Summary: I argue that in the many societal battles that serve to repair continually arising unjust features of the societal hierarchy, individuals must respect two fundamental “rules of war”: (1) Not to violate the natural right of individual self-determination (control over one’s body and mind) and (2) not to violate the natural right of individual free expression (control over one’s expression and attempts to have societal influence by expression). This centrally includes not allowing the state and its institutions to violate the said rights. My main example is drawn from the current society-wide battle around sexual identity and the language of sexual identity.
In a recent TV-Ontario debate1, Dr. Nicholas Matte of the University of Toronto emphatically stated: “Cis normativity is basically that everyone assumes that there is male and female […] It’s not my view, I just know that for over 50 years scientists have shown that that’s not true.” The debate is one where the university is trying to suppress another professor’s right of free expression. In this case, the professor (Jordan Peterson) wants to express and debate on campus that he will not be forced to use gender-neutral pronouns.
Dr. Matte has not responded to my written request for clarification about the alleged scientific consensus that there is no male and female in the human species. I read Dr. Matte’s 2014 PhD thesis2 to seek clarification, and then I did my own examination of the scientific literature about sex differences in humans, including influential books and essays about the “fluidity” of sex and gender.
Leaving questions of self-identity aside, which are largely cultural, it appears that the idea that there is no binary male/female sex divide in humans is simply a vast overstatement of the fact that many other things also occur in the genital and metabolic physiology of a minority of individuals.
Irrespective of the genetic, metabolic, biological and environmental circumstances in which a minority of individuals cannot unambiguously be attributed with a physiological sex that is unambiguously either male or female, there is without a doubt a male/female binary in humans, across time (history) and space (locality), where the male or female sexes correspond to distinct sets or groupings of physiological differences.
Variability in the said physiological differences, and border uncertainty about which physiological attributes contribute to resolving sex, are not valid reasons to deny that there is a clear male/female bimodal distribution of a (variable) set of (variable) physiological attributes, fundamentally linked to natural reproduction.
That environmental factors — including culture and the violence or authoritativeness of the local social dominance hierarchy — affect both natural reproduction and the said set of sex-differentiating physiological attributes does nothing to invalidate the sex binary in human society.
Widespread male/female division is consistent with the reproductive function being distributed in the human species, or at least having the intrinsic possibility of being distributed. Such distribution across classes occurs and is hormonally driven, in societies and cultures in which the dominance hierarchy does not strictly interfere with reproduction in classes of individuals.
Likewise, admitting that, in a distant (dystopic?) future, social hierarchy could result in classes or large populations that are deprived of natural reproduction, or could result in dominance-hierarchy stress dramatically affecting biological expression of sex3, does nothing to invalidate the conclusion of the reality of a dominant male/female binary in present societies. Glimpses of that distant future are visible in present Western societies, such as the fertility problems related to delayed child-bearing, the economic and cultural pressures away from reproduction and family focus and towards models of individual liberation and institutional child-rearing, etc., but these glimpses do not allow one to extrapolate towards an imminent sexless society.
One cannot deny the societal battle for institutional and political territory between traditional “family value” folks and the folks who wish to thrive in a more societally engineered and politically correct “just” environment where natural reproduction and family economic organization take a second place to individual liberation free from criticism and worldview threats. However, denying the reality of the male/female binary does nothing to help anyone see more clearly in the said societal battle.
Individuals must have both self-determination and free expression rights. Despite all the legalistic hubris, these rights are not contradictory. Both self-determination and free expression are methods for shaping society in the inevitable battles that must occur. They are not “values”. Neither right should be suppressed as part of a machination intended to seek advantage, for a given side in a given battle.
All sides should recognize the two fundamental rights of self-determination and free expression as nonnegotiable and not in opposition, and as necessary for the constant adjustments and struggles in society. There needs to be this “rule of war”. Otherwise, both clarity and sanity are lost, and all players become more vulnerable to hierarchical oppression. There is no right not to be offended. There are natural rights of participation, self-determination, and free expression.
Attempting to deny opponents their fundamental right of self-determination (self-definition, body ownership, beliefs, and control over one’s entire person) or of free expression (not hierarchical power but individual free expression, motivated by a desire to influence society or simply to express whatever thought or emotion) is no way to have a decent and healthy societal conflict. In common language, such tactics of denying rights are “fucked up”. The said tactics are societally pathological and always serve those elements in society seeking steeper and broader hierarchical domination, even at the risk of approaching or increasing totalitarianism. The said tactics are both induced by and a positive feedback towards totalitarianism.
