That a Man hath one Rib lesse then a Woman, is a common conceit derived from the history of Genesis. – Sir Thomas Browne
I have for some time now longed to create a t-shirt. To evoke common, and therefore good, gender stereotypes, the shirt would be blue. On this shirt would be the picture of a door being held by a man for a woman. It need not be elaborate. Stick figures will do. Above or below the image will be the words “Hold a door” followed by an ellipsis. The back of this shirt will read, “Tick off a feminist,” and I trust the shirt would also do the same. For a modern farce is among us, and that is the idea that all things are socially constructed. Women are just as capable of holding doors for men; men can wear pink; why do men always get to drive the car?
That the colors pink or blue are arbitrarily picked to symbolize women and men respectively is no cause for which to die. No man would argue that there is anything essentially female about pink, or male about blue; but the average, non-academic man would say there is certainly something essentially male about man and essentially female about woman. Only someone whose reason has led them to draw the false correlation between colors and genders will draw the very false and very dangerous premise that, because colors are symbolic, so the whole nature is constructed.
The lunacy of this is played out nearly every day. Recently I was helping a friend move a mini-fridge. My friend was female but was not, thankfully for her, a feminist. For if she were a feminist in the most recent rendering of that word, she would have been not only carrying the fridge by herself but also holding the door while telling me that I was not doing a very good job of respecting her womanhood. But as I said, she was not a feminist, and though she did hold the door, she did not carry the fridge.
I awkwardly maneuvered my body so as to properly carry the relatively heavy object, grunting and groaning as I freed it from the back seat of my car. Within ten steps to the door my arms were throbbing, my back was bent, my soul was crushed. My old bones barely made it into the building, and I could not help but lament that our journey still had a good portion left to be accomplished. Luckily, we were heading downstairs, but as we were nearing those steps an idea popped into my head that could release me from this torture. I looked at my friend who was leading the way. With a satirical seriousness, I looked into her eyes and said, “Wait a minute. We’re evoking and promoting common gender stereotypes here. Would you mind carrying this?”
Modern man is a walking contradiction. Just the other day, I listened to a learned academic from Harvard (that fortress of Knowledge and Truth!) lecture about how all things were constructed and how essentialism, that out-dated theory handed down by insignificant philosophers like Plato, was proved untrue. How any modern academic can believe anything he says is beyond my powers of intellect. But what I do know is that--unfortunately--the abstract concept of social constructionism is a very essential thing to a constructionist. To say that social constructionism was itself socially constructed would be like saying the mother birthed herself or the sunrise led to the sunrise. For in order for social constructionism to work properly, evolution as we know it must be disregarded. Man’s thought, by itself, freed from social circles, is meaningless; in fact, it cannot be believed to exist. Thus, "the dawn of man" had to have been "the dawn of men," and like-minded men at that. And the curious fact is that the dawn of man that led to men was like-minded. One-hundred men at the beginning of the world were more like-minded and uniform in thought than any single man today.
If even bare facts are invalid without society’s consent, we have little reason to believe that social constructionism is valid, for society does not believe it. Only in the ivory dungeons of humanities departments does social constructionism hold any merit. The common garbage man or housewife lives his or her life as if genders, Truth, and knowledge are essential things, platonic ideals, even if they do not have the vocabulary to explain this. But an even more telling example is how the modern academic lives like an essentialist. A modern academic will spend thirty minutes telling you that truth is socially constructed and twenty minutes spouting “truths” that the larger society outside of academia has not acknowledged to be true.
But a truly sad result of this thinking has occurred in writing. Prior to social constructionism, a man could write down his thoughts without having to cite fifteen other individuals who happened to agree with him. Today, an academic is so bogged down in what he calls “the conversation” that he cannot state what everyone once took for granted as true without finding some other academic who acknowledges that yes, this is true. Now this may hold some merit in that few, if any, elevated thoughts are truly new in the sense that the individual creates them; but it does not hold in that if only one man stated Truth it would make it any less true for lack of consensus, as if one man fighting slavery made the abolition movement false. The problem many academic writers have today is an unholy fear of saying something against the “established” consensus; they fear that even what seems to be true based on common sense should not be said; for an original idea posited by one man in the farce of the academic circle is discredited not on the basis of its merit but on the (very small) consensus of that circle.
What is even more maddening is that we have deviated so far from common sense and even objective reality that we are even beginning to question and qualify the most obvious Truths. A man with a Ph.D. today is no more certain about his gender than he is about the existence of God. He has spent so much time questioning the metaphysical that he now questions the physical; the sun rises, not because he perceives it to rise but because he collaborated with a friend and reached an agreement that, indeed, the sun rose today.
It is this lunacy that is killing the humanities. There is at least some comfort in knowing that man can live about thirty seconds as a social constructionist before he contradicts himself. Nevertheless, the cowardly prose of the modern academic is so muddled with jargon and qualifiers that after one cuts through all the extra limbs and leaves of the dense forest of prose, he sees nothing but a haggard and hollow stump similar to every other stump planted by academics. For if one needs to know anything about academic writing, it is that no one ever says anything different than anyone else, and thus, no one really says anything. Truth, after being dragged through the mud and disparaged, ends up ironically being the one thing academics cower in fear of. Their fear of saying anything socially unacceptable, socially untrue and against the consensus of their peers is so great that they are willing to follow their colleagues wherever they may be led, even if it is the blind leading the blind.
Sam Snow, theficklefarce.com
Written with a dip pen,
Sunday, September 7, 2014
Transcribed by Adam the Scribe II
At the Campus of Kansas State University,
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Painting: "Blind Man's Bluff"
By Alexander Hohenlohe Burr
Oil on canvas, 1888