In a Youtube video a popular conservative personality, StevenCrowder, sets up two lawn chairs on a university campus with a sign that says “There Are Only 2 Genders. Change My Mind.” Unlike similar conservative videos where eloquent opponents are edited out, Steven argues against students who are familiar and persuasive with gender theory. In the 50-minute video, he congratulates his opponents for their noble civility in debate and their chivalrous intellectual consistency, yet claims to undermine their position by unearthing the shaky premises of their arguments. He also mentions that he has a “nice big penis.”
The video illustrates a common aspect of internet comment-section debates or informal street debates: someone claims that their opponent’s argument is not “logical” or that they are committing a logical “fallacy.” These terms are often used by alt-right celebrities. These kinds of arguments about logic are a way to get in the last word — they might be convincing to a pseudo-intellectual internet audience but they do not hold weight in political or ethical debates.
At one point in the video, Steven’s opponent points out how other cultures have always recognized more than two genders. Steven responds to this by saying that this presupposes that what exists in other cultures must necessarily translate to ours. Steven’s response focuses on the logical structure of his opponent’s argument, as it suggests that the conclusion “we should recognize more than two genders” does not necessarily follow from the premise “other cultures already recognize more than two genders.” In other words, Steven attempts to expose some kind of shaky logical presuppositions that his opponent is supposedly unaware that they are making. Yet it is obvious that it is not a shaky presupposition at all — what happens in another culture is highly relevant to universal human questions such as human identity. Therefore Steven’s concentration on logical semantics circumvents any kind of satisfying engagement with his opponent’s point. Steven should offer a reason why genderfluidity would not translate to our culture because telling us that it does not necessarily translate is not useful knowledge.
This example shows how focusing on the logical structure of arguments is largely irrelevant in conflicts of gender or politics, since the nature of these conflicts is a disagreement on values rather than a disagreement about logic. Any value-based argument is founded on an uncertain principle — that is what values are, they are deeply personal and emotional. That does not make value arguments good or bad it just means that the logical structure of language is not a relevant tool to assess the strength of these arguments. Which is why people who tell you that you made a “straw-man” argument or something like that are missing the point. Steven does the same move many times throughout the video. He says that modern gender theory is not necessarily true, yet does not specify why he believes Simone de Beauvoir or Judith Butler to be wrong.
Generalization or the use of hypothetical examples is always technically “illogical” since they are not true by logical necessity. But that doesn’t mean generalization or hypothetical examples are bad — they are important tools of value disputes. Steven uses them too. Pointing out the “not-necessarily-true premises” of arguments might be convincing to people on the internet but it is not relevant to gender theory.