Saturday, March 20, 2010

Social Constructs Aren’t Just “In Your Head.”

A friend of mine recently said to me that he would support me in expressing myself in any way except changing my physical body (hormones, surgery, etc.) “Gender is a social construct,” he said, “but the body isn’t.” On the spot I didn’t really have an argument against that statement.

Having had some time to think about it, I realize that it isn’t that simple. For example, when I was born, I was circumcised. I grew up being fed food with massive amounts of preservatives, which have definitely impacted the way my body formed. There are also the social pressures that led my parents to marry and have kids, without which this physical body would not even be here.

There’s also the study of epigenetics to consider. See & Apparently, environmental factors can be inherited. Not only our bodies, but the bodies of our descendants can be affected by social choices (i.e. the environment you are raised in is the result of social choices.)

Just saying.


Anonymous said...

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." -- Hamlet, act I, scene 5.

I spent several minutes in full flame mode, but then I realized that I don't know this person, and he means nothing to me, other than the fact that by denying you, he arrogantly denies the reality of your experience.

Every person has hir own personal truth, which is axiomatic within their own worldview. The challenge for each is to realize that some of those axioms are incorrect, and may need to be modified to reflect reality.

Scientists do this all the time. They form a hypothesis to explain some behaviour, and then they create tests to determine if that hypothesis is correct. Sometimes they get results that they don't expect. Good scientists will take that to mean that their hypothesis was incorrect, and realize that they must modify their hypothesis to fit the available facts, and try again. They might end up in a very different place than where they thought they were going, but they did end up somewhere new.

Many people, when confronted with something that challenges their hypotheses with how things really are, instead go into defense mode. "I can't possibly be wrong," they declare, "this new information is what's wrong!" Rather than explore the situation and learn something about what is going on, they stick their fingers in their ears and pretend that this challenge to their worldview simply doesn't exist. Opportunities for growth and learning are lost, on both sides.

Not everyone is willing to challenge themselves, but by living our lives consistently with our true selves, those unwilling might one day be able to make some small leap of insight. If they're never willing, it's too bad, but it's also nothing that we could have ever changed anyway, even by being our own living example.

Anonymous said...

I know I'm coming to this post a bit late, but I've been out of the blog loop for several months. Hi. :3

I agree with you so hardcore right here. I hear so many people trot out transphobic tropes about the sanctity of the body or whatever, but so often those same people have no problem with tattoos, piercings, hair dye, or shaving. And, like you said, we've consumed so many preservatives, chemicals, and hormones in our food and water and in the air we breathe, how exactly is anyone's body pure and untouched?