Sex, Gender, Identity: Beyond Wokism and Trumpism

Following Keith’s table-setting discussion of sex and gender last month, in this episode we push even further into the front lines of the culture war skirmishes that have become so plentiful over the last several years. Corey deVos joins Keith to discuss how our notions of sex, gender, and identity apply to some of the most contentious and pressing issues of our time — gender education in schools, men’s rights issues, the banning of drag shows, trans people participating in sports, the availability of gender-affirming care for young people, the impact of social media on gender identity, and more.

In order to answer the question “what is a man” (or “what is a woman”), Keith and Corey carefully track sex, gender, and identity as fundamental aspects of the self that can exist in a state of fusion, differentiation, dissociation, or integration, depending on the developmental stage(s) the question is being asked from. This is one of the most common causes of conflict around this issue, as people have very different meanings of words like “gender”, which can refer to biology, identity, or the various social constructs we have inherited, depending on where we are in this sequence. Which is why, when it comes to the question of gender, people are constantly talking past each other, and why the conversation often stalls at the level of doctrine and short-sighted debate, which we see so often in the culture wars. How can we elevate the discussion into a more fruitful dialogue, discourse, and dialectic? By properly differentiating and integrating these factors into a more coherent vision of sex, gender, and identity.

In a world where these topics often generate more heat than light, our aim is to bring clarity, insight, and a spirit of inclusive dialogue to the conversation. Our focus, as always, is bringing our most integral hearts and minds to these conflicts, so that we can provide the greatest opportunities for happiness, fulfillment, and freedom of expression for the greatest number of people, while also minimizing harm and promoting understanding, empathy, and respect among all parties involved.

Lately I’ve waded into the question of Woksim and Trumpism on a theoretical level, but mostly in relation to race. That is risky enough already, so my private opinions on the fraught topic of gender identity will stay private. However, let me just say I appreciate the nuance in the video discussion. It would be lovely to have calm, measured, comprehensive discussions like this for framing public policy.

Re: my Wokism/Trumpism work, the quick outline is a follows -

  • respect everyone’s life experience (phenomenological approach)
  • grant each person or community the right and dignity of self-interpreting their own experience of being in the world (hermeneutic approach)
  • when interpretations reach the level of social systems abstractions that encompass society in general, different groups will likely see things differently. However, in so far as these social views affect others (out-groups), the experienced identity of the in-group is not enough foundation to assert truth claims. Now we are into intersubjective dialogue and data-driven research.
  • ideally, this process leads up the model of hierarchical complexity to views that respect the experiences and interests of widely diverse stakeholders.

All of the above assumes a good will search for truth and harmony. Sadly, Wokism vs Trumpism is more about picking enemies for political purposes. So both are mostly slogan- and stereotype-driven. (The behaviors Corey and Keith describe for unhealthy green, for example). That game will sadly continue unabated until it starts losing elections on a regular basis. There is some recent evidence that the electorate is beginning to sour on some of the more extreme views. The challenge of articulating reasonable common sense positions for the political center remains.

Great Insight Maps, and seems like this is a good conversation for broader consumption, perhaps on YouTube.

A key word I think in the UL quadrant of the Insight Map, under Anger and Apathy, is “traditionally.” So many if not most studies on manhood still focus on the traditional and dominant mode of masculinity in Western culture, which seems to have derived from the traditional stage of development, even though that dominant mode may not be the most common anymore. We’ve had three further stages since the traditional stage of gender essentialism, and I wonder if these things still hold up at those later stages. At this site alone, I’ve seen plenty of men express the softer feelings such as vulnerability, sadness, weakness (along with plenty of anger too of course).

As for the anger, it seems to be on a spectrum from cold/steely/stonewalling to hot/threatening/explosive, and the reasons for disengagement or non-expression seem multiple: everything (and more) from simple dislike of the (messy) emotional terrain to ineptitude with verbal expression of emotions to fear-driven causes, e.g. fear of others’ emotions and reactions or fear of losing control. And of course, the socialization and cultural influences around what it is to be a man play a role.

What I also notice is how interrelated the disengagement and anger are or may be: if one habitually suppresses emotions and their expression, seems a lot of frustration would build perhaps leading to some of the anger (although anger serves more purposes than an outlet for frustration).

On another topic, I was curious as to how transgendered and cis-gendered males might compare in terms of their ideas and relationship to masculinity. There haven’t been that many studies on the topic, but one I read (that again used the traditional perspective on manhood/masculinity) found that they basically share the same concepts of masculinity, with a couple of differences: trans men do not put particular emphasis on “heterosexual privilege” (looking/appearing “manly”) as do cis-gendered men, nor do they endorse women’s submission to men to the same extent. Trans men do endorse/exercise more emotional control (express emotions less) and emphasize self-reliance/self-sufficiency more than cis men. Lots of factors, some of them pretty obvious, enter into the possible why’s.

I was interested to hear the stance on patriarchy in this dialectic. So far my thinking has been based on the dictionary definition, and from that it seemed clear that any society where the wife and children took on the father’s family name (as a general rule) was a patriarchal society.
I do get the point discussed where, in terms of power wielding, a large percentage of males do not fit into that definition - at least in the public arena. I have observed, though, that such men who are relatively powerless in terms of earning ability, prestige and the like, and that are at a traditional centre of gravity exercise a patriarchal power in the private arena, “the man of the house”, “make my dinner” etc.
Yet another place where nuanced understanding benefits more than blanket statements!

