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The Clinical Gaze of Governmentality
Democratic governments have long had the problem of representation and accountability. It was only a matter of time until both the bureaucracy and the executive held the electorate, not just in open derision, but developed a broad range of tools to discipline populations for dissident thought, speech, and voting behaviour. After all, managing populations in the interests of populations is a tiresome and difficult business. Finding out what human bodies need and attending to those needs is not just difficult, it involves costs that could be better spent on high salaries for governments and their corporate enablers. It is much easier to invent identity avatars and attend to an entirely imaginary range of problems that can only be fixed by a magic priesthood with special words.
I am not sure why Foucault has been so maligned by the anti-woke when he provides such elegant insights into the structures of power that we are facing. In Birth of the Clinic (1976), Foucault talks about the “clinical gaze” as a way of isolating sickness in our bodies through discourse. As the secular state was leaving behind the language of the mystical connection between disease and sin, ways of talking about diagnosing our bodies became culturally dominant. Foucault clarifies this vinculation of discourse to the body in The Birth of the Clinic where the “relation of man to death, which, in the first case, authorizes a scientific discourse in a rational form, and, in the second, opens up the source of a language that unfolds endlessly in the void left by the absence of the gods” (198).
In what seems to be a post-secular state, the clinical gaze is turning to culture and is reasserting the connection of disease to sin. As cultural identities replace material-based identification in government, the scientific discourse and the language that unfolds “endlessly in the void” are abandoning the isolation of disease in bodies and instead isolates moral sickness in words and thoughts.
When I am talking about government here, I am not referring to just the state but what Foucault called “governmentality”, the government of not just “men” but of:
[M]en in their relations, their links, their imbrication with those other things which are wealth, resources, means of subsistence, the territory with its specific qualities, climate, irrigation, fertility, etc: men in their relation to that other kind of things, customs, habits ways of acting and thinking, etclastly men in their relation to that other kind of things, accidents and misfortunes such as famine, epidemics, death, etc. (“Governmentality.”in Foucault the Foucault Effect, Studies in Governmentality,1991, 93).
The use of culturally based “identities” is a technology of governments, eager to bypass the material needs of those they are electorally accountable to, by reforming what used to be material characteristics and uploading them into a matrix of power involving a complex system of rewards and punishments. To expand on this, as is my fashion, I will talk about what we used to call women.
Under the old order, a woman was a sex of human, defined by her reproductive role and observed by her genitals at birth. An unrefined creature of flesh, the rawness of her material reality being first laid bare on a set of hospital scales with her legs open to the clinical gaze of the medical profession. The refined cultural fantasy that has replaced “woman” is a delicate set of feminine attributes and cultural representations, defined in universities by humanities majors. Like Lady Macbeth, she has been un-sexed and is now a “gender,” the manifestation of her own cultural representation.
Gender has proven to be an inadequate and tenuous scaffolding to hold the rights and protections for which women have fought so hard to cover their natural vulnerabilities. Women’s hard-won rights balance precariously from a dimly lit mirror that looks a bit like her but is not her. The gender of “woman” is a legal concept that has been fashioned in the image that woman is supposed to be, what she was desired to be. She is no longer born but she is assigned, sometimes just through the failure to adopt another identity and sometimes in the filling out of a statutory declaration as a confession of an inner woman or girl.
With the assertion that gender dysphoria is not a psychological illness, but a cultural one, the denial of woman as gender has become the disease. According to the new order, our inability to recognise human gender over sex is leading to widespread distress and “inequity” in populations. Therefore “the clinical gaze” is no longer to be cast over the genitals at birth, or over the human body, but over individuals’ thoughts and words, to seek out moral disease and destroy it. That disease of hate and intolerance is called “transphobia,”“transmisogyny,” or unbelievably, “misogyny.” These are officially defined and recognised sins that are to be rooted out from the old secular order. In the new progressive belief system, an ethereal set of beliefs is being offered to us about ourselves and our relation to each other. These “progressive” beliefs are to bring good order and good government, they are the new gaze through which discourse is managed and reality will be shaped.
Concerning the clinical gaze, Foucault states:
So many powers, from the slow illumination of obscurities, the ever-prudent reading of the essential, the calculation of times and risks, to the mastery of the heart and the majestic confiscation of paternal authority, are just so many forms in which the sovereignty of the gaze gradually establishes itself—the eye that knows and decides, the eye that governs (The Birth of the Clinic, 89).
The eye that knows and decides, the eye that governs gender is not a clinical doctor but a cultural priesthood. Such is prominent Canadian trans activist and trans-identified male, Morgane Oger. I received a message from Oger about an article I wrote referencing his advocacy for the withdrawal of City Council funding from a Vancouver Rape Relief & Women's Shelter (VRRWS), because the shelter refuses to employ or serve natal males. Oger’s objection was not in my assertion about his unpalatable advocacy against VRRWS, but my incorrect assertion about where the shelter’s funding comes from now. His tweets in the ensuing exchange are a study in the way the clinical gaze allows unrestrained misogyny loose, to root out dissent to the reinvention of women.
Oger posted one of his blog posts on my timeline with dodgy science about sex characteristics making him “a woman,” but when challenged, he immediately retreated to his legal status. The legal status that people like him have embedded in government, they have defined themselves as women and they now turn to the most vulnerable of women to affirm their identity, wielding the power of the state. Oger declared that he was an Adult Human Female, the dictionary definition of a woman.
This was deduced by him being an adult, a human, and his legal “designation” of female. When approached by twitterers that he was in fact a male, Oger responded that this is a belief of “profound bias.” He then confidently and openly threatens people with the violence of the state. He says, “Because our laws do not care about your beliefs. Laws and judges only care about peohibited [sic] actions that cause harm.” Yes, this is a narcissist, but one empowered by governments, ideologies embedded in bureaucracies and laws that the transgender lobby have themselves aggressively lobbied for. It took women hundreds of years to gain rights and protections, we should ask ourselves why in a short few years, we have lost the ability to define ourselves?
