Provocations

by Daniel A. Kaufman

  1. The current transgender moment

It’s a strange time, now, on the cultural Left, with a lot of circular firing squad style activity going on, particularly between old guard feminists and mostly younger, transgender activists.  At the surface, the fight is over things like women’s colleges and other all-women’s spaces and whether they should be open to trans-women. More deeply, the conflict would seem to be over some of the fundamental assumptions that have traditionally been associated with gender identity movements, especially the socially constructed nature of gender.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/07/opinion/sunday/what-makes-a-woman.html?_r=0

http://www.politics.co.uk/comment-analysis/2015/10/28/comment-the-attack-on-germaine-greer-shows-identity-politics

I’ve actually been a bit surprised by the swiftness with which the younger types have been ready to chuck their venerable elders over the side of the social justice boat, employing rhetoric that one would think they would save for people like Donald Trump or James Dobson.  The battle for women’s equality and for the creation of what has become a quite impressive set of American, all-women institutions was very hard fought, and there is something rather dispiriting about the cavalier way in which millennial social justice warriors are just ready to dismiss it all as irrelevant.  One wonders whether this is not at least partly a result of (a) the shocking degree to which the younger generation is utterly ignorant of history, even recent history, and (b) the fetishization of choice and the rejection of givens, against the backdrop of which the sudden, gushing enthusiasm for transgenderism makes a certain kind of weird sense.

As for my own partially-formed thoughts on the subject, here they are, scattered and incomplete:

  • Gender identity activists are going to have to make some sense of the mess that currently is their conception of the relative roles of nature and acculturation. For decades, now, we have been told that while sex is natural, gender is socially constructed, and that this is why, for example, someone might be a woman, in terms of sex, but might more strongly identify with what have traditionally been male roles.  Indeed, this was the underlying message of much of Free to Be You and Me, a magnificent record put together by Marlo Thomas and a group of high profile actors, musicians, and other assorted celebrities, and one that I listened to constantly, as a child.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLFh9kVO9_BWOwGnw1Kfuwsm3jYZ2h1287

Now, however, we are being told that people are being “born in the wrong bodies” or that while their bodies may be male or female, their brains are the opposite, all of which speaks to a sort of essentialism that contradicts the older, social construction model.  Clearly, this will all have to be sorted out, before the conversation on these issues will be anything better than an intense, often angry muddle.

  • There is a disheartening tendency on the part of trans-activists to react to any question regarding the current movement by some appeal to “the science,” as if (a) these matters were settled and enjoyed wide consensus and (b) are all amenable to scientific investigation. I call this “disheartening” because (c) the science on all of this is brand new and can hardly have reached any sort of settled position – I would argue that at our current stage of investigation, we know little to nothing about the phenomenon, regardless of what the activists might like everyone to think – and (d) to the extent to which the question is one of how we employ certain socially-inflected terminology and kind-classifications, it cannot be one that will be decided by any scientific discovery, but will have to undergo sustained philosophical analysis.
  • The transgender activist position on all-women’s colleges – namely, that trans-women ought to be able to attend them – if widely adopted, will spell the end for those institutions, as the institutions they have been. I am not making the case that this is a good or a bad thing – simply that it is the inescapable outcome of what seems to be the current trajectory on which the issue is headed.  To the extent to which these institutions exist because of a specific set of arguments that have traditionally been made of all-women’s spaces, the inclusion of trans-women makes little sense.

The traditional arguments for all-women’s spaces had to do not just with the mistreatment of women by men, but with the distinctive experiences of women, in the US, experiences that are directly related to what feminists see as “the problem.”  And yet, someone who was physically male and lived as a man for decades, prior to transitioning — like the ubiquitous Caitlyn Jenner — will not have had those experiences.  Indeed, even someone who transitions at a much earlier age will never have some of these distinctive experiences – menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, abortion, post-partum depression, etc.  This is not to say that the transgendered do not have their own distinctive experiences or face their own distinctive challenges, but simply that they are not the same as those of women.  To this extent, Elinor Burkett, in the New York Times piece I linked to above, seems correct.

Perhaps the trans-moment has revealed that all-women’s colleges are no longer necessary.  That may be the case.  But if all-women’s colleges are still necessary, for the reasons traditionally given, the admission of transgender students is hard to make sense of.

  1. Generation Wuss

I am somewhat puzzled by the current enthusiasm among, mostly younger millennials, for “trigger warnings,” “safe spaces,” “micro-aggressions,” “calling out,” “checking privilege” and all the other concepts that make up so much of the contemporary social justice landscape and which characterize what Bret Easton Ellis has called “Generation Wuss.”

http://www.vanityfair.fr/culture/livre/articles/generation-wuss-by-bret-easton-ellis/15837

At the most superficial level, the appeal is easy to see.  To be able to direct the regulatory, administrative, and legal machinery of one’s society, so that it punishes your enemies and provides you with layers of protection is a way to acquire social, political, and cultural power and position, without having to do it the long, hard, and boring way.  And given the merciless reality of the current economy – one that is unlikely to change – it’s easy to see why a generation, whose prospects for accumulating wealth and power are much worse than those of the other generations currently still alive, would find this sort of thing appealing and even a bit intoxicating.

That said, I still don’t understand it, and especially, its popularity with teens and young adults.  Indeed, in my gloomier, very Gen-Xy moments, I wonder whether it signals the death of everything that used to define youth.  Some admittedly only partially formed thoughts along these lines.

  1. One’s teen and young adult years are typically those in which we are most inclined to take risks. But the “wuss” regime bespeaks a level of risk-averseness that one would normally only associate with frail, elderly people.
  2. One’s youth is when one’s fundamental identity-formation occurs and hence, is a time of intense concern with social position. Why, then, such a passionate commitment to a posture of weakness and fragility that inevitably will engender social contempt, rather than respect?
  3. Can anyone really believe that once they have left school and entered the workforce, these sorts of poses and postures will continue to work?  With the exception of a few high-profile cases of the sort that you read on Gawker, does anyone really think that they will be able to tweet-outrage their enemies into hiding or convince employers to fire “offenders,” in perpetuity?  Put another way, can any young person really believe that they will never need to accumulate money and social capital the traditional way, but will be able to navigate their way to success and social position, by manipulating the regulatory and legal regime?

Clearly, this issue is hot right now, and there are a gazillion pieces out there, trying to make sense of it.  Here are some of what I think are the better ones.

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/10/the-anti-free-speech-movement-at-ucla/410638/

http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/blog/2015/10/20/wesleyan-students-defund-paper/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201509/declining-student-resilience-serious-problem-colleges

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/the-coddling-of-the-american-mind/399356/


Posted

in

by

Comments

59 responses to “Provocations”

  1. Good article.

    But I wonder whether the “safe space”, “trigger warning” etc crowd are a majority or a noisy minority.

    When I was young there were lots of noisy people pushing similar ideas. The difference then was that we just didn’t pay any attention.

    These day august scientific and academic bodies will sack senior respected scientists on their say so.

    So I think that the problem is not so much the noisy people with daft ideas who have always been around, we should be taking a serious look at who is running the august scientific and academic bodies and see if we can’t replace them with people with backbones.

    Just saying.

  2. Robin, your comment indicates something I else I have been wondering about, and that is, why anyone in any position of power would *care* what some Twitter mob, consisting of teenagers and young twenty-somethings, says about them, their employees, etc., but I wanted to keep the piece short, and stick to stuff about which I am genuinely unclear and uncertain, and to which I might expcet the most productive sort of feedback.

