She Is Different from Cro-Magnon Man

March 5, 2006    By: DKL @ 5:48 pm   Category: Mormon Culture/Practices,Theology

[The following guest post was submitted by bloggernacle regular, DKL. Enjoy!]

I am not a woman, not by sex and not by gender construction. Even so, I have a considerable and active interest in women. I am, of course, heterosexual, and I am–thankfully, for the single women of the bloggernacle–married. I also have a mother, two sisters, and four daughters. I have some stake in the avenues of opportunity available to the women who influence my life, not the least of whom are my daughters. I am unequivocally committed to their having every worldly avenue of opportunity open to them. Am I necessarily starting off on the wrong foot with regard to women’s rights if I adhere to some form of gender essentialism?

Gender essentialism is the idea that men and women are inherently different in ways that do not derive from their sex. I believe that most schools of feminism would characterize this more succinctly as the belief that women are different. Academics pedantically refer to this difference as “female otherness”; and they aim to efface the difference as difference.

This pre-occupation with difference is vaguely reminiscent of the comical metaphysician in Bertrand Russell’s Nightmares of Eminent Persons. This fictional metaphysician gets so fed up with negativity that he forswears any word denoting the negative. Instead of saying “I cannot find it,” he says, “It is different from the things that I have found.” Unwittingly anticipating (by several decades) an entire field of academic study, Russell may well have chuckled to think that some later scholar might try to capture this difference from the things we find, and then write the definitive treatise on the “otherness” of lost items. A nightmare, indeed.

In any case, women (much like many ethnicities) have traditionally been subjugated based on their perceived difference, and one very direct way to fight this subjugation is to emphasize that the difference is only perceived (or at least constructed and thus somehow artificial).

This gender essentialism that is the bane of feminists is eagerly sought after by homosexuals. You see, their subjugation has always derived from the perceived moral depravity of their choices. But if homosexuals are essentially different, then they escape the accountability that choice entails.

Surely some element of pragmatism leads feminists to reject and homosexuals to embrace essentialism. It is not, at any rate, obvious at all that there is something essentially discriminatory or essentially liberating about essentialism. We may answer the question that I posed in the first paragraph (Am I necessarily starting off on the wrong foot with regard to women’s rights if I adhere to some form of gender essentialism?), “No.”

That said, as a logical positivist, I’m not big on essences. Frankly, I wouldn’t know a gender essence if it bit me on the ass. And who would? Gender essence is just a peg from which to hang the rhetorical embodiment of patriarchal subjugation (on the one hand) and the morally neutral basis for gender driven behavior (on the other).

Relating this back to Mormonism: “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” famously reads, “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual pre-mortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” Yes, I’ve heard women agonize over this little piece of metaphysics, since it’s supposed to imply some form of gender essentialism. This is a terribly unimaginative reading. All this passage really means is that there are no un-gendered gods, angels, or humans. In other words, in order to have an identity and purpose during pre-mortal, mortal, and eternal life, one must have a gender.

It’s worth noting that the question of whether having a gender is essential is quite different from the question of whether the gender itself has essential characteristics. This should come as quite a relief to Mormon positivists (who take gender essentialism to be sheer nonsense) and Mormon feminists (who anguish over this perceived reinforcement of centuries of subjugation) alike.

This gender essentialism thing isn’t really important. What’s more to the point is that I hope to raise children who reject the view that the gospel as we practice it entails something along the lines of what we often hear expressed as “second-class citizenship.” In my opinion, this requires having a healthy distaste for utter nonsense.

And talk about gender tends to be rather flooded with utter nonsense. Perhaps it’s the prevalent practice of aggrandizing victim-hood, or maybe it’s part of the increasing trend toward emotional exhibitionism (as though the fact that someone’s feelings get hurt somehow means that they–or he–matters). Either way, gender-talk (even in the bloggernacle) seems dominated by people parading their grievances before an audience that is (at times) all too willing to validate them, resulting in women so self-conscious of their gender that the least hint of differentiation is discomfiting or even agonizing. I can’t help but think that focusing on the sort of superfine distinctions purportedly involved in 21st century gender essentialism leads to a less-than-robust sense of self.

This is an exciting time to raise girls. Margaret Thatcher stated that the battle for sexual equality is over, and women won. This, of course, places most schools of feminism squarely behind the times. The Feminist is the new Neanderthal.

My four daughters (angelic beauties all) do qualify for pre-mortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose, which is to say, they have been blessed with a gender. And their gender (the female one), whatever its nature and whatever its source, seems at times to be as much a blessing to me as it is to them. I should be ashamed if they learned from me to seek out and obsess over ways that others might make it seem a liability.

86 Comments »

  1. DKL,

    OUTSTANDING!

    Comment by Guy Murray — March 5, 2006 @ 6:42 pm

  2. DKL, I think you’ve neatly sidestepped the real issue. Many feminists* will happily concede that women and men are different, and that some of those differences inhere in biology or other foundational conditions (a “soul” if you’re religious, maybe an “essence” if you’re not.) The troubles come in when people start claiming to know with any precision WHICH differences are essential–I don’t mind conceding that I am different from a man; I mind a great deal when I’m told that my difference from him consists (for instance) in being innately more spiritual and thus not in need of a voice in ecclesiastical decision-making, or innately more nurturing and thus not in need of a career that I enjoy more than housework.

    *It is true that there are some who reject any notion of fundamental difference–using their outlier positions to represent “feminism” is as ridiculous as trying to learn something from Colorado City as a representative Mormon town. (I know you know this, and your willingness to feign ignorance for the sake of writing the most incendiary possible post is one of the things that makes you so indispensable to the ‘Nacle.)

    Comment by Kristine — March 5, 2006 @ 9:08 pm

  3. Kristine:

    ” The troubles come in when people start claiming to know with any precision WHICH differences are essential.”

    First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: Prophets, Seers, and Revelators:

    “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”

    Is this the type of trouble, and the class of “people” of which you speak Kristine?

    Comment by Guy Murray — March 5, 2006 @ 9:43 pm

  4. Holy crap, is your title come from Roger Water’s Amused to Death? I didn’t realize someone else besides me ever listened to that awesome work. Cool ref.

    Comment by Dallas Robbins — March 5, 2006 @ 9:44 pm

  5. David,
    Well said! As they grow, I hope your daughters are aware of how lucky they are.

    I think most feminists see this idea as a threat because they see any admitted difference as implying inherent inequality–a complete fallacy, if you ask me, and frankly, the very thing their movement is seeking to overcome.

    I like the differentiation you make between the idea that gender is an essential part of identity versus the essential characteristics themselves. I had always considered the latter implied in the former.

    Comment by Naiah Earhart — March 5, 2006 @ 10:22 pm

  6. In my opinion, this requires having a healthy distaste for utter nonsense.

    I’m very curious what ‘utter nonsense’ means here. You and many others may have wildly divergent opinions on what is utter nonsense.

    The utter nonsense to me is when Bob in the next pew over makes up reasons for church policy based on what he thinks are essential gender characteristics and interests. For example he might say that women serve in the primary because they are just better with kids because they are women.

    And as far as the Proc. on the Fam. is concerned they didn’t define what all is entailed in ‘gender’ from that oft quoted line. They could have just meant gender as in physically being male or female. Many of us leap to the conclusion that ‘gender’ includes masculine or feminine interests, and that it includes the roles we are asked to play on earth. They did not claim anywhere in the proclaimation that gender roles are based on inherent propensities for the tasks invoved, nor do they say that those roles are essentially part of being one sex or the other and thereby eternal.

    Comment by Starfoxy — March 5, 2006 @ 10:31 pm

  7. Guy,
    The Proclamation says that gender is an essential characteristic but does not say which gender characteristics are essential. There’s a big difference. It’s the difference between saying my maleness is essential and saying my enjoying chopping down trees with an axe is essential to my maleness.

    Comment by Ronan — March 5, 2006 @ 11:01 pm

  8. Dallas (#4),

    I’ve added that Roger Waters song (Watching TV) to radio.blog to accompany the White Stripes tune I already had up for this post. The Cro-Magnon line is near the end of the song (at about the 5 minute mark). Nice catch, BTW.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 5, 2006 @ 11:50 pm

  9. It’s worth noting that the question of whether having a gender is essential is quite different from the question of whether the gender itself has essential characteristics.

    Nicely put DKL. I think this agrees with what Kristine and Starfoxy and others said. Acknowledging that gender is essential is one thing, but defining what that entails is a completely different thing.

    This question of what part of us is essential dovetails nicely into my last post related to personal identity and employing a thought experiment about amnesia (The basic question being: Are you still you without any memories?). The fact is that we know very little about what is essentially “us” versus what part of us is solely due to nature (our physical bodies) or nurture (our upbringing, experiences, and environment). What and who we were before we arrived here and what and who we will be after we leave is very hazy indeed.

    I have three daughters too and I really agree with the last sentiment you expressed in the post:

    And their gender (the female one), whatever its nature and whatever its source, seems at times to be as much a blessing to me as it is to them. I should be ashamed if they learned from me to seek out and obsess over ways that others might make it seem a liability.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 6, 2006 @ 12:04 am

  10. Excellent, DKL. I think the winning line is this,

    gender-talk (even in the bloggernacle) seems dominated by people parading their grievances before an audience that is (at times) all too willing to validate them, resulting in women so self-conscious of their gender that the least hint of differentiation is discomfiting or even agonizing.

    That is something I’ve thought many times but have been too fearful to say.