“Woman” is the post-secular state, is no longer a sex of human, her bodily weakness and vulnerabilities must be denied because if she asserts them, she becomes subject to the clinical gaze that isolates her sickness, her disease of bias and hate. The new gaze denounces the power of the flesh, just as in the Christian religion does. Also, like Christianity, It instructs women to “put on the new man,”(Ephesians 4:24), but in this case, the new “woman” is performed through as a set if ideas and stereotypes.
Rape seems to be the hot-button issue around which women are becoming unwilling to release the state from its obligations to protect female bodies from male bodies. This week's controversy has surrounded the Edinburgh Rape Centre, when their CEO, a transgender-identified male, Mridul Wadhwa, made grossly unprofessional comments on the “Guilty Feminist Podcast”. He indicated that women, who are traumatised from rape and still recognise sex through a trans identity should challenge their own prejudice. His advice to rape victims who request a female sexed counsellor is this:“You have to reframe your trauma,” adding, “To me, therapy is political.” To be fair, ERC is a service for males and females, but there is now growing governmental consensus in Scotland that a girl does not have the right of the dignity to request a female counsellor after being raped.
Eager to defend himself, Wadhwa made a statement on the ERC website to explain to women why they are raped. It is not because they are women but because “Sexual violence is part of systemic sexism and inequality.” He goes on to comfort women by saying that “knowing this can help us through trauma.” The clinical gaze of governmentality is turned toward the rape victim to upload their gender into a theoretical model of harm where they can be healed through the endless clinical discourse that fills the space in the absence of the gods, and now in the absence of appropriate clinical care. Apparently, women who have been raped by a man and want a female space with a female counsellor just don’t adequately understand their sex–they are infected with transphobia and need to overcome that to be healed.
Unwilling to miss out on the abuse of victims, Oger then took to Twitter to comment on a post by Women and Girls in Scotland. WGS wrote the following: “[M]other of a young girl raped by a group of boys was told by a Scottish rape crisis centre that they could not guarantee a female service to this girl, so she did not access support.” Oger commented: “Is it legal to guarantee white-only support for white victims of sexual assault in Scotland?” suggesting the raped girl requesting a female counsellor was no different to a racist. The broken body and the traumatised mind of the girl is ignored, to point out her sin. The body is invisible to the clinical gaze that seeks only redemption and healing through authorised identity and equity ideology.
Further on in the same Twitter thread, a parent of a raped girl named Greta takes offence, calling Oger “a clown”. Greta testifies of her daughter’s fear of males after she had been raped, saying that her daughter refused to see anything but a female counsellor. Oger accuses these women of being duped by hate propaganda. Oger is a clinician of the gaze and has identified in the mother the bigotry of the failure to recognise gender over sex. He reminds the mother that ”transwomen” are more likely to be raped than “cisgender woman” (based on non-cited “surveys”). Greta then prompts Oger in vain for compassion for a mother like her who “went through hell seeking a female counsellor.” Oger accuses Greta of allowing her “daughter's rape to be used to incite hatred against transwomen,” stating, “You are being an awful parent for ideological reasons that YOU KNOW are lies.”
Here Oger is revealing a vital aspect of the diagnosis. A mother protecting her daughter from further trauma, even when her child’s body has been violated by a male, has no mercy from the clinical gaze, because the gaze does not just see disease, but sin. The evidence of the bodily vulnerability of women is “hatred” against “transwomen”, against the prevailing power structure, against the redefinition of women by structures of power. Such trans activists are famous for drawing women into these discussions until they lose their temper only to eventually report them to Twitter for misgendering. The rules of Twitter are a key part of the clinical gaze in the marketplace of discourse.
Rape Crisis Scotland has made a statement regarding the ensuing outrage and the ongoing demand of women to make single-sex services available for women. RCS says in the statement: “We are feminist. Our work is underpinned by a feminist understanding of violence and inequality.”They don’t, of course, mean feminism but instead an “authorised” cultural or intersectional feminism. Authorised feminism uploads bodily oppression to a discourse of inequity (and not physical inequity). When RCS states that “sexual violence is a gendered [sic],” they mean that bodies are raped for cultural reasons of inequality, and that will only get worse if women refuse to include “transwomen” in their feminism. Transphobia is the new short skirt.
In reality, rape is not based in gender, it is based in sex. Women are raped because they have a weaker body that can be overpowered, and they have a vagina. Their sex needs government protection, and they pay for this with their taxes. But if the eye of government refuses to see this reality, it doesn’t have to support women in accordance with this reality, in accordance with the support systems women themselves have built for their own protection. Rape Crisis Scotland goes on to lecture women about not listening to “misinformation about what support looks like.” Every woman who consents to this power structure is accepting her power only exists in the identity that is handed to her. As soon as she asserts her bodily reality, her power to birth, her ability to bleed she is disciplined by the clinical gaze, she is diagnosed with diseases of hate and discrimination, she is offered equality only if she cedes the ground of her own body.
Foucault’s analysis of power is much maligned by the anti-woke crew, but there is no evidence he intended his writings as an instruction manual for authoritarians. The way he documented the observation of disease in terms of “symptoms and signs” is everywhere in the observation of the diseases of culture. The diagnosis of the disease of hate in the population is not just gender, it applies to homosexuals who refuse “queer” identity, black people who refuse critical frameworks, and white people who refuse to denounce their privilege. We are being cast under the clinical gaze of governmentality, beckoning us into a post-secular era of sin and redemption.