  3. I’ve been puzzled for a long time about the way the press talks about generational issues. I’m a Gen Xer and in the early nineties there were constant articles about what is wrong with Gen X. All of them had something to do with angst. But, I didn’t recognize myself or any of my friends or fellow students in these articles. I think to a large extent, the same thing is happening now. Most of the people hired at both of my jobs in the past five or so years are millennials, and they seem to be pretty much just like everyone else at work. It’s like there have been a handful of high profile incidents and the press has generalized it into a generational phenomenon because it makes for good clickbait. When I’ve talked to the younger set about it, they are uniformly annoyed at the way they are portrayed because they hate looking lazy and entitled.

  4. I am more than open to the possibility that my experience is skewed by the fact that it is so heavily localized in the university. That said, I see a major difference on these issues, between the late Millennials I am teaching now, and the early ones that I was teaching, when I first got here.

  5. What could it possibly mean to for someone, born with a penis, to claim, ‘I feel I should have a vagina’? Because that’s the bottom line; in order to convince me that a male ‘should have’ been born female (or vice-verse), I need to be persuaded that the person, having a penis, knows what it feels like to have a vagina (or, again, vice-verse), without having one, and this now appears to be beyond comprehension.

    I am not a backward thinker; I have long supported gay/lesbian rights, and advocated justice for those who feel the need to adopt differing gender signifiers in their behaviors. But justice does not demand that I dumb myself down and put my brain on hold. The only thing we know of the opposite sex is gender – and gender is a social construct. Otherwise, we need to assume that physical sensations of the opposite sex can be experienced so directly and concretely – without actually living in such a body – that a person could recognize the comfort level of so living in that body as to be able to claim the need to live in it.

    As I write that, I’m aware that the articulation verges on the incoherent. This is all nonsense; this was precisely the wrong turn for the transgender community to make. They are rhetorically relying on American embarrassment over discussing any sexual issue in depth, to put forward a claim with no recognizable ontological, epistemological, biological, or even psychological foundation. This is fantasy. This is, profoundly, exactly the wrong direction for the transgender community to take, in defining the real rights that justice demands for them.

    (As to the recent issue concerning restrooms in Texas – if we, as some other countries do, had unisex public toilets, this wouldn’t be an issue. “What fools these mortals be!”)

  6. “One’s youth is when one’s fundamental identity-formation occurs and hence, is a time of intense concern with social position. Why, then, such a passionate commitment to a posture of weakness and fragility that inevitably will engender social contempt, rather than respect?”

    It may engender general social contempt, but one assumes that fellow ‘victims’ will endorse the strategy.

    My other thought is that many of these initiatives are spurred on by the sense (justified in many cases) that the power structures in question are weaker than ever, perhaps failing.

    Slave morality?

  7. There could be a big clarifying role in this for philosophy. E.g. why associate this tendency with “the left”? This is very lazy language, though hardly anyone isn’t guilty of it. Beware of feeding the machine that is doing such a clever and thorough job of conflating everything “left” with everything that upsets “right” leaning middle America, whether it’s relativism, tolerance of moderate Islam, federal involvement in education, drug leniency, gun control or the “hook up” culture and beauty salons for our genitals. Postmodernism is neither right nor left, but IMO a sort of giving up on the enlightenment thinking at the root of both classical economics and Marxism. Extreme movements that center in academia often seem like a sort of hysteria that everything, including psychology, “the gaze”, microaggressions, is a kind of oppression, and this finds very strong reflections on the right, or what is more correctly the great “liberal” hating and bating cult, which is convincing the cogniscenti of the of the less visible right wing web sites that Woodrow Wilson and John Dewey are the fathers of Fascism, and Hitler was a “man of the left” (a chapter title from Jonah Goldberg’s book _Liberal Fascism_). Neoconservative students have been harassing economists and historians who refuse to be boosters for free market fundamentalism.

    One of the canonical articles of this swelling outcry, “I’m a Liberal Professor and I’m Terrified of my Liberal Students” begins with just such an example, of the writer’s being harassed and reported a few years ago for not thinking Chicago economics / Washington Consensus are the thoroughly proven last word. Jonathan Haidt has gone totally off the rails and is practically campaigning for affirmative action for right wing professors — something his right wing allies don’t, I’m sure want — rather they want lots of stories to fuel the movement to shut down the supposed “left wing clone factories”.

    One thing we could use is a thorough map of political tendencies so everyone doesn’t just fall into the lazy habit of thinking “us and them”, and, e.g. libertarians don’t get off so easily being bedfellows with the likes of Pat Buchanan, The Coke brothers (who were instrumental in forming the Libertarian party 35 years ago but seem more and more like libertarians of convenience, and the GOP traveling circus.

  8. Hal Morris:

    If you don’t think that the social-justice-warrior phenomenon is part of the contemporary, mostly young Left, then I don’t know what to tell you. We certainly have a very different view of the current scene.

    Certainly, the Right has its own toxic manifestations and behaviors, but that’s not what this particular set of provocations was about. I’m sure Christian fundamentalists or crazy neocon hawks will show up on my radar at some point.

  9. Mark English wrote:

    It may engender general social contempt, but one assumes that fellow ‘victims’ will endorse the strategy.
    ————————————————————————————

    Yes, I was wondering why one would want to invite contempt from the older, wealthier, more powerful people, from whom you need all sorts of things — like jobs — not from the other people who are also busy inviting contempt.

  10. labnut

    EJWinner,
    What could it possibly mean to for someone, born with a penis, to claim, ‘I feel I should have a vagina’? Because that’s the bottom line;

    Your punning is hilarious, the bottom line indeed!

  11. Here is a piece by Clive James on the issue, supporting Greer’s right to speak, though taking an opposite position to her on trans gender women.

    http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/nov/07/clive-james-the-verbal-tics-of-germaine-greers-trolls-affirm-the-blustering-carelessness-of-the-web

    Ejwinner

    “What could it possibly mean to for someone, born with a penis, to claim, ‘I feel I should have a vagina’? Because that’s the bottom line”

    I don’t know what it means biologically, but it is a very powerful feeling and you can’t just say “get over it, you’re a man ” as I used to sometimes say to transgender friends back in the eighties. In general they are desperately unhappy as men and very happy as women.(or vice versa for transgender men)

    That, to me, is the bottom line.

    But I don’t think that the modern style activism that Dan is discussing really helps the transgender community

  12. labnut

    Dan-K,
    Yes, I was wondering why one would want to invite contempt from the older, wealthier, more powerful people, from whom you need all sorts of things

    We live in a world of accelerated expectations that, fueled by the entertainment industry, worships youth. They expect and demand access to power without having earned the right to power. Their frustrated expectations evidence themselves in rejection and contempt for the power structures above them. There is also an inchoate attempt at weakening the power structures by undermining their legitimacy.

    In terms of forest succession, it is as if the younger trees, instead of growing tall and strong to displace the older, tall trees, have resorted to a termite strategy to weaken their roots. Once you legitimise a destructive strategy you inevitably become a victim of it. The result is an immature, decaying forest.

  13. Robin Herbert wrote: I don’t know what it means biologically, but it is a very powerful feeling and you can’t just say “get over it, you’re a man ” as I used to sometimes say to transgender friends back in the eighties.

    —————————-

    I didn’t take EJWinner as saying “get over it man.” Rather, I simply took him as saying — as I did — that the notion is somewhat incoherent. Or at least, a lot more would have to be said to render it coherent. But that doesn’t say anything one way or another about what ought to be done.

