July Online Gender Workshop: An exercise in the utility of definitions

When last we left our intrepid workshoppers, one month ago, we had had a rollicking discussion of definitions of gender, sex, and related terms.

One of the things that came out of that discussion is that when we are each pressed to define exactly what each of us as individuals mean by each person’s specific, personal use of terms like “gender” and “sex” and “transsexual” we not only consistently come up with different definitions, but we also routinely fail to come up with terms that actually cover everything we want to say.

In looking at people overtly performing gender, many of us struggled to find a way to express exactly what we wished to communicate using the terms we had just defined. Worse, in something little discussed as of yet, those people who are assumed to be the best and most skilled of us frequently declined to use gendered pronouns for some performers, but not others.

Why is this the case? If declining to assume an appropriate pronoun for Conchita Wurst is respectful, why not decline to assume an appropriate pronoun for Julie Andrews or Shirley Temple? One of the things we should, in fact, be discussing is the coercive nature of many gendered interactions. Did Shirley Temple choose the clothing or choreography for that scene? Did Temple have more agency in creating a gender (or a gendered image) than Conchita Wurst? At age 3 and 4? Given the legacy nature of Temple’s income and ability to work, what are the implications for Temple’s gender agency at age 40? And if Shirley Temple can’t be assumed to have had a free gender hand, why are we willing to trust an application of a gendered pronoun for Temple more than we trust an application of a gendered pronoun to Wurst?

To help solve some of these problems, it is necessary to have a common language. As revealed in previous exercises, we do not currently have that. We have idiosyncratic usage as created and modified by our successes and failures in conceptualizing and communicating sex and gender concepts. That simply isn’t enough when the times get rough.

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What a mess

The SCA has fired Edwina Rogers.

Ms. Rogers said in an interview that she was given no warning and no reason for her termination, but that she suspected she was being blamed for organization funds discovered to be missing and said to be embezzled by two of her subordinates. An internal audit, obtained by The New York Times, found that two employees who handled the Secular Coalition’s finances embezzled $78,805, mostly by using the coalition’s credit cards to pay for restaurant meals, travel and plastic surgery. Ms. Rogers said she had no authority over the finances, but discovered the misuse of funds, reported it to the police, fired the two employees and commissioned the audit with the approval of the board.

The president of the Secular Coalition, Amanda K. Metskas, did not return phone calls, but she confirmed in an email that Ms. Rogers “has never been a suspect in the misdirection of funds at the Secular Coalition for America.” Ms. Metskas would say only that Ms. Rogers had “moved on” for reasons she could not discuss because they were “confidential personnel matters.”

They’re quite clear that Rogers was not involved in the embezzlement, but I have to wonder who these two fresh-faced thieves were…and whether they were hires by Rogers, and also came out of the same entitled Republican background. I was uncomfortable from the moment she was announced, just because there isn’t a lot of cultural overlap between academic/intellectual weirdos and pampered privileged upper class weirdos.

On top of the recent Global Secular Council debacle, the SCA is looking like they’ve taken a long and costly detour here. I hope they can bounce back.

Relaxing in Seattle

My required labors in Seattle are now done — I spoke to a packed house at Town Hall last night, had a grand time, got lots of questions and had many hours of stimulating conversations (wait, why am I calling that “labor”?). Now tonight is just relaxation — I’ll be going in to our Secret Meeting Place (I’ve told an awful lot of you where it is, but it’s not too late to email me and ask for details) late this afternoon, strolling through the wonders of the city, and then parking myself in the aforementioned Place sometime around 6 or later. If no one shows up, that’s fine, I’ll take it easy with my iPad and savor the ambience of Puget Sound. If you drift in later, that’s fine, too. If you’re wandering around looking for me, I’ll be easy to spot in my bright yellow t-shirt:

yellowshirt

The watchword for the evening is “casual”. Pleasant conversation. Friendly discussion. No pressure, no worries. Don’t show up to pick a fight or we’ll pitch you off a pier.

Oh, no

If any of you have been following Jay Lake’s struggle with cancer, it’s over.

We’ve had a few conversations, but I only met him once at Norwescon — he was a smart, brave guy. I’ve been hoping I’d get a chance to run into him again, but the last few entries on his cancer diary weren’t encouraging.

Another review of Noah

Ken Ham went to see the movie. I think he’s giving it a thumbs down.

I am disgusted. I am going to come right out and say it–it is disgusting and evil–paganism! Do you really want your family to see a pagan movie the has Noah as some psychopath who says if his daughter-in-law’s baby is a girl, he will kill it as soon as it’s born. And then when two girls are born, bloodstained Noah (the man the Bible calls righteous Noah–Genesis 7:1), brings a knife down to one of the baby’s heads to kill it and at the last minute doesn’t do it–and then a bit later says he failed because he didn’t kill the babies. How can we recommend this movie and then speak against abortion! Psychopathic Noah sees humans as a blight on the planet and wants to rid the world of people.

While in the true Biblical worldview, it’s psychopathic God who sees humans as a blight on the planet and wants to rid the world of people. How dare a mere man act as if he were created in God’s image?

Me, I’m kinda warming to the movie now.

Activism! On campus!

It’s been so long since my heart has been warmed by furious students and faculty fighting for what is right, and now it’s happening: UMTC is getting some pushback over an invited speaker. It’s Condoleeza Rice. Why did we invite a war criminal to speak on campus in the first place? She is a person who should be shunned by all civilized company everywhere.

Another sticking point is her lecture fee. She’s going to give a 50 minute talk and get paid $150,000. That’s right, someone is going to give a lecture at the university, and get paid for one talk at a price that is almost 3 years salary for me. Is that what a class is worth? I’m going to have to demand a raise, I guess.

I’ll settle for a mere $100,000 per class hour, since, after all, I’m not as famous as Rice. On the plus side, though, I’m also not responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands of people, or the destruction of the American economy, so it all evens out.

Oh, all right, I’ll bargain. I’ll go back to my usual middle class salary if, in return, the campus police slap handcuffs on her the instant Rice sets foot on campus, and then banishes her from the country on charges of committing crimes against humanity.

I’m being fair here, people!

Some people are easily fooled

Via Ally Fogg, the BMJ has published their annual satirical science story, as they do, and as usual, various slackish and hackish news sites have republished it as true (Hello, HuffPo!), and in addition, this time they’ve sucked in the MRAs! In this case, it’s because they published a stereotyped scenario of men trying so hard to make women happy and making them miserable in the process. You’d think they’d have noticed the second sentence of the abstract:

Mathieu encourages her psychotherapy clients “to try to live in the gray. There are a million shades of gray” (although a recent erotic novel suggests there are only 50) “on the spectrum of white to black, and each provides a much richer telling of a story that is hardly ever as clear as this or that. So, when we looked a bit more closely, we saw that ‘right versus happy’ was not so much about getting crowned the winner or loser, a genius or fool; it was more about flawed thinking and a desire to want to feel being in control.”

No clues there? OK, maybe they could have read the discussion:

The study has some limitations. There was no trial registration, no ethics committee approval, no informed consent, no proper randomisation, no validated test instrument, and questionable statistical assessment. We used the eyeball technique for single patient trials which, as Sackett says, “more closely matches the way we think as clinicians.

Yeah, clever bunch in the media and the ranks of the MRAs.