    Comment by Anonymous — March 6, 2006 @ 1:03 am

  11. Geoff/Kristen:

    Thanks for allowing DKL to post this in this forum.

    DKL:

    I think you have done a good job of laying out the basic (I almost said essential) arguments. Your post illustrates for me why it is so difficult to even have a conversation about what feminism means. There is no coherent underlying foundation, or, if there is, I haven’t been able to discern it. Most discussions about feminism become frustrating quickly – we talk past each other because it is so difficult to even agree what we are talking about.

    Kristine:

    I think your comparison to Colorado City is over the top. I know people, and I’m guessing you do too, who reject any perceived difference between male and female as an illegitimate social construct. While that view may not be held by the majority, it is certainly in the mainstream. There is without question a much greater percentage (15%?)of feminists who reject all gender differences than people in the mormon tradition who live in Colorado City (.00015%?).

    Comment by Mark IV — March 6, 2006 @ 5:09 am

  12. Nice points, Dave. That I can agree with so many of your claims, although I identify as a feminist as you as an anti- or non-feminist, shows to what extent the affixing of political labels is more a social act of alliance than an ideological or analytical project.

    Gender essence is just a peg from which to hang the rhetorical embodiment of patriarchal subjugation (on the one hand) and the morally neutral basis for gender driven behavior (on the other).

    This is the only place where I significantly disagree with you: it’s both those things, yes, but in addition it’s a useful category for those motivated to make morally-based (that is, universal and normative, rather than descriptive) distinctions between men and women. For an example, you could look at the post I put up on T&S about the Proclamation a long time ago, in which I made precisely the same point you do about gender essentialism; the objectors were not anguished feminists intent on reifying their oppression, but rather folks who had a lot at stake in protecting a certain construction of gender difference.

    But aside from this, I’m in substantial agreement with you: it’s not clear, for example, that extreme essentialism as an political tool has any more violent or oppressive a legacy than, say, the political uses of extreme forms of constructionism. And I’ve long commented on the strange sort of analytical double-vision that allows the same folks to attribute femaleness to extreme forms of constructionism and homosexuality to extreme forms of biological determinism. Finally, the irony of some women’s highly developed social and emotional sensitivity being employed in the service of a critique of gender difference—that is, in demonstrating the very sort of distinctions they tend to reject—is not lost on me (even when I indulge in it myself).

    Comment by Rosalynde — March 6, 2006 @ 7:06 am

  13. Guy,

    What Ronan said.

    (But hey, even if my meaning was perfectly clear, it would have been a pity to miss an opportunity to take cheap shots at my testimony and respect for the Quorum of the 12! Glad you jumped on that)

    Comment by Kristine — March 6, 2006 @ 8:33 am

  14. Guy, thanks for the kind words. I agree with Ronan. I try to make it clear in my post that I’m trying to draw a between the essentialness of gender and essential qualities of specific genders. The Proclamation on the Family entails the former and not the latter. I don’t think that the Proclamation on the Family works well as a difinitive, positive statement of doctrine, because it is not especially definite. It strikes me more as a tremendously effective statement that stakes out a vaguely-bounded area that is sharply at odds with “progressive” approaches to family-type lifestyles. I don’t see Kristine as disagreeing with it at all in this sense.

    Kristine, you state, “I mind a great deal when I’m told that my difference from him consists (for instance) in being innately more spiritual and thus not in need of a voice in ecclesiastical decision-making, or innately more nurturing and thus not in need of a career that I enjoy more than housework.”

    I think that I addressed this issue square on, Kristine. Indeed, your reaction is the kind of thing that I was referring to when I spoke about in the last part of my 3rd-to-the-last paragraph. Perhaps there’s a more tactful way of putting it than I put it there, but I don’t think one can fairly state that I’m trying to dodge anything by saying it.

    The way I see it, if someone tells my girls that they were better built for housework, I want them to react the same way I react when people tell me that Mormons still practice polygamy or that Republicans don’t care about the working man. Basically, there’s no point arguing with a nitwit.

    Moreover, I don’t think it’s fair to say that I pretend that all schools of feminism reject gender essentialism. Radical lesbian feminists certainly do not tend to reject it. But it’s quite enough for the purpose of my essay that many schools do tend to reject it (some even define feminism as the rejection of gender essentialism). More to the point, I really don’t believe that my post is incendiary at all. On the contrary, I intend it to be clever and (at times) direct, but nuanced enough to make it clear that my rejection is a thoughtful one.

    Comment by DKL — March 6, 2006 @ 8:55 am

  15. Dallas Robbins, yes, my title is from the song, “Watching TV” on Amused to Death. Though this post really has almost nothing to do with the song, it seemed a catchy title for discussing feminism. I’m glad that somebody noticed. (Incidentally, you must have missed my guest post at Ethesis entitled, “What God Wants, God Gets,” with a title that was also borrowed from that album.)

    In any case, after listening to Water’s first solo album The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking for so many years (and the disappointment of his follow up album, Radio KAOS), it took me a while before I was willing to say that Amused to Death was better. But I think it’s obvious in retrospect that (as good as The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking is) Amused to Death is his masterpiece, even if it lacks lines as catchy as “Hey girl, take out the dagger and let’s have a stab at the sexual revolution” or “As I’ve always said I prefer your lips red–not what the good Lord made, but what he intended.”

    Comment by DKL — March 6, 2006 @ 9:11 am

  16. Very good DKL. Thank you for laying this out.

    Comment by Eric — March 6, 2006 @ 9:41 am

  17. Naiah, thanks for the kind words. I think that most schools of feminism connected to political causes are currently struggling for relevance. (A metaphor flattering to 2nd wave feminists might compare them to a swimming instructor whose pupils have learned to swim.) Rather than proclaim victory and move on, politically active feminists have tended to turn their focus to increasingly trivial issues. As I mention in my comment to your latest post at FMH, I believe that the result is a generation of women who do not self-identify as feminists, even though thy reflexively treat sexual equality as the norm. Of course, it’s an entirely separate issue whether feminism is responsible for this equality.

    Starfoxy, you raise a good question. Basically, as far as I’m concerned, Bob in the next pew can think pretty much whatever he wants about gender, sex, race, the Book of Mormon, the temple ceremony, etc. The notion that it somehow has any bearing on who I am or what beliefs I hold is what I classify as utter nonsense. Whether on the bloggernacle or in church, people are likely to make false presuppositions about me whereever I go. It might be a naive bishop or a rude clerk at the checkout counter or judgmental mormon bloggers or an obnoxious cop that pulls me over; that’s just life. One must learn not to let such pre-suppositions cripple them. As far as the extent to which the Proclamation on the Family entails gender essentialism, it sounds like we are in complete agreement.

    Ronan, you’ve succinctly encapsulated one of the primary points of this post.

    Comment by DKL — March 6, 2006 @ 10:16 am

  18. Geoff, thanks for adding the song “Watching TV.” If I’d have thought of it, I could have sent it to you. Incidentally, the other voice you hear singing in the song (in addition to Roger Waters) is Don Henley. I think that you’ve hit the nail on the head as far as the essential us.

    I think that you hit the nail on the head as far as the essential “self.” We really have no basis for distinguishing between innate (whether essential or not) and constructed differences. We’re not anchored to biology in any very important sense; i.e., we cannot meaningfully express any sophisticated relationship between behavior and biology using the information and technology that we have today (or even that we will have in the foreseeable future). Nor can we safely conclude that societally or culturally constructed differences are necessarily artificial. Different contexts may naturally trigger some innate adaptive coping mechanism in either (or both) sexes which leads to some pattern of behavior not seen in different cultures.

    At some point, I intend to write something on Hume’s withering critique of the very notion of a persistant self, and how it relates to Mormonism (I think I’ll call it, “Where is My Mind?”)

    Anonymous, I’m glad to hear that that line resonates with you and gives voice to some of your feelings. I can understand why saying it might make someone a target. In that respect, I hope that I’ve put my already-too-tarnished reputation to good use here.

    Comment by DKL — March 6, 2006 @ 10:34 am

  19. Mark IV, thanks for the kind words. You’re right that there’s a sense in which the word feminism is an umbrella term rather than a title denoting a fixed set of precepts (actually, all terms are more or less umbrella terms, and feminism is more so). This makes it especially difficult to nail it down, which is fine with me since there’s no sense in opposing it generally, just the ideas behind it. As you seem to sense, I’ve tried to keep from discussing feminism as such, and stay focussed on the practical aspects.

    Rosalynde, as far as political labels, perhaps you’re throwing the baby out with the bath water. If we agree, then why not suppose that one of our allegiances is misplaced? Maybe I’m actually a feminist. Or maybe you’re not.

    There’s another issue with gender essentialism that you touch upon, but that I excluded from the above discussion, and that’s the naturalistic fallacy: normative statements do not follow from factual statements. So there is no logical ground for using gender essentialism as a basis for saying that men or women should or shouldn’t do anything.

    I’m glad you brought up your Notes on the Proclamation post at T&S, since parts of this post can be understood as something of a reaction to it. As I read it, your post dealt with the absence of defined essential characteristics, concluding that this leaves some amount of wiggle room. If it was your intent to go for the complete logical separation that I’m espousing here, then I misread you (for that matter, I don’t seem to be going for that separation in my comment either–though Nate Oman does explicitly make this distinction in comment #11).

