Category Archives: Social Justice

Gender Fluidity in the Ancient World

Same-Sex Marriage
γεγάμηκα πρόπαλαι ταύτην τὴν Δημώνασσαν, καὶ ἔστιν ἐμὴ γυνή (“I have long since married this [woman] Dēmōnassa, and she is my woman” – Megillos, a trans man, in Lucian of Samosata – C2nd, Dialogues of the Courtesans 5.3)

γάμους Μεσοποταμίας ἡ Βερενίκη ποιεῖται (“Berenice [Queen of Egypt] marries Mesopotamia”, Photius – C10th, Bibliotheca 94, summarising Iamblichus – C2nd)

γυναικες ανδριζονται παρα φυσιν γαμουμεναι τε και γαμουσαι γυναικες (“woman act as men, against nature, women being given in marriage and also marrying [women]”, Clement of Alexandria – late C2nd, Paidagōgos 3.3.21.3)

“Lev 18:13, however, as a general prohibition against imitating the Egyptians and the Canaanites, provided them [the Sifra rabbis] the means to prohibit female homoeroticism in the form of woman-woman marriage.” (Brooten, Love Between Women p.65)

Default Bisexuality
μηποτ’αυτον γημαι αλλην γυναι[κα] μηδε παιδα (“may he never marry another woman or boy”- Defixionum Tabellae Atticae, IG III.3.78, C4th CE

ειτε γυνα τηνωι παρακεκλιται ειτε και ανηρ (“whether woman or man has lain beside him” – Theocritus, Idyll 2, C3rd BCE)

Women at War
“There is also an image of Ares in the marketplace of Tegea. Carved in relief on a slab it is called Gynaecothoenas (He who entertains women). At the time of the Laconian war, when Charillus king of Lacedaemon made the first invasion, the women armed themselves and lay in ambush under the hill they call today Phylactris (Sentry Hill). When the armies met and the men on either side were performing many remarkable exploits, the women, they say, came on the scene and put the Lacedaemonians to flight. Marpessa, surnamed Choera, surpassed, they say, the other women in daring, while Charillus himself was one of the Spartan prisoners. The story goes on to say that he was set free without ransom, swore to the Tegeans that the Lacedaemonians would never again attack Tegea, and then broke his oath; that the women offered to Ares a sacrifice of victory on their own account without the men, and gave to the men no share in the meat of the victim. For this reason Ares got his surname.” – Pausanias, Description of Greece 8.48.4-5 (trans. by Jones and Omerod)

“Of all the deeds performed by women for the community none is more famous than the struggle against Cleomenes for Argos, which the women carried out at the instigation of Telesilla the poetess. She, as they say, was the daughter of a famous house but sickly in body, and so she sent to the god to ask about health; and when an oracle was given her to cultivate the Muses, she followed the god’s advice, and by devoting herself to poetry and music she was quickly relieved of her trouble, and was greatly admired by the women for her poetic art.
But when Cleomenes king of the Spartans, having slain many Argives (but not by any means seven thousand, seven hundred and seventy-seven, as some fabulous narratives have it) proceeded against the city, an impulsive daring, divinely inspired, came to the younger women to try, for their country’s sake, to hold off the enemy. Under the lead of Telesilla they took up arms,3 and, taking their stand by the battlements, manned the walls all round, so that the enemy were amazed. The result was that Cleomenes they repulsed with great loss, and the other king, Demaratus, who managed to get inside, as Socrates says, and gained possession of the Pamphyliacum, they drove out. In this way the city was saved. The women who fell in the battle they buried close by the Argive Road, and to the survivors they granted the privilege of erecting a statute of Ares as a memorial of their surpassing valour.” – Plutarch, On the Bravery of Women 4, 245c-f (trans. by Babbitt)

Note the locations: Arcadia and Argos.

