Root cause analysis

Root cause analysis

Root cause analysis

Root cause analysis is a social construct, somewhere between a mindset and a methodology, and its point is to identify the critical factor contributing to a problem in order to address the problem. It’s used a lot in plane crashes and similar investigations to figure out how to prevent major tragedies from reoccurring or how to end major systemic problems.

And I'd like to take a minute to explain to you how it works and why terfs in particular are extremely bad at it.

The ultimate goal of root cause analysis is to find a factor that you can change to prevent the problem in the future, or something you can change right now to fix an ongoing problem. There might be multiple answers, and if there is a singular answer, that might still be from a combination of factors which might arise independently.

Consider the smash hit family musical, Jurassic Park. We could apply root cause analysis to the failure of the park to keep the guests safe. None of the guests were in immediate danger until the power went out on all of the systems, which was itself caused by Nedry betraying the park for personal gain because he had massive gambling debts.

So if somebody were to say that the root cause of the problem was the existence of the dinosaurs in and of itself, one could very easily argue that the dinosaurs were fine up until they escaped and therefore the root cause is not the dinosaurs per se but their escape and the factors that caused that to happen.

So what might have stopped the disaster that led to the demise of the poor lawyer and Samuel L Jackson? Well, if John Hammond had added screening to his recruitment such that someone with such a compromising background wouldn't have had that kind of power over the park's systems, this might have been averted entirely.

In fact, let’s consider the Velociraptor attack at the very beginning of the movie; Spoiler alert for a movie that was released when I was still learning to walk. There are several identifiable factors in the sequence of events that could have prevented what's-his-name from having his arm pulled through what's-his-name's grasp. I think his name is Shootah? Since the transport container was poorly designed, someone had to be on top of the container while the raptors were released into the paddock., That put him in a precarious situation where he could have been knocked off. And he was, spoiler alert. The pet carrier itself was never secured in place, which allowed for the raptor to ram the far wall. That caused the thing to slide and thus expose the now open end to the outside. And also, the raptor was awake for this transfer when they could have tranquilized it safely from outside of the cage and then moved it in while it was incapacitated.

The only one of those that in and of itself wouldn't have completely solved the problem if taken into consideration beforehand is the door. Why? Because, even if it were remotely opened, the raptor still could have moved the container after the door was opened, so if they had tranquilized the raptor, or they had anchored the carrier in place better, this accident would have been avoided.

And then here comes Roland, who says that the root cause of the problem is the existence of the raptors in the first place! Which I personally take issue with, because Velociraptors existed for millions of years, and Jurassic Park is the first known instance of them attacking humans.

The movie was based on real life events, right? Right?

Crit puppet talking on the phone. Dialog is mostly unintelligible but the conversation is something about raptors in Jurassic Park.

So we actually brought in a dinosaur consultant for this video and she tells me that the movie was not based on real life events. I’m extremely disappointed. She also said that real Velociraptors had feathers, which is cool.

Anyway, what would have prevented the problems that affected the rest of the park? Better screening for employees would have prevented someone like Nedry from being compromised and sabotaging the company. But John Hammond also could have taken better care of his employees such that Nedry might not have felt any desire to sabotage the park, either out of malice or for personal gain. There could have been code reviews, safety inspections, etc. None of the failures in the movie were fundamentally unpreventable.

At least, not in theory. Because again, real life is much messier and hindsight is 20/20.

But what happens when we apply root cause analysis to social structures, and to social justice, and analysis of bigotry?

I have tried to ask many, many terfs what exactly they believe that the root cause of patriarchy and misogyny truly are, and I keep getting back the same damn answer: Men.

So let's review. Root cause analysis is supposed to be identifying the singular step or group of steps in the chain of events leading up to a bad thing, such that the bad thing could have been prevented, or can now be fixed.

If you take your car to a mechanic they ask what the problem is, and you say “I got a car, that’s the root cause of all of the mechanical problems. No car, no mechanical problems.” That's not going to be very helpful to the mechanic. Nor is it going to be helpful to just say the car is broken. If you say, however, the car won't start, that's completely different because now we have narrowed down what systems to look at, and usually what happens in these cases is the mechanic is able to go in, diagnose to the point where they can replace one or a few parts and now the car is working again, or in my case that one time tell me that I need to put gas in Apparently driving a gasoline-engine car without gasoline to be more eco-friendly doesn’t work.

So to me, asking what the root cause of patriarchy or misogyny is, and consistently getting the answer of “men” is just profoundly unhelpful because it implies that the factor that we need to fix is the existence of men. See our video Male Extinction which parodies the logical conclusion of this mindset.

Or when a terf says that the root cause of women's oppression and mistreatment is their biological sex, because that implies that what we need to fix in order to eliminate misogyny, patriarchy, and women's oppression, is biological sex.

