those things are spectrums and some are not. So which usage does language historically display?

Now, it seems that historically, genders and pronouns have been used in the first and second senses. As an example of the second sense, consider Blaire White, a popular transwoman Youtuber, who pointed out that people naturally refer to her as ‘she,’ even though she never asked anyone to do so, because that is how language works. In other instances, people use the terms in the first sense.

However, language has never really used genders and pronouns in the third and fourth senses, historically. We have words for describing people who have a lot of traits associated with the opposite sex (‘effeminate,’ ‘tomboy,’ etc.), but in each case, the gender and pronoun would be assigned in the first or second sense, with an additional term used to describe those other characteristics.

This means that the SJW movement to use genders and pronouns in the third or fourth senses are wrong when they say ‘gender is on a spectrum,’ if they are trying to be descriptive of language. But they are not trying to be descriptive. They are trying to be prescriptive. In other words, they are trying to change the concept which the word ‘gender’ labels. This is a vastly different matter. So let us note a few points:

First, gender dysphoria is a real psychological problem, which can sometimes be resolved through transitional surgery and chemical treatment. However, it remains a disorder. We should not change language to accommodate a psychological disorder.

Second, in the first, second, and third potential meanings for ‘gender,’ gender describes something about how the person fits into the world. You cannot ‘gender yourself,’ in this sense. In the first sense, you are your biological sex, which you cannot change. In the second sense, and even in the third, you can change how you present yourself to the world, but the world still decides whether you are ‘he’ or ‘she.’

This is, I would contend, a good thing, because it makes language more descriptive. If we move into the fourth sense, where we allow people to gender themselves, then ‘he’ and ‘she’ no longer have any useful descriptive function, since all they tell us is what a person thinks of themselves. This is as meaningful as if I told someone to call me a blond, because I feel blond (in fact, I have brown hair with red highlights). It becomes worse when people insist upon using gender neutral pronouns like ‘xe’ or ‘they’ (which is even more confusing since it mixes singular and plural). These convey no information, except that the person insisting on these pronouns is probably definitely an insufferable douchebag. Though perhaps this is more important to know than knowing anything about their gender…

Furthermore, the notion that gender can be ‘fluid’ is not a relevant point. Maybe there are some people who sometimes present male sex characteristics and sometimes present female sex characteristics; those are the only ones who could really claim to be ‘gender fluid.’ But they would be changing genders in the second sense, and doing so by presenting to the world in a different manner. ‘I feel a little girly today’ does not mean that your gender has somehow switched. Nor is gender something that you can really choose. As Reynolds points out, these notions actually minimize the real problem of gender dysphoria, which is not a choice but an affliction. And you cannot self-identify as gender dysphoric any more than you can self-identify as depressed or schizophrenic.

The fourth sense also has an inherent problem in that different people will still disagree as to whether gender is a spectrum, since some people may feel they are part of a two gender system, and some might feel that they are part of a ‘gender is a spectrum’ system.

Finally, does it really matter? After all, language is arbitrary. Well, it does matter, for two reasons. The first we have already covered: trying to move language to use gender and pronouns in the third or especially the fourth senses would decrease the descriptive power of language. Second, it poses problems when dealing with issues of sexual segregation. Although this could be dealt with in other manners, say, by specifying that the segregation is sexual, and not gender-based, it makes such discussions much harder. Two areas where this is especially relevant:

  1. Bathrooms and locker rooms. While bathrooms are less of an issue, since women’s restrooms tend have enclosed stalls, should women really be subjected to watching males getting changed in locker rooms? This is probably something that should be left up to females to decide.
  2. Much more important is the issue of sports segregation. Consider that the Williams sisters, who are probably the best female tennis players of all time, were trounced (6-0 and 6-1) in the same day by a male tennis player who was not even in the top 200 of male competitors. Or consider the high school track runner who currently ‘identifies as a woman’ and thus is being allowed to compete in the girls’ runs rather than the boys – as a result of which, he is winning instead of being middle of the pack. Numerous studies have confirmed that there is extensive sexual dimorphism between males and females in humans. Regardless of how gender and pronouns are used, it is crucial that sports, at least, be segregated by sex. But the current discussion of gender has pushed things to a point where trans people, even if they have not started transitioning, can join the opposite sex’s league, and use their advantages to crush the competition.