    Like EJ, I am for the most part entirely for LGBT equality and rights. But that doesn’t mean I accept every claim, every requested accomodation, and the like. For example, one might make a similar point to the one about all-women’s colleges, with regard to bathrooms. There is currently a controversy in several places as to whether or not trans kids, in schools, should be able to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. Now, perhaps they should, but if the initial rationale for having sex-segregated bathrooms in the first place still applies, then I don’t see how one could make such a case. Perhaps there is no longer a need for sex-segregated bathrooms, in which case, the point would be moot, but that, of course is a conversation one has to have *before* any conversation about allowing trans students to use gender matching bathrooms.

  14. In general they are desperately unhappy as men and very happy as women.(or vice versa for transgender men).

    —————————————————-

    This is something that should be taken very seriously, which is why I am, for the most part, very much *for* trans rights.

    I have wondered, however, about something. If we had a gender tolerant and gender fluid society — one in which one could comfortably and with full social support, live publicly in whichever gender one felt comfortable — would people still want sex reassignment surgery? That is, is the discomfort really with the organs or is it with the roles with which the organs are so powerfully and punishingly related? There’s no way to answer that right now, as we don’t have such a society, and so there is no way to disambiguate these various elements.

  15. Hi DanK, provocations is an interesting idea.

    On the first issue, I am for trans rights though I am also concerned about the “born in the wrong body” concept. Like you, I enjoyed the “free to be you and me” outlook and so one shouldn’t need to find clinical justification for being who one wants to be. To be clear I think there are people who feel out of sorts with their bodies. This can happen for many reasons and be about more than just sex/gender. In that case (to answer a reply you gave later) yes even in a tolerant social culture some people would still want to have surgery.

    Of course there are also cases which have me doubting whether the person really is out of sorts with their body. There are some interesting documentaries about trans-kids and how parents are dealing with this phenomenon. Sometimes the parents and child will be discussing how the child was interested in playing with dolls or wearing girls clothes (or the opposite) as indicative of being a different gender than the sex they were born with. But clothes and play things are not sex-based and wholly culture based. Or I should say that it doesn’t make you less of a boy to want to play with dolls or wear skirts. There was an assumed stereotype underlying this line of thinking which I did not think was accurate or healthy for trans-kids or other kids.

    I don’t think there was ever a need for all women’s colleges, but that does not mean they shouldn’t exist or can’t set their own standards for what counts as a woman. I do find some measure of hypocrisy in wanting to fight transgender access to them, as they are likely fighting the same or more problems than the women did. As far as not knowing menstruation, childbearing, etc… not all women know that and presumably are still considered women able to attend those schools. They would just be considered physically challenged in those respects, which I think is arguably the same case for transgenders. But maybe a transgender-only school is the next step?

    On the second issue, I have had similar feelings about post GenXrs. Sometimes I feel like I am a teenager again talking to a group of old people, but with more fragile egos than the old people I knew when I was young. Then again it is topic specific. They seem more risk taking with respect to drugs and “extreme sports”.

    Also, Brett Easton Ellis seemed to miss that GenXrs went through a recession (his books never spoke to me or described people I knew) so economics is probably not the major factor in play here for differences.

    Of course it is always a person by person basis. Generalizations over an entire generation are a bit messy and unfair, which one will find when trying to discuss this sort of thing with post-GenXrs.

  16. Robin Herbert,

    DanK has read me aright. The question is whether trans-gender identification (a social-psychological phenomenon) translates easily into trans-sexual identification (which would be a physiological-neurological phenomenon), and without better evidence and argument than we have had so far, I don’t see how this is possible. I emphasize the genitalia, because a truly trans-sexual identification would seem to hinge on the ability of a person to know, or at least have a very good idea, what it would actually be like to have the genitalia of the opposite sex.

    There are important historical issues to keep in mind here. First, trans-gender identification has been around as long as cultural records can reach – in every culture that has kept records on such matters. So there is no arguing a real phenomenon there, and so arguing for the rights of the trans-gender identifiers is no great leap of conscience.

    However, the move towards trans-sexual identification is a most recent phenomenon, and hinges on the odd conjunction of three apposite trends in the 20th century – the inherited legacy of equating gender and sex, which was widely distributed through common culture, making the distinction between the two a point of argument; the development of medical technology that allowed genital reconstruction and hormonal realignment; and certain theories in genetics that seemed to promise that not only sex but gender identification could be found to be genetically pre-determined. (Again, an important backdrop to all of this has been the long-standing American embarrassment over public discussion of sexual matters at all.) The efforts to derive sound argument and a coherent understanding of trans-sexualism from these intersections have largely failed, I think, and so the demand for its legitimation largely reduces to clamor about feelings and social conflicts that are more easily resolved when redirected back toward the rights of *trans-gender* individuals. In other words, the trans-sexual arguments actually over-complicate the discussion, and not, I suggest, to the benefit of the individuals involved – except of course when they can gather enough social pressure on certain institutions and persons of influence to make themselves annoying. But while that may win some small gains, I suggest it does them no good in the long run, since it only means that the real issues involved remain unspoken.

  17. Okay, I understand you now.

    Something that I did not mention in the post, but which I also wonder about is the ethics of destroying what are, in fact, perfectly healthy organs. Is that compatible with the Hippocratic Oath?

  18. Hi DanK, you asked if sexual reassignment surgery is compatible with the Hippocratic Oath. Given the number of operations performed the clear answer is yes, of course.*

    There have been different interpretations of the oath. Certainly no one uses the original which actually rules out surgery as something a doctor would perform (not to mention swearing to pagan gods).

    The common current oath would not preclude such operations. If it did it would also rule out (outside of necessity bearing on life or death of the patient) reconstructive surgery, vasectomies, and abortions. The first on that list would hit general plastic surgery and circumcision.

    To both ejwinner and DanK, it is not necessary for a person to “know” what the opposite sexual organs actually feel like in order to feel the genitals one has are not appropriate. This could be similar to BIID (body integrity identity disorder), where limbs can feel alien and out of place to the point that patients feel limbs must be removed and feel liberated and more correct when they are removed. But this could also be analogized to people born with gross malformations of body parts (which do not necessarily hinder function). Do they really have to know what it feels like to have the more common morphology of a body part to justify their knowledge they would feel better if it were altered to look the way they would like it to?

    One might also point out that (unless I am mistaken) most people who have had sexual reassignment feel better and like they have more appropriate organs.

    *Interestingly removing limbs for BIID patients is considered against the Hippocratic Oath by most doctors, though some have challenged this idea (both sides of which makes DanK’s question pertinent and interesting regarding sexual reassignment).

  19. Here’s how it starts:

    [[http://BloomCountyLibturd-Pacifier-ist.png]]

  20. Somebody please point me to some documentation of how to do non-trivial things in WordPress comments.
    Thanks

  21. The fact that it is commonly accepted as satisfying it doesn’t mean it actually does, of course.

    Hard to see how you might construe destroying healthy organs as “doing no harm.”

    As for how one feels about the appropriateness of one’s organs, surely that’s a psychological problem, not a problem with the organ. I mean, we don’t remove peoples’ limbs, if they have BIID, do we? (If we do, I would say the same thing about that.)

    My daughter lately has been agitating about her nose and how she hates it and wants a nose job. I told her that her problem was in her head, not her nose, and I’d be happy to set up some counseling sessions for her. What I would not allow, however, is a doctor to go break her nose, in order to shape it differently.

