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.


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.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

3 thoughts on “Ben Shapiro and Gender vs Age

  1. The far more readable mystery author J.K. Rowling got into it by writing about her childhood abuse and early feelings of gender dysphoria, which brought up the only two points worth examining (to my mind) on this issue.

    The first is childhood treatment for gender dysphoria, a no doubt horrible situation for any child to be in, but one where the ethical principles of treatment are fairly simple. There’s an old rule for dealing with, say, severe back injury, that applies to almost any individual seeking medical assistance: least invasive first. If exercise and rehab alleviate back pain, you prefer that to painkillers, which you prefer to surgery. Anyone, and especially children whose physical development is not complete, should approach gender dysphoria treatment in the same “least invasive” manner.

    This is not a morally complicated issue, and best addressed by letting the latest, most solid research direct medical guidelines while keeping ignorant blowhards like Shapiro out of the process.

    The other, trickier question is “bathroom safety,” and not because there’s any significant risk of transgendered individuals abusing children in bathrooms. I’m sure if you dug through the annals of human history, you could find such instances, but it’d be up there with instances of baseball popcorn vendors murdering Little League kids, a really rare tragic occurrence.

    The more serious issue is male violence against women and/or children, period, which is a thing so old it’s written into half the Greco-Roman ancient theology (where modern bathroom laws had nothing to do with anything). It’s quite simply a fact that any woman of any age anywhere is more frightened by the sound of someone walking 20 feet behind at night than you or I am. (I could never possibly win a fight, but any potential mugger doesn’t know this about me from 20 feet away.)

    This is a huge problem and one it feels like, somehow, we should have been able to address in a modern society. (And one transgendered individuals have nothing to do with, add although they are at severe risk of being victims to this violent sickness, as anyone without their heads in sand should know.)

    Have I used physical force to try and impose my will on others? Yes, I have, although I’m quite happy to say I never succeeded and nobody was ever hurt (plus the last person I did it to kicked my ass in response and we hang out for drinks every few years). It seems to be in human nature to try and abuse people if we are mad enough, and this is something we’re going to have to address. But certainly gender dysphoria has very little to do with it, and I have no idea what dipshitlododoncoid half-assed psuedo-intellectuals like Shapiro think they’re contributing, if they think rather than recite at all.

    • Based on watching him for a long time, I think Shapiro is only interested in winning. I don’t think he ever sits down to consume information to educate himself. Data is only of use in as much as it allows him to justify his priors.

      On the issue of bathrooms, I appreciate the fear. However, I don’t see how having laws stops a preditor from going into women’s bathrooms anyway. It’s not like we have cops stationed outside public restrooms. And if someone is creeping women out by hanging around the women’s bathroom, I think we have social recourse. Of course, I can’t think of any situation in which I would call the police; so maybe I’m not the best person to ask.

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