Gender Superiority

Superior Sex?  I will have to resist the temptation to explain just why truly superior sex requires three limber people, a trampoline and an extremely well trained Great Dane.  Whatever the heart might wish for, the topic is supposed to be the superior gender.

Personally, I prefer the company of ladies.  Aside from the obvious attractions, I like the way they think, how honestly they can speak and what they speak about.  On the other hand, I frequently find myself uncomfortable with the simplistic rationality of men, our willingness to talk endlessly about sports and the competition that dominates male to male encounters.

Having said all that, I might be expected to easily plump myself down on the side of those who declare the female to be the clearly superior sex.  Actually, I find myself very uncomfortable with the whole question.  Given the endless talk we have about male/female this and that, I can see it is a perfectly obvious and natural question, but it  feels so odd to me that I can tell I am (as usual) out of step.

It is a little like a child walking into the middle of an adult  conversation.  Everyone else is nodding wisely at each other and making cryptic comments while your brain scrambles to catch up and desperately tries to fill in what you have missed with what you don’t fully understand.  You struggle for something to say that will not reveal how little you really grasp of what is going on.

“Gee…Uh… Is there a Contest?”  Should I look around expecting to see the victors high fiving each other around the landscape?

My confusion doesn’t make a lot of sense.  After all, it should be a logical question.  It is clean an simple.  And we love nice, clear cut distinctions based on simple choices.  A or B?  Ja oder nein?

Truth is, I have two problems with the question.  First, I profoundly mistrust two valued logic.  Somewhere along the line, Western thought seems to have fallen in love with world views based upon dichotomies, an unhappy occurrence I blame on the Greeks.  But it is not merely that we like to divide the world into black/white, right/wrong, superior/inferior.  It is the unvoiced assumptions that we inject when we make such distinctions that bother me.

Well, that is not quite true.  As a matter of fact, I can do a fair job of ranting and raving about the whole two valued logical process.  Off hand, I cannot think of a single dichotomy that is not false to fact.  This world of ours does not ever present us with true black and put it opposite true white.  We never are given the comfortable luxury of confronting absolute rightness opposed to pure wrongness.  Just does not happen.  All of the poles that we like to deal with are artificial constructs, with no embodiments in reality.

Instead, life presents spectra blending evenly from one value to another.  Red flows seamlessly into orange that flows into what we choose to call yellow.  Even multi-values logic systems are fairly poor models of reality.  Unfortunately, human language is so modular and linear that it has a lot of trouble expressing anything without boundaries.  Still, I would like to think we could do better than such an obvious idiocy as limiting ourselves to just two choices.

…But that is another hobby horse.

Where was I…  Oh, yes.  The baggage we bring along with our dichotomies.

When we say “Superior” we don’t mean something as clean and simple as the result of a ball game.  It isn’t a matter of, “Oh, well played, my dear chap.  Quite a good match.”  “Superior” means quite a bit more than merely more able.  It carries with it a palpable moral component.  If I am “Superior,” then you are “Inferior.” If you are “Inferior,” then I have automatic permission to look down my nose at you.  In fact, it is only logical if I treat you with a certain lack of respect.  In fact, I am clearly justified in a bit of discrimination against you.  In fact…

It can at least be argued that some of the discrimination against women around the world is due to their being religiously defined as somehow less than the male of the species.  And the wonderful circular logic that justifies these practices as at once necessary to protect the women and proving their special need for protection is certainly based on a certain inferiority they paternally ascribe to their “cherished” and “respected” women.

Somehow to be less anything, to be inferior, means to automatically forfeit a measure of our humanity and to be placed at the mercy of our “superior” brethren.  This explains the extraordinary passions that arose a few years ago around an apparently purely academic question:  Are there racial differences in IQ scores?

From a scientific point of view, this is a simple question, to be answered either true or false based upon the preponderance of available data.  That is a completely accurate position for a scholar, but an incredibly innocent one, too.  For those fighting the question in the press (and unfairly pillorying those who dared pose it) understood that the superior/inferior selection bears more covert baggage than any other.  If “they” have lower scores, then they are intellectually inferior (a dubious jump from the numeric to the moral, in the first place).  If they are intellectually inferior, then the are somehow less…well…human than the rest of us.  If they are less human, then they obvious do not have full human rights.  If they do not have full human rights, then…

So my problem becomes not the answer to the question, “Which is the superior sex?”, but with what the question implies.  If the question were simply which do I prefer, the answer would be easy.  If it were which would I choose to do X job or to work with on Y task, it would still be easy.  But when I hear the superior/inferior question, I know that my answer would also be taken as responding to another:  “Which is the morally more worthy and which is the less?”

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