Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Blind to Discrimination and Pope Benedict XVI's Loss of Sight

BBC NEWS | Europe | Gay groups angry at Pope remarks
"Speaking on Monday, Pope Benedict said that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour was as important as protecting the environment."
I would like to allow this quote to frame two thoughts today--going on the third day of Hanukah and two days before Christmas. 

thought one: "gender" is a social construction and it has nothing to do with our sex.  Why do young girls play with dolls?  Is it because of her gender?  NO!  It is because we have socialized females to believe that it is proper behavior for a young girl to "practice" her later assumed role of "mother," in the same we we encourage boys to play with trucks for their assumed role of "bread winner."  both are constructions and both are lies.  Depending on the family, some men do a better job at "mother," and some women do a better job at bringing home the "bacon."  It is attitudes such as the Pope's remark that forces people into small frames of being--which is wrong and dangerous. 

I would like to ask,by the Pope's own reasoning, associating sex specifically with gender, what should we do with the hermaphrodite?  Taken from Greek mythology, Hermaphroditus was the son of Hermes and Aphrodite who was later merged with the nymph Salmcis, creating a being with both female and male characteristics.  Hermaphrodites are found in nature (flowers, worms, some fish) and humans. 

In fact, intersexuality among human infants are common.  Here is a situation where a child is born without absolute characteristics of being a male or female.  Under these situations a sex is assigned to the child--a decision made between the doctor and the parents. Sometimes the sexual assignment is successful and that child grows up to what they were assigned, often the guess is not the best guess and the grown child is left with confusion and heartbreak.

If you would like to read an interesting book on the subject, may I suggest R.W. Connell's Gender and Power: Society, the Person and Sexual Politics

I think Connell is quite right with the determination that:

"The categories 'male' and 'female' are not categories of social life and sexual politics; the categories 'men' and 'women' are.  The two pairs overlap but the second pair is far richer and more complexly determined than the first." (137)
The Second point I would like to make deals with Toulmin's approach towards argumentation and whether a statement has a solid warrant or not.  Toulmin asks this question: "so what?"

The Pope stated:

"It was not 'out-of-date metaphysics' to 'speak of human nature as man or woman', he said. It came from the 'language of creation, despising which would mean self-destruction for humans'.

Gender theories, he said, led to man's 'auto-emancipation' from creation and Creator."

By asking "so what," I come up with the following questions:  Who's version of creation?  Because gender bending and homosexuality has been around since recorded history and we do not seem to have "self-destructed" yet, what makes us think that we will "self-destruct" now?  Again, "so what." 

Seriously, I am straight and married, but I have many friends who are gay and other friends who enjoy mixing the social construction of man/woman gender assumptions--so far my marriage has not disrupted because of my association with these friends.  Nor has my security in my particular sex been compromised, nor has my husbands.

So obviously, my social structure is not vulnerable to self-destruction because of those who challenge typical gender ideals or the gay community.  Pope Benedict XVI's social space may be threatened, this is true, but not all of the world's standing.  To associate these issues with the environment is a false analogy--the environment affects everyone no matter their sexuality, color, nationality or religious affiliations, being gay or transsexual does not.

I can kind of understand why Pope Benedict XVI and others like him feel threatened.  They live in a world where issues come in two frames: right and wrong.  For many of these folks, there is set rules that guide living and behavior, and you either obey by those rules or you do not.  If you are defined from this point of view, allowing for alternatives to the set rules can threaten your existence and your values.  If gender bending were allowed and if homosexuality was fine, could there have been a Garden of Eden?  An Adam and an Eve?  A virgin Birth? I think so, yet I can see why they do not.

But I am someone who sees discrimination as just that: discrimination.  It is misnomer to believe that Homosexuality
and sexual orientation is not a civil rights issue--because it simply is.


1 comment:

  1. The problem seems to be that these religious types see homosexuality as a choice, rather than something that one is born with. This is probably because to admit that homosexuality is an inate trait would be to admit that their Creator did so on purpose (and so it is not a bad thing)(or the Creator is a serious bastard), or that Satan somehow does it (which places a lot more power in the hands of the Devil than pious types are comfortable with).
    Easier, as is so often the case, for the Righteous to blame the victim, and maintain the idea that they "know" what God wants.


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