Dolezal & Jenner

June 18, 2015 at 8:22 pm

maxresdefaultBy now most of America has heard the bizarre story of Rachel Dolezal. The previous NAACP leader in Spokane, Washington and professor of Africana Studies at Eastern Washington University has been skewered in the last week after revelations surfaced that her public identity as a black female was a sham. Fresh on the heels of the well circulated tales of Bruce-turned-Caitlyn Jenner, many commentators were quick to draw the obvious comparisons between stories that hinged on a belief in the fluidity of personal identity, and the social constructs of race and gender. And yet the media exposure of the two was vastly different. While Caitlyn enjoyed the spotlight as an icon of freedom and courage, Dolezal was portrayed as a liar and a fraud.

While many of the articles produced in the last week have attempted to justify the differentiation, an equal number rightly recognized a double standard. I had every intention of  writing about the inconstancies myself this week, but the more research I did the more I was able to concede that others with far more skill in writing and intellect had beat me to the punch. So below is a compilation of articles that I consider to be some of the best from the week as we think through this public dialogue on identity. Happy reading.

1. The top piece I read this week was from Tomás Bogardus who serves as the Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Pepperdine. His article initially debuted in First Things under the title “Is Gender as Social Construct” but was removed by the time I posted this blog. He was kind enough to send me the manuscript through email and I would advise you to contact him to do the same if the post is not reinstated soon. Here are a few lines of his thoughtful and persuasive argument:

“Even if our gender categories were social constructs—arbitrary conventions—it wouldn’t follow that our gender norms and regulatory practices are groundless and should be abandoned. After all, we all admit that certain hand gestures are obscene purely by convention; their meanings are “social constructs.” Yet it does not follow that our norms regarding such gestures are groundless and should be abandoned. It’s still wrong to gesture thusly to your mother, even if you explain it’s just a social construct.”

“We’re told gender is a social construct—arbitrary, groundless, purely conventional—but also that our old gender matrix really was wrong and the new one really is right. We’re told there’s really no such thing as a woman, and yet Caitlyn Jenner is definitely one of them. That conjunction cannot be. The idea that gender is a social construct is as old as dirt. But the best argument for it is doubly unsound and self-defeating.”

2. Over at The Federalist Sean Davis penned a pair of insightful articles that are well worth a look. First, If Rachel Dolezal Isn’t Black, How Is Caitlyn Jenner A Woman? And his follow-up No, The Difference Between Dolezal And Jenner Is Not ‘Fraud’

3. From the American Conservative check out Gene Callahan’s The Ideology of Caitlyn Jenner

4. Finally, no list would be complete without some outspoken remarks from Rod Dreher. This is, admittedly, a pretty snarky post, but he makes his points clearly in Call me Rosa Parks