Patriarchy is a bit different than patrilineal. Tracing family through the father is patrilineal. Many hunter-gather societies are matrilineal, in which family is traced through the mother. In those societies, the leading male authority for a child is the mother’s brother. It’s possible for a society to be matrilineal, but headed by male chiefs. Chiefdom in those cases will not necessarily be inherited by the chief’s son.

The question of male “power” in our current society is a good one. Power to do what? is a question that is worth asking.

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[quote=“robert.bunge, post:6, topic:39444”]
Power to do what?
Robb Smith’s “Evolution of Social Power” discusses different forms of social power emerging( at each stage of development, which is applicable to your question I think. Click on each of the powers to expand it for definition/description.

If I understand Robb correctly, the power to “convene” is the leading power right now.

Lately I finished reading a book by Peter Turchin, End Times, on long-term social history. Turchin sorts power into four types: force, wealth, administrative, ideological. I would map Robb’s power to convene as a sort of ideological power.

To me, this is all about the Internet and mass global communications. In an information age, influencers have the most influence. There are situations, of course, in which naked force rules. Likewise, wealth can buy its way into other types of power. Administration (ie bureaucracy) can often be a law unto itself. But let’s suppose Robb is correct about the power to convene. Are women at any disadvantage? (Says the guy with a female boss and who volunteers for two female-led organizations.)

You work in IT I believe, so you’re probably in a better position than I am to answer this. The tech field overall in terms of creators and developers and coders is dominated by men with big pay, big power, and big status. Looking at a few stats, for the year 2019, women held 18% of top management positions globally in AI companies and start-ups, and in the US in 2023, 23% of software engineers were women. While 65-70% of work in the tech field overall is performed by women, these on the whole are “people-skills” jobs with lower pay, marginal status, and invisibility. Some studies have pointed out that 71% of employees likely to lose jobs due to AI are women.

As for users, with the exception of Twitter (X) which is male dominated (63-68% in the U.S., 71% globally in June 2023), males and females are pretty evenly represented on social media sites.

Of course, the MeToo movement is women-led, and the founders of Black Lives Matter are women.

While the power to convene may be the most recent emergent type of social power (excluding Integral), the other forms of social power that Robb’s article speaks to are still with us, and I think an argument can be made for women being at disadvantage in some of these. For instance, the power to contract: women were only granted the right to open a bank account on their own in 1974. In education, women were first allowed into Harvard Medical School in 1945 and to Harvard Law School in 1950 (even though they had been petitioning to do so since 1871.) A woman has never been president and women have 130 years less experience than men with the right to vote and in the electoral process. So this is sort of a generational loss similar to what scholars point to re: Blacks having experienced generational loss of wealth due to not being able to own property and red-lining. Only 52 or 10.4% of the Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs. The vast majority of religious leaders are men. So women have some catching up to do in almost all of these areas, if they choose to and culture supports that.


No argument with any of that. Here is some content we will be working with in one of my upcoming courses:

All the organizations I work with are education-focused. Female leadership in education is fairly prevalent, because historically women were steered into teaching, and more recently, women are earning more degrees.

My overall perspective is very forward looking. If nuclear armed warrior culture does not blow us all up in the next several decades, the best prospect for a long term human run on this planet is some sort of circular economics with a focus on cohesive communities. Female leadership in that evolution will be both desirable and necessary. Not ruling out male leadership - but we can use all the talent we can get.

In the discussion of the term patriarchy, it was alleged that rights were first given to white men; then to white women; then non-white people, progressively including smaller and smaller demographics. My understanding as an American woman is that women’s rights and privileges generally lag behind rights given to both white and black men, both historically and presently… Black men were given the vote in 1870. Women got the vote in 1920. Black men were allowed to play in integrated sports teams in the post-world war II era. Women althletes are only now beginning to gain respect and address equal pay issues. The assertion that patriaracy was a real thing when women first entered the workforce during first wave feminism but it’s not really a thing now is patently absurd.

Hi Karen, good historical perspective. Dare I say - a powerful perspective. It’s pretty clear from recent US politics that women’s rights are not all the way here yet. There are however some indications that women’s rights are gaining a bit of momentum lately. I think what Corey and Keith were pointing at (if a bit crookedly based on your corrected set of facts) is that womens’ equality needed industrialism and postindustrialism to seem viable - even to women. Maybe especially to women. I lately plowed through a few generations of family genealogy in preparation for a family reunion and damn! - was life ever hard! Women and men both had to break their backs just to have a home and a reliable meal. In the US, most of us are beyond that now, so we have the luxury of having identity crises or worrying about ideology. Our forebears lived in a less mediated world. So, yeah, womens’ right to vote was late in showing up (and my grandmother and her sisters were very happy when it did). I used to teach US History and what the textbook said (I have not checked a lot of original sources on this) is that women’s suffrage got through male-dominated legislatures of time because white male voters trusted white female voters more than they trusted immigrants. That seems plausible - US government has never been an exercise of pure idealism. Anyway, if women align politically in favor of women, and men split roughly down the middle, women’s issues will win. Some recent elections appear to suggest this is happening.