Discriminatory Attraction

It’s especially sad that an immigrant from my part of the world would feel the need to parrot these idiotic ideas about “discriminatory dating.” Attraction is discriminatory by nature. If you are equally attracted to everybody on the planet, it means you haven’t experienced any attraction to anybody yet. Berating people for their physiological responses is rooted in the fear of the body. Some folks truly can’t accept that anything about our physiology can definite us, so they discuss bodily responses in ideological terms. They are assisted in this endeavor by the neoliberal mentality that everything is a choice of freely selecting individuals.

It’s sad to see a person from my culture get roped into this idiocy.

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15 thoughts on “Discriminatory Attraction”

  1. I don’t think the author’s stance is coming from a fear of the body. I think it’s just a matter of taking unquestioning support for any and all transgender concerns (no matter how radical or ill-considered) to their most extreme conclusions.

    And I don’t think that most of the people unquestioningly supporting transgender concerns are coming at it from fear of the body either. I think most of it is about taking (mostly reasonable) sympathies for a vulnerable minority and running all the way. Why are they running all the way? Well, this is a pretty vulnerable community, and many (though of course not all) have a distinctive appearance, which further marks them as vulnerable and in need of protection. Plus, they’re a very small community (no matter what some people might claim about the fluidity of gender in the wider population) and that makes them even more vulnerable and sympathetic.

    Good intentions gone astray, in other words. It’s one thing to be decent to transgender people, and quite another thing to go so far as to argue for a duty to feel attraction.

    The other motivation is that transgender identity invites a radical re-examination of sex and gender, and that’s just an inherently attractive proposition to a lot of people, due to the terrible things that have been done to women for the purpose of enforcing gender roles over the ages.

    Ironically, though, transgender identity may actually send us back to gender roles: A completely egalitarian, individualist approach to identity would say that a person needn’t be defined by anatomy, that a woman might have different anatomy than a man but she can still live as she wants, love as she wants, work as she wants, play as she wants, etc. She needn’t be confined to what society says a woman must be. But if a woman needn’t be confined to what society demands of a woman, then there’s no conceptual space for “I may have this anatomy but I’m not really a woman, I’m actually a man.” Because if a woman is entitled to live her life however she wants then she couldn’t do anything that marks her as not being a woman. So what if she has a masculine appearance and clothing? So what if she loves women rather than men? So what if she enters an occupation that was historically male? Women can do these things too.

    To say that somebody born with female anatomy is REALLY a man implies that the boundary between male and female is more than just the anatomy of the chest and pelvis. And I’m not sure that such boundaries will work out the way that egalitarians are hoping.

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    1. This is a great essay. I agree with everything. I feel, however, that none of this would flare up this strongly if, as all progressive causes today, it didn’t feed so well into the neoliberal mentality.

      But yes, the very legitimate and necessary support for transgender people was taken in the direction of enforcing the anti-feminist backlash of the recent years. And that’s when the conflict between feminists and some pro-transgender activists was born. There doesn’t need to be a conflict, and I’d rather it didn’t exist. But the moment you take it in the direction of “women are people who buy nail polish” (as Caitlin Jenner did), that’s the place where feminism dies. We have fought for so many years to not be defined by nail polish, makeup, skirts and stuff like that, and now we have to abandon the fruits of the hard-won struggle? Fuck that. I come from a culture where you are not a woman if you don’t know how to apply makeup, and once again, I say, fuck that.

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      1. 99% of people pushing transgender issues probably don’t see themselves as enforcing an anti-feminist backlash. They are promoting something they see as gender fluidity, and hence flouting gender norms (which are genuinely oppressive of women). The fact that what they are actually doing is so contrary to both intent and short-term appearances is what makes it so hard to persuade them to re-evaluate.

        The biggest reason this is so compatible with neoliberalism has less to do with fluidity (ultimately, transgender identity implies that the barrier between male and female is larger than biology, not smaller) and more to do with finding a tiny minority that can be defended while dividing the majority.

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        1. That last point is quite interesting. On the rest, remember Carol Gilligan and cultural feminism? The so-called feminism that argued women really were different from men? People seem to have bought it —

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          1. I’m in a STEM field where gender gaps are a big issue, and many people half-embrace essentialism with a touchy-feely exterior. To wit, anyone who wants to lambast us for our sins can open a talk on pedagogy with some variation on “Traditionally, lessons and assignments in this field were [describe some common assignment in a way that makes it seem as boring, old-fashioned, and rigid as possible]. However, today we have more women and minorities in our field, and we need to update our teaching. Many women and minorities prefer [describe something that sounds as exciting, modern, and holistic as possible].”

            Now, to be fair, some (not all) of these new instructional approaches are good, and would be attractive to many people (even white males!). But some of the old stuff is really important, and I know more than a few women with thoroughly traditionalist taste in material because the traditional stuff has stood the test of time and is useful even in dealing with new topics and questions. Still, what really matters in these pitches is that people are selling an image of women and minorities as being so different, so much better than those boring old white males.

            On the other hand, if somebody were to take them literally, and say “Well, we’ll probably wind up with more white males in the parts of the field using more traditional approaches, because they’re more suited to it…” people would be up in arms.

            To be clear, I don’t endorse any of these theories of difference. I’ve met too many women and men with too many different tastes and approaches to buy any Grand Theory Of Difference. But as long as you wrap it in a progressive veneer, you can totally sell theories of difference and have STEM faculty eating it up in a desperate bid to appear progressive.

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  2. It’s very funny the narrative of who is trans are very essentialized but others are not supposed to be that way in dating?

    Of course “physiological responses” aren’t the same thing as “willing to have sex with” or “relationships” or “willing to say something on a survey” (and none of which are always the same thing).

    Humans are social creatures after all. The survey design is bad.

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    1. I absolutely agree that these surveys are idiotic because what people say about themselves and what actually is true are two very different things. But there’s been a huge debate that turned very aggressive on a number of occasions as to whether lesbians should have the right not to date trans women. Which sounds quite deranged to me. If we start dictating to women whom they should or shouldn’t date, that’s pretty much one of the most anti-feminist things out there.

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    1. “I will not date women, transpeople, or Republicans and that is just for starters.”

      Well, I never dated anybody but women that I considered physically attractive and reasonably intelligent, and I couldn’t have cared less their political views were.

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