Individual expression of disapproval for personal choices or preferences or beliefs, however offensive or vehement, is not suppression of the individual right of self-determination. Only actual (institutional or mob) physical oppression is oppression. Apartheid and segregation laws are oppression. Economic barriers are oppression. Institutionalized exploitative class structures are oppression. Class targeting enforced by the “justice” system against personal consumer or other choices is oppression. Individual expression seeking influence is not oppression. Attempts to make unorthodox life choices are not oppression. Political organizing around common beliefs or desires is not oppression. Oppression occurs when a societal structure uses effective physical force (withdrawal of resources or freedoms) to obtain compliance against individual rights.
The “hate speech” screaming and criminalizing must stop. And the hysteric phobias about individual choices, beliefs, and politics, must be prevented from materializing into state suppression. Already materialized oppressive structures must be dismantled. Our “rules of war”, as individuals in the always changing society, must include both self-determination and free expression, and these rules must be protected beyond all else, as though we were protecting humanity itself. Otherwise, Western states show little restraint in violating these rights4.
To be specific, the exaggerations a la Matte are politically motivated. I think the new “justice warriors” are fighting for territory within academia. What better way than to represent oppressed groups? How dare anyone question the keepers of the new territories, given the enormous suffering that the appropriated victims have endured throughout history (The Holocaust Industry model is a proven method).5 Anyone who questions the new priests is a racist, sexist, etc. Political correctness, like “critical race theory”, is born from the new breed of academics who expressly use oppressed groups as their dominant raison d’être, rather than expressly allege “truth seeking”. Consequently, there is no place or utility for outside criticism. Resulting rampant and predictable intellectual insecurity among followers leads to shrill accusations of “hate”, in place of debate.
The campus battles have little to do with actually alleviating oppression of the lower classes, and much to do with the classic manoeuvres to gain professional status and disciplinal territory. Virtually all academics are service intellectuals that act as overseers, collaborators, and house negroes6,7. This includes the most strident institutional defenders of social justice, who train society’s social justice cadre. That cadre includes foundation-funded Black Lives Matter (BLM) organizations. In the words of Black Panther Elaine Brown, in speaking about BLM tactics: “This to me is a plantation mentality. It smacks of ‘master, if you would just treat me right’. And it has nothing to do with self-determination, empowerment and a sense of justice, or anything else.”8
Are Elaine Brown’s words hate speech? Would they be hate speech if spoken by a white academic? Is Elaine Brown racist? Would she be racist if she was white? We must all reject the harmful notion that state-enforced speech control is acceptable, and we must all reject state-condoned forceful violations against individual self-determination. The way forward is to organize and argue, without ever allowing the state to forcefully violate fundamental freedoms of our opponents or anyone.
If I had my way, no public washrooms would segregate the sexes, starting in schools. People should live together and not be segregated by the state. Agree or disagree but don’t ask the state to remove the rights of those who are different or have different opinions and seek societal influence.
- “Genders, Rights and Freedom of Speech”, The Agenda, TV-Ontario, 2016-10-26. [↩]
- Nicholas Matte, Historicizing Liberal American Transnormativities: Medicine, Media, Activism, 1960-1990. 2014 PhD thesis, University of Toronto. [↩]
- Stress from dominance hierarchy is the dominant determinant of individual health, and is known to cause large metabolic responses. See, for example: Robert M. Sapolsky, “The Influence of Social Hierarchy on Primate Health”, Science, 29 Apr 2005: Vol. 308, Issue 5722, pp. 648-652. DOI: 10.1126/science.1106477 [↩]
- One example for Canada is documented in this report: Denis G. Rancourt, “Canadian defamation law is noncompliant with international law”, report for the Ontario Civil Liberties Association, 2016-02-01 [↩]
- The exploitation of suffering to shut down criticism or to extract personal or institutional gain is a common machination among management classes. One example is authoritatively documented in Norman G. Finkelstein’s 2000 book: The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering. [↩]
- I defined “service intellectual” in my 2006 essay: “Gradual Change is not Progress” [↩]
- I describe the central role of collaborators in maintaining social dominance hierarchies in my 2013 book: Hierarchy and Free Expression in the Fight Against Racism [↩]
- ‘Black Lives Matter has a plantation mentality’ — Black Panther Elaine Brown on the degradation of black liberation. Tom Slater, Deputy Editor. Spiked: 2016-10-19. [↩]