  22. dbholmes: I see that you spoke to the limb removal issue. That there are doctors who challenge the idea that this would be completely outrageous is frightening. What do we have in the profession, a bunch of closeted Mengeles?

  23. I don’t think I understand the question. Could you rephrase?

  24. DK: If you don’t think that the social-justice-warrior phenomenon is part of the contemporary, mostly young Left, then I don’t know what to tell you. We certainly have a very different view of the current scene.

    My view of the current scene is from a distance whereas yours is no doubt closer up. Mine is also usually mediated by the way this set of issues shows shows up on right wing blogs (thanks to a dear and close friend who is a longtime libertarian, who met Charles Koch, probably around 1980, when he had the vice presidential spot on the Libertarian presidential ticket). Everything gets conflated with the idea (brought about by the smartest set of propagandists since Goebbels) that we are in an 1984 or Atlas Shrugged moment.

    So what is “the left”? Was the USSR far, far left? or does this again illustrate the poverty of our political vocabulary?
    Neither pure Marxism nor Leninism and its offshoots (basically all institutional 20c Communism) have been the least bit solicitous of tiny minorities. Quite the opposite, really. Stalin esp. treated ethnic minorities like gnats to be swatted out of the way, and they were certainly puritanically negative to sexual “deviance”, and China’s record, towards Tibetans, religious dissidents, or people with a different point of view, was appalling when they were Maoist, and remains so today.

    Now, I would assert that the core of what drives the current American right-wing hysteria is fear of being on the “slippery slope” to totalitarianism, and this is the core of what they think of when they think of the left.

    Trigger warnings, microaggresion ideology, chasing Germaine Greer off campus for not fawning over the LGBT movement are all seen as integral to “the left” — something that will translate into government policies that kill free speech, rather than seen as a shit-storm created by a very loud minority; often a pain in the ass to the liberal “powers that be” in academia.

    To a Tea Party Republican (unless very young or hip), South Park would almost certainly be viewed as a scary manifestation of the “cultural left” with their unrelenting tendency to smash all taboos, but they’ve gleefully picked up on the SJW meme, and have always ridiculed “PC”.

    When, within the Silicon Valley libertarian largely free market fundamentalist culture comes a kerfuffle over an executive ousted because he supported Proposition 8, this is chalked up to “liberal fascism” — never mind that it was a voluntary corporate action, and pay no attention to the men behind the curtain (the Koch brothers who lavishly built up the libertarian movement before coupling it with “conservatism” to chase “big government” away forever.

  25. labnut

    Hal,
    Somebody please point me to some documentation of how to do non-trivial things in WordPress comments.

    Here are some useful formats:

    <i> This is an italicised text </i>

    <strong> This is bolded text</strong>

    <blockquote>

    This is quoted text

    </blockquote>

  26. dbholmes,

    “(…) it is not necessary for a person to “know” what the opposite sexual organs actually feel like in order to feel the genitals one has are not appropriate. This could be similar to BIID (body integrity identity disorder) (…).”

    This actually raises further problems rather than resolving any.

    1. BIID is recognized as a *disorder* because it generates unhappiness and may lead to self-mutilation. It also appears to involve a neurological dysfunction, although the research is incomplete. AS a disorder, it is one surgeons appear unwilling to cater to; it is a historical problem why it is surgeons became willing to cater to trans-sexualism, assuming that it also may be a similar disorder. (But of course, trans-sexuals also claim that it isn’t a disorder at all.)

    2. Let us imagine a case of BIID, wherein the afflicted person claims, not only that, say, his right leg is not his own, but that the right leg of a certain woman actually belongs to him. Should we try to convince her to surrender her leg via transplant? (Well, obviously that’s not what trans-sexuals are arguing – or are they? Not claiming a specific person’s genitalia, but certainly claiming right to possession of similar genitalia to those already existent for others.) Less extremely, should we allow cosmetic surgery to the man’s leg so that it appears in every way similar to the leg of the woman in question? That may be worth doing to resolve the man’s unhappiness; but it doesn’t mean that his BIID is not still a serious disorder.

    3. But trans-sexuals are not simply expressing the sensation that their genitals-of-birth are ‘inappropriate.’ They claim that the genitals of the opposite sex are appropriate to them. This is where coherency falls apart. How could they possibly know that? Genitals are not just attractive things dangling in theoretical space; they are rich with a host of sensations and physiological responses. These sensations and responses one must *know* – not simply imagine – in order to claim the *right* of possession. A woman claims she should have a penis instead of her vagina. Which penis? the blood-engorged erect in copulation? the shriveled in the chill wind? The irritated with pressure from the bladder needing to urinate? The one accidentally caught in a hastily closed zipper?

    4. We don’t know if there might be some genetic causality to BIID. But let’s allow the claim that there is some for gender identification. That only means that gender identity is a predisposition towards adopting certain socially constructed behaviors. It is not a determination of sexual being – that determination is given over to the XX and XY genes.

    5. Cosmetic surgery is a luxury. It can be used to alleviate psychic pain in certain cases, yes; but it neither arises from, nor generates, any rights. I don’t say ‘don’t do it;’ I say, don’t assert it as rightful resolution to fundamental and complex problems that gave rise to the felt discomfort.

  27. Thomas Jones

    No disrespect intended, db, but this: “One might also point out that (unless I am mistaken) most people who have had sexual reassignment feel better and like they have more appropriate organs.” Unless I’m mistaken people generally go out of their way to justify even the most mundane choices, like buying a $50,000 auto instead of a $12,000 used auto. I’m not certain what it means to say they “feel better,” except to justify their decision to spend $38,000 more than the guy who spent $12,000. Seems part of the territory.

  28. Hi, actual “millennial” here (I think),
    There is a lot of truth to this stuff (and I have been watching it with some alarm). But I rarely have I read a piece about “millennials” that I didn’t mutter b.s. under my breath three or four times and that was no less true today. For one thing I think the people writing these essays are much more technology obsessed then the people they are supposedly written about. Almost everyone I know has an fb page, almost no one I know is “obsessed” with it or feels a need to be constantly “liked”. Even hardcore redditors and Imgurians are rarely that emotionally invested in fake internet points. Its just harmless fun and people need to calm down. Although I do think the norms of discourse are eroding, or probably more accurately being replaced as this very interesting piece has argued (Conor Frieserdorf again) http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/09/the-rise-of-victimhood-culture/404794/
    But I am very suspicious of the idea that this dependency was developed by helicopter parents or whatever as Haidt and Ellis conjectured. I was happy to see the Psychology Today piece push back on that a little. I really think this new sense of discourse and the relationship between the individual and society (a highly dependent, needy relationship) is the fruit of prevalent ideology in which personal autonomy is perspicuously absent. I know it may seem far-fetched to some that matters as abstruse as the Frankfurt School and radical feminist theory are driving twitter mobs, but really pull up the youtubers and bloggers that are writing this stuff. Its clear what they are saying and who they got it from. They have been listening to Bell Hooks (excuse me bell hooks), Katherine Makinnon, Iris Marion Young and others who mistrust traditional, enlightenment ideals of rational discourse, personal autonomy and the contractarian state. (Most of those guys get it from Habermas, Foucaoult and others but I don’t think Anita Sarkesian or Laurry Penny knows that.) Most of this emanates from educated young people who imbibed these ideas in women’s studies, Aficana studies and sociology departments. Once these ideas get entrenched in newspapers, universities and other organs of thought they can become quite prevalent even as they are not fully understood. Slate and Gwker tends to see us as passive non-agents inputting culture and outputting behavior such that the only way to better society is to police ideas. That is the real enemy. End. Rant.