    But I’m not sure what you mean by “folks who had a lot at stake in protecting a certain construction of gender difference.” You seem to intend this pejoratively. But as you’ve formulated it, I do seem to fall into this category insofar as I state up front that, “I have some stake in the avenues of opportunity available to the women who influence my life, not the least of whom are my daughters” and these avenues of opportunity seem attached to certain understandings of gender. Don’t you really mean to limit the scope of your assertion to the more overtly misogynistic takes on gender? And if so, what is gained by classifying them as essentialist when they’re objectionable in their own right? I contend that the essentialist label remains a peg to hang these objectionable views upon.

    Comment by DKL — March 6, 2006 @ 12:54 pm

  20. Eric, thanks for the kind words.

    Comment by DKL — March 6, 2006 @ 12:54 pm

  21. Kristine:

    (But hey, even if my meaning was perfectly clear, it would have been a pity to miss an opportunity to take cheap shots at my testimony and respect for the Quorum of the 12! Glad you jumped on that)

    Not my intent at all; nonetheless, my apologies to you, if that is how you construed my comment. Since I don’t know you at all, I don’t know anything about your testimony or respect for the 12 or anyone else. I do know that I have read several “less than favorable” comments at other sites about “The Proclamation” and its reference to gender. Since you, and others have corrected and clarified my understanding of your comment here, I take your representation at face value, and thank you and the others for the correction and clarification.

    Comment by Guy Murray — March 6, 2006 @ 1:17 pm

  22. Thanks, Guy–that was more gracious than I deserved. I do have a lot of questions about the Proclamation’s use of the word “gender”, but I mostly try to keep them to myself, and certainly didn’t mean to air them in that comment.

    Comment by Kristine — March 6, 2006 @ 1:27 pm

  23. In my opinion, this requires having a healthy distaste for utter nonsense.

    Which I teach my kids.

    Glad to see this post, it fits in so well with Naiah’s recent posts as well.

    it’s an entirely separate issue whether feminism is responsible for this equality

    Do you really think we would have any female Rhodes scholars without feminism? I remember an interview with one who was so certain of her essential merit that she couldn’s see the relevance that feminism had to her situation at all, as if the scholarships would have changed without the challenges (including the court challenges) brought by feminists.

    Great post though.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — March 6, 2006 @ 1:45 pm

  24. DKL, don’t you think Water’s voice though wasn’t quite up to the challenge of the album? And of course the stuff he did since then was quite embarrassing. (Thinking especially of last summer’s reunion of Pink Floyd with Waters struggling to hit the notes on Wish You Were Here)

    Comment by Clark — March 6, 2006 @ 2:04 pm

  25. DKL, I would agree with you that Waters solo masterpiece is Amused to Death, but I have a fondness for Radio K.A.O.S also. In both albums some lyrics are off kilter or just plain strange. But I like it’s boldness and imagery.

    Clark, it has always seemed to me that Water’s vocals have always been second-rate, and he was never as good as Syd Barrett or David Gilmour, even back in the Pink Floyd days. You could say he’s an aquired taste. But, I love his songwriting abilites, depsite it’s odd edges.

    Comment by Dallas Robbins — March 6, 2006 @ 2:13 pm

  26. Clark, Water’s never had a terrific range. He tends to move between rhythmic speech (as with The Best Days of Our Lives on The Wall) a whisper (as with much of Pros and Cons) and an other-wordly falsetto (like his bit at the end of “Hey You” on The Wall). On the Pink Floyd album Wish You Were Here, Gilmore does the vocals (and he actually has a voice suitable for a wide range of singing). My guess is that Waters was only singing it out of regard for Barrett.

    At any rate, Waters change in voice for Amused to Death is intentional and for effect. I don’t agree at all that the stuff he’s done since then has been embarrasing. Listen to the tracks on his album from him 2000 tour, In the Flesh. Many of them are as good or better than the originals. For example, the version of “Every Stranger’s Eyes” on In the Flesh is much better than the original from Pros and Cons, and the quality of voice is indistinguishable.

    Comment by DKL — March 6, 2006 @ 2:27 pm

  27. hahahahaha

    Only a man with 2 sisters, 1 wife, and 4 daughters, absolutely surrounded by emotional women, could write so much, on such a walking-on-eggshell topic, to explain so little.

    Comment by Speaking Up — March 6, 2006 @ 3:24 pm

  28. Speaking up, are you implying that if I had more than 1 wife, I might be able to explain more with fewer words?

    Comment by DKL — March 6, 2006 @ 3:39 pm

  29. Ugh. I don’t think I could justify his 2000 tour at all. Embarrassing. I heard my friend’s copy and said I was glad I didn’t buy it. And I had every Waters stuff before. I’m also not at all convinced that the voice problems on Amused to Death were intentional. His voice seemed to be getting worse with time. Partially that’s because of what he tries to pull off. But overall I think it’s just his vocal limitations (and perhaps not taking care of his vocal chords) Of course Gilmore has had his problems too. Compare Pulse with Delicate Sound of Thunder. Thunder is very good, but by Pulse Gilmore is definitely showing his age. (I should add that Thunder is one of my all time favorite albums)

    Comment by Clark — March 6, 2006 @ 3:49 pm

  30. (#28) LOL.

    BTW – I do agree with some that the problem with feminism is that it’s so broad and loose a term as to be functionally useless. One would think that within feminism authors would be searching for a better label and then distance themselves from the feminist label – if only because of contamination by views they don’t share. This is what happened in postmodernism. Almost no one claims to be a postmodernist who’s a serious thinker. Why this hasn’t happened to feminism is surprising to me.

    Comment by Clark — March 6, 2006 @ 3:52 pm

  31. Thunder among your favorites? I just don’t have any stomach for post-Waters Pink Floyd. It’s sounds like fake Floyd. Thunder required the services of more than a dozen musicians and word smiths to give the album a Pink Floyd-like sound. Look at every album from Dark Side of the Moon to The Wall to Final Cut, and they read simply, “Words and Lyrics: Roger Waters” (with the exception of the odd song).

    In the Flesh also got great critical reviews. What specific tracks are you talking about it?

    Comment by DKL — March 6, 2006 @ 4:09 pm

  32. It’s been too long since I listened to it. So I can’t give you tracks. I just know after listening to it (I was planning on buying it) I turned to my friend and said, “that sucks.”

    I can’t believe you think Thunder sounds like fake Floyd. It’s far more Floyd than say Final Cut which was really a Roger Waters solo project that happened to have the Floyd name. Not that I mind that. I like the album a lot. But it’s not really Floyd.

    Comment by Clark — March 6, 2006 @ 4:24 pm

  33. I like this post, and the ideas and conversation exchanged here on this thread. That said, I think you’re entirely too dismissive, DKL, of the fact that women all over the world ARE subjugated because of their gender/sex, and that we have a long, long way to go to reach a semblance of “equality” under the law and in society. As much as I adore Ms. Thatcher, I cannot agree with her and rejoice that women have won. Not yet.

    Comment by Elisabeth — March 6, 2006 @ 7:54 pm

  34. Nice post, Dave. I was waiting for you to address the statements toward the end of the Proclamation saying something to the effect that women are primarily responsible for nurturing, men for providing. The claim that gender is necessary, but without content, must account for the Proclamation’s small dose of gender content.

    Comment by Matt Evans — March 6, 2006 @ 7:54 pm

  35. Elisabeth, much less than being a foreign policy position, feminism most often concerns itself specifically with western culture. In this case, I am talking specifically about the United States, where the women who influence my life are citizens. You’re statement that “we have a long, long way to go to reach a semblance of ‘equality’ under the law and in society” is too extreme to be taken at face value. Which American laws do you believe stand in the way of their equality? You’re a labor lawyer, so you’ve got the inside track. Do you observe that there is a lot of discrimination in the American work place? Or do you mostly see that the current “equal opportunity” regime is a game to be bilked by malcontents and opportunists?

    If you’re talking about the subjugation of women (often the brutal subjugation) in cultures outside of the western world, then we’re talking about something that is no more important to feminists than it is anyone of any political persuasion who has a basic concern for human rights.

    I’m also curious about why you’re so casually dismissive of Thatcher. She made her way in life when it was much more of a “man’s world” than we’re likely to experience in our lifetime. What is it that has convinced you that she is wrong?

    Matt Evans, I’ve been waiting for someone to bring up those statements about gender toward the end of the Proclamation. These areas of primary responsibilities aren’t necessarilly anything more than assignments. A simplistic parallel would be the scoutmaster and the deacons quorum advisor, where you’ve got overlapping areas of responsibility with separate spheres of primary focus. There is, of course, no essential difference between the those serving in either calling. Such may well be the case with the responsibilities surrounding parenthood. There is, at least, no very good reason to suppose otherwise.

    Comment by DKL — March 6, 2006 @ 9:10 pm

  36. Dave,

    Since you ask about laws, let me pipe up for a second. I just attended a conference on workplace discrimination. There is still a good deal of discrimination against women. There is less quid-pro-quo, sleep-with-me-or-you’re-fired kind of stuff. But there remains a _lot_ of problem cases. One (very recent) California one that was just in the news involved a boss who only promoted the women who would sleep with him. And that one went all the way to the state supreme court, because it was not even clear (until the case came down) that that behavior was legally prohibited — in a state with some of the most progressive employment laws in the country! Yes, there are still problems.

    A major problem is that there is no workplace harrassment statute. Sexual harrassment law is an outgrowth of the 64 Act, and it doesn’t really fit the statute. (There is a lot of writing on this topic).

