Ben Shapiro and Gender vs Age

Ben Shapiro

Ben Shapiro is an odd phenomenon. People who like him take the most facile arguments as genius. It reminds me that as a writer, you find that greater fame mostly leads to more people who don’t engage seriously with your work. But I guess that’s enough for Shapiro.

Over the weekend, I came upon his old argument that gender and age are the same things. You can’t choose your gender any more than you can choose your age. It is the most facile of facile arguments. But it’s actually a very useful comparison. If Ben Shapiro engaged with it, he’d learn a few thing.

Numeric Age and Sex

As most people should know by now, there is a difference between sex and gender. Sex is a biological term and gender is a sociological term. So if someone has XX chromosomes, their sex would be female. Their gender would be whatever they present as.

Of course, even sex can be difficult. Not all humans have XX or XY chromosomes.Some people have XXY or XYY chromosomes. Or X, XXX, or XXYY. Biology is varied and I’m frankly amazed that our bodies work at all.

Warning: do not read the comments on this video; you will overdose on hate and ignorance.

So we can’t say that there are just two sexes. But you could say that there is some number of sexes. For ease, let’s say there are three: female, male, and other. This is quantitative and roughly equivalent to someone’s numeric age.

As far as I know, my sex is male and my age is 56 years old. It would be wrong for me to say that my sex is female and my age is 42 (much as I might like to).

But under most circumstances, people aren’t interested in the numeric age and sex of adults. These attributes just aren’t that useful.

Qualitative Age and Gender

On the other hand, people are interested in qualitative age and gender.

ContraPoints dealt with this subject in her video Pronouns. In it, she discusses the social use of gender. It’s not about chromosomes or biology.

It’s also confusing. To make a big deal of calling someone (who looks like a woman) a man doesn’t create clarity. From a social standpoint, if someone looks like a man they are a man.

(As for non-binary people, I think it is the same for many cis people who may not present clearly as one gender or the other: there may be initial confusion but this can be worked out with a little sensitivity and knowledge.)

Qualitative age works the same way and has many of the same problems. I think of myself as old but many people might consider me middle-aged. These are terms that are less clear than quantitative age. And even if octogenarians want to call me “young” I still feel old.

There is, of course, one way that qualitative age and gender are different. People who mis-age me do it to make me feel better. People who mis-gender do it to make the other person feel bad and generally to make some ideological point.

Summary

So in the video, Ben Shapiro is making a false analogy when he asks the young woman, “Why aren’t you 60?” It would be appropriate to say, “Why aren’t you old?” But had he done that, everyone would have see that it was no argument at all. If the young women felt old, that’s her business.

So Shapiro has to create a false analogy. And it’s particularly bad because he knows the difference between sex and gender. But he chooses to ignore gender. As he says in the ContraPoints video of he/she: “Biology is the nature of the pronoun.”

But it isn’t. Unfortunately, thinking about the issue with a little clarity would only help his endeavor to “Debate Leftists and Destroy Them.” It would only bring him closer to the truth.


Ben Shapiro by Gage Skidmore. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

NASCAR Bans Confederate Flag

Back in June 2013, I went to my first (and thus far only) NASCAR race. And I came away with a much greater appreciation of the sport. I saw it a lot like chess — a game that I played with a fair amount of seriousness for a long period of my life. It was fascinating to see how the racers won and lost their races just a little bit at a time — just like in a chess match between professionals.

I didn’t come away interested in the sport. Actually, given how evenly matched the drivers are and how subtle it all is, I’m amazed that it’s popular. But if people appreciate auto racing at even my simple level, I’m impressed. Good for them!

Confederate Flags at NASCAR

Of course, I wasn’t so impressed with the cultural elements of my time with NASCAR. It was filled with overt nationalism and public displays of religiosity that Jesus cautioned against in the Sermon on the Mount.[1] But you will see much the same at any sporting event in the US.