  29. David:

    I thought the Psychology Today piece indicates that a major cause is the disappearence of unsupervised, unstructured play amongst children, which was far less the experience of pre-millennial generations.

    If I saw this sort of SJW stuff being done by a lot of Gen-Xers or Boomers, I would never think to lay it on the millennials, but in my experience it is almost 100% associated with millennials. Sure, maybe some of them swallowed a bunch of New Left ideas from the 60’s, but I suspect it is a tiny minority. Most of them couldn’t tell you three things about the 60’s, something I find out everytime I teach Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and have to explain every reference — like the Ali/Frazier fight — to them.

  30. It seems to me that Dbholmes does have things about right here. Sure empirical evidence is great, but for this particular issue, I don’t mind going ex hypothesi.

    I am a man, and not even slightly an effeminate example. Thus I’m quite sure that if I were to wake up with the body of a woman, and even a smoking hot one, that I would not feel comfortable this way. Yes men would desire me and women would be jealous — far better ToM treatment than being ugly! — but I still wouldn’t feel right.

    So how might you change me back (or better)? I don’t know that you can, but yes I might obviously be psychologically disturbed about my present circumstance. Of course you might tell me that in practice this isn’t the true transgender issue, but how can that be known? Perhaps this is exactly it. Yes I do know my own dick far better than anyone who wants one could know such a thing, but is it truly that difficult to conceptually fathom? I doubt it. There are all kinds of problems out there, so let’s not deny that for some, this one may indeed exist.

    Yes David Ottlinger, shit does roll down hill. Never has an older generation refrained from ridiculing a later one, I think, so get used to it. Furthermore it would be quite odd if your generation does end up being the exception. Thus I believe that one day you’ll be able to say, “Well look at this. Apparently Philosopher Eric was right.”

  31. Ejwinner,

    It can be used to alleviate psychic pain in certain cases, yes; but it neither arises from, nor generates, any rights.

    Can you tell me what does arise from, or generate rights?

    As far as anyone can establish, we have no rights whatsoever, except as we agree with each other as a society.

    There may be God given rights, or rights arising from Natural Law, but we don’t know about them. Even if we are apprehending them with our intuitions, we are only doing so imperfectly.

    So, on what basis are you expressing opinion about rights?

  32. Thanks to Labnut for some pointers on editing WordPress comments.

    One thing I still need is info on how to create links, and possibly embed an image in a comment.

    Also, all of this must be documented somewhere, so a pointer to that would be much appreciated.

  33. Dan,

    Yeah as I re-read the PsychToday piece it is still blaming development if not quite parents. I read that one too quickly.

    But on the score of “these are just some ideas from the sixties”, really they aren’t for the most part even if that’s what their roots are. Most of the people I named were on the rise in 80’s and 90’s when the post-modern poison was infiltrating the humanities. For whatever reason I find these ideas have clicked with this generation in a new way. Again, if you doubt this, pull them up on youtube etc. What they are saying is just too similar to be coincidence.

  34. labnut

    Hal,
    Somebody please point me to some documentation of how to do non-trivial things in WordPress comments.
    One thing I still need is info on how to create links, and possibly embed an image in a comment.

    Here are some useful formats:

    <i> This is an italicised text </i>

    <strong> This is bolded text</strong>

    <blockquote>

    This is quoted text

    </blockquote>

    <a href=”http://www.w3schools.com/tags/tag_a.asp”> This is a link to HTML tags </a>

    This link to HTML tags tells you about all tags but the commenting system only allows an extremely limited sub-set of tags, some of which are above. Most commenting systems do not allow embedding of inline images, for good reasons. The workaround is to use a link to an image. The image won’t display but readers can click through the link to the image.

    Tags are what you put on either side of the text to be formatted, enclosing it.
    There is an opening tag, like this: <strong> followed by text to be formatted.
    There is a closing tag, like this: </strong> which ends formatting of the text.

    Be careful and exact, you only get one chance and if you get it wrong the result can be a dog’s breakfast.

  35. Robin Herbert,

    “So, on what basis are you expressing opinion about rights?”

    That is the question you should ask trans-sexuals who claim that it is their *right* to be treated as a member of the opposite sex; their *right* to be accommodated as members of the opposite sex; their *right* to have surgery and medical treatment reshaping their bodies as simulacra of that of the opposite sex. Theirs is the claim that some quirk of genetics has landed the brain of one sex into the body of another, generating such ‘right’ – a redefinition of scientific hypothesis into ‘natural law.’

    It is they who demand that we set aside inquiry into psychological, sociological, philosophical and scientific questions involved with their (undeniable) discomfort, and assent to these supposed ‘rights,’ at the threat of social ostracism – thus abandoning useful, nuanced political strategies directed to effectively broadening already socially established rights to better include women as well as members of the LGBT community who may be trans-gender without insisting on some biological determinism (‘natural law’) that supposedly determines their identity without reference to actual experience.

    I’m sorry, my compassion for those whose interests are actually inhibited by such claims demands that I refuse assent to them.

  36. It may be to early too post this, following my last comment, but I think queuing it up worth the risk:

    After posting, it occurred to me that the most important film on this subject happens to be one of the worst films ever made – “Glen or Glenda,” written and directed by the master of bad cinema, Ed Wood. Promising to be an exploitation film about the then new trans-sexual surgery conducted in Sweden, it is really a boldly auto-biographical revelation of Wood’s own trans-gender transvestism – despite being a heterosexual who had served in the Marines during WWII.

    Important, because it makes concrete this distinction between the trans-sexual and the trans-gender – and also because, in its own (frankly hilariously) inept way, reveals the real pain that people suffering such identity confusion have long experienced in this culture. (Wood, alas, eventually drank himself to death.)

    How can a film so amusingly bad nonetheless score such crucial points? That’s an aesthetic issue. For now, let us give Wood his due, and admit that he put his finger directly on the real problem here: Trans-gender identification and trans-sexualism are not equatable. The suffering of each is no doubt real; but they are not the same, and confusing the two may do more harm than good, politically (and possibly psychologically as well).

  37. I am not sure there is such a sharp distinction between the terms transsexual and transgender. When I was younger, the main distinction was between a transvestite and a transsexual. These days the latter term.evokes an unfortunately comic image of bustier, fishnet stocking and suspenders and so is rarely used.

    Some transgender people seek gender reassignment surgery, some don’t.

    “Sex” and “gender”, are terms which are often used interchangeably. When I was younger, language fascists would bristle at the use of “gender” for a person, saying that the term can only apply to words.It was commonly supposed that “gender” got this connotation because people were too coy to put the word “sex” on forms. However etymology dictionaries say that it was used to refer to people since the 15th century, so the language fascists were wrong.

  38. (To moderator, this reply is split over three posts, please release them as able)

    It appears my reply to DanK and ejwinner was provocative 🙂

    I should note that I work in a hospital that treats transsexual/gender patients (from now on TS/G) and performs sexual reassignment surgery (indeed I am able to view such operations, but so far have had the misfortune of missing them). And within my program I have colleagues who deal with TS/G patients and once knew a person doing research on BIID. So while I am not an expert on either issue, I have some relevant exposure/experience with them, as well as clinical practices. Perhaps due to this background I was taken aback by some commentary which showed a startling lack of familiarity of both the issues discussed and basic medical practice/procedures.

    Given the many different arguments made by separate authors, and the seriousness of the matters discussed, I will try to address them in a general reply covering three separate points (each in its own post).

