Back to the TERF War – at Last?

Getting the feeling more sensible voices are prevailing in this war at last. Maybe I can stop posting about it sometime soon. (To me – without specific skin in the feminist<>trans-gender debate aka “TERF War” – this is simply a raging example of my meta-agenda about received rationality in a world where everyone has rights and opinions – or rather thinks these form the basis of all arguments, especially if their opinions are based on so-called (*) facts.)

Anyway, the latest move?

@femi_sorry made a fairly insensitive tweet about needing new words to distinguish women across both the sex-based and gender-based aspects, referring only to women (cue pile-on). I pointed out he was basically right and applies to both / all genders / sexes.

Interestingly, I got a couple of responses from extremists on the RadFem / GenderCrit side accusing the TransRightsActivist side of fascism intent in their gender driven conspiracy … which is the problem. People trading labels in binary battles against evil enemies over what are really much more complex issues, both technical and social over many contexts and timescales.

We really do need “labels” for the classes in our language, but must not treat these labels as the identities of the individuals and tribes we are in dialogue with. And if we’re not in dialogue all we’re doing is trading “fascist” insults in some degenerate, polarising “debate”. (My annoying habit of overusing scare-quotes is a recognition / admission of needing to use a label for a class, but warning not to treat them as identity labels. Of course in short-form media exchanges the labels are essential to short-hand, but deadly without the scare-quote / trigger warnings.)

Obviously he only mentioned women in the euphemistic context of “pregnant people”.

The extremists on both sides [biological-sex is all there is] vs [new trans-rights trump existing female and gay rights] are defending their positions like dogs with bones – probably tactically from their “thin end of a wedge” perspectives of the other “fascist” side. Don’t give ’em an inch, Pike.

Constructive dialogue is squeezed-out.

#GoodFences #ThinEndWedge #IdentityPolitics

[(*) So-called, not because they might not be “facts” (there are lots of them out there) but questionable whether any fact is relevant to any given point at issue.]


Post Notes:

[@Irmenberga (x99) was in one of those threads, but blocked me (here below):

“its like describing what happened to gallileo as a ‘science vs religion war’. the war only goes one way. we all respect their right to believe in bullshit. we just deny their right to force others to deny science. […] i am blocking you now. you obviously dont understand this area and you have nothing useful to add and no genuine interest in informing yourself.”

Ironic to bring in the Galileo parallel, before blocking me and accusing me of being ill informed. (Obviously my research in this area involved included Alice Dreger’s “Galileo’s Middle Finger” from 5 years ago, and at the meta-level for more than two decades. More links on request.)

The “war” is very much two-way, in both the TERF war and Galileo cases. Denying anyone else has any counter point to make – that there is only one (right) side in the war – is the dogma of course, the fascism each extremist accuses the other of.]

Works in Progress

As ever I’m stacked-up with things I really must get round to doing, and others I will simply settle for feeling less guilty that I may never get round to doing. Either way, it’s a long distracting list.

      • Home – Currently top of the list priority-wise is the intent to move house, downsize and simplify. (In fact we are well through the process so, touch wood, we may achieve completion in another month or so – seriously weird process these days, but that’s another story.)
      • Work – Close second is simplifying my semi-retired “consultancy” working arrangements. (Keep getting dragged into “employment” on big-project delivery-commitments – and frankly I don’t want or need it these days.)

These two are top of the list of priorities – urgency-wise – because they provide the deck-clearing life-simplifications that enable time for the creative priorities – importance-wise:

      • #GoodFences – difference, division and discrimination – and our inability to make decent collective decisions – are at the root of so many real life issues – being added to daily in our news feeds. More and more trees obscuring our view, less and less wood to build our future. We conflate technical truths with actual reality – and a lot more. We need to trust in language, rhetorical as well as formal.
      • #BrainMindArchitecture – This particular set of interfaces, between the everyday physical and psychological worlds, is also where the metaphorical rubber meets the problematic road between science and philosophy for as long as humans have given them any thought. With language use clarified by #GoodFences we can see that much of the persistent confusion has already been resolved by great minds gone before us. There really is nothing new under the sun.
      • #BetterMetaphysics –  With the (essentially linguistic) confusions resolved, we can improve upon the dumber extremes of seeing “orthodox science” as a basis for … real life … as opposed to some idealised wishful “science-led” myth most the world seems doomed to live at the moment.

Of these three, I’ll clear the #BrainMindArchitecture first, since I already have texts open and drafts in progress (eg reading Adam Zeman) and in the scheme of work it is essentially a piece of housekeeping. Then #GoodFences I’ll do next. It’s being added to daily by real life, and is requiring the greatest creative effort to articulate as well as being the biggest bang for anyone’s buck in real life here and now. #BetterMetaphysics is the culmination of my Psybertron project – into my 3rd decade so far. It exists in two forms at multiple levels of draft. One a thesis, the other a fiction. I’m certain the latter will be the more valuable, and the former is simply the documentation of my own thinking as part of the process. The fiction is also the biggest doubt as to whether I actually have the writing skills to create it.

