John Money

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Mike Harman
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May 29 2018 18:55
John Money

Split from https://libcom.org/forums/theory/poverty-identity-politics-21052018

Noa Rodman wrote:
radicalgrafitti wrote:
nice means stupid, gay means happy, girl means child of either sex, yes this is how we understand words

Words change meaning, in case of John Money he took the existing term 'gender' (from grammar) and used it as a term in his theory, whence you use it today, thanks to that abuser John Money.

jospanner wrote:
Noa Rodman wrote:
radicalgrafitti wrote:
nice means stupid, gay means happy, girl means child of either sex, yes this is how we understand words

Words change meaning, in case of John Money he took the existing term 'gender' (from grammar) and used it as a term in his theory, whence you use it today, thanks to that abuser John Money.

And?

Noa Rodman wrote:
Fleur wrote:
Seriously Noa, I don't give a flying fuck about etymology or who first coined the phrase. It is entirely irrelevant. I just wanted someone to explain what is this morass of identity politics that people keep rattling on about. You don't have an answer anf you're just digging a bigger and bigger hole. If the best you can come up with is John Money than it is blatantly obvious that you do not have a single clue on the subject of transphobic in radical circles.

The scientific bankruptcy of the definition of one of the key concepts of "identity politics" (there are whole departments on "gender" studies are there not?) is quite relevant I would say. I don't want to hound you with questions, particularly from TERFs, but can you define what gender is without relying on stereotypes?

Noa Rodman wrote:
jospanner wrote:
And?

No need to dispute it, it's just basic info.

jospanner wrote:
Noa Rodman wrote:
jospanner wrote:
And?

No need to dispute it, it's just basic info.

Mitochondria is the Powerhouse of the Cell

I can be irrelevant too.

radicalgraffiti wrote:
Noa Rodman wrote:
Fleur wrote:
Seriously Noa, I don't give a flying fuck about etymology or who first coined the phrase. It is entirely irrelevant. I just wanted someone to explain what is this morass of identity politics that people keep rattling on about. You don't have an answer anf you're just digging a bigger and bigger hole. If the best you can come up with is John Money than it is blatantly obvious that you do not have a single clue on the subject of transphobic in radical circles.

The scientific bankruptcy of the definition of one of the key concepts of "identity politics" (there are whole departments on "gender" studies are there not?) is quite relevant I would say. I don't want to hound you with questions, particularly from TERFs, but can you define what gender is without relying on stereotypes?

you haven't established that current usage of "identity politics" is based on john money apparently using the same term, its not exactly like no one else could independently put those two words together,
and even if you had you haven't shown that nothing in how the term "identity polities" is used has changed since then,
and even if you had you haven't shown you still haven't shown his opinion of it was correct.

finally, you clearly have no concept of what science is, cause its not fucking looking up some phrase, finding the first usage you can and adopting the views of who ever that was

Sadie wrote:
Noa Rodman wrote:
jospanner wrote:
And?

No need to dispute it, it's just basic info.

It’s actually garbled fucking nonsense. Use of “Gender” in the sense of social roles of men and women predates Money’s academic career (def 3b in below link). Its use to mean “Males or females as a group” can in fact be traced back to the 15th century (def 3a in below link).

You’re right about John Money existing and it being a loan word from grammar originally, but a good effort at having every single part of a sentence be factually wrong.

http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/77468

jospanner wrote:
Noa Rodman wrote:
The scientific bankruptcy of the definition of one of the key concepts of "identity politics" (there are whole departments on "gender" studies are there not?) is quite relevant I would say. I don't want to hound you with questions, particularly from TERFs, but can you define what gender is without relying on stereotypes?

Genders are the sets of expressions of human behaviour and appearance that we use for shorthand in grouping and identifying people. As a social phenomenon, gendered oppression is a serious problem that faces many of us. The rigid definition of "man" and "woman" as defined by genitalia has resulted in many people being placed in social categories that are extremely uncomfortable to the point of self-harm and suicide.

The bioessentialist nature of these sets is largely unknown, being part of the emergent complexity of neurons and chemicals, but there is some evidence to suggest that, although a social expression of human motivations, it may not be entirely socially constructed. This is not to say that our biology necessarily predetermines who we are, but can possibly influence it, at least in some portion of the human population.

jospanner wrote:
That said, this is my understanding of gender. It is nebulous, difficult to define, but is nonetheless real.

I contrast this to the TERF ideology of gender, which is demonstrably nonsense.