    1) TS/G : This contains a spectrum of feelings and potential causes. It ranges from tranvestitism which may have no bearing on gender or sexuality at all, to transgenderism which is about feeling like the opposite sex (such feelings being considered gender) but not requiring physical alteration, to transexualism which requires some physical alteration for the person to feel normal.

    None of these are known to be genetic. In fact I would highly doubt such claims. Some may be neurological, and so based in physiology, but that is not the same as genetic. Interestingly there are females who are definitively male genetically, but due to a mutation are incapable of reacting to hormones and so become female. As far as I understand they have no inherent issues with TS/G.

    The claim that TS’s cannot know the qualia of the opposite sex is of course unprovable, as much as their own claims that they can. We know that brains can have mismatches between processing and body parts, and there is no evidence to exclude the possibility a brain is primed to process a body map of the opposite physical sex. Regardless, what is clear is that they experience feelings from/about their body which is highly incongruent with expectations from their mind.

    Before operations are performed, a good deal of counseling is involved to ensure the person cannot find relief/satisfaction from less invasive methods than the surgery and commitment to lifelong hormonal treatments required. That makes comparisons to one-off vanity projects like girls wanting nosejobs and people buying expensive cars patently incorrect. Regarding the car analogy, if it wasn’t working the person would likely opt out rather than pretend they feel good and keep facing unnecessary payments (and inconveniences) for the rest of their life.

  39. 2 of 3) BIID: Yes it is a called a disorder. So was TS/G: gender identity disorder. And of course if you go back in time so were homosexuality, masturbation, and female orgasms, which means that term doesn’t tell us much of anything.

    The relevant information is that these people appear to suffer from a neurological issue, which is largely not amenable to psychological counseling.

    This is an older (and not the greatest) documentary on BIID, but it contains interesting insights, including comparisons with TS, which have only been reinforced since the making of this documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=frbssKzRvVA

  40. 3 of 3) Surgery: The concept of “do no harm” has not precluded removing or damaging healthy tissue for some time. The question is of weighing benefits versus harm of any procedure. Otherwise circumcision would be out straight away, unless one engaged in special pleading that skin is not an organ (it is). Note: I am not against circumcision, just pointing out that this fact that would have to be dealt with in any criticism of sexual reassignment or BIID surgery from that position.

    Starting with BIID, surgery is resisted largely due to negative social attitudes and the fact it would result in a definitive incapacity of some kind. Thankfully prosthetics can help overcome these to some degree.

    Yes one can argue that it is more a problem with the mind/brain than the limb itself which otherwise functions well. Maybe in the future we will devise neurological interventions, which would likely involve operations, but we don’t have any such treatments now or in the foreseeable future. Some have suggested noninvasive TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) or virtual reality cognitive therapy (including graphic depictions of their own amputated limb) but these are way off. In the mean time such patients are likely to self-harm.

    Removal of the limb has (in all cases I have ever heard of) been positive. A doctor in the UK who performed such treatments has said they were the most satisfying operations he has ever performed given the safety and positive results of the procedure. Hardly a Mengele given the statements by his patients who by all accounts are living as well as anyone else with a disability. It may seem strange but these are people who, due to a physical anomaly in their brains, face a greater disability with the existence of a limb. Until we have devised viable alternatives to deal with the neurologic issue, surgery is arguably the safest and closest remedy on hand.

    Now let’s deal with sexual reassignment surgery. It appears people are unaware of the number of cases of indeterminate sexes at birth. Such children are born without conclusive sex/gender. They could of course be left to live sexless/genderless/ambiguous lives, but it has long been common for parents to decide on a sex/gender and have operations and hormone therapy to support the chosen sex. This includes removal of perfectly healthy tissue and organs. Leaving aside the issue of parents deciding, rather than allowing the child to decide later, usually a choice is made and the same kind of surgeries and/or hormonal treatments performed as in TS/G. Late in life their bodies can reject hormone treatments and transform back (I knew someone like this). In that case surgery can be performed, rather than forcing them to live physically androgynous.

    The idea that it would be acceptable in these cases rather than cases where the manifestations are not physically obvious, when they are hidden within the physical function of the brain/mind, suggests unwarranted bias.

  41. DBHolmes wrote:

    I was taken aback by some commentary which showed a startling lack of familiarity of both the issues discussed and basic medical practice/procedures.

    ———————————————

    Sorry to have “startled” you.

    You clearly think that our current crop of scientists, physicians, therapists understand these phenomena much better than I think they do. We largely have no idea how the brain does what it does, to the point to which we can’t even understand a simple phenomenon like qualitative or conscious experience, and yet, you seem to think that we understand the relationship between the brain’s activity and enormously complex phenomena, all of which are highly socially penetrated and thus, presumably, socially variable.

    I suspect that if the issue weren’t so politically and ideologically charged, people would be much more modest in the claims they make and the certainty with which they make them.

    I am of the view that social problems should be dealt with by way of social solutions and that more often than not, the rush to medical and pharmacological fixes are not only a mistake, but very dangerous, in the long run.

  42. DBHolmes wrote:

    one-off vanity projects like girls wanting nosejobs

    ————————————————————————

    With a remark like this, one can only hope that you’ll stay far away from parenting. Girls the age of my daughter — tweens — have *enormous* body image issues, and suggesting that they are matters of vanity or otherwise trivial is not only false, but would have a terrible effect, if said to them.

    My rejection of the idea that one should break or cut off parts of one’s body, in order to deal with what are in fact psychological issues was *not* intended as any sort of trivialization of said issues. Psychological pain is some of the worst pain that we can suffer, as people. But that does not change the fact that it is psychological and that the remedies, therefore, need also to be psychological.

  43. Thomas Jones

    DB: “Before operations are performed, a good deal of counseling is involved to ensure the person cannot find relief/satisfaction from less invasive methods than the surgery and commitment to lifelong hormonal treatments required.”

    No doubt. But I was only examining a qualified claim you made about “feeling better” and “like they have more appropriate organs.” Granted my analogy was not the best, given the topic. I would perhaps have deleted it had I the option of doing so easily. This notwithstanding, I have difficulty with this topic and, as best as I can tell, I am more aligned with Winner and Kaufman regarding coherence, though perhaps have not given it the consideration they or you have. I was recently asked what I thought of this controversy and responded that “What I *thought* seemed beside the point.” Still, I’m skeptical of the “feel better” feedback. I discussed various scenarios with my wife, and we were unable to come to any resolution. I respect your viewpoint and experience here. But I’m also sympathetic to Greer’s POV and regret that her own viewpoint of the subject was dismissed as misguided and ideologically inappropriate.

  44. On the transgender issue, though I found her latest book somewhat hit-and-miss, Alice Dreger does confirm what I’ve intuited for some time, that there are (at least) two main, and different, categories within male-to-female transitioning transgenders. This, in turn, has drawn massive vitriol for threatening to undermine a “movement”:
    https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1409512994

  45. Re DB, EJ, and Dan’s responses. Besides not knowing all the brain does, we still don’t know everything about the largest “environmental” impact on human development — the womb. What we DO know, and seem to know, though, includes:
    1. The impact is fairly large
    2. Due to “female” being the “default” gender for humans (and mammals in general), impacts of too much, too little, too early, too late and more of certain maternal hormones hit XY fetuses in general harder than XX. This would surely be a partial explainer of why both homosexuality and transgender/gender identity issues are higher among men than women.
    3. Related to this, there is statistical evidence about possible epigenetic issues in the womb environment. Namely, the more consecutive male children a woman has, the greater the odds that the next consecutive male child will be gay.