LGB plus What?

As the gender wars rage different issues keep cropping up.

Current one is the Q in various LGBTQI+ variants.

Queer obviously used to be pejorative short-hand for Gay men, to the point it was effectively a slur, a mark of hate, phobia, negative discrimination. Not surprisingly Gay men still find it offensive – reminiscent of past violence – whether as the Queer in any formal take on Queer Theory (which is where we started this journey here) or in more careless language in media including social media. To some – users as well as hearers – it’s still that homophobic slur, best avoided under PC rules, unless your objective is to offend.

The problem, the reason it’s conflated into the alphabet soup beyond the LGB, is because it represents non-specific non-conformant (ie deviant) sexuality which may involve any number of gender and other role-play possibilities amongst the various fetishised acts. As JKR said, whatever you and consenting adults are OK with, that’s fine.

But fine between consenting adults doesn’t mean it’s fine in every social context, where we get into questions of appropriateness and safe-guarding. In fact, like the revealing sportswear story, the elephant in the room in so many of these debates has always been “modesty”, whether it’s bathing burkhas in extremely conservative societies or or skimpy bikini bottoms in beach volleyball or athletics, or even parading around naked in single-sex changing rooms. Modesty has its place, and how much sexual exposure is “too much irrelevant information” for the context is a matter of social agreement on appropriateness. The inappropriate sexualisation of irrelevant contexts. “Pride” marches – across the full LGBTQI+ spectrum – that expose minors to “Queer” sexual kinks, may be an expression of individual freedoms, but they are not (necessarily) appropriate, before we even get into wider questions of single-sex spaces.

Connected, contiguous and overlapping even, but distinct. #GoodFences

If we keep conflating all the issues into one set of rules all we will achieve is more conflict. Conflict where for some terms like TERF and Transphobia are the blunt weapons of choice (*). Madness. They call it madness.


(*) Post Note – on the default labelling in the “new trans agenda” … see this articulate expression by @GothixTV (don’t know any more about her at this point):

Also Post Note: – the “safeguarding” angles. When section 28 was the current battle an issue was “not promoting” specific sexualities in an education of minors context – became see as homophobic. And the same is true in parallel in “not promoting” non-binary genders … whatever the political “agendas” the key aspect here always has to be the safeguarding, care for the individual, especially the individual minor – professional, well-informed as well as well-intentioned care, therapeutic as necessary. The gender wars, same as previous sexuality cases can too quickly get into the “too much information” promotion league. See recent Peter Tatchell (paedophilia) and Jack Guinness (queer history) cases – scary to say the least!

ZMM – The Book that Changed my Life

Author Michael Lewis lists “the books that made me” including:

The book that changed my life
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig

Interesting selection …

I did fully read both Cervantes and Tolstoy. With me it was Anna Karenina that gave me many false starts until I read beyond the Anna / Vronsky relationship and understood the book was really about Levin (Tolstoy) and his relationship with God and the cosmos in general. But, rather than ghosts, I didn’t believe in (American) Gods until I read Neil Gaiman either.

However, like Lewis, for me Pirsig’s ZMM was seminal – hence the dedicated “Pirsig Pages” here – as far as my metaphysical thought journey is concerned.

Thanks to @iramey for sharing this Tweet from Silvio Oscar Funtowicz at Bergen Uni:

Deming and the industrial “Total Quality” and Excellence movements generally part of my journey too, but “Post-Normal Science” also sounds intriguing. Must follow-up.

In my case it was very personal experience of Fred Lennon that inspired my interest in quality to new levels in that industrial context before I ever saw the metaphysical connections or the philosophical interests.

Our Covid Bind

If not now when? is the right question. Too many issues raging as England / UK passes “Freedom Day” and removal of legal restrictions on anti-Covid behaviour. The bind is we’ve got into a naïve “science-led” mindset against which disagreement is anathema.

A bit of a rant … should be busy with other things right now.

The Cummings / Kuenssberg interview! Where to start. The more I hear from the little toad, the more I side with Boris. And with Sumption, as ever. The Cummings interview being heavily promoted by the Beeb, no doubt in justification of his “fee”. The Amol Rajan / Sumption interview being panned by radical-liberals at large. The rational naivety is scary.

