Or is it sex life? One can get terribly confused trying to keep up with the giant strides English usage is making.
This is the kind of confusion that I, a lifelong student of the language, find unacceptable. That’s why I’m grateful to Prof. Cordelia Fine, the psychologist and author of Delusions of Gender, for helping me work out such lexical nuances.
‘Sex’, according to her, is nature: it refers to biological differences between men and women. ‘Gender’ on the other hand is nurture: it refers to socially constructed roles for men and women that they feel obliged to play.
And here’s the point that has hitherto escaped me: the two have nothing to do with each other:
“About 200 years of feminism has been trying to untie the link between sex and gender, arguing that the former doesn’t and shouldn’t dictate the latter. Using the terms interchangeably blurs importantly distinct concepts, and we need both – scientifically and socially.”
I agree wholeheartedly that the two terms shouldn’t be used interchangeably; they do mean different things. Yet the real distinction seems to be beyond most people. Some other distinguishing nuances are much easier to grasp.
Such as, what’s worse than a blithering idiot? A ponderous blithering idiot. And what’s worse than a ponderous blithering idiot? One with an ideology.
Ideology has a vast capacity for trumping not only reason but even obvious, scientifically demonstrable facts. Hence it can transform someone like Prof. Fine into an oracle of ponderous blithering idiocy.
A scientist should deal with nature as it is, not as its phantom floating through a hazy mind enveloped in spurious beliefs. Still, if Prof. Fine wishes to abandon science and become a propagandist of feminist zealotry, that’s her right.
But she has no right to pass ideological idiocy for scientific fact, while pretending she’s still acting in the capacity of a scientist. Rather than conferring verisimilitude on her turgid musings, such pretensions compromise not only her personally but also her field of endeavour.
In non-ideological, which is to say proper, English, ‘gender’ denotes only one thing: a grammatical category. Every other use of ‘gender’ is an ideologically inspired solecism. Thus used, the word becomes an impostor usurping the place legitimately occupied by ‘sex’.
It takes an obnoxious bigot, in Domenic Raab’s robust phrase (which may cost him the party leadership contest), to insist that our biological and physiological makeup doesn’t produce distinct behavioural patterns. For example, any secondary school pupil taking biology knows that human aggression is a function of testosterone.
When female mice were injected with a huge dose of the male hormone, they began to display male aggressiveness. The same technique, incidentally, has been known to produce a similar effect on female athletes from the Soviet bloc.
Ever since Eve came out of Adam’s rib, and long before those nasty conservative types began to impose universal compliance with sex roles, men and women have performed different roles in life because they are, well, different.
They are built differently, they think differently, they move differently, they react differently to stress, their approach to life is different. They are different biologically, physiologically, physically, psychologically and even philosophically. This isn’t to say men are better – if anything, I think women are. But the two sexes are complementary precisely because they are not, nor can ever be, the same.
It takes a political zealot to politicise sex the way race has already been politicised. Neither race nor sex is a matter of choice, and any attempt to apply free market laws to such matters is cloud cuckoo land – unless it’s deliberate sabotage.
Speaking of the philosophical difference, consider the act of procreation: it’s the man who initiates conception. Though both he and the woman are essential to it, the man, by impregnating the woman, is the active agent; the woman, by being impregnated, is the passive one.
This determines their relation to the resulting offspring. Because a man procreates outside his own body, he stands outside and above his creation in the sense in which a woman doesn’t. She conceives and gestates the child inside her body, and in that sense the child is a part of her, even though the man also contributes his DNA.
The man is thus both transcendent (standing outside and above his creation) and immanent (present within it). The woman, on the other hand, is only immanent – which is why childcare is her natural domain.
The sabotage committed by the likes of Prof. Fine doesn’t warp merely the disciplines I’ve mentioned. It also distorts the language by, for example, shoving down our throats the misuse of ‘gender’ and also passing as a fait accompli the uncontested positive connotation of ‘feminism’.
Feminism to any non-ideological speaker of English denotes a stridently extremist political movement, dovetailing with all those other ones whose main purpose is to destroy not only the traditional social order, but indeed to perform the same vile deed on human nature.
In that desideratum feminism joins all other inhuman, socialist movements such as communism, fascism and Nazism. All such movements seek to correct God’s oversights in creating man.
Since this aim is by definition unachievable, those who persist in pursuing it degenerate into all sorts of grotesque intellectual perversions – such as insisting that it’s society’s fault that men and women are manifestly different. All in all, Prof. Fine is in good company.