    Short of Brave New World’s artificial wombs, there’s little we can do to control this, but we can certainly work to better understand it. That includes, per my comment linking to my review of Alice Dreger’s book, better understanding that transsexuality itself may be more complicated than we thought.

    After all, per Francisco Ayala, if God is indeed the great abortionist (1/3 of pregnancies are spontaneously aborted), and live births include people who are transgender, people who have gay or lesbian inclinations, people with teratomas, and people who are chimeras, among other things, the entire human reproductive process is “fraught” with many developmental issues.

  46. Hi DanK, I wish to apologize for any statements which seemed offensive. I want our exchanges to be positive and friendly. It seems clear I failed to make the point I was trying to make because I agreed with many of your comments:

    I am of the view that social problems should be dealt with by way of social solutions and that more often than not, the rush to medical and pharmacological fixes are not only a mistake, but very dangerous, in the long run.

    I agree with this and is the perspective being taken when I talked about “… a good deal of counseling is involved to ensure the person cannot find relief/satisfaction from less invasive methods…”. Social and psychological causes as well as solutions are considered/promoted, before medical treatment gets discussed as an option in clinical settings.

    I suspect that if the issue weren’t so politically and ideologically charged, people would be much more modest in the claims they make and the certainty with which they make them.

    I agree with that as well. Note I had been challenging an idea that TS/Gs cannot know they would prefer the physical experience of opposite sex organs. That is neither a modest nor qualified claim. It is worth considering, but is debatable, particularly given unique cases that offer insights (yes limited, yes not definitive) into how certain brain functions contribute to body identity.

    I placed qualifiers on (hopefully) all of my statements regarding the science and medicine of TS/G and BIID. If you watched the video (it is short) you would see Ramachandran giving very caveated statements. BIID does not prove TS/G operates in the same way, or if it did exactly how and why. But it challenges blanket statements regarding what people can’t know about their bodies.

    You clearly think that our current crop of scientists, physicians, therapists understand these phenomena much better than I think they do.

    You seemed to suggest these people disregard social and psychological aspects. If that is true then I would argue they do know more than you think they do. That is not the same as claiming we are close to understanding any of these issues in some definitive way.

    … you seem to think that we understand the relationship between the brain’s activity and enormously complex phenomena…

    Thankfully, I don’t think that 🙂

    But that does not change the fact that it is psychological and that the remedies, therefore, need also to be psychological.

    TS/G and BIID cases certainly involve psychology and sociology. I was talking about those specific people for whom such methods were tried and suffering was not alleviated. When social and psychological methods fail, and suffering continues and/or self-harm is high, the idea we must treat physical/medical options as if they are irrelevant or have nothing to contribute information-wise is also in my mind a mistake.

  47. marc levesque

    Dan K,

    Interesting topics, I didn’t realized the debate was so prominent.

    “Clearly, this will all have to be sorted out, before the conversation on these issues will be anything better than an intense, often angry muddle”

    I agree. What I’m seeing is a lot of contradictory and as you mention muddled discourse on a subject that was already very complex to deal with before media got hold of it. And though some seem to be trying to make it a ‘sides’ debate, there really aren’t sides to take because of the nature of multiplicity of the concepts involved. Along those lines, as Greer and others seem to be doing, I think it’s futile to try and claim a right definition for the word women, of course they can say what they want but to promote or speak categorically on a concept like women results in exclusion for those nearer the border lines of their definition. Though I think Greer should be allowed to speak, I also feel it’s ok to cancel a speech if it’s realized there isn’t much of an audience who wants to hear what she has to say (I have no idea what’s the case here, like who invited her or who would rather she hadn’t been).

    Mostly, for the same reasons I don’t follow Greer, I also don’t follow the article in the times by Elinor Burnette (and I was surprised the article was dressed up in a clear example of stereotypical artwork), but one thing Burnett said that really stood out for me positively was: “Men [as opposed to women] are, comparatively speaking, more bound, even strangled, by gender stereotyping”

    I was just reading about women (10-15%?) who can’t or will never have children, and they are disappointed to say the least with the pressures, stereotypes and presumptions most people appear to direct towards them. Dbhomes also brought up a lot of good points on sexual/gender issues but I disagree when he relates trans issues mostly to neurology, as I disagree when you relate it mostly to psychology.

    (continued in part 2)

  48. marc levesque

    (part 2)

    “to the extent to which the question is one of how we employ certain socially-inflected terminology and kind-classifications, it cannot be one that will be decided by any scientific discovery, but will have to undergo sustained philosophical analysis”

    I agree on the terms like women/men, for example a lot of studies say things like women are X or significantly more X than men, but don’t spell out that at the same time things like 10% of men are still more X than 10% of women can also be said about the same study results, but at the same time the more rigid measures we use for the female/male concepts (be they genetic, epigenetic, biological, hormonal, physiological appearance, behavioral, etc) also don’t sort out into separate distributions and how much each measure correlates with the others varies a lot from one individual to the next. In other words it seems to me its accurate to say that most individuals don’t sort out nicely across all of these, from the most solid biological measures to the most plastic gender constructs.

    “To the extent to which these institutions exist because of a specific set of arguments that have traditionally been made of all-women’s spaces, the inclusion of trans-women makes little sense”

    Yup. Maybe framing issues less as sub or specific rights, like the rights of women, trans, or bisexual rights, and more as human rights (most issues actually are?) can help avoid these kinds of situations and maybe provide a more productive avenue towards redress (of course there are issues that imply specific framing).

    “I am somewhat puzzled by the current enthusiasm among, mostly younger millennials, for “trigger warnings,” “safe spaces,” “micro-aggressions,” “calling out,” “checking privilege” and all the other concepts that make up so much of the contemporary social justice landscape and which characterize what Bret Easton Ellis has called “Generation Wuss.” ”

    From my perspective, at the root of all the concepts you mention are valid points, and I respect the courage of a lot of people who are speaking out on those issues.

    (continued in part 3)

  49. marc levesque

    (part 3)

    I also feel that using ‘generation wuss’ like Bret Easton Ellis did, and as others use similar put downs, is weird, inappropriate and an intellectually suspect tactic because, first, it’s intellectually suspect to put down, shame, or exclude people who’s ideas one disagrees with, second, its inappropriate to call people names who suffer from social adaptation problems or mental health issues, and third, it’s weird because those two measures, social justice advocacy and psychopathology, probably don’t correlate very well.

    The following are quotes on the mental health issue:

    “The current generation of young people scores about a standard deviation higher (average d = 1.05) on the clinical scales, including Pd (Psychopathic Deviation), Pa (Paranoia), Ma (Hypomania), and D (Depression). Five times as many now score above common cutoffs for psychopathology, including up to 40% on Ma. The birth cohort effects are still large and significant after controlling for the L and K validity scales, suggesting that the changes are not caused by response bias. The results best fit a model citing cultural shifts toward extrinsic goals, such as materialism and status and away from intrinsic goals, such as community, meaning in life, and affiliation.”

    That quote came from: Birth cohort increases in psychopathology among young Americans, 1938–2007: A cross-temporal meta-analysis of the MMPI
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S027273580900141X

    “Today, by at least some estimates, five to eight times as many high school and college students meet the criteria for diagnosis of major depression and/or anxiety disorder as was true half a century or more ago. This increased psychopathology is not the result of changed diagnostic criteria; it holds even when the measures and criteria are constant […] The results are consistent with other studies, using a variety of indices, which also point to dramatic increases in anxiety and depression—in children as well as adolescents and young adults—over the last five or more decades […] if progress is measured in the mental health and happiness of young people, then we have been going backward at least since the early 1950s.”