Fleur wrote:
I admire your effort, jospanner but you're wasting your time here. Noa doesn't actually believe that gender is even a thing and he thinks that being trans is a sexual preference, no relation to gender identity. He did a whole fucking thread on it *eyeroll emoji*

Note to Admin, during the site redesign please bring the smilies back. Ta.

jospanner wrote:
Hmm. Sounds TERFy.
radicalgraffiti wrote:
Fleur wrote:
I admire your effort, jospanner but you're wasting your time here. Noa doesn't actually believe that gender is even a thing and he thinks that being trans is a sexual preference, no relation to gender identity. He did a whole fucking thread on it *eyeroll emoji*

Note to Admin, during the site redesign please bring the smilies back. Ta.

oh yes it was quite incredible https://libcom.org/forums/general/talking-about-lovesex-forums-15112017

edit oh apparently emojis dont work at all here? i guess Unicode is not supported

jospanner wrote:
radicalgraffiti wrote:
oh yes it was quite incredible https://libcom.org/forums/general/talking-about-lovesex-forums-15112017

Good god what piece of work.

Noa Rodman wrote:
Sadie wrote:
It’s actually garbled fucking nonsense. Use of “Gender” in the sense of social roles of men and women predates Money’s academic career (def 3b in below link). Its use to mean “Males or females as a group” can in fact be traced back to the 15th century (def 3a in below link).

You’re right about John Money existing and it being a loan word from grammar originally, but a good effort at having every single part of a sentence be factually wrong.

http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/77468

Sorry but def 3b doesn't mean "social roles of men and women" as you imagine.

It says “Males or females viewed as a group; = sex n.1 1. Also: the property or fact of belonging to one of these groups.”

And it explains:

Originally extended from the grammatical use at sense 1 (sometimes humorously), as also in Anglo-Norman and Old French. In the 20th cent., as sex came increasingly to mean sexual intercourse (see sex n.1 4b), gender began to replace it (in early use euphemistically) as the usual word for the biological grouping of males and females. It is now often merged with or coloured by sense 3b.

Sadie wrote:
Noa Rodman wrote:
Sorry but def 3b doesn't mean "social roles of men and women" as you imagine.

“In the grade-school years, too, gender (which is the socialized obverse of sex) is a fixed line of demarkation, the qualifying terms being ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’”

Does it not?

Sadie wrote:
In any case, Money did not invent the modern usage of the term “gender” all on his own, being that there's a clear timeline for both senses that predate his work and your attempts to sugest that he did are a pretty transparent and pathetic attempt to tar trans people by association with a researcher who actively harmed both trans and GNC cis people a great deal with his absolute fucking bullshit. Even if it were true, it wouldn’t confer any innate authority for Money on the legitimacy of any such term. The “Big Bang” for instance was originally a derisory way of referring to that theory of the origins of the universe, the inventor of the term thought it was bunk and despite this it continues to be the go to term for it long after it became the consensus position for the vast majority of physicists.

Basically you’re taking rubbish and you should answer Fleur’s question.

Noa Rodman wrote:
Interesting, that one quote you found Sadie is from 1945, by the American psychologist Isaac Madison Bentley (he also uses "gendering"). The same Bentley used it again in 1950. But John Money is still correctly regarded (not by "me" personally, but basically in the literature) to have first popularized it (and specifically the term "gender role" or "gender identity").
Mike Harman
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May 29 2018 19:32
jura wrote:

Anyway, as to the other debate on the meaning of "gender", here's my two cents. I don't see why any existing theory, or even the Oxford Dictionary, should dictate the meanings of our terms. If you look at how "capital" is usually defined, in economics or in dictionaries, you won't find the definition typically used on this site. Terms can be redefined, and it is the wider theories we subscribe to which really "stabilize" the meanings of our terms. For example, Newton talked about "forces" and contemporary physics also talks about "forces", but the meanings (concepts) in each case are quite different, determined by an entire "web" of other concepts. Noa's attempts to make this about Money and his definitions can be likened to someone insisting that atoms must be indivisible and electrons can't exist because the original Leucippus'/Democritus' term "atomos" literally means "indivisible".

I think a useful and, dare I say, historico-materialist approach to gender is that which sees it as a "social form", somewhat similarly to how "value" is a social form. On a very general level, I see gender as a blanket term for the various historically specific forms through which the reproduction of labor power (i.e. living human beings) is mediated in human societies. On a more concrete level, it is the set of norms, roles, expectations and relations which is built around this process of reproduction (which includes sex, maternity, birth, but also other stuff that is independent of generational reproduction itself, but still relevant to reproduction of labor power), and imposed by societies on that process to mediate and regulate it (through upbringing, all sorts of communication, social institutions, violence etc.). It is the social, historically contingent component built around the transhistorical process of human reproduction. The former is subject to historical change, but the latter is always there – just like the production of useful things is always there, while the social relations in which it happens change. By a very rough analogy (which isn't perfect, for a variety of reasons, but hopefully it can illustrate what I mean) gender is to the biology roughly what value is to use value or what abstract labor is to concrete labor.

