Once again, I venture into very controversial territory.
Previously, I posted “When Does Social Justice Become Another Form of Oppression” that was a commentary on the New York Times article about the successful lawsuit of a six-year-old transgender student winning the right to enter any bathroom that corresponded with the student’s registered gender identity, which did not need to be the same as biological identity. Likewise, I will comment on another article.
Slate reports that California is debating a bill that would allow children to “‘participate in sex-segregated programs, activities and facilities’ based on their self-perception rather than their birth gender.” This development really worries me–but hold your pink ponies–it’s not because I am a fire-breathing conservative out to “get the gays” or what have you. Rather, what worries me is that our culture is going so far into the logical conclusion of unmoored liberalism in the classical sense of the term: we allow anyone to do anything short of physical violence. The problem with liberalism is that it ignores cultural or symbolic violence. If you don’t think that’s real, I dare you to burn a flag in plain view on this fourth of July on an Army base. Or a Quran on national television. No, actually, don’t do that as I don’t want anyone to get maimed or killed trying.
If culture is the problem, we need to thoughtfully change culture rather than force symbolic violence on others. And allowing an individuals “self-perception” is a perfect recipe for violence. Actually, in many ways it is nothing new, as so much racism, sexism, and other forms of hate occur precisely because the perpetrator and community does not “self-perceive” the act as physically, emotional, or otherwise violent.
The point? Self-perception is a disastrous way to forward morally-motivated cultural change. And this particular solution does not solve the problems of gender, gender-normativity, etc. Rather, as I recommended last time, they should just mandate unisex bathrooms and double-down with mandated non-segregated “programs, activities, and facilities.” Don’t re-inscribe gender in new form! Allowing gender self-perception is not gender fluidity.
Ok, let’s step down from the theoretical take and get downright practical. In California, given the local culture, this step might actually work. Why? Because if we’re talking about culture and cultural change, then we need to get specific. In California, which is already farther along than the rest of the country–light-years in some cases–this may act as an acceptable intermediate step. However, if you haven’t guessed by now, I do not have a lot of faith in leftist social justice movements. I would love to be proven wrong.
Final point. Change the culture if it needs changing, but don’t play into the power-dynamics that create the problem in the first place. Don’t wield the tools of the master, unwittingly walk the road of oppression, or presume that all there is to identity is self-identity. Else, one person’s “nobility” is another’s KKK.