    The Decline of Play and Rise in Children’s Mental Disorders
    https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201001/the-decline-play-and-rise-in-childrens-mental-disorders

    “Rates of anxiety and depression among American college students have soared in the last decade, and many more students than in the past come to campus already on medication for such illnesses. The number of students with suicidal thoughts has risen as well. Some are dealing with serious issues, such as psychosis […] Many others, though, are struggling with what campus counselors say are the usual stresses of college life: bad grades, breakups, being on their own for the first time. And they are putting a strain on counseling centers.”

    An Epidemic of Anguish
    http://chronicle.com/article/An-Epidemic-of-Anguish/232721

  50. Hi Marc lavesque, you said “…I disagree when he relates trans issues mostly to neurology”.

    I really did not mean to give that impression (but obviously failed 🙂 ). I brought in neurology to address certain claims being made, but tried to be careful by caveating who I was talking about. From above the relevant quotes are…

    “1) TS/G : This contains a spectrum of feelings and potential causes. It ranges from tranvestitism which may have no bearing on gender or sexuality at all, to transgenderism which is about feeling like the opposite sex (such feelings being considered gender) but not requiring physical alteration, to transexualism which requires some physical alteration for the person to feel normal.

    None of these are known to be genetic. In fact I would highly doubt such claims. Some may be neurological, and so based in physiology…”

    At this time we have no idea if any of these trans-categories are related to inherent neurological issues, and if so how or how they could be addressed using neurological techniques (save some interesting ideas using TMS and Cog Neuro to temporarily alleviate some dysmorphic feelings). This would always have to be worked in with psychological care (for those suffering). To the extent some may not feel any relief from social/psychological methods, it may indicate a neurological issue, similar to recent cases of other mind/body mapping issues.

    In the mean time, different levels of surgery combined with hormone therapy may be found the most useful for some TSGs to regain a sense of control and enjoyment from their lives.

    Of course, this raises interesting questions…

    1) Do TSGs need to justify a choice for sexual reassignment?

    2) If so, does justification require proof of neurological issues?

    3) If at some point the suffering/desire of TSGs can be alleviated by some neurological procedure rather than surgery on the rest of the body, which is “better” or “ethical” and why?

    4) Might our answers to these say more about our desire to control the bodies of others (to fit our internal expectations), than about what is best for them?

  51. dbholmes: No worries! We’re good!

    Marc Levesque wrote:

    “From my perspective, at the root of all the concepts you mention are valid points, and I respect the courage of a lot of people who are speaking out on those issues.”

    ————————————————————–

    ‘Courage’ is not the word I would choose to describe the SJW types at Yale howling about Halloween costumes or at Wesleyan trying to shut down a school newspaper. “Narcisisstic precious flowers” would be more accurate, I think.

    ——————————————————————–

    “I also feel that using ‘generation wuss’ like Bret Easton Ellis did, and as others use similar put downs, is weird, inappropriate and an intellectually suspect tactic because, first, it’s intellectually suspect to put down, shame, or exclude people who’s ideas one disagrees with, second, its inappropriate to call people names who suffer from social adaptation problems or mental health issues…”

    ———————————————————————–

    ‘Inappropriate’ is one of those schoolmarmy terms that unfortunately has become ubiquitous of late. I wouldn’t mind never hearing it again.

    As for BEE, he is a novelist and satirist. He is tough and hard — this is the guy who wrote Less Than Zero and American Psycho — and I love him for it. He’s the *perfect* foil for the SJW crowd, as he is completely unintimidated by their attempts to shun and silence their opponents. And his characterization strikes me as spot-on, at least in terms of what is unfortunately a very common type.

    Re: all your links to article’s speaking to this generation’s terrible pain and suffering, they rather make my point, don’t they? My mother was in a Nazi concentration camp as a child and isn’t as traumatized as some of these people seem to be. Seems something is very awry.

    I agree, by the way, with much that is in that Psychology Today article — indeed, I linked to it myself.

    ——————————————————————————————————————

  52. halmorris

    DK: “‘Inappropriate’ is one of those schoolmarmy terms that unfortunately has become ubiquitous of late. I wouldn’t mind never hearing it again.”

    Maybe Marc Levesque was inappropriate in responding to BEE as if to serious social criticism. Incidentally, I’ll keep using the word inappropriate. I wouldn’t mind never hearing “Schoolmarmy” and similar putdowns directed at those who speak up for civility in dialogue. But hey, we’ll probably neither get what we wish for.

    Two trends associated (rightly or not) with liberalism are perhaps colliding.
    1) The trend to break all taboos, in my (baby boomer) generation we were working on bare flesh, sex, and disrespect to the Commander in Chief, and more. But we never had much to say about boogers, so Garrison Keillor and Dave Barry have wryly set about that bit of taboo breaking. I once read a former Mad Magazine editor saying that it’s a terrible thing for kids to be without silly taboos to break. They’re going to rebel, so if we blow up all the innocuous taboos, they’ll have to rebel against those that are there for a good reason. At any rate, with so little of taboo-land left to trespass on, they’ll be forced to tread on really dangerous ground.
    2) The trend to “liberate” and be solicitous towards another and yet another demographic who have a difficult time of it in some way, and to protect everyone from insult and trauma.

    Eventually, we are bound to run out of both taboos and new downtrodden groups to be sensitive towards.

  53. hal morris wrote:

    “I wouldn’t mind never hearing “Schoolmarmy” and similar putdowns directed at those who speak up for civility in dialogue.”

    ———————————————————

    http://replygif.net/i/1081.gif

  54. Boogers to you.

  55. That I got you to say ‘boogers’ is reward enough. =)

  56. “And I think a small amount of that goes on. A lot of the behaviors that people associate with so-called social justice warriors today, I remember seeing back in 2001, 2002, with the new arrivals”

    Larry Sanger, registered philosopher and co-founder of Wikipedia (and early exiter) on what it was like when they first made it a wiki, open to all.

    Source: http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/wikipedias-co-founder-is-wikipedias-biggest-critic-511

  57. A wonderful meditation and empirical exploration relevant to the issues hers is Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. Ronson is author of The Men Who Stare at Goats. He’s kind of a “new journalist” who writes in partly memoir style, but unlike say Hunter Thompson, he’s a sort of schlubby empathetic guy who seems worried about what his subjects are doing to them selves but nevertheless sticks to the Prime Directive. Very very funny too.

  58. Hal: Thanks for the references! They are great.

  59. marc levesque

    Daniel Kaufman,

    Hopefully I’ll be able to get my point across better in the future. I think I probably could have avoided most of that if I’d focused better on stating my last two points more clearly and toned down the soapboxing. Of course that’s clearer to me after the fact, but when I’m pressed for time and think there’s something important I want to say, it often comes out preachy, condescending, or both. But that’s not a justification.

    In the current debate I see two fundamental and separate issues that need serious attention. First one, I think we agree that the psychological health of youth is a serious problem. All the links I included were to help convince those who doubt that that’s the case (by the way in the Psychology Today article you linked to, there was a link to another Psychology Today article, that’s the one I linked to). Second, social justice issues, and the research on those, like the detrimental effects of systematic racism, sexism, and marginalization, is solid too (I think today’s youth is not special in that sense, past generations were just as involved in social justice issues themselves).

    In that context, I don’t understand most of the current media focus.