So I do in fact think that gender is very much rooted in human biology, especially the naughty parts of it, and historical perceptions thereof. I also think that ultimately, the oppression of women in class societies can be traced to the biologically determined division of labor in producing human life. However, this does not mean that since the process of giving birth cannot simply be decreed away, the oppression of women cannot be abolished. It simply means that, so far, roles for women constructed by class societies around their processes of reproduction have been more or less oppressive, and of course this has to do with the fact that they were all class societies that had to deal with serious problems of social control if they wanted to survive. So that's how you get stuff like "people with uteruses belong in the home", "people with penises should be this and that", "people without either are an abomination and should be drowned", and the policing of anyone who does not like that or fit into that. So gender relations ("social relations of reproduction") can be oppressive, just like relations of production can be oppressive. But they don't have to be.

So I don't think gender can be abolished. The reproduction of human life will always be somehow socially mediated (through relations, norms, roles). Similarly, relations of production in general cannot be abolished, and communism would have its own relations of production, it's only that they would be very different from relations of production in class societies. Similarly for gender relations.

An excellent work on gender/gender relations is Lise Vogel's Marxism and the Oppression of Women, including the recent editions' preface by Sue Ferguson and David McNally. I find it much better than most of what passes for Marxist feminism.

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May 29 2018 20:35
jura wrote:
On a very general level, I see gender as a blanket term for the various historically specific forms through which the reproduction of labor power (i.e. living human beings) is mediated in human societies.

....

On a more concrete level, it is the set of norms, roles, expectations and relations which is built around this process of reproduction (which includes sex, maternity, birth, but also other stuff that is independent of generational reproduction itself, but still relevant to reproduction of labor power), and imposed by societies on that process to mediate and regulate it (through upbringing, all sorts of communication, social institutions, violence etc.).

.....

So I don't think gender can be abolished. The reproduction of human life will always be somehow socially mediated (through relations, norms, roles). Similarly, relations of production in general cannot be abolished, and communism would have its own relations of production, it's only that they would be very different from relations of production in class societies. Similarly for gender relations.

 Jura, I appreciated all your posts on that thread but none more than this one. I'm very interested in your position, though I think I disagree firstly with your definition (my notes app on my phone is full of attempts to formulate what gender is but this isn't one), and also as a consequence with your conclusion that gender can't be abolished.

Say there's a society where reproduction was barely mediated at all, and definitely not through assigning roles. Say at the point that sexual partners take their pants off they assess whether they're going to need (then if they want) contraception without this impacting on how they got to that point (I don't mean in terms of attraction, I mean in terms of the heterosexual and homosexual mating rituals). And like if someone gets pregnant then everyone helps out irrespective of whether they're someone likely to get pregnant themselves.

Would this be impossible? Or would you still call the little mediating there is "gender", even though no one's being gendered? What is the benefit to describing everything that's to do with how society deals with reproduction "gender"? As opposed to, say, referring only to the resulting categorisation of people (and/or clothes, attributes, activities, etc) as "gender"?

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May 29 2018 20:53
jura wrote:
I don't see why any existing theory, or even the Oxford Dictionary, should dictate the meanings of our terms. If you look at how "capital" is usually defined, in economics or in dictionaries, you won't find the definition typically used on this site. Terms can be redefined, and it is the wider theories we subscribe to which really "stabilize" the meanings of our terms. For example, Newton talked about "forces" and contemporary physics also talks about "forces", but the meanings (concepts) in each case are quite different, determined by an entire "web" of other concepts. Noa's attempts to make this about Money and his definitions can be likened to someone insisting that atoms must be indivisible and electrons can't exist because the original Leucippus'/Democritus' term "atomos" literally means "indivisible".

FYI, Jemima Repo wrote a book on the origin and spread of the concept of gender (The Biopolitics of Gender; 2015, the scan is a bit poor). Ignore her Foucauldian jargon. It's just handy as a genealogy (get it?, same root word genus) of the "gender" concept. The first chapter is online here.

Repo wrote:
This article argues that gender was invented in the 1950s as a new sexual apparatus of biopower.

She doesn't categorically reject/oppose the concept of gender, but she "problematizes" it. Like I too pointed out, the concept of gender wasn't of a feminist origin.

-
One of the other popularizers (following John Money) of the concept of gender was Robert J. Stoller.

