Irresponsible choice and the failures of social construct theory: a few follow-on thoughts in response to a certain brand of academic feminist
As a follow up to Darleen’s post, I’d like to offer a few thoughts that struck me immediately upon learning Ms Marcotte’s (predictable) position on the case in question.
The theory that women have a natural urge to have babies is one thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s got a long and ignoble sexist history, [...]
None of that is to say that the urge to have children that some (but far from all) women experience isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t real, and thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s my other giant problem with the ongoing preoccupation with evo psych theories to explain things that are cultural constructs. That something is a cultural construct doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t make it less real, it just means that itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s more changeable. This seems like a small distinction, but itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s an important one. I am routinely accused by evo psych fans of denying that men and women are different. I do think there are major culturally constructed differences, and I think most of them exist to demean and oppress women and should be changed in the culture. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not to say that they arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t real, but just that theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re changeable
— To which Darleen rightly replies:
Interestingly, no where would [Amanda] state something so positively about homosexuality or transgenderism Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ no, those arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t subject to change at all, no social construct there.[...]
More than merely a nice gotcha moment, Darleen’s observation is an intellectually rigorous Ã¢â‚¬â€ and so important Ã¢â‚¬â€ catch. Social construct theorists like Amanda are often trapped by inconsistencies in their own arguments, which as Darleen (and others in the comments) point out are often selectively applied, and based, conveniently, on the specific ethical frame of those who would deny biology or essentialism in favor of an explanation for human action that is always necessarily about power relations and the construction of perceptions that act as if they were biological imperatives.
Deconstructing — and so re-conceptualizing — the Ã¢â‚¬Å“social constructÃ¢â‚¬Â that Amanda suggests was built up by patriarchal forces to trick women into thinking the desire to procreate and “mother” is a biological imperative is, to her way of thinking, good. Re-conceptualizing the Ã¢â‚¬Å“social constructÃ¢â‚¬Â that tricks homosexuals or the transgendered into thinking that their behavior is biologically driven, on the other hand, is reductive, evil, and Christianist.
In short, she wants to have it both ways — and she wants this precisely because it puts her in charge of deciding for everyone else what is right and what is wrong, socially speaking. Which is why to the astute observer, Ã¢â‚¬Å“social constructÃ¢â‚¬Â theory Ã¢â‚¬â€ and we see this in race studies, as well Ã¢â‚¬â€ falls apart when pressured, and eventually reveals the wannabe Wizard behind the curtain. The imperatives of nature are replaced by the will of the theorist as the intentional force that gives meaning to the life-as-text.
Leaving aside for the moment the obvious fact that it is FAR MORE LIKELY that the way our bodies are built to function might have an effect on our behavior (estrogen, testosterone, menstruation, etc.) and that social constructs are then erected either to constrain biological impulses or to conserve them (this appears to be the opposite of what Marcotte believes), what we end up with, should we believe MarcotteÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s anti-intellectual hokum, is a version of the kinds of arguments that, in the linguistic sphere, are anti-intentionalist in nature: to wit, the body and human behavior has no biologicially “intended” impetus — no originary meaning, at least in terms of social relations; therefore, it is valid, and indeed necessary, the argument goes, for a community of interpreters Ã¢â‚¬â€ in this case, Marcotte and the social constructionist feminists Ã¢â‚¬â€ to inscribe Ã¢â‚¬Å“meaningÃ¢â‚¬Â onto observable behavior that others would posit is the product of biological imperatives, and in so doing, wrestle biology for control of the narrative they require to empower themselves politically.
That such obvious power plays are taken seriously in the intellectual arena as anything other than bald attempts to seize political control by seizing control of how “meaning” is determined is, as I’ve noted elsewhere, both incoherent and frankly mind boggling Ã¢â‚¬â€ and a clear indication that the institutionalization of Ã¢â‚¬Å“responseÃ¢â‚¬Â theoretics has progressed to the point where we must, indeed, either fight back or else become subsumed by interest groups bent on controlling Ã¢â‚¬Å“meaningÃ¢â‚¬Â by purely rhetorical force.
Intentionalism, people. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s for dinner.