Posts tagged ‘body’

January 1, 2012

Another argument against The Rational

Beyond the fact that calls for logic and rationality are sexist and racist (see here), I believe there are other reasons to mistrust the notion of rationality and the usual emphasis on it in social justice debates.

First, it is the case that there are so many oppressive people who sound so very, very rational. These sorts of people are my *least* favourite kind of oppressive asshole. They slither up to you and present all these rational sounding arguments about why oppression is justified or how oppression isn’t really oppression. The major problem with these people is that their arguments can be convincing. They can convince even people committed to anti-oppressive politics. That this is something that happens is why I always, always distrust anyone calling for more logic and reason in a debate. Because there is nothing rational about hate or about seeing some humans as less than human. And any attempt to rationalize this is simply justification for hate.

What are some examples of rationality used to oppress and silence?

1. Discussing the impact of abortion on men. This is a very cloying argument. It basically runs: men can also be emotionally impacted by having a partner abort a fetus, thus shouldn’t they have some say in the process? Shouldn’t there be some level of support for men in relationships with women who’ve had abortions? Etc. Etc.

This works because it tugs on people’s ability to empathize and sympathize. It also works because in this new age of feminism men are able to be perceived as people with emotions. They are sensitive and in touch with their emotions. It also works because there is a basic truth here: that perhaps some discussion is warranted about the effects on a partner when the other partner has an abortion. Maybe some support should be given, yes? Yes. The problem is that this argument is always taken those few steps further. Where we are asked to take our empathy for the man’s possible grief over a lost fetus and then strip a woman of her body autonomy. It also works to direct our attention from what really matters in this situation and what reproductive rights are about (hint: body autonomy). It is also¬†disingenuous¬†to suggest men should be getting support for abortion when *women* barely get any.

2. The radical feminist argument against trans women being considered women. The most convincing argument I’ve seen here is some version of, “we women have the right to decide what ‘woman’ means, and these ‘men’ are appropriating our identity and erasing us via some operation of their male privilege.”

It is convincing because many of us involved in social justice feel this in terms of our own identity politics. It is also something I feel especially as a PoC since white people are always appropriating shit. It is also something that I can further sympathize with because I have very light skin. In the last city I lived in, it often led to me being white passing, which meant that in some situations I was benefiting from white privilege. This is something that they are similarly arguing about trans women, who (I’m assuming the kindest possible radical feminist) have male privilege in much the same manner I had white privilege: essentially, not at all. The argument fails, as another member of the collective has said, because it sets up an infinite recursion. To say that only women get to decide who counts as women means that you’ve already decided who counts as a woman. In other words, that ‘woman’ is already a stable and coherent category/identity. Which it isn’t. We know this.

To a certain extent, I’ve been using reason to refute these arguments. This is usually not my method for approaching these things but I wanted to highlight why demands for reason or logic do not necessarily achieve what is intended: enlightening others about the issues at hand. We are talking about people who probably have heard the statistics regarding say, violence against trans women. And they don’t care. They simply seek subtler and subtler arguments to justify their hate. People are literally *dying* because of the issues mentioned above (reproductive rights and trans* rights and visibility). People are dying and they still don’t care. They want to debate it. They want reason. Logic.

There isn’t enough logic in the world to convince me that there was any reason for Larry King to die. For their death to make sense. There are no justifications, no arguments, no logic to actions and social constructs that lead to the murder of children by children.