It is worth to post the following excerpts (preface pp. vi–iv) from his 1968 Sex and Gender: The Development of Masculinity and Femininity (the whole book can be found online):

While the work of our research team has been associated with the term gender identity, we are not militantly fixed either on copyrighting the term or on defending the concept as one of the splendors of the scientific world. It is a working term. We know that though it deals with another realm of feelings, thoughts, and behavior than that encompassed by, say, sexual activity, the two terms are contiguous and at times inextricably intermingled. With gender difficult to define and identity still a challenge to theoreticians, we need hardly insist on the holiness of the term "gender identity."

One need not – one cannot – summarize the literature in which sex, sexuality, and such terms are used; then, too, there is the problem that one is often confused when an author uses such a term before he has carefully described the data to which he is referring. For instance, the word sexuality usually does not communicate much, for it covers so much. Trying to be more precise, we have split off "gender" as a distinguishable part of "sexuality."1

Dictionaries stress that the major connotation of sex is a biological one, as, for example, in the phrases sexual relations or the male sex. In agreement with this, the word sex in this work will refer to the male or the female sex and the component biological parts that determine whether one is a male or a female; the word sexual will have connotations of anatomy and physiology. This obviously leaves tremendous areas of behavior, feeling, thoughts, and fantasies that are related to the sexes and yet do not have primarily biological connotations. It is for some of these psychological phenomena that the term gender will be used: one can speak of the male sex or the female sex, but one can also talk about masculinity and femininity and not necessarily be implying anything about anatomy or physiology. Thus, while sex and gender seem to common sense to be practically synonymous, and in everyday life to be inextricably bound together, one purpose of this study will be to confirm the fact that the two realms (sex and gender) are not at all inevitably bound in anything like a one- to-one relationship, but each may go in its quite independent way.

[...]

So much for the moment for sex and gender. As regards the word identity, my treatment of that word will not be more adequate. The purpose of this work is not to arrive at a comprehensive or even useful definition of the term identity, or to enter into the controversies now very much in the forefront of psycho-analytic theorizing as to the differences and similarities, usefulness or distortions of such terms as ego, self, self-representation, identity, sense of identity and the like.2 At this point in my studies, I am using the word identity to mean one's awareness (whether one is conscious of it or not) of one's existence and purpose in the world or, put a bit differently, the organization of those psychic components that are to preserve one's awareness of existing. After much struggle, I cannot see, when actually observing a person, what is identity as different from self, ego identity, self-representation, and so forth. All the efforts at definition in the literature blur terribly for me in facing real life.

[...]

It will be apparent to the reader that, in addition to side-stepping a serious attempt to define gender and gender identity, I have not discussed in depth here [etc..]

  • 1. As did Freud years ago (1920) in "The Psychogenesis of a Case of Homosexuality in a Woman," in which he listed three characteristics of (homo)sexuality: (1) physical sexual characters; (2) mental sexual characters (what we are now calling gender); and (3) object choice. He said these "up to a certain point, vary independently of one another, and are met with in different individuals in manifold permutations."
  • 2. My colleague Nathan Leites, Ph.D.. has concluded after a review of the literature that the term identity has little use other than as fancy dress in which to disguise vagueness, ambiguitv, tautologies, lack of clinical data, and poverty of explanation: "I would call the 'gross product' of 'identity's' rise to prominence during the last ten years the totality of hypotheses formulated in that period which (a) contain the word, (b) refer to clinically observable events, (c) were novel in content, and not only in wording, (d) do not seem clearly false. In my guess this gross product is exceedingly low. I would call the corresponding 'net product' of 'identity' theory that fraction of its gross product which could not without notable loss of convenience be reformulated in the language of psychoanalysis minus 'identity.' At this time I believe that to be zero."
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May 29 2018 21:27

Thanks, I really appreciate that, Konsequent. I realize there are some loopholes in what I described. Some further distinctions would be needed that aren't all that clear to me (e.g., the precise relation between "gender" and "family"). I also haven't touched trans issues at all (unfortunately, I'm largely ignorant of the research, so I'd rather not make a fool of myself).

Turning to your example: I'm not sure it would be sustainable as a mechanism of reproduction for human societies. Even if it was, I'd say it still counts as a system of gender relations, i.e. social forms of the species-specific process of reproduction, because there definitely seem to be social relations, roles and rules involved. Some of them are pretty explicit in your example (the voluntary and equal decision-making on contraception, which presupposes a very particular kind of subject, contingent on some historical conditions, i.e. a role; furthermore, "everyone helps out" is a rule and also a system of roles of "helpers"; if there are any stable "rituals", hetero- or homosexual, then these also require roles and rules). Some are implicit: presumably, having intercourse without consent is out of the question, or having intercourse with 8 year olds, or procreating with immediate kin, or wilfully spreading STDs (the last three, when generalized, would be no good for a sustainable mechanism of reproduction anyway).