    Anyway, there were a number of (very modern) horror stories told at the conference that I attended. I’m sure that E. can recount lots of recent problem cases. (And I’m hoping that she’ll comment — her expertise on this topic is much greater than mine).

    It would be nice if the Civil Rights Act had simply solved everything. But alas, that doesn’t seem to have been the case.

    Comment by Kaimi — March 6, 2006 @ 9:35 pm

  37. Kaimi, I certainly agree that was bad. But wouldn’t you agree that no matter what you do you won’t eliminate bad bosses, managers and jobs? Is that really unique to women?

    Don’t get me wrong. I decry that sort of thing and know there are far more people like that than there ought be. But I suspect Thatcher’s point would be that one can always find a different job. It’s not like those individuals are the norm. Once again that’s not to minimize their impact – especially psychologically – on people. But whereas in the 1950′s that was perhaps typical with women having few options, today they have many options.

    Comment by clark — March 6, 2006 @ 10:51 pm

  38. I was about to say the same thing, Clark. Kaimi’s stories are about abusive bosses and abusive bosses tend abuse employees regardless of specifics (age, gender, etc.)

    Comment by Geoff J — March 6, 2006 @ 10:57 pm

  39. Kaimi, it’s a mistake to turn the question of sexual equality (or any type of equality) into one of whether there is discrimination, because (as Clark and Geoff point out) that changes the topic from sexism. There will always be bad and abusive bosses, and this is something that women and men alike must endure.

    Sure, the civil rights act didn’t solve everything. Legislation is, by its very nature, a lagging social indicator. The civil rights act signaled that social change that was already under way. And the source of this social movement was not Betty Frieden’s book. It was those who bought it and read it who created the social movement–one can imagine an environment so barren that it would have wasted on the shelves if it had even found a publisher.

    This social movement change society and tradition. Sexual equality has taken its rightful place among the canon of essential liberties guaranteed in civilized countries.

    Saying, as you do, that “there are still problems” is alarmist. The institutionalized barriers that several decades ago prevented women from having successful careers have simply evaporated. This is what Margaret Thatcher recognized when she stated that the battle for sexual equality is over. It wasn’t that she expected never to experience descrimination. She’s endured insults for being a woman in politics all of her life. (I’ve heard people say with a straight face that she only succeeded in redecorating the embassies–pretty sexist, but no obstacle to leading one of the most powerful nations in the free world. In fact, when you think of it, that’s about on the same level as insulting Reagan because he’d been a B actor [such insults were big business in the 70s]. But Reagan’s a man, so that’s not one of the “problems” that we still have.) In any case, it’s this pre-occupation with the inconsequential that I’m referring to when I say, “politically active feminists have tended to turn their focus to increasingly trivial issues.”

    Comment by DKL — March 6, 2006 @ 11:42 pm

  40. Clark (#30), it’s also puzzling to me that feminists stick with a title that has so much baggage and encompasses so many mutually exclusive points of view. “Post modernist” is a term increasingly eschewed for similar reasons by most philosophers formerly known as “posts modernists.” I don’t see why feminists are averse to doing the same.

    Comment by DKL — March 7, 2006 @ 12:01 am

  41. I just read an article that is related to the worries that DKL expresses about the possible ill effects of aspects of feminism on women’s sense of self. It reports on a study that shows that progressive feminists are less happy than their traditionalist counterparts, whether they’re working outside the home or not.

    It’s here.

    I’m not qualified to endorse the study or evaluate methodology or validity of the results or to use it to make any conclusions on the overall value of the feminist movement, but it appears to be a serious study worth thinking about.

    About the state of equality in the workplace, there are still plenty of incidences of discrimination against women in the workplace. But it is illegal, as Wal-Mart is discovering. More troubling to me than the widespread breaking of anti-discrimination laws is the fact that gender (and racial) discrimination is legal when we discriminate against certain genders or races. Call me crazy, but I think when being of a certain gender or belonging to a certain race becomes a valuable career asset, that’s a problem. How this is legal, I don’t know.

    Comment by Tom — March 7, 2006 @ 6:55 am

  42. David: First, words like “inconsequential”, “trivial”, “utter nonsense”, when discussing sensitive topics are incendiary and cloud the discussion. While it may be your intent to shock people into reacting to your ideas, it’s more productive to avoid this kind of language.

    Along these lines, “utter nonsense” is not neutralized by labeling it as “utter nonsense”, and ignoring it. For example, is it “nonsense” that women are explicitly discouraged by the LDS Church from pursuing careers outside motherhood? The “assignments” listed in the Proclamation of the Family guide many members of the Church to make important life decisions. Active LDS women teetering on the edge of whether or not to stay at home, or whether to pursue a demanding career, will probably choose to heed the counsel of our leaders, which is based on gender essentialism (women are nurturers, etc.).

    One way to correct this “utter nonsense” for your daughters is to work to create a balanced YM/YW curriculum, so that young women are taught about family responsibilities and career choices as frequently as the young men.

    “You’re statement that “we have a long, long way to go to reach a semblance of ‘equality’ under the law and in society” is too extreme to be taken at face value. Which American laws do you believe stand in the way of their equality?”

    Most of the laws in the U.S. are enforced without regard to gender. But, gender essentialism is alive and well in our legal system. Check out the jurisprudence in Family Law, where women are presumed to be the nurturers, and thus are typically awarded custody of the children over fathers.

    Your point about human rights is well taken. Many of these issues of “women’s” rights are best characterized as “human” rights.

    As for Margaret Thatcher (one of my earliest memories is of walking home with my mother after she voted for Margaret Thatcher for Prime Minister), if we’re talking about middle class (white?, non-LDS?) Western women, then I’m more inclined to agree with her (and with you). But my universe isn’t limited to that small subcategory of women, and there is a lot more work to be done before we can rest on our laurels.

    Just a quick word about Kaimi’s comment. Kaimi can defend his own comment, but your response that “it’s a mistake to turn the question of sexual equality (or any type of equality) into one of whether there is discrimination”, is confusing, since you turned my question about equality into a question about workplace discrimination fairly easily in your response to me.

    And, of course there will always be “bad and abusive bosses”, but it’s unreasonable to claim that the harassment and discrimination faced by men and women are qualitatively or quantitatively the same. Michael Crichton’s fantasy in Disclosure notwithstanding, men are not asked for sexual favors as a condition of employment or promotion, while, as Kaimi points out, this happens routinely for women in the workplace.

    “This social movement change society and tradition. Sexual equality has taken its rightful place among the canon of essential liberties guaranteed in civilized countries.”

    Unfortunately, our own history has shown how easy it is to enshrine lofty pronouncements of equality into our laws, while acting in direct opposition to these laws with impunity.

    Comment by Elisabeth — March 7, 2006 @ 8:15 am

  43. Elisabeth, your use of the term “sensitive topics” in order to neutralize the terms “inconsequential”, “trivial”, and “utter nonsense” is clever. I’m curious about which specific usages you find to be inappropriate.

    We’ve been down the road of comparing quotes by LDS leaders on women. Quotes in the past 10 years are pretty meager. Sure, there’s plenty of stuff from earlier times, but have you seen the stuff Mark Peterson said about blacks in the 50s? And besides, why should we take the isolated statement on women any more seriously than we take Boyd Packer’s occasional (but much more vociferous) attacks on those who dig into controversial Mormon history?

    Moreover, there’s something vaguely contradictory about acknowledging the equality of women in the rough-and-tumble life of the workplace, and still clinging to the view that they’re incapable of making important life-decisions without the help of Mormon men. You seem to fall liable to this contradiction. I don’t, and I fervently hope that my daughters don’t.

    In early November of 2004, my oldest daughter came home from school crying. Her vote for George W. Bush was the only one in her class, and the other children had derided her for it. I know parents who would use this as an opportunity to ask for secret ballets or to demand cancellation of the mock-election altogether. I used it as an example to show my daughter how foul and blackhearted Democrats are. Just kidding. Actually, it was a perfect opportunity to begin teaching her about the independence of her own opinions and of her own identity from other people’s world-views and the responsibilities that it entails. During her lifetime, she’ll probably also be insulted because she’s Mormon, because she’s smart, because she’s female, because of the career she chooses, or for any number of other reasons. That’s just life.

    There was a time when Italians and Irish suffered discrimination in the US, and they are still the butt of some popular derogatory stereotypes. Lee Iacocca wrote about looking for Wopland on a globe as a child. Though there will always be people willing to discriminate against the Irish and Italians (and for that matter Mormons), it’s fair to say that the institutional barriers to their success have been removed. And it’s a mistake to glibly dismiss the recognition of their status in our society as resting on our laurels.

    Comment by DKL — March 7, 2006 @ 10:04 am

  44. Dave,

    Let me get this straight:

    First, there’s no such thing as gender essence.

    Second, there’s no real problem of sexism remaining in society.

    Given these two premises of yours, I’m at a loss as to how to explain the massive empirical differences between men and women. Women earn substantially less than men; women are severely underrepresented as corporations of major CEOs; we have yet to see a woman president or vice president (and we’ve seen an Irish president); women are massively underrepresented on the Supreme Court; and so on.

    The evidence is what it is, and it really can’t be denied.

    Typically, the explanation falls into one of two camps. Progressives argue that these disparaties come from societal sexism and discrimination. Conservatives say that these differences come from womens’ kinder gentler nature and/or the primacy of motherhood.

    You seem to reject both gender essentialism (main conservative explanation) and widespread sexism (main progressive explanation). So Dave, how do you explain the real across-the-board disparities?

