Tag Archives: heuristics

The Banality of Gender Construction

That gender is a social construction is a banality.

What else could any cultural distinction or category be? What is the entirety of language with its myriad distinctions if not a social construction?

The question is, what does the claim that a distinction or norm is socially constructed give you? It certainly doesn’t–as feminists and gender queers assume–authorize wilful and arbitrary emendations of the constructed concept . That assumption itself rests on a semantic conflation of construction with legislation.

Cultural constructions, like organisms, develop through adaptation not legislation. They are heuristics that have survived the test of time. As with all heuristics, they offer a means to successfully navigate the world without having to understand it. They do not admit to rational or philosophical explanation or validation. Their only validation is that they work. And more importantly, they work over a long, long period of time, beyond the span of a single generation. When they stop working, the culture that makes use of them either adapts by coming up with new heuristics or vanishes.

The gender binary and the distinctions associated with it have been around for a long time and will likely be around a lot while longer. Longevity has “naturalized” them, but this is not to be sniffed at because the naturalization of norms testifies to their success. What ought to be questioned is the knee-jerk compulsion to question the validity of every inherited cultural given.

Gender is “problematic” for us because technology has rapidly transformed its beneficiaries into artificial mutations that can only survive in a techno bubble. This has rendered us extremely fragile but rather than acknowledge this fragility and its potentially dire implications for our survival, we prefer to imagine that we have gained the god-like power to alter ourselves and our environment at will and to whatever extent we please.

Needless to say, this is foolhardy, but then modernity is a succession of foolhardy experiments with catastrophic unintended consequences. Which, apparently, does not deter us from embarking on new ones.

The disruption of gender roles has already had the effect in the industrialized countries of effectively sterilizing the population. So we already know where this experiment is headed. Its logical outcome is extinction. This means that In time, gender confusion will have proved to be a self-limiting pathology.