I also think there would have to be some "gendering" in the narrower sense as well, since it is women who give birth (and breastfeed, but I guess robots could do that!), and this is again associated with certain roles and rules. Like taking care of and having to take care of/being taken care of... and, perhaps most importantly, not being available for other productive labor for a good period of time, which necessarily affects the social role of that individual woman at the time and also structures how production is organized in that society more generally. Every society has had to deal with that. I think that this – the time requirements of maternity and child-rearing – is actually key to gender (and why it even exists). I believe it's also important in explaining women's oppression generally and things like the gender pay gap specifically.

The benefit: I think if we focus on the process of reproduction as the basis, and distinguish the transhistorical content from the historical forms, we can account for why women's oppression has been so persistent in class societies. It should also allow us to explain why the "categorizations" that you mention even emerge, which (with no other basis as a substitute) would remain a mystery, wouldn't it?

However, it seems to me that the definitions outlined in my post above are too broad – probably not "everything" that has to do with "reproduction" is necessarily a gender relation or role. I'd be inclined to restrict this to "generational reproduction", but that would seem to be too narrow. Huh.

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May 29 2018 21:29

Noa, I'm sorry, but I won't engage with that. I'm just not interested in a literature review.

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May 29 2018 22:59

No sweat, but your argument with Konsequent illustrates what I think is the stale rambling kind of debates that go nowhere (which is what academics prefer I suspect, hey zing), caused by the lack of any sensible meaning of gender (as admitted by one of the coiners).

admin - Noa has been banned

radicalgraffiti
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May 29 2018 23:21
Noa Rodman wrote:
No sweat, but your argument with Konsequent illustrates what I think is the stale rambling kind of debates that go nowhere (which is what academics prefer I suspect, hey zing), caused by the lack of any sensible meaning of gender (as admitted by one of the coiners).

stale rambling debates? stale rambling debates that go no where? YOU are complaining about "stale rambling debates that go nowhere"? you?

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May 30 2018 07:47

Should gender be abolished, can it, what does gender even mean, etc. yep that's what I consider a stale rambling debate or so called "academic question" (it's not a personal attack on anyone here, unlike what you resort to).

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May 30 2018 09:21

Dude, you're literally basing your opinions on a guy who carried out vicious child abuse in order to falsify evidence for his bullshit theories whilst the trans people he gate kept ran rings round him by reading his shit and telling him exactly what he wanted to hear. And then when this is pointed out it's an ad hominem and we should engage seriously with the fraudulent opinions of a guy so toxic even WPATH won't go near him. If you want to be a trabsphobe just be a fundie or a TERF like the rest of them, this weird boutique shit looks like a lot of effort.

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May 30 2018 09:45
Quote:
this weird boutique shit looks like a lot of effort.

That actually made me lol for real.

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May 30 2018 09:54
ticking_fool wrote:
you're literally basing your opinions on a guy who carried out vicious child abuse

No, I am merely repeating the generally accepted basic info of the origin of some of the key terms of "identity politics" (like gender and identity). I linked to a whole book on it by Jemima Repo. This is not a "point" I'm making against anyone.

As for my actual "point", I'm basing myself on the word of Robert J. Stoller (who I quoted extensively above) to show that these concepts lack meaningful definitions and have no scientific worth. It seems Fleur even could accept that, but simply didn't think it was relevant.

admin - Noa has been banned

ticking_fool
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May 30 2018 10:06

Bet you're fun at parties. Go on then, cheer us all up - tell me the exact language I, as a gross tranny, should be using to precisely describe my existence.

ticking_fool
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May 30 2018 10:50

For sensible people who aren't pretentious dickwavers, relevent tweets from Amy Marvin.

https://twitter.com/amyrmarv/status/1001509105767337984?s=19

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May 30 2018 17:20
ticking_fool wrote:
For sensible people who aren't pretentious dickwavers, relevent tweets from Amy Marvin.

https://twitter.com/amyrmarv/status/1001509105767337984?s=19

Just on this, I feel like even the general direction of this simplistic definition of cis isn't really useful. The more aware someone is of what gender is and how it functions the less comfortable they become with their assigned gender, but that doesn't in itself move them along the spectrum from cis to trans. I would expect that very many cis people, especially those who've been assigned the "inferior" gender category and likely had a bad time of it, and who've engaged with the subject a bit, would be immediately put off by the claim that they're comfortable with their assigned gender. A more useful simplistic definition, imo, would be that cis means "living as your assigned gender" (or "living more or less within the remit of your assigned gender"). So being trans is something that you do. So all people are cis from the moment they're assigned a gender (as most cis people aren't so much embracing their assigned gender as accepting it as default), and they become trans by stepping outside of the remit of that category.