    Comment by Kaimi — March 7, 2006 @ 10:27 am

  45. David: By “sensitive topics”, I mean discussions regarding gender roles and gender essentialism. Throw in the Proclamation on the Family, and I can’t think of many topics MORE sensitive! As such, I found the tone of your post unduly dismissive, and you should be careful to define the “feminists” and “feminism” for which you harbor the derision and contempt expressed in your post. Or is it directed towards anyone who may dare identify as a “feminist”?

    And we don’t need to compare quotes at all. Just open the YM/YW manuals, and you’ll see gender essentialism in all its glory. These are not isolated statements, they are methodical, focused teachings on why women should embrace their very specific role as a wife and mother to the exclusion of worldly pursuits (careers, etc.).

    Moreover, there’s something vaguely contradictory about acknowledging the equality of women in the rough-and-tumble life of the workplace, and still clinging to the view that they’re incapable of making important life-decisions without the help of Mormon men.

    This statement made me laugh out loud! I never said women are incapable of making important life decisions without the “help” of Mormon men. Unless you define “help” as guidance from our (predominantly) male church leaders, inspired scriptures (all written by men), conference talks, the Proclamation on the Family, etc. When the overwhelming majority of references to women are to their spirituality, their innate ability to nurture children, etc., etc., I’m not sure active LDS young women get the idea that they have much of a choice in the matter to begin with.

    But you are absolutely right, young women should decide for themselves what they want to do. Your oldest daughter’s example is a good one. I’m sure she wasn’t unduly influenced by the political party affiliation of either one of her parents or anything like that.

    Comment by Elisabeth — March 7, 2006 @ 10:48 am

  46. Kaimi, I can’t answer precisely why the disparities that you point out exist. I wouldn’t discount current sexism as a contributing factor. I will say this, though–in a completely fair and just society in which each person’s race and gender is ignored when they seek employment and in which jobs and positions are given to the best qualified candidates there could still be disparities. A just society is not necessarily one of absolute parity. It is one of absolute equality of opportunity.

    Comment by Tom — March 7, 2006 @ 10:54 am

  47. Kaimi, Thomas Sewell (in Knowledge and Decisions) wrote some interesting stuff about this. It’s egregiously bad statistics to lump women and men into their own earning groups. For starters, there are just too many extraneous issues to allow for meaningful conclusions to be drawn from such a grouping. There are issues as simple as geography; the cost-of-living disparity between east-coast metropolises and midwest metropolises is greater than the earning disparity between any reasonably well controlled sample of income earners. Lumping people together into earning groups is a statistical nightmare, and many of the statistics that purport to show income disparity don’t even pass the laugh test. If women really did the same work for a third less pay, then why would anyone hire men? Hire women and decrease payroll by one third! Even the worst chauvinists would go in for that proposition.

    But (as you may well know) one can obtain some interesting results if one looks in the right places. The top earning demographic in America is married men. The second demographic is single women, followed by married women, followed by single men. In fact, according to Sewell, single women have earned more than single men since the mid-1950s. Are we to believe that workplaces discriminate against single men, who have many fewer outside commitments, are more mobile, and are more free to work nights and weekends?

    Coming as I do from philosophy, where feminists are prone to take a deconstructive approach, I have to chuckle when I read someone say in the service of feminism, “The evidence is what it is, and it really can’t be denied.” I believe that you’re simply mistaken to take such a reductive and determinative view of the outcomes. It’s tempting to simply say, “discrimination is the problem” because that’s easy and re-assuring and makes us feel good for not wanting to discriminate.

    To the extant that there are problems, I honestly don’t see how how the current docket of women’s issues addresses any of these (funny thing about these genitive issue sets; they’re all “liberal” issues masquerading as a group of issues custom tailored to some constituency).

    Comment by DKL — March 7, 2006 @ 12:39 pm

  48. Elisabeth, we’re getting progressively further away from the actual content of my post. I’m rather more careful in it than you’re giving me credit for, so I’ll politely decline your invitation to be pinned down as actually having said something incendiary. Instead, I’ll point out that you’re ignoring the fact that a substantial portion of my post is given over to explaining why my position on gender essentialism agrees with the outlook of many feminists.

    Comment by DKL — March 7, 2006 @ 12:54 pm

  49. And now I’ve seen everything: Dave Landrith is complaining about comments “getting progressively further away from the actual content of my post.”

    Talk about the pot calling the kettle a Cro-Magnon gender essentialist . . .

    Comment by Kaimi — March 7, 2006 @ 1:07 pm

  50. In the weird comment dynamic here, we see the tension that comes from a clash of the two Immutable Laws of DKL.

    They are:

    1. Dave will hijack the comments in any post and turn them from the original topic;
    2. Dave will turn the comments into a discussion about himself.

    Normally these two laws work in tandem. I.e., Nate posts about sugar beets, Dave hijacks the comments and makes it into a discussion of himself. Steve posts about Cain, Dave hijacks the comments and makes it into a discussion of himself. And so on.

    However, in this thread, the author is Dave himself, and the topic is generally Dave-related. The two laws are in opposition. (The tidal forces threaten to overwhelm the universe — or at least the comments to this post). And the empirical data we can glean from this thread will be invaluable. Which of the Immutable Laws of DKL will prevail? Will Dave’s tendency to hijack the topic overcome his tendency to talk about himself? Or vice versa? Watching this thread play out will be like watching the gluons and morons and quarks flying from a particle accelarator. How festive!

    Comment by Kaimi — March 7, 2006 @ 1:14 pm

  51. David: I’m at a disadvantage here because I’m not as acquainted with feminism and gender essentialism as you are. On an intellectual level, your argument is very interesting, but I don’t have the background in substance or terminology to engage you on which brand of feminism (Neanderthal Feminism?) or gender essentialism (the kind mentioned in the Proclamation on the Family?) you focus on in your post – so I apologize for the scattered responses to your questions.

    Anyway, on a more practical level, I’m very confused how you can reasonably state that all the barriers have been breached and broken, the “battle” has been won, and that women and men are now on a level-playing field (particularly in the LDS Church). And, moreover, anyone who disagrees with you is parading their “victim-hood”, and stirring up trouble.

    Your daughters are lucky girls. They have every advantage, and are loved by their parents. I’m sure they will all be successful, happy and well-adjusted women.

    Comment by Elisabeth — March 7, 2006 @ 1:48 pm

  52. Kaimi, I’m mentioning that the comments are getting further from the original post in the sense that the assumptions embodied in the question were at odds with the actual content of the post. In this case, I’m being asked which schools of feminism I hold in contempt and intend to treat with derision, and I’m not interested in being put in a position where I’m defensively arguing that I’m not doing either of those. My response is simply to say that they’ve strayed from rather too far from what’s in the post.

    Comment by DKL — March 7, 2006 @ 2:01 pm

  53. Elisabeth (#42): Active LDS women … will probably choose to heed the counsel of our leaders, which is based on gender essentialism (women are nurturers, etc.).

    I’m not so sure that we can assume that such counsel from church leaders is based on gender essentialism. I don’t doubt that some leaders link personal ideas on gender essentialism (and more importantly, ideas about what essential gender entails) to behavioral counsel, but that does not mean that all such behavioral counsel is based on such ideas. It seems to me that DKL is mostly pointing out that whether gender is essential or not is moot unless we also know the essential attributes of each gender. The utter nonsense he is trying to avoid is caring what some yutz in the pew next to you or even on the stand believes about such topics beyond what the revelations tell us. The Family Proclamations says that apparently gender is essential but gives no indications of what that means. It later counsels men and women on primary responsibilities, but that counsel is not necessarily tied to essential gender traits. I think the document was very carefully crafted and avoids such metaphysical claims intentionally.

    Now the career encouragement question is a separate question. It is unrelated to the metaphysical essential traits of males and females in my opinion.

    Kaimi (#44): First, there’s no such thing as gender essence. Second, there’s no real problem of sexism remaining in society.

    I didn’t see either of those claims from DKL… I thought he said that there is gender essence but we don’t yet know what it entails and that sexism claims nowadays is less about opportunities for women (the most important part) and more about abuse that happens to be directed at women (even though men get abused in society too).

    Comment by Geoff J — March 7, 2006 @ 2:22 pm

  54. Elisabeth, you’re great at turning on a dime and donning the politely demure, feminine stereotype. In any case, apology accepted. (I feel my manhood coming back as I type…)

    I’ve never stated that men and women are on a level playing field in the LDS church. I’ve been careful to talk about worldly avenues of opportunity. I’ve also been careful to simply maintain that there is no gender essentialism in the proclamation. In my post, I also state that I do not believe that women are second class citizens in the church. Based on this, you ask how I can, “reasonably state that all barriers have been breached… particularly in the LDS Church…” This time, rather than emphasize how out of left field this question is, I’ll simply ask you to reread the post. I’ll add for clarification: Frankly, I don’t know what it would mean for men and women to be on a “level playing field” within the LDS church, and I have neither an agenda nor an argument about this.

    As far as how I can state that there is a reasonable degree of equality in the work place, I’ve written quite a bit about this already in my comments. In my mind, I’ve answered this question, so I don’t quite understand what you’re getting when you repeat it. Can you be more specific?

    Comment by DKL — March 7, 2006 @ 2:33 pm

  55. David: Thanks for the clarification. You say that your post is primarily about worldly opportunity, but your post is also very much about the women in your life – particularly your four daughters who are active members in the LDS Church. I would think that you would be very concerned that your daughters are learning in Church that, no matter their individual talents or inclination, they shouldn’t take advantage of many of these worldly opportunities, and should instead focus on pursuits that embrace their essence as women.

