So, as promised, here is an annotated transcript of yesterday’s feminist death match between Sally Hines, Professor of Sociology and Gender Identities at the University of Leeds, and our very own Kathleen Stock, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sussex, very ably adjudicated by Jane Garvey.
I’ve done kind of what I do when I annotate most texts. Sarcasm, interrogation, incredulity, and analysis….welcome to my marginalia…
We all know how it went, but, enjoy the re-run…. 🙂
JG: What are sex and gender and what explains the current argument around them? *Introduces Kathleen and Sally*
JG: Okay Sally, in simple terms, I’m starting this one with you, what are sex and gender?
SH: So, sex, I would argue, is a very complex mix of chromosomes, hormones, and genitals…
Shall we talk about gametes or reproductive function, Sally? No, best not eh?
So, we are talking about biological factors, but we’re not talking about anything at all which is straightforward…
It’s COMPLICATED peoples!
So, we’re talking about a complex mix of factors which especially in the West have often been seen in a binary framework…
JG: Hang on, sorry, *slight incredulity* binary framework?
SH: So, sex is believed to divide people into two categories of male and female.
Sally Hines, Professor of Sociology and Gender Identities – THAT IS NOT A FUCKING BINARY. I have sneaking suspicion I am going to spend the best part of the next five years screaming ‘That is not a binary’ at clever-stupid people. A binary is a conceptual hierarchy which is formed by taking a term with a dominant positive value and creating a subordinate value by negating the privileged qualities of the dominant term. Masculine/Feminine is a binary. In fact, it is the ur-binary, to the extent that ALL of the binary pairs which structure Western thought (mind/body, reason/emotion, thought/sensation, universal/particular, one/many etc.) are gendered, and without exception, the ‘positive’ pole of the binary is masculine. Male and female is not a binary, it is a natural difference. The problem arises because Western thought is so thoroughly gendered that it seems people are incapable of thinking the difference ‘male/female’ without thinking it’s cultural hierarchization, or, to return us to the point we keep making – our opponents don’t seem to be able to think sex without gender. (We might think here of another natural difference, say ‘light/dark,’ which is thoroughly saturated with hierarchical value. But let us all agree, despite the fact that this pairing has always been given within a system of binary value, we can all recognise that there is such a thing as ‘light’ and ‘dark,’ and that they exist outside of that system of value, as a natural difference). The fact that binary hierarchies are an axiomatic feature of Western thought is largely where this batshit idea that ‘male’ and ‘female’ are Western constructions is getting its traction from, I think. There are human societies in which the relation between pairs has been thought in a more horizontal and interpenetrating way […]