An important thing to point out about root cause analysis is that it operates a little bit differently when you're talking about individual cases versus when you're talking about systems. For example, if a lot of car accidents are happening at this one intersection, instead of evaluating each car accident individually, you might want to start asking why this intersection specifically. Is there something about it that makes it hard to see cross traffic? Is the light timed properly? Is there a stop sign that is partially obscured by a tree or something? Is the speed limit too high? Did we build a society in which everybody needs a car to get freaking anywhere and maybe if we designed our cities to be more accessible without cars, we might have fewer accidents? And the answers at different scales will suggest different solutions. At the individual level, drive more slowly, look both ways. At the intersection level, clear out obstacles that block line of sight, change the signage or traffic lights, or reroute traffic. At the society level, we’re going to want to make more walkable cities just generally, offer safer and more widely-available public transportation.

We can apply that to sociology as well. We can ask why an individual is misogynistic, and then we can also ask why so many individuals are misogynistic.

And if your answer to either question is “men” and then that’s it, turn off your brain and go home. Please, I beg you stop being so incurious and dogmatic because what you are doing is just saying that boys will be boys. You are pushing a narrative that maleness in and of itself causes these problems and that these problems are inevitable so long as males exist. This is fundamentally fatalistic, and thoroughly counterproductive to actually fixing the problem.

So, would you like to hear my own root cause analysis of misogyny and patriarchy?

Once upon a time, Adam and Eve climbed out of the garbage can inspace from whence all humans originated. For legal reasons, that is a joke.

As we grew in number and spread across the world, we congregated into societies and civilizations. So far, so good.

We observed that human bodies come in different shapes and sizes, and started noticing patterns. People who exhibit one of those patterns were able to cause pregnancy, generally, in people with the other of those two predominant patterns. So far this is all fine.

Most cultures started very strongly distinguishing between people based on their reproductive capacity based on those two patterns. Again this is generally fine, this isn't the failure step, it’s fine to associate patterns of clothes with your identity, including identity constructed in significant part by your body’s sex…

Then people started to notice that there were very strong behavioral trends highly correlated with these patterns and observing these patterns was useful enough for producing and organizing families that the two binary gender identities emerged in virtually every culture. This part is generally fine too as long as it was descriptive and not prescriptive, as in as long as it was describing how people are instead of telling people how they should be.

The real first problem is that people started using this prescriptively - “if you have boobah, you must cover up, if you have peepee, no flowy dresses.”

Then, people started noticing a correlation between physical strength and sex. Again, this is fine as long as it is descriptive and allows for individual variation. A man can be physically weak and still be a man, a woman can still be physically strong and still be a woman.

Now, here is the failure step.

Because ancient humans lived in a very brutal and dangerous world, physical strength became associated with leadership and authority. Some people, almost certainly men, realized that they would have more access to power over their neighbors if they asserted the idea that men are strong. Not just that the average man is physically stronger than the average woman, but that men are inherently strong as an overarching narrative of society, that to be a man demands you be strong, and only men can achieve true strength. Coupled with the assertion that physical strength is synonymous with authority, a hierarchy emerged that gave disproportionate power to men over women. And that hierarchy kept compounding with more and more cultural markers that were enforced as hegemony. The logic was that we needed to be able to easily classify people by stronkth or reproductive capacity so that teens could be married off to rich dudes, so you need to signify which of those two groups you’re in - impregnator or impregnatee - with everything, your clothing, your mannerisms, and where you’re allowed to go.

This was happening alongside adaptations in early society that bolstered group survivability at the expense of individuality and what we would now consider to be basic human rights. One of the most obvious examples being compulsory heterosexuality being written into multiple religions. At the time, the self-preservation of society and human civilization depended on people having lots of children, so people were culturally pressured into effectively declaring their reproductive capacity in everything they did, from their clothing to where they were allowed to go or work or contribute.

This was the original failure step. Now, you would be very correct to point out that this was thousands of years ago and unless someone is willing to invent a time machine, we can't exactly corroborate details, or fix that step.

But again, root cause analysis can have multiple correct answers.

The problem with misogyny isn't just that it started, but also that it perpetuated and continued, and now we have to ask why it did those things because if we can stop it from continuing, that is how we get to a state where there is no more misogyny, no more sexism, no more homophobia and no more transphobia.

So why did these narratives perpetuate? That's a much more complicated answer and there are lots of parts to it. One of the issues is just cultural inertia. We learn what we are taught, and when we are taught sexism, we have to unteach ourselves or it festers. Which in turn takes a lot of examining these narratives and assumptions and attitudes, breaking them down, and collectively as a society working them out of our system. So even if someone were truly enlightened and knew all of the answers to sexism, it would still take years and years and years to make everyone realize which ideas they hold are sexist and to unlearn them.

Another major factor is hegemony. Once an attitude or a narrative is sufficiently prevalent, then people start enforcing it. Homophobic mistreatment is an emergent result of many, many people in society believing awful things about gay people and gay relationships. When it comes to sexism and society, one of the main contributors to it staying around is men hazing each other to be sexist and indoctrinating each other into patriarchy. As bell hooks said, the first act of violence that patriarchy demands of men is not onto women, but onto themselves. Patriarchy demands a sort of psychic mutilation where a boy is expected to cut out the emotional parts of himself, and if he does not he can count on other boys and men to haze him into submission.

And here's an important thing to take note of as well: Men aren't the only people doing this. Women who are gender non-conforming will often be hazed by other women. In doing so, these women are unknowingly upholding patriarchy by doing the work of