    We can debate the statistics of women in the workplace, but I can agree with you that there is a “reasonable” degree of equality in the workplace in the United States.

    Geoff: unfortunately, I don’t think most people are able to tease apart the meanings of the maddeningly mushy-worded Proclamation of the Family and separate what the yutz says in the pew next to them from the “true” meaning of the Proclamation. Which is what, again? That men and women are free to structure their family relationships as they see fit?

    Comment by Elisabeth — March 7, 2006 @ 2:59 pm

  56. Kaimi, is it fair to say that this time you’re the one trying to threadjack by turning the thread into a discussion about me?

    Anyway, I can tell that you’re kidding, since this thread very nearly turned into a discussion of Roger Waters’ place in the scheme of Pink Floyd’s legacy. (Not that I’ve have minded, but I think it’s already completely obvious that Clark is wrong if he thinks that Roger Waters isn’t the most totally awesome musician since Mozart–he’s practically a ninja!)

    Comment by DKL — March 7, 2006 @ 3:27 pm

  57. Yeah, but who can trust a logical positivist’s take on Pink Floyd? Their blind spots obviously hide David Gilmour’s true brilliance. (LOL) But on the other hand I bet Kaimi doesn’t even like Floyd!

    Comment by Clark — March 7, 2006 @ 3:56 pm

  58. Elisabeth: the “true” meaning of the Proclamation. Which is what, again?

    When it comes to gender essentialism I think it is that our spirits have genders as part of their essence. There is no discussion of what having those genders entails though.

    That men and women are free to structure their family relationships as they see fit?

    I think this question is unrelated to the metaphysics of spirits. Rather, it is a practices issue. Sort of like how alcohol might not be universally and eternally wrong, but our current leaders have asked us to abstain from it now.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 7, 2006 @ 4:04 pm

  59. For that matter Geoff, there’s no clarity of what is meant by essential.

    Comment by Clark — March 7, 2006 @ 4:10 pm

  60. Geoff – I must be completely missing your point, because I don’t understand how characteristics of gender can be both “essential”, but “undefineable”.

    IF such essential characteristics exist (which I think both you, David and others on this thread are saying they do), then surely we can identify a few of those core “essential” characteristics – no?

    Comment by Elisabeth — March 7, 2006 @ 4:35 pm

  61. Oh, right. I just realized I am falling into a little bit of philosophy-speak without even realizing it. (18 months ago I knew practically nothing about philosophy. Since hanging around the ‘nacle and studying up on it since then I find myself using jargon that annoyed me to no end last winter…)

    Anyway, check out the Wikipedia link on Essentialism. I think the basic notion is that there are some things about us that cannot be stripped away without obliterating whatever it is that is “us”. To quote from the link:

    Essentialism is the belief and practice centered on a philosophical claim that for any specific kind of entity it is at least theoretically possible to specify a finite list of characteristics, all of which any entity must have to belong to the group defined. A member of a specific kind of entity may possess other characteristics that are neither needed to establish its membership nor preclude its membership.

    So basically the idea is that maleness cannot be stripped away from me — it is an essential part of whatever makes me up (in Mormonism that includes my spirit/intelligence and not only my physical body). So it seems to me that if the Proclamation is making metaphysical claims it is mostly saying that there are no androgynous spirits that inhabit human bodies. What the Proclamation does not say is what maleness or femaleness entails for us. The “nurturing and spiritual” thing some assume for women is just a popular assumption and is not backed by the Proclamation.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 7, 2006 @ 4:48 pm

  62. Because it’s apparently on topic to say so, I just want to chime in that I too think Roger Waters is awesome and that he’s way better than that David Gilmour guy and that The Wall is one of the greatest albums of all time. That’s all.

    Comment by Eric Russell — March 7, 2006 @ 4:51 pm

  63. You’re generally right, Clark — my own taste in drug-influenced 70′s fare typically runs more in the Simon & Garfunkel vein, and I haven’t really followed Waters’ solo career. But like any music fan, I appreciate some of the classics. I like Hey You and Comfortably Numb, of course. Learning to Fly is nice, too.

    And of course, what professor doesn’t like Pink Floyd’s classic anthem to learning, “We Don’t Need No Education”?

    Comment by Kaimi — March 7, 2006 @ 5:03 pm

  64. Thanks for the definition and the link, Geoff! Your definition is helpful:

    Essentialism is the belief and practice centered on a philosophical claim that for any specific kind of entity it is at least theoretically possible to specify a finite list of characteristics, all of which any entity must have to belong to the group defined.

    This definition supports my original question: that it is possible to identify and define certain characteristics of a particular entity – in this case – the male and female sex. The “Proclamation on the Family” gives us some indication of what these “essential” characteristics may be by specifically identifying the “nurturing” characteristic for women and “presiding/providing” characteristic for men.

    Could you explain your point about how the Proclamation doesn’t support the popular assumption that women are “essentially” nurturers? It’s right there.

    Comment by Elisabeth — March 7, 2006 @ 5:27 pm

  65. Eric (#62), no David Gilmour, no Comfortably Numb (which was first released on a solo album and then brought into The Wall). Can you really imagine the Wall without Comfortably Numb? Heck, without Gilmour’s playing? (He claims to have played most of the guitar tracks in the studio, not having much faith to Water’s guitar abilities) I don’t deny Water’s genius. But I think his solo albums in terms of instrumentalism are lacking without Gilmour. Having said that though I think Gilmour’s attempts to ape Waters in the two post-Waters Floyd albums are lacking. They are like Ying and Yang. They need each other. But, with all apologies to Animal Farm (or was that Animals?) Gilmour is the more equal of equals.

    Elisabeth (#64), there’s no inherent reason that everything real be knowable. Thus I don’t think it’s beyond the pale to assume there is an essence that can’t be known. But even ignoring that extreme position, one could simply say that there is an essence that hasn’t yet be understood by us. (Say the way God the Father and God the Son are One).

    Comment by Clark — March 7, 2006 @ 6:00 pm

  66. Elisabeth, # 64, asked:

    Could you explain your point about how the Proclamation doesn’t support the popular assumption that women are “essentially” nurturers? It’s right there.

    Elisabeth, I’m not sure that is what is says. It says that “women are primarily responsible for the nurture of the children”, not that they are good at it. It might seem like a distinction without a difference, and it is easy to see how people make the jump. But we never draw the conclusion that men are harder workers just because the proclamation says that they are to provide for the family. The proclamation doesn’t say that men have to be good at it, just that they have primary responsibility for it.

    Comment by Mark IV — March 7, 2006 @ 6:11 pm

  67. Eric Russell, Hear, hear.

    Clark, Gilmore played guitar because Waters played bass (and he’s quite an accomplished bassist). Gilmore is an exceptionally talented guitar player–nobody can deny that. On Pros and Cons, Waters replaced him with Clapton, and during the In the Flush concerts, Waters used four guitarists to make up for Gilmore. Replacing Gilmore is a tall order.

    Kaimi, since you clearly need some help with post-70s Pink Floyd, I’ll give you a leg up (I’ll skip Radio KAOS, since I didn’t like it much and I don’t own it since I lost the CD when I was in college).

    First comes “The Final Cut.” It’s my opinion that the notion (expressed by Clark) that the Final Cut is a Waters’ solo album is just something Gilmore said to legitimize the post-Roger Waters Pink Floyd. Nearly every Pink Floyd album since “Dark Side of the Moon” was written (words and lyrics) by Roger Waters. How are these albums any less a solo album than the Final Cut?

    The primary difference between “The Final Cut” and earlier albums is that Roger Waters’ achieves a greater combination of a unified cogency and thematic richness. Thus, it doesn’t go as far afield as “The Wall”, yet it’s not as thematically sparse as “Animals” or “Wish You Were Here.” At times, it is embarrassingly personal (drawing as it does on Roger Waters’ own childhood), as when he repeats “And no one kills the children anymore” at the end of “The Gunner’s Dream.” It also tends to be a bit gimmicky, as with the fade from voice to sax in “The Gunner’s Dream,” or the angry rhyming in “Not Now John.” But his use of a minuet in “Get Your Filthy Hands off My Desert” to contrast with the strident political message and to introduce the more rhapsodic (though even more pronouncedly political) “Fletcher Memorial Home” is as authentically Pink Floyd as anything else that Roger Waters created.

    Next, “The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking” achieves an even higher degree of musical unity than “The Final Cut,” while balancing a greater variety of thematic elements. It utilizes a common musical motif (heard during the driving sequences) to create an oddly sedate, but sometimes disturbing backdrop to a tapestry of very different dream episodes. Overall, the more rock-like passages have a somewhat funkier feel than anything since “Money”, with Clapton’s guitar at intervals cutting through the songs like lightening and then slowing down to throw counter punches at the hard driving lyrical rhythm and the screaming saxophone that fills the gaps. Rogers’ occasionally off-the-wall lyrics sometimes play better as mere syllabic combinations than words or sentences. For example, “So I stood by the roadside, the soles of my running shoes gripping the tarmac like gunmetal magnets” is quickly shouted in near-staccato with an emphasis that yields with emphasis, “So I STOOD by the ROAD side, the SOLES of my RUNning shoes GRIPping the TARMAC like GUNmetal MAG NETS!.” And though the album as a whole possesses a rather noise-laden quality (compounded by the heavy use of echos), it is the first album where Waters fully succeeds in creating something that must be listened to as a whole in order to fully appreciate each part. A truly remarkable album.