I think that's a better working definition that doesn't immediately invite such obvious criticisms.

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Jun 2 2018 00:24
jura wrote:
Thanks, I really appreciate that, Konsequent. I realize there are some loopholes in what I described. Some further distinctions would be needed that aren't all that clear to me (e.g., the precise relation between "gender" and "family"). I also haven't touched trans issues at all (unfortunately, I'm largely ignorant of the research, so I'd rather not make a fool of myself).

Seeing a variety of trans people and other queers just making it up as they go along (as well as performing gender superfluously and parodicly) has influenced the fact that I think gender (in the sense of the categorising of people and the attaching of expectations to that) can easily be dispensed with. I see same-sex couples acting out traditional heterosexual roles too, which makes it more apparent that opposite-sex couples could just hook up in a more "homosexual", symmetrical way, like equals.

jura wrote:
Turning to your example: I'm not sure it would be sustainable as a mechanism of reproduction for human societies.
 

Why not?

I really just meant it as an example. Was trying to describe something that involved a small amount of reproduction mediation, but no gender according to my own definitions, and ended up describing something that I feel is a plausible way a society could work (as in, if an anthropologist came back from their travels and said "I've found a society that do things like this" I would believe them) as well as being appealing, to me personally. I can also conceive of a way things could operate that would be less pleasant but also not involve gendering people, doesn't have to be a utopian vision.

jura wrote:
Even if it was, I'd say it still counts as a system of gender relations, i.e. social forms of the species-specific process of reproduction, because there definitely seem to be social relations, roles and rules involved. Some of them are pretty explicit in your example (the voluntary and equal decision-making on contraception, which presupposes a very particular kind of subject, contingent on some historical conditions, i.e. a role

Maybe with "roles" I really meant "different roles", because what's the point of calling something a role if everyone has it? Like if it doesn't distinguish you from anyone else. Say if everyone does an equal share of the housework then I guess you could say everyone has the role of doing housework but I wouldn't look at that and see gender roles, whereas I would if only women were expected to do it. Similarly if the norm is that everyone takes equal responsibility for contraception then I wouldn't see gender roles there either. At any rate, the conversation about contraception wasn't a necessary part of an example of no gender, I more just meant that there's no good reason why people's genitals would be relevant before the point that they get them out. Certainly I don't see why they would need to influence anything sooner than that, if they're taken into account at all.

jura wrote:
; furthermore, "everyone helps out" is a rule and also a system of roles of "helpers"; if there are any stable "rituals", hetero- or homosexual, then these also require roles and rules).
 

Without gender there's no homosexuality or heterosexuality though. In fact homosexuality and heterosexuality are fairly recent inventions as I understand it, whereas gender has been around much longer.

I was saying that I see no need for any stable rituals for people to hook up, any more than for people to do any other activity together. But even if there were some there's no reason, other than the patriarchy, for some rituals to be for "heterosexual" pairings and some to be for "homosexual" ones. Take the classic example of a very traditional homosexual ritual, the use of the hanky code. There's nothing about that concept, broadly, that means it's only appropriate for use by people with dicks.

jura wrote:
Some are implicit: presumably, having intercourse without consent is out of the question, or having intercourse with 8 year olds, or procreating with immediate kin, or wilfully spreading STDs (the last three, when generalized, would be no good for a sustainable mechanism of reproduction anyway).
 

Well yeah it would be nice if those were norms, but would you call a widespread expectation that people don't wilfully spread STDs "gender"?

jura wrote:
I also think there would have to be some "gendering" in the narrower sense as well, since it is women who give birth (and breastfeed, but I guess robots could do that!), and this is again associated with certain roles and rules.
 

It is something that can happen to people with uteruses but not as a result of us gendering the people who it happens to.

Also, say if being a woman means taking on the role of giving birth and breastfeeding, then it only really makes sense to define a person as a woman at the point that they're doing that, right? To define someone from birth, for their whole life, in relation to the fact that they look like they likely have the potential to get pregnant eventually, whether or not they ever do so or want to do so, is clearly fucked. Building a baby with your body and feeding it is a lot of work and of course it's going to shape your role in society while it's happening, but it's not a job we should be assigning people I don't think.

 

jura wrote:
Like taking care of and having to take care of/being taken care of... and, perhaps most importantly, not being available for other productive labor for a good period of time, which necessarily affects the social role of that individual woman at the time and also structures how production is organized in that society more generally. Every society has had to deal with that. I think that this – the time requirements of maternity and child-rearing – is actually key to gender (and why it even exists). I believe it's also important in explaining women's oppression generally and things like the gender pay gap specifically.
 