    • Vaccination Freedom? OK, so vaccination isn’t legally mandated, not compulsory in that sense, but social pressure and pragmatic business arrangements should quite rightly make life very inconvenient for those that fail to vaccinate  without good cause. Any age, we’re all part of the same population. Just a question of timing and resource priorities, UK vs rest of the world. And their dumb choices certainly must not limit the lives of those who have done the sensible thing(s). It’s only psychological tactics that should drive these decisions – even “nudge” god forbid.
    • Protecting the NHS from overload? Yes, this was a credible and appropriate tactic for setting early measures – though as I always pointed out, resource limitations of an NHS now are simply the result funding decisions earlier. Not science-led, but pure politics. But I too believe, from own eyes and anecdotal evidence, that serious Covid illness is back to being a pretty small part of the NHS workload around which operations have been organised.
    • The “Over-80’s” Body Count? Covered this at length early in the pandemic. Rising cases no doubt to do with rising testing and the “delta” variant, in younger unvaccinated people etc, but … the real question is about causes of inevitable death and serious illness and about life & quality-of-life expectancy. It’s certainly not about arithmetic. It’s about value judgements. It’s about earlier death with Covid not necessarily primarily from Covid and avoiding earlier death due to flu and other respiratory diseases. Yes, other things being equal, when prioritising resources, an over-80 life is worth less than the quality of an under-80 life. Don’t take my word for it, ask my 92 year old mother. And what about the quality of those over-80 lives, as several have commented publicly, locking down a year or two of a remaining four or five year life expectancy halves the value of that over-80 life anyway. Every death is a tragedy individually, but population-statistically we have life-expectancy & death rates, neither is infinite nor zero. McNamara anyone?

Time to live rather than further prolong life. Prediction – with hindsight, like all real science – we will look back on a sharp drop in all-causes death rates over the 2020/2022 period. (Caveat – provide the anti-vax-youth warriors are not allowed to win. My biggest concern now is a 2021/22 winter flu seasonal variant, and as I said before the west could adopt sensible eastern public-health habits for seasonal SARS infections anyway.)

Personally, I wish the conversation would move on to what are rational aspirations and reasons for increasing human life expectancy, quite independent of Covid or the next natural disaster. Population statistics are not about how much we love our parents and grandparents, that’s a given, but about how much we care about younger and future generations. That’s a value judgement, not arithmetic. If I learned anything about statistics, it’s that which criteria we choose to apply to our calculations are not calculations in themselves. It’s about recognising the real issue.

Grist to the #GoodFences Mill

It goes on. The TERF wars continue to rage as the main game in Twitter-town when it comes to objective science and human classes talking past each other.

Firstly, Angela Saini writing “What is a Woman?” in Prospect Magazine.  I’ve had problems with Saini before, being too conservative in minimising sex/gender and race differences – a lack of definitive objective evidence – to acknowledge their reality in the context of social constructions. She’s taken a lot of flak today and I’m not here to defend her, but to point out there are entangled issues not to be conflated. Even if “sex” is a scientifically binary property, the sex/gender “war” cannot be reduced to a binary fight. When it comes to rights – conflicting rights – social (cultural) aspects do matter, even if a binary opposite Post-Modern stance is just as bonkers as the radical scientistic stance.

Secondly, same war different battle, Rebecca Myers writing “Transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard in eye of the storm at Tokyo Olympics” in The Times. “Following the rules” comes under scrutiny. I say, where do rules come from anyway and what are they worth without good faith?

Andy Lewis (Quackometer.Net / @LeCanardNoir) posted a 36 Tweet “takedown” of Saini which I’ve not seen as a continuous text yet(*), but it is very interesting from the orthodox science perspective.

Starts here:

And ends here:

Classic “pointing out the errors” kind of critical thinking, but it’s not necessary to accuse Saini of dastardly deceit. Deracinate is a strong word, but sex has biological roots and social context. Sex and associated gender rights are firmly planted in both. Rhetoric is surely involved, but it’s no pejorative trick, it’s a tricky part of reality. What’s needed is getting on the same page. A dialogue.

Andy Lewis has written on this before “The Ontology and Epistemology of Sex” at his Quackometer.Net. This is reassuringly close to my #GoodFences take that I’m pretty sure it’s possible to get on the same page.

[(*) Andy Lewis has written up his “Deracination” thread the same-day in his quackometer blog.]

I should add for context, this is the same day JKR responded in style to the ludicrous “pipe bomb” threat.

I’ll be back.

Threatening to Podcast

I kept threatening to podcast my stuff since dynamic-visual beats written words for on-line attention. Early attempts suffered production quality, but more importantly made it obvious I wasn’t the most photogenic presenter. At that time, 4 or 5 years ago, I let myself conclude that podcasting was already old-hat anyway.

Anyway this new Anchor tool from Spotify has me threatening again.

Good Fences Maybe?

I’ve been threatening to finally edit and publish my Good Fences article for a while now, but keep coming across other published pieces that could almost be the same thing in different words, or the same words in a different order, maybe. The latest I’ve had bookmarked for a week or two is this:

There Is Nothing More Philosophical Than Diversity
by Simon Fokt in TPM 29th May 2021.

[Incidentally TPM seems refreshed anew in recent months … and this piece is an introduction to their new “Diversity Reading List” – intriguing.]

Simply parsing the title – I’m just about to read it – I already see:

    • Most Philosophical – something fundamental, general, at the metaphysical underpinnings of the whole of reality?
    • Difference – information – being that most fundamental element?

I agree already. And yet whilst being meta/physically fundamental, diversity is at the root of so much current, real-life bio- and neuro-atypical identity politics? That’s why it’s quite scary, important to get right.

[Damn. Where’s that kindred quote about the most important thing being the hardest thing I’ve failed to communicate?]

[I’ll be back when I’ve actually read it.]