Social & Physical Constructed Categories
Male & Female Categorization
Kevin Aylward B.Sc.
The paper provides a rational definition and understanding to the terms and concepts referred to by Social Construction/Construct and Physical Construction/Construct.
The need for this paper was generated from the knowledge that those of the Leftist/Post Modernist/Marxist persuasion, often use the concept of "it's only a social construction" as a general technique to disingenuously and erroneously refute arguments against their viewpoints. The technique is quite subtle in that it involves switching the actual meaning of the term "social construction" mid argument such the debater is left debating a different point from the actual point in contention. Its essentially, a Strawman argument.
The essentials is that the social constructed aspect of the the system being debated is the system itself, not the fact that a social human has actually constructed the labeling of the terms in the system. The issue as to whether a system is a physical construction or a social construction depends on the nature of the elements of the system, not the fact that humans constructed the structure of the system itself.
A socially constructed category is, essentially, where the members of a group are physically arbitrary in the sense that they are no inherent physical restraints that would prohibit what members of the group are included. Such a construct is one where the members are, essentially, determined by behaviour. For example, a group defined by "marathon runners" could include Asians, females, dogs, robots, Scotsman or any object at all, so long as the object could run in a marathon. It would not be permissible to include a rock, as it is impossible for a rock to run. However, any person has a choice as to whether to be included in the group. All they have to do is run a marathon. This is what makes it a social construction.
A physically constructed category is, essentially, where the members of a group are, essentially, determined by physical properties, such that there are restraints as to what members may be included in the group. For example, a group defined by "Planets of the Solar System". This group would include Earth, Mars, Venus and so forth but could not include Titan, as Titan is a moon of the planet Saturn, not a planet itself. That is, once the group has been defined it would not be valid to add to the group, members that did not satisfy the requirements of the group. That is, Titan does not have a metaphorical "choice" to be included in the planets group as it does not have the physical attributes that qualifies it for that group.
In both cases, humans of course, have "socially constructed" the names of the groups and the requirements that the members of the group must satisfy to be categorized as a group member. However, claiming that both types of groups are therefore social constructions, because of this, is nonsensical, it would essentially makes the entire concept of constructed groups valueless. The attributes of "Social" or "Physical" are characterizing the member of the group once defined, not the somewhat arbitrary social nature as to how the groups were defined in the first place.
Male & Female Categorization
It has been extremely well established for 1000s of years that there are two basic physical types of humans. These two physical category types have been universally defined as Male & Female. These definitions have been made purely on the basis of physical characteristics not behavioural characteristics. Until very recently there was, essentially, no disagreement or debate on such clear from simple inspection, facts. Although there are many characteristics common in both groups such as fingers, brains and legs, they are specific physical characteristics that if one of them occurs in a group, all other of of that set of special characteristics will also be present in that group but not the other, and vise verse. These special characteristics are taken to be what de-facto defines the physical construction nature of the Male & Female groups.
Male Physical Characteristics
XY chromosomes Penis, Prostate, production of male sperm for creating offspring in females, and so forth
Female Physical Characteristics
XX chromosomes, Vagina, Breast Milk, Ovaries, female eggs interacting with male sperm for creating offspring, and so forth
With a probability larger than 99.9%, the presence of one these special physical characteristic of these groups determines all of the other characteristics of the group. It is noted that there are some extremely minor statistically exceptions, for example, some are referred to as interrex, however, such exceptions does not negate the fundamental physical sex based classification of the Male & Female groups.
Thus it is clear that Male & Female are physically constructed categories, not socially constructed categories.
That is, behaviour has never been a factor in the definition and characterization of Male & Female.
Male & Female related Social Construction Categories
It has also been established that Males & Females have differential behaviour to some degree. That is, there are some behaviors that are more common in females than males and vise versa. For example:
Male behavioural characteristics
Football, trousers, coal miners, fighting and so forth
Female behavioural characteristics
Lipstick, high heels, skirts, nurseing, and so forth
These definition of these social groups are very general such as "any behaviour". Thus, whether or not "skirt wearing" is an indication of male or female behaviour is entirely a social construction.
Race is Indeed a Physical Construction
An entirely analogous argument also shows that, again contrary the Leftist/Post "objective reality doesn't exist" Modernist/Marxists claims, that race is indeed is, and always was, a physical construct, not a social construct.
Race is obviously categorized based on physical characteristics. For example, the most notable one is simply skin colour, that is, the difference between "White" and "Black" defines two clear physically differentiated groups.
Of course, in general, distinguishing a suitable unique set of physically characteristics to put in a particular bucket may have some technical issues. Some characteristics such as eye shape, height, DNA distribution, hair colour, hair type and so forth may only have small variations such that there might be some arbitrariness in deciding what set of characteristics are put into what bucket.
However, any social arbitrariness used in actually creating the buckets such as Asian, Japanese, Chinese, African-Black has no baring at all on the principle that the buckets are filled strictly based on physical characteristics, not behavioral characteristics. That there is a choice of what physical characteristic goes into the bucket doesn't make the categories a social construction. For race to be a social construction, the entries in the bucket must be decided based on behaviour.
For example, a scene from the 1980 movie Airplane :
First Jive Dude: Shiiiiit, maaaaan. That honky muf' be messin' mah old lady... got to be runnin' cold upside down his head, you know?
Clearly, if a White dude was talking in the manner above, as a stereotypically Black might, they would be zero probability that such language would be a reason to place the White person in the Black race category. Indeed, such a person claiming to be Black based on their behaviour would probably be vilified for the other Leftist/Post "objective reality doesn't exist" Modernist/Marxists cardinal sin of "cultural appropriation".
It is clear that the terms Male & Female and Race are not social constructions by any rational and useful definition of the phrase. They are groups, although constructed by social beings, that are defined by their intrinsic physical attributes, not behaviour.
Social construct - group members defined by human selectable characteristics - e.g. "anyone can wear makeup"
Physical Construct - group members defined by non human selectable characteristics - "e.g. the electronic charge of the atomic core of an element such as Na, He, Ni"
Again, to be clear - the ability to arbitrarily name fundamental elements does not change the characteristics of the element itself, thus although the name itself is a social construct, the elements themselves are not. They exist independently of their name.
© Kevin Aylward 2021
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Website last modified 10th February 2021