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12-Oct-2017 20:00

Those who, with Judith Butler, deny a distinction between sex and gender, however they may think of themselves, are either classical philosophical idealists, or they are anthropocentrist human-exceptionalists, and thus heirs to the legacy of the Christian theological model of the human being.Consider this from a recent online ‘syllabus’: "Butler proves that the distinction between sex and gender does not hold.And if we insist that anglerfish reproduction is just a natural fact, while human sex and sex difference is ‘constructed’, then we are more or less explicitly claiming that human beings are not animals alongside others, but that their essence is non-natural in origin.

Butler herself has, since the late 1980s, matured into a towering and authoritative intellectual, but this doesn't mean that all who invoke her are in a position to share that authority, and it remains reasonable to ask them for clarification. It says that Butler has that the distinction between sex and gender does not hold, while gender, in turn, is constructed. But again, does this include ape sex, anglerfish sex, etc., or only human sex?

Suppose that within that society a school of thought and a political movement emerged that held that, even though men are 60 times larger than women, both sexes nonetheless have the same basic neural equipment to thrive, to the extent that their physical dimensions permit, in more or less the same way.

But suppose then another school of thought emerged, which said that this first one did not go far enough, and insisted that men are not actually 60 times larger than women, and that it is only a result of ideological indoctrination that we have believed they are up until now.

We know there is tremendous variety out there, and this variety is frequently invoked by neo-Butlerites as biological evidence for the constructedness of human sexual binarism.

But invoking this evidence, they only complicate matters.

Butler herself has, since the late 1980s, matured into a towering and authoritative intellectual, but this doesn't mean that all who invoke her are in a position to share that authority, and it remains reasonable to ask them for clarification. It says that Butler has that the distinction between sex and gender does not hold, while gender, in turn, is constructed. But again, does this include ape sex, anglerfish sex, etc., or only human sex?

Suppose that within that society a school of thought and a political movement emerged that held that, even though men are 60 times larger than women, both sexes nonetheless have the same basic neural equipment to thrive, to the extent that their physical dimensions permit, in more or less the same way.

But suppose then another school of thought emerged, which said that this first one did not go far enough, and insisted that men are not actually 60 times larger than women, and that it is only a result of ideological indoctrination that we have believed they are up until now.

We know there is tremendous variety out there, and this variety is frequently invoked by neo-Butlerites as biological evidence for the constructedness of human sexual binarism.

But invoking this evidence, they only complicate matters.

And if only human sex, does it follow that human beings are not part of the same natural order that includes apes and anglerfish?