What really stood out were all the Confederate flags. I have zero tolerance for this. The people who sport them are at very best deluded. But in general, they are racist to such an extent that they are beyond proud of it. It’s not enough that they don’t care if you know about their bigotry. They want everyone to know about it.

The Confederate flag is the symbol of an act of treason against our country in the name of one of our worst shames: slavery. And this is not helped because most people who display the flag think they are the “true” or “real” Americans. They aren’t. They don’t like America but rather some vision of an American past where white men were proudly on top and everyone else kept quiet.

NASCAR Says No to the Confederate Flag

So I was thrilled when NASCAR put out the following statement:

The Presence of the Confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors, and our industry. Bringing people together around a love for racing and the community that it creates is what makes our fans and sport special. The display of the Confederate flag will be prohibited from all NASCAR events and properties.

Don’t misunderstand me: this is a business decision. NASCAR could see two things clearly:

  1. Most of their fans think of themselves as good people who are not in favor of overt racism and so will welcome this ban of the Confederate flag.
  2. NASCAR has a lot more black and brown fans than they do hard-core racist fans.

Of course, this hasn’t stopped a bunch of people online from claiming that they will never support NASCAR again:

But mostly, people seem pleased. (Check out this parody tweet.) I suspect for a lot of people, even ones who may not especially like it, it isn’t worth contesting. As the poet said: the times they are a-changing.

Congratulations

Regardless, it says something when a large business like NASCAR decides that it will not tolerate the Confederate flag. It says the time is over for when people could claim this treasonous, racist flag is just about their “southern pride” or some other horseshit.

Congratulations America! You won NASCAR!


[1] Matthew 6:5 “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.”

Confessions of a Republican

William Bogert

The iconic political commercial of the 1964 presidential election was Johnson’s Daisy ad. It featured a little girl pulling the leaves off a daisy while she counted them. Then, in voice-over, we hear a countdown and a nuclear explosion.

Then we hear Johnson saying, “These are the stakes. To make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die.” And we are finally told to vote for him because, “The stakes are too high for you to stay home.”

Everyone at the time knew what this meant: if Goldwater became president, he would start a nuclear war. That may have been unfair. And even at the time it was criticized, which may explain why it only aired once. Not that it needed to run again. The ad hammered home what most people were already thinking.

Confessions of a Republican

There was another Johnson ad during that campaign: Confessions of a Republican. It ran a number of times. And it was very intellectual. It’s for that reason and many others that it would never be used today.

It’s a remarkable ad in its authenticity. But I’m not sure that it moved many people. It seems like the kind of ad that would move someone like me. But we are unlikely to need convincing.

William Bogert

What I find most interesting is the actor, William Bogert. For people of my age, he will always be remembered as the father in War Games who butters his corn in an unusual (and somehow disgusting) way.

He’s telling the truth: he had been a Republican. In fact, he was indicative of the great party consolidation that was going on in the mid-1960s where liberal Republicans were becoming Democrats and racist Democrats were becoming Republicans. But I don’t know if he ever became a Democrat. I know that he was married to Muppet puppeteer Eren Ozker, so he must have been a liberal.

But what’s even more interesting about Bogert is that he did very little filmed acting until about 10 years after he did this ad. He’d been acting since about 10 years before the ad. But there isn’t much documentation. He could have been working in television but it’s more likely he was doing theater and industrial films. He certainly seem comfortable with the camera in the ad.

2016

In 2016, Bogert filmed a follow-up ad for Hillary Clinton regarding Donald Trump. It’s also good. Very authentic. And it didn’t change anything. Because apparently a lot of Americans do like unpredictability in the use of nuclear weapons.

William Bogert died on 12 January of this year. I’m reserving judgement. If Trump wins in November, I’ll be glad Bogert didn’t live to see it. But if Trump loses, well, that will make Bogert’s death sad. But I’ll live with it — distracted as I am dancing in the streets.


Image cropped from the original ad, which is in the public domain.