    Finally, “Amused to Death” is both darker and more piercing than Waters’ earlier works (and that says something). The music overall has a cleaner sound than any of his previous work. His use of female vocals to accent lyrics at key points is reminiscent of “The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking,” though much more prevalent. Don Henley accompanies him on “Watching TV,” the most easy-going and melodic song on the album (available in Rusty’s Radio Blog). This proves to be a brilliant move, since this relaxed context demands some relief from Waters’ often stilted or stylized phrasing, and Henley provides easier, more Eagles-like phrasing at several key points (for example, “So get out your pistols. Get out your stones. Get out your knives. Cut them to the bone,” where the word “knives” is elongated to merge it into the final sentence.) There’s much more to say here, but only so much space. Suffice it to say, “Amused to Death” is Waters’ masterpiece.

    Based on Dallas’s suggestion, I’m going to revisit “Radio KAOS,” which I found too pop-rock sounding when I first heard it years and years ago. But I definitely see Water’s trajectory from “The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking” to “Amused to Death” to be far more faithful to Pink Floyd’s legacy than the post-Waters crew of song writers and lyricists that Gilmore brought in to ape Waters’ earlier sound. To me, Gilmore’s Pink Floyd sounds like an attempt to repeatedly revisit and rework the sounds of “Dark Side of the Moon” and “Wish You Were Here.”

    Clark, if you’re looking for the classic Pink Floyd sound of Gilmore’s singing in “In the Flesh,” you’ll certainly be disappointed. Gilmore, of course, doesn’t sing on the album (and he is, indeed, one of the great voices of Rock and Roll). If that’s an issue for you, then the best portions to listen to are the ones that leverage Waters’ solo work.

    Comment by DKL — March 7, 2006 @ 6:51 pm

  68. Mark IV: I agree with your comment insofar as I do think it’s a distinction without a difference. The Proclamation reads as though men preside over their families and women nurture
    by “divine design”. The gender roles of women nurturing, and men presiding/providing are not only “essential” characteristics, they are divine characteristics. So, I’m pretty confused with the labels here, but it seems to me in practice that women and men shouldn’t be forced into particular roles based on their sex, or these ephemeral “gender essential” characteristics that no one can really identify or define.

    Comment by Elisabeth — March 7, 2006 @ 7:49 pm

  69. Elisabeth,

    I think Mark IV has it right here. You said:

    The gender roles of women nurturing, and men presiding/providing are not only “essential” characteristics, they are divine characteristics.

    I think that is not at all what the Proc says. It does not speak at all as to what are essential properties of men or women. With the exception of the responsibilities of fathers to “preside in love and righteousness” it mostly speaks about what they “primarily” are responsible for in general (and “primarily” could mean lots of things including “usually”). It does not say these roles and responsibilities are “divine characteristics”, but rather that they are responsibilities that God and the church approve of and recommend to the saints living today.

    So the point is that one may not appreciate the church’s position regarding “primary” responsibilities for men and women, but it is incorrect to say the Proclamation says the recommended roles are essential parts of eternal maleness or femaleness.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 7, 2006 @ 8:26 pm

  70. “But, gender essentialism is alive and well in our legal system. Check out the jurisprudence in Family Law, where women are presumed to be the nurturers, and thus are typically awarded custody of the children over fathers.”

    Elisabeth, I don’t see that these rules are based on any claims about essentialism. They could simply be based on emperical regularities that provide default assumptions about burdens of proof. One needn’t read any particular metaphysic of the regularity into the rule.

    Consider this somewhat less charged example: Under the UCC merchants are presumed to contract with reference to the usage in the trade. Is this because merchants are essentially knowers of usage in the trade or any other metaphysical claim? Of course not. It just happens to be the case — for reasons that have nothing to do with metaphysical essences — that merchants are likely to be familiar with the language used by other merchants.

    Comment by Nate Oman — March 7, 2006 @ 8:33 pm

  71. Hmm, well, you know it’s time to roll up your tent and go home when even Nate Oman jumps in to point out the error of your ways. Look, I’m not sure why it’s so very controversial to say that the Proclamation can be read to justify gender essentialism – i.e., that women and men are divinely commanded to fulfill specific roles, which are meted out according to expectations based on characteristics embodied in social constructs of gender.

    But, at the end of the day, whether these expectations are “divine” or “essential”, or just “assignments”, is really beside the point, isn’t it? The fact remains that the Proclamation requires women to do certain things and men to do certain things, because they are women and men. Because women are women, women are required to nurture, and because men are men, men are required to preside and to provide – regardless of whether or not a particular woman in question is in fact a better provider, or whether a particular man is a better nurturer.

    Specifically to Nate’s point re: gender essentialism in family law, the “tender years doctrine” and other presumptions that tended towards granting primary custody to mothers over fathers was probably instituted in part because of the woman’s ability to take care of the child due to continual proximity with the child, but probably also because of the perceived inherent characteristic of women being better nurturers than men. However, in recent years, these presumptions have given way to a “best interests of the child” standard, and more and more fathers are retaining custody of their children.

    The End.

    Comment by Elisabeth — March 7, 2006 @ 9:31 pm

  72. Elisabeth: I have read enough of the cases — although Family Law is one of those topics that I assiduously avoid — to know that there is lots of rhetoric in the early decisions about woman’s inherent nurturing nature, etc. etc. My point, however, is that even if you think that women are not by nature nurturing, as an emperical matter they may still be on average more nuturturing because of social pressures, etc. The rule is ultimately based on the percieved regularities, not their metaphysics. As for the shift to the “best interest of the child” standard, I wonder if it has actually made that much difference in practice.

    I don’t think that anyone disputes the the Proc. on the Family suggests different roles for different genders. I think that the dispute lies in what sorts of inferences about nature we should draw, and how hard we should regard the rule that it sets up. Frankly, I think that both conservatives and liberals tend to read it as making stronger claims than it does, one because they want it to, and one because they have the gentle paranoia of all hunted animals.

    Comment by Nate Oman — March 7, 2006 @ 10:27 pm

  73. Nicely said, Nate — and excellent observation about both sides reading stronger metaphysical claims into the document than actually can be found there.

    Elisabeth – I think you just provided an example of such a reading in comment #71. Here are some examples:

    Because women are women, women are required to nurture

    The document does not say anything about requirements for women. It only says “Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children”. As I said earlier, “primarily” softens the statement significantly and the word was obviously (to me at least) left in the document for that very purpose (ie to provide ample wiggle room).

    and because men are men, men are required to preside

    Basically true, at least in the church “fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness”. There is no metaphysical claim there though — just counsel from ecclesiastical leaders.

    and to provide – regardless of whether or not a particular woman in question is in fact a better provider

    Providing simply means to see to it that all needs are covered, the document does not say how that must be accomplished. It simply says that fathers “are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families”. If in some cases that means the wife makes the money then there is ample room in the Proclamation to allow for that. In such cases the necessities of life are provided as the couple meets their “obligation” to “help one another as equal partners”.

    Of course this is not really a discussion about the Proclamation. I am mostly reiterating the point that if one has issues with the Proclamation it should not be over gender essentialism.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 7, 2006 @ 11:17 pm

  74. Nate,

    Your UCC example is cute, but I don’t think it does the lifting you expect it to. Or rather, you gloss over the fact that it doesn’t do the lifting.

    You say that differences in law could come from non-essentialist reasons, as with the UCC. Absolutely right. They could.

    Of course, they also could come from gender essentialist reasons, couldn’t they? To counter your UCC example with a different example, numerous sections of slave law made presumptions about slaves. Those could, in some hypothetical world, have come from some legally innocuous reason. But I think it’s pretty well accepted that the foundation of the distinctions in slave law was rooted in racist ideas about the social roles of Blacks and whites.

    So just as the differences in the way law treats men and women could stem from innocuous sources (as with the UCC), they also could stem from invidious sources (as with slave law). Elisabeth has suggested reasons why she thinks they come from invidious sides. You, on the other hand, haven’t suggested a reason why it makes more sense to visualize the men-women presumptions as being like the UCC (rather than being like, say, slave law). It’s going o be a question that turns on specifics, either way. I don’t think you’ve carried your burden, counselor.

    Comment by Kaimi — March 7, 2006 @ 11:24 pm

  75. DKL (#67). You leave me in awe. If dark and piercing is what you seek most, then yes you are right. But alas that is not my aesthetic. I like the tone of frustrated idealism, melancholy and lightness in Pink Floyd. The nihilism that Waters came to embody in his music didn’t appeal to me as much. Even though I could admire the artistry. (Probably why I didn’t like the moebius strip ending to The Wall) I confess I still regularly listen to the classic Floyd, but rarely to the Waters albums. (Although there is that one Clapton guitar riff in Hitchhiking…) Even Floyd I don’t listen to as much. I’m just not depressed as much.

    Dare I ask? Would it be too Nietzschean? To ask if there is a relationship between this nihilistic enjoyment and your logical positivism? The loss of meaning manifest in music? (grin)

    Might I psycho-analyze the streak of misogyny in Waters albums (especially The Wall and Hitchhiking) and apply it to the question of the essence of gender which is meaningless?

    I should. But I’m sadly much too tired.

