After hearing a complaint from a father that he did not want his son’s English teacher inserting politics into every English class in the form of “gender, class, and race,” an English teacher responded “But, that’s all there is.” Proponents of this mantra are supposed to be precisely those who fret about “stereotyping” and sexism, classism, and racism.
St. Augustine in the City of God systematically debunks astrology by highlighting its absurdities. One point he makes is that if astrology were true, then twins would share exactly the same fate, when they clearly do not. The astrologers counter, Augustine writes, that since twins are born a few minutes apart, this accounts for their differing destinies. Augustine responds that the idea that astrology, rather than simply focusing on birth month and star sign, is so precise that a three minute difference in birth time will have vastly different astrological implications and that astrologers will be able to make accurate predictions based on such a tiny time interval is ridiculous. The whole discussion is rather tedious if astrology has always seemed to the reader as an epistemic nonstarter.
Gender, class, and race as a triumvirate shares with astrology the supposed ability to predict things about individuals, and it suffers from, among other things, the same defect as Augustine’s comments about twins. Two people of the same gender, class, and race, would have to share the same beliefs, but they do not. The easiest example is to stick with the currently demonized group, white males. They run the gamut of political opinion and moral assertions. There are positivists, Christian fundamentalists, theosophists, and nihilists: Marxists, libertarians, Republicans, and Democrats; book-lovers, monster truck aficionados, tractor-pull admirers, wood-working hobbyists, church attenders, church avoiders, those who believe in “gender, class, and race,” and those who do not. Merely by taking one look at someone, barring a few extremes to do with tattoos and missing teeth, it is not generally possible to identify all their significant belief structures.
Every sane person knows this and all have experienced this, sane or not, so the gender, class, race mantra is a certifiable instance of Eric Voegelin’s “second reality,” and what others call “ideological possession.” Certainly, sometimes gender, class, and race is relevant, particularly in the realm of generalizations – statements that are true of groups as opposed to individuals. For instance, I have started to wonder if it is true, as a generalization, that women will say in the heat of a relationship conflict whatever horrible thought or feeling they happen to be experiencing right at that second. My own tendency, for instance, is to try not to say anything I might regret later. And the thought process, such as there is one, is that I do not want to say something now that I am pretty sure I will not think or feel in, say, twenty-four hours. In the heat of a painful argument, none of us are typically overwhelmed with feelings of love and closeness. But, I have no intention of saying “I don’t love you” for any reason, whatever I might feel, because that sounds rather dire and final, plus the more accurate statement would be “Right at this second, feelings of love and thoughts of care, are rather deeply buried, and feelings of anger and annoyance are predominating.” If those who love us do us the favor of focusing on what is lovable about us, rather than hateful, when angered this dynamic can reverse itself as we all know.
Now, the actual phrase “I don’t love you” might not be used, but general expressions of contempt are antithetical to the care, concern, and respect associated with love, so contemptuous statements convey rather the same message and are far more painful than specific complaints about concrete behavior.
Until recently, I had developed the hypothesis that this kind of “speak what is uppermost on your mind” behavior was restricted to hot-blooded Mediterranean types, but, in the meantime, in conversation with a Japanese woman, she confirmed that she does this too. Since the Japanese are famous for their reserve, at least in public, this seemed mightily surprising. Then, turning to two male American men, they confirmed that their wives and prior girlfriends had behaved in this way too, no matter their race and ethnicity. So, now I am wondering if just New Zealand women are more restrained, or whether it was just one particular New Zealand girlfriend who was a relative anomaly for her sex. Since I have no scientific method of answering this empirical question, I would be interested in any comments any reader might feel like contributing to the topic. This, I know, will be entirely non-random and will not have a plus or minus accuracy of 3%, but it would still be anecdotally interesting.
The main, terminal, problem with gender, class, and race, is that if all beliefs are the result of gender, class, and race, then this belief too must be the result of gender, class, and race. The idea of gender, class, and race as all-explanatory is supremely dismissive and condescending. It means that the truth of what someone is saying is irrelevant. Whatever someone is arguing is simply a product of their gender, class, and race and nothing more, thus everyone is mindless automaton compelled to think and say whatever their gender, class, and race make them think. But, then, that thought is itself the result of mindless compulsion and can be safely dismissed as a truth claim.