Harmony in Marriage
“in marriage there must be above all perfect companionship and mutual love of husband and wife, both in health and in sickness and under all conditions, since it was with desire for this as well as for having children that both entered upon marriage” – G Musonius Rufus, Lecture 13a

Agricola and Domitia Decidiana “lived in perfect harmony, endeared by the tenderest affection, and each ascribing to the other the felicity which they enjoyed” – Tacitus, Agricola 6

Uettius Agorius Praetextatus to his wife Paulina, “the partnership of our heart is the origin of your propriety; it is the bond of pure love and fidelity born in heaven. To this partnership I entrusted the hidden secrets of my mind; it was a gift of the gods, who bind our marriage couch with loving and with chaste bonds.” – CIL vi.1779

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The misrepresentation of the misreporting of rape

Men’s Rights Activists have a particular line in which they claim that false accusations of rape are “frequent” and constitute “a crime against men”.

One of their targets is an article which inaccurately describes 20% of female US college students as rape victims. Its inaccuracy lies in having misread some numbers. 19.3% is the lifetime incidence of rape for American women, whereas the per-annum incidence in college is about 0.6% (0.61% for students, 0.76% for non-students), although I’m not sure why it could be supposed to be better that, when they were raped, most of them weren’t in college, especially because 21.6% of those rapes happen when the victim is under 12 years of age, and a further 32.4% between the ages of 12 and 17, i.e., 10.4% of US girls are raped before they even reach college, or the US age of consent.

However, six different studies of the accuracy of rape claims in six and a half thousand cases across the UK, Canada, and Australia (the US-Canadian “Making a Difference” Project; Clark, L. & Lewis, D., Rape: The price of coercive sexuality; Grace, S., Lloyd, C., & Smith, L.J.F. Rape: From recording to conviction; Harris, J. & Grace, S. A question of evidence? Investigating and prosecuting rape in the 1990s. Home Office Research Study 196; Kelly, L., Lovett, J., & Regan, L. A gap or a chasm? Attrition in reported rape cases. Home Office Research Study 293; Heenan, M. & Murray, S. Study of reported rapes in Victoria, 2000-2003) found that between 2.1% and 10.9% of reports were false, i.e. not provably true.

Those are only reports, however, and note that the American Bureau of Justice Statistics says that 65% of sexual assaults are never reported, which means that the false reports account for only 0.7-3.5% of the total number of assaults. The top end of that, 3.5%, is lower than the proportion of inmates wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death in the USA.

I had investigated all of that a while ago, and then recently ran into something else when a white US woman was objecting to a black US woman’s praising South Africa’s attitude to women’s rights because South Africa has a high rape rate, which – she claimed – shows how women are really treated there.

Apart from noting that South Africa is 17th in the world for the economic place of women (whereas the UK is 18th and the USA 28th) and 10th in the world for representation of women in government (whereas the UK is 41st and the USA 102nd), I saw that – as in the USA – the childhood incidence of rape is very high, with 35.4% of the population having been sexually abused during their childhood and school years. This situation is also more gender-distributed than the US case, the majority of victims aged 11-15 being boys, the majority aged 16-20 being girls, but it is also part of cycle of violence in which “66% of males and 71% of females who had abused someone else had themselves been forced to have sex.”

There were some other features of concern. One was the massive disparity between the 16.8% of school interview responses acknowledging that they had been assaulted and the 35.4% of similarly-acknowledging school survey responses, and a parallel disparity between 14.6% of household interview and 26.3% of household survey responses. Clearly, non-home-based surveys are the way to get young people to talk about it. Another was the gender split between abuse in general and abuse involving physical contact: the former affected 36.8% of boys, and 33.9% of girls; the latter 10.6% of boys and 12% of girls. All of that made me wonder how reliable the 3% figure for lifetime incidence of sexual assault on Western males really is, and how much higher that figure might be if anonymous surveys and abuse-in-general versus contact-abuse studies were conducted.

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Conservatives and Fear

Fear drives conservatism.

As reported in one study where participants were invited to imagine that they had been magically granted either the ability to fly, or personal invulnerability,  “If they had just imagined being able to fly, their responses to the social attitude survey showed the usual clear difference between Republicans and Democrats — the former endorsed more conservative positions on social issues and were also more resistant to social change in general.  But if they had instead just imagined being completely physically safe, the Republicans became significantly more liberal”.