    I’ll go to bed and listen to the David Gilmour SNL bootleg I downloaded. (LOL)

    Comment by clark — March 7, 2006 @ 11:30 pm

  76. Oh wow. I clicked on this thread and its comments because there were so many;only to find it had been reduced to discussing the Waters vs Gilmore debate. Excellent. DKL I have always known I admired you, but never knew quite how much. Your talk of Waters is poetic. However, I do also respect Gilmore. I’m looking forward to downloading his latest, On an Island, just released. All MP3 should have it in a day or so. I’ve read reviews that complain it is too boring and the worst since Umaguma. Showed how intelligent this reviewer was. We have followed both guys from the start and have a mutual respect for both and their enduring talents.

    Comment by chronicler — March 7, 2006 @ 11:57 pm

  77. Geoff – I’m glad you see so much flexibility in the POTF, and I agree with your assessment. However, no matter what we make of the nuances of the POTF, in LDS doctrine and culture (and in the POTF) women are the nurturers, men are the presiders/providers. So, a member of the Church reading the POTF, and informed by the discussions of the unique spiritual and mothering abililities of women of which we hear regularly from our Church leaders, may be far too easily misled to believe, particularly in the absence of any clarification from our Church leaders to the contrary, that the POTF adheres to some kind of gender essentialism.

    The rule is ultimately based on the percieved regularities, not their metaphysics.

    Nate – If by the above statement you are saying that the presumptions in favor of giving mothers custody of small children were based primarily on practicalities and convenience, then I don’t agree with you. The tender years doctrine was a reflection of the perceived competence of women to be better nurturers because of their sex. Sure, there are other forces at play, which you point out, and these attitudes are definitely changing, but judges, even now, still freely admit that there are biological differences between men and women, and that these biological differences predestine women to be better nurturers than men.

    Even though the tender years doctrine and other maternal presumptions have been repudiated by the courts, and a best interest of the child standard adopted in their stead, a great majority of disputed custody cases are resolved with custody going to the mother.

    If you’re interested, this article includes interviews from practicing judges explaining their decision-making process in custody disputes.

    Judging the Best Interests of the Child: Judges’ Accounts of the Tender Years Doctrine
    by Julie E. Artis, Law & Society Review, December 2004

    Comment by Elisabeth — March 8, 2006 @ 6:11 am

  78. Mark IV, I agree that nothing in the Proclamation entails that men and women are better at a respective role, just that the roles are what they are.

    Nate, thanks for the comments. As far as the proclamation, you’ve said nicely what I was trying to get at by saying, “I don’t think that the Proclamation on the Family works well as a definitive, positive statement of doctrine, because it is not especially definite.”

    In fact, one major theme of this post is that the gospel is a lot less determinative on gender issues than people give it credit for. For example, the Aaronic priesthood manuals contain a lesson entitled “Respecting Womanhood.” This kind of thing may set off all kinds of flags among those that are especially sensitive to the notion that there is a Platonic quality (or Aristotelian essence) that we can call “Womanhood.” But feminists are bound to be disappointed when they actually read the lesson and see that it’s mostly about manners.

    Part of the my gripe (and part of what leads me to talk about utter nonsense and trivialities) stems from the sense that I get that feminists are somehow disappointed that a lesson such as “Respecting Womanhood” doesn’t actually make good grist for their mill. One might expect them to be relieved–I would be. I think that we see the same type of thing when Elisabeth insists that there’s got to be something harmful about the proclamation because people might use it discriminate (as though such people wouldn’t find other excuses anyway).

    Comment by DKL — March 8, 2006 @ 10:06 am

  79. Kaimi, minimum wage laws were created to protect incumbent workers (i.e., white men) and the popular elections of senators (the 17th amendment) was instituted to dilute the power of minority voting blocks in state legislatures. I don’t see what this, or slavery, has to do with the equal treatment under the law of women. In answer to my question about which laws keep women from being equal, the only example of gender essentialism that has been offered is something that favors women. Nate has shown that regardless of the motivation of their creators, these laws can be easily interpreted in a way that does not make such distinctions. I think that pretty much lays the issue to rest.

    Clark, you raise an interesting question about the content of Waters’ lyrics (the gaping black hole in my brief reviews). I do find many of them to be objectionable. You don’t mention the extreme pacifist (extreme enough that Waters seems to think that allied aggression in WWII was bad) and his complete contempt for capitalism. I tend to look past this. I don’t tend to be bothered by otherwise objectionable content in songs, movies, books, or plays. (Or the scriptures or proclamations, evidently :) )

    chronicler, thanks for the kind words about my brief reviews. I hope that people find them enlightening. If nothing else, they should help answer Kaimi’s concerns about whether I have a double standard with regard to threadjacks.

    Comment by DKL — March 8, 2006 @ 10:16 am

  80. Dave,

    That’s a weird non-answer. Decidedly weird. Have you lost track of what’s going on? Here’s a brief recap.

    Elisabeth: Much of family law is based on essentialst ideas. [Evidence evidence evidence]
    Nate: Yes, but some law makes distinctions that aren’t essentialist. After all, the UCC does.
    Elisabeth: Here’s some further evidence on family law.
    Kaimi: Nate, just pointing out that the UCC exists — and that it’s possible for law to make distinctions — doesn’t answer your question. Law is also capable of drawing distinctions based on invidious reasons.
    Dave: Kaimi, some laws were made for other reasons.

    Um, dude, you’re just restating Nate’s point, which I already pointed out doesn’t do the work he seems to think it does.

    Are you saying that it’s not possible for laws to be in place due to invidious ideas about gender (or race, or other things)? Of course you’re not. That would be idiotic.

    So one the one hand, it’s possible that legal distinctions are based on invidious categorizations. And on the other hand, it’s possible that they’re entirely innocuous. This is a starting point, not an end point.

    The next question is how to determine which category a distinction in fact falls into — invidious or innocuous. And how do we determine this? It can only be done by examining the particular law in question.

    Which brings us back to the fact that Elisabeth has (in 71, and again in 77) provided actual evidence for her claim, while Nate and Dave have done nothing of the sort. Until and unless someone takes on her evidence or provide contrary evidence, all of the hot air in the world (“yes, but it’s theoretically possible for non-invidious distinctions to exist”) won’t mean anything.

    So right now, she’s mopping the floor with you guys. And given the fact that any challenge will necessarily come on her turf — the actual structure of the law in question — I don’t really expect that to change any time soon. Perhaps you’ve realized this too, which is why you’re throwing out side arguments to distract.

    Comment by Kaimi — March 8, 2006 @ 10:41 am

  81. Kaimi, I think it’s you who hasn’t been following things. I asked, “Which American laws do you believe stand in the way of their [women's] equality?” Nobody–not even Elisabeth–has named any American laws that stand in the way of women’s equality. The question of whether some laws were motivated by essentialist notions is an entirely unrelated point (hence, my last comment). Thus, your and Elisabeth’s argument is entirely beside the point.

    Comment by DKL — March 8, 2006 @ 10:51 am

  82. Also, It’s worth noting that I’m the one who doesn’t think that gender essentialism is especially important (as I note in my post). Elisabeth seems to think that it is. If we allow her argument that some laws are based on essentialist assumptions, than the fact that none of them seem to block female equality supports my claim (that essentialism is not important) and seems to be evidence against her claim (that gender essentialism is important).

    Comment by DKL — March 8, 2006 @ 10:54 am

  83. David: if you’re asking whether there are any laws that say women can do this and men can do that, then I can’t think of any off the top of my head (I’d wager some do exist, however). But, it’s relatively easy to legislate equality, it’s quite another thing to change attitudes of the people who enforce these laws to do so without respect to sex/gender.

    Take, for example, the tender years doctrine, which many states have repudiated as sexist, and have thus substituted in its place the rule stating the best interests of the child decide custody disputes. Even with the law mandating equality between mothers and fathers, custody is generally awarded to mothers. If you read some of the studies done on why this is the case, you’ll find many judges still decide custody disputes based on their opinions that women are born better nurturers than men because of their sex/gender. So, whether or not you or I think gender essentialism is “especially important”, it continues to inform the decision-making process of the people who enforce the law.

    Comment by Elisabeth — March 8, 2006 @ 3:31 pm

  84. By the way, Dave, I got distracted (poking holes in your flawed logic) and forgot my manners. Thanks for the cliff notes on Pink Floyd. When my academic duties slow down slightly, I plan on putting your notes to good use. :)

    Comment by Kaimi — March 12, 2006 @ 10:48 pm

  85. I laughed at your first sentence, David. Remember when that young girl (was it Barb?) said, “I’m not a man or anything, but…”? It was the “or anything” part that cracked me up.

    I skipped a lot of posts, sorry, guys, I’m trying to catch up, Monk-like (and that is not working), to say that I’m not a man or anything, but I have masculine personality traits. I’m lazy, I’m not sentimental, I’m plain spoken and will get in peoples faces. My husband is a busy little homemaker, he’s the most sentimental man I know, he CRIED big tears when Bobby Simone died on NYPD Blue, and he sits silent in church.

    I think everyone is like that. So I think it all comes down to sex. Plus I just read Brokeback Mountain (now I might as well see the movie, don’t you think) and the only thing different in that is the way they had sex. Well, different because they did stuff to each other. Although there wasn’t all the lovey-dovey stuff. So I guess I come down as saying it’s all about sex. And who you desire. Because all the other is relative.

    Comment by annegb — March 13, 2006 @ 8:30 am

  86. Per #83: One obvious discriminatory set of laws currently in place today are those establishing and administering the Selective Service system.

    Comment by Elisabeth — March 13, 2006 @ 2:36 pm

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