Re: virus: Androgynetics

Thu, 29 Apr 1999 22:13:10 -0700

Golly Kristy,

Don't you have enough Virion's contacting you off-list already? Now you tell us that you surf "Sex and Gender" sites as well? You could wake up as a net celebrity if you're not careful.

Zloduska wrote:

> I propose two questions to everyone on the list.

> 1) What is your response to this person's comments on memetics?

First, I'll paste in and number the criticisms for the convenience of those who may not have followed the link:

The word "meme" is, of course, itself a meme, and not one I embrace wholeheartedly. 0) There are dangers in borrowing the glory of the most rigorous branch of biology for an upstart idea that is so far innocent of mathematics. 1) And most of the 'discoveries' in memetics so far are old news on Madison Avenue; many of them would be no surprise to Cicero. 2) A cynical person might see memetics as a power play on the part of certain biologists, who would like to substitute their own reductionist metaphors for the language of the humanities. 3) At the least, if we are going to talk about the genetics of ideas, we should also talk about their morphogenesis: their development, their inner structures, their organic wholeness.

KMO's reaction?

0) While the structure of this and the next sentence seem to indicate that the criticisms start here, this "first" one is completely vacuous.

  1. I agree.
  2. A cynical person might see the human (particularly male) tendency to become aroused by images of naked bodies even when the observer knows that they are only images as God's (or the Blind Watchmaker's) gift to advertisers. A cynical person can degrade and dismiss any notion. So what?
  3. The "organic wholeness" thing is new to me, but I'm pretty sure people are working to develop memetics from the other angles listed.

Kristy's Second Question:

> 2) Honestly, what is YOUR definition of gender?
> (make sure you distinguish between 'sex' and 'gender' first, as in
> biological vs. social)

Sex and gender are, for the purposes of everyday conversation, synonyms. Here's what WWWebster has to say on the matter:

Gender \Gen"der\, n. [OF. genre, gendre (with excrescent d.), F. genre, fr. L. genus, generis, birth,

        descent, race, kind, gender, fr. the root of genere, gignere, to
beget, in pass., to be born, akin to E. kin.
        See Kin, and cf. Generate, Genre, Gentle, Genus.] 1. Kind; sort.
[Obs.] ``One gender of herbs.''

        2. Sex, male or female. [Obs. or Colloq.]

        3. (Gram.) A classification of nouns, primarily according to
sex; and secondarily according to some
        fancied or imputed quality associated with sex.

        Gender is a grammatical distinction and applies to words only.
Sex is natural distinction and applies to

        living objects. --R. Morris.

        Note: Adjectives and pronouns are said to vary in gender when
the form is varied according to the

        gender of the words to which they refer.

If one presupposes that there is a distinction to be made, then I'd go along with the notion that sex is biological and gender is sociological/psychological. I don't slice it any thinner than that. If someone else wants to, I'll play along, but I can't promise that I'll remember the distinction 6 months from now.

I realize that's a pretty superficial answer to your question, Kristy, and if you'd like to probe deeper... oh.... this is going to the list, isn't it? If you would like to ask some clarificatory questions, I'll be happy to answer them.

BTW, Kristy, what are you wearing?