In others, dirt, stench, hand sanitisers, hard chairs, churches, hospitals, and cemeteries – reminders of discomfort, illness, or mortality – prompted people to vote right wing.  One in that set also formulated a process: empathy leads to economic liberalism, its lack to economic conservatism; positivity to social liberalism; its lack to social conservatism.

Conservatives have been found to focus more on negative aspects, to stress more about them, and to shun new experiences.

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The Decline of Religion amongst the Young

Studies in the USA show a distinct correlation between youth and such philanthropic matters as
* acceptance of homosexuality
* support for gay marriage
* concern for the environment
* belief in the value of governmental assistance
* concern for immigrants
* concern for black people.
And then there is a the *negative* correlation between youth and church attendance. What image are those correlations going to produce regarding the *moral* position of Christianity? Here are a couple of hints.
Meanwhile, members of the older generation persist in blaming the young for leaving church. Had they not so thoroughly abdicated the moral high ground in their pursuit of dogmatism, they wouldn’t need to be facing this position.

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Biblical socialism

The Law commands centralised, mandatory charity:
“And it shall be, when you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, and you possess it and dwell in it, 
that you shall take some of the first of all the produce of the ground, which you shall bring from your land that the Lord your God is giving you, and put it in a basket and go to the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide.
[…]
When you have finished laying aside all the tithe of your increase in the third year—the year of tithing—and have given it to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your gates and be filled, then you shall say before the Lord your God: ‘I have removed the holy tithe from my house, and also have given them to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me; I have not transgressed Your commandments, nor have I forgotten them.
[…]
‘Cursed is the one who does not confirm all the words of this law by observing them.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’”
 – Deuteronomy 26:1-2, 12-13, 27:26

The earliest church was communist:
Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.” – Acts 2:44-45

“Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.” – Acts 4:32

The Bible praises giving:
He who has a generous eye will be blessed,
For he gives of his bread to the poor.”Proverbs 22:9

The Bible promises a reward for giving:
He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord,
And He will pay back what he has given.” – Proverbs 19:17

Jesus commands giving:
“Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.” – Matthew 5:42

“Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”” – Mark 10:21

Jesus rewards giving:
Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ […] ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” – Matthew 25:34-36, 40

The Bible asserts the necessity of giving:
“But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” – 1 John 3:17

 

 

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The rich care less about people

Science confirms rich people don’t really notice you—or your problems

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Science and gender

Seeing people who rail against others being transgender, describing that as “unnatural”, I wonder about more than just the fact that combing your hair is unnatural, wearing glasses is unnatural, and having any kind of corrective surgery is unnatural.

I also wonder what those ranters would say about people who have an X chromosome and a Y chromosome but are insensitive to androgens, or are missing the SRY gene on the Y chromosome, or have congenital adrenal hyperplasia, and thus have *female* bodies. That’s right: male chromosomes, female bodies.

What about people who have two X chromosomes but one of those Xs also has an SRY gene, or who have congenital adrenal hyperplasia, and thus have *male* bodies? That’s right: female chromosomes, male bodies.

What about people who have conditions such as 5α-reductase deficiency, who thus have bodies which are female until puberty but then become male bodies?

What about people who are XXY, XXXY, XXXXY, XYY, or X0? What about people whose cells differ from one another, forming a mosaic of XX and XY together in one body, including those who “with more than 90 per cent XY genetic material have given birth”?

What about people who have similar conditions which are never externally, publicly apparent, who are apparently one sex but are really not that and are instead the other, or are neither?

What about the fact that human science is not an absolute knowledge of all that is or can be, and thus we cannot logically rule out the existence of conditions and situations which we cannot even identify yet?

Even if someone went so far down the reductive biological determinism route as to imagine that humans were mere organic machines, with neither free will nor reflexive and conscious thought, one would still have to face the simple fact that the machinery of biology is much, much more complex than a simplistic dichotomy of XX versus XY.

Along similar lines, those who claim that being transgender is a new, Western idea have somehow managed not only to be ignorant of fa’afafinetwo-spirit, katoey, hijra, waria, etc., but also of such ancient figures as Kaineus, Teiresias, Iphis, Hermaphroditos, and the people Philo rails against in Alexandria.

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