Well people are incapacitated for periods of time for all sorts of reasons. If there's a section of the population more likely to get ill for a while there would have to be a lot more going on for them to have a different set of pronouns to the rest of the population, different clothes, have different personality traits and interests attributed to them, etc.

I think women's oppression is more easily explained by private property requiring the need to know who's sperm made which child. Gender has been a way to restrict the movement of people with uteruses so it's clear who's an heir to what.

jura wrote:
The benefit: I think if we focus on the process of reproduction as the basis, and distinguish the transhistorical content from the historical forms, we can account for why women's oppression has been so persistent in class societies. It should also allow us to explain why the "categorizations" that you mention even emerge, which (with no other basis as a substitute) would remain a mystery, wouldn't it?

However, it seems to me that the definitions outlined in my post above are too broad – probably not "everything" that has to do with "reproduction" is necessarily a gender relation or role. I'd be inclined to restrict this to "generational reproduction", but that would seem to be too narrow. Huh.

What's the difference between reproduction and generational reproduction?

To make a comparison to the thread that spawned this conversation, what I think of a thing, what if anything should be done about it, etc, depends on what that thing is, so it's important to clarify the remit of our definitions (I'm mostly mentioning this because Noa's comment frustrated me). If, for example, we define identity politics as "combating racism, sexism, homophobia, etc" then I'm all for it and want to talk about how we can go about doing more of it, if we define it as "the division of the working class into groups with separate interests" then I'm dead against it and want to talk about how we can avoid it.

I don't really mind if we define gender as "all the norms a society has surrounding reproduction", but I'm still going to need a term for "the categorising of people, into supposedly fundamentally different types, according to their genitalia", because it's an awful thing and I want to talk about what we're going to do about it. 
Do you think the former necessarily results in the latter?

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Noah Fence
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Jun 2 2018 04:44

Konsequent, that is a monumentally good post. I’ve had this conversation with another Libcommer and reached the same conclusion although I must say it was nowhere near as comprehensively thought through as yours.
The more I think about it the clearer it becomes that, at least in the way it is usually applied in our society, gender is a total fallacy, and an extremely damaging one at that.
Anyways, large props to you comrade, you just smashed it!

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jura
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Jun 2 2018 10:15

Konsequent, thanks for the response. You are right, it seems more useful to reserve the term "gender" for a differential and oppressive system of roles/positions (in my view, ultimately relating to reproduction). In this way, it would be more akin to "class". A class system is the product of certain kinds of relations of production, while a gender system would be the product of certain kinds of relations of reproduction. Then it makes sense to speak of "abolishing gender" similarly to class. In this case, I'd still say that both production and reproduction are always somehow socially mediated (through roles and norms), only this mediation doesn't have to be "antagonistic" (as in the case of classes and gender).

And somewhat similarly to social labor, where some division of labor (although not necessarily a fixed one) is always necessary (even in communism, I think), I'd say that there would always be some "division of labor" in reproduction. And at least something in it is fixed by biological facts about the human species – giving birth. It goes without saying that I don't think that biological facts should determine anything else about the social role of people with uteri other than that they, in fact, are the ones who can actually give birth to a living human being (if they decide to do so). But it seems to me that even a communist society would build some social "scaffolding" around that fact (like provisions for care, protection etc.). We don't have to call that scaffolding "gender", though.

Konsequent wrote:
Seeing a variety of trans people and other queers just making it up as they go along (as well as performing gender superfluously and parodicly) has influenced the fact that I think gender (in the sense of the categorising of people and the attaching of expectations to that) can easily be dispensed with. I see same-sex couples acting out traditional heterosexual roles too, which makes it more apparent that opposite-sex couples could just hook up in a more "homosexual", symmetrical way, like equals.

Can it be easily dispensed with, though? I'm not so sure. I mean, it can in one sense, in the same sense that modern production can "easily" be organized in a communist way. But women's oppression, just like class domination, has been persistent throughout a sizable part of human history. There must be powerful social mechanisms that enable and sustain that.

By the way, what bothers me about the "performative" theories of gender, to the extent that I'm familiar with them, is that they make it seem all too "voluntaristic". I think a robust theory of gender should look at not just the "appereances", i.e., how gender roles are played out, perceived, interpreted and enforced in everyday human interaction (although all of this is important), but also at the structural conditions that make all that possible (or even necessitate it as a solution to certain problems, within the given historical circumstances). And as a materialist I'd say we have to look for those conditions in the areas of production and reproduction. We're clearly on the same page, though, as your comment on private property below indicates.

Konsequent wrote:
Why not? I really just meant it as an example.

I'll accept that as an example, but it seemed a bit unstable to me. On my not very charitable reading, "everyone helps out" made me think that surely there are degrees of responsibility and it's not reasonable to expect that "good people" will come from all over the place to take care of a newborn. People who don't want children or to take care of children should not be expected to care for someone else's children.

Konsequent wrote:
Maybe with "roles" I really meant "different roles", because what's the point of calling something a role if everyone has it? Like if it doesn't distinguish you from anyone else. Say if everyone does an equal share of the housework then I guess you could say everyone has the role of doing housework but I wouldn't look at that and see gender roles, whereas I would if only women were expected to do it. Similarly if the norm is that everyone takes equal responsibility for contraception then I wouldn't see gender roles there either.

Like I said, I now think it makes more sense to think of gender in differential terms. Your example with housework works well here. But if we take abortion as a form of contraception, then that's something that particularly concerns people with uteri, for biological reasons. The decision can be made long after the sexual act itself, when the other party is no longer around, and I think it should be possible to make it without any interference or even discussion with the other party. So that's a potential social role (including decision-making powers, specific social interests concerning access to the procedure etc.) that's at least to some extent biologically determined. We don't have to view it as "gender" (as per your suggestion and what I wrote at the beginning of the post), but it's a specific and differential social role pertaning to reproduction.

Konsequent wrote:
Without gender there's no homosexuality or heterosexuality though. In fact homosexuality and heterosexuality are fairly recent inventions as I understand it, whereas gender has been around much longer.

I meant homo- and heterosexuality as facts about sexual attraction. But I agree there's no logical reason to have specific rituals for people with specific organs and attractions.

Konsequent wrote:
Well yeah it would be nice if those were norms, but would you call a widespread expectation that people don't wilfully spread STDs "gender"?

Yeah, I wouldn't. I meant is simply as an example that there is social mediation (roles, norms) involved in the example you gave.

Konsqeuent wrote:
Also, say if being a woman means taking on the role of giving birth and breastfeeding, then it only really makes sense to define a person as a woman at the point that they're doing that, right? ...

You're right – it is clearly fucked and we shouldn't be doing that. Only we do, or "the society" does, and very persistently so. And I think it has to be explained in the terms I proposed, i.e., in terms of a particular way of "socially solving" the problem of reproduction. (This is not the same as saying that the solution is good!)

Konsequent wrote:
Well people are incapacitated for periods of time for all sorts of reasons. If there's a section of the population more likely to get ill for a while there would have to be a lot more going on for them to have a different set of pronouns to the rest of the population, different clothes, have different personality traits and interests attributed to them, etc.

I think women's oppression is more easily explained by private property requiring the need to know who's sperm made which child. Gender has been a way to restrict the movement of people with uteruses so it's clear who's an heir to what.

You are right about private property. I'll get back to that at the end of this post. But I think you underestimate the requirements of biological reproduction and also how regular and predictable they are in societies, unlike illness or accidents. It's something that all societies have to confront, regardless of natural conditions, relations of production etc. Perhaps a comparable phenomenon is aging (i.e., people get old and cannot work, other people have to take care of them, this ties up resources, if we value old people's lives at all then a system has to be established of caring for them), which is also something that produces a system of roles and norms.

Konsequent wrote:
What's the difference between reproduction and generational reproduction?

Ah, forget it, my bad. I meant reproduction as a wider set of activities related to at least sustaining human life in the given conditions (which includes stuff like education), and generational reproduction as a subset of that relating to procreation (which is basically sex, birth and perhaps very early child-rearing), but the literature clearly uses it differently.

Konsequent wrote:
I don't really mind if we define gender as "all the norms a society has surrounding reproduction", but I'm still going to need a term for "the categorising of people, into supposedly fundamentally different types, according to their genitalia", because it's an awful thing and I want to talk about what we're going to do about it. 

Do you think the former necessarily results in the latter?

I don't think it's a logical necessity. But I see some space for biologically determined differential social roles noted above (birth, abortion). All societies, when confronted with the perennial problem of reproduction, seem to produce a system of roles (not necessarily oppressive ones). Even in "primitive communism" (no private property, matrilineal clans) there seem to have been social roles, even differential ones, fixed by one's position vis-a-vis reproduction (although with little to no women's oppression). We don't have to call them gender. Maybe gender is a historically contingent (and antagonistic) subset of such roles particular to class societies.

This could tie in nicely with your comment on private property above. Perhaps a better restatement of my original position would be this. The problem of reproduction is always there and it is in part a matter of biology. Some social roles and norms are built around that in any society, perhaps including differential roles in reproduction, which may or not may have wider social implications. The emergence of private property not only structures relations of production, but also relations of reproduction. There, it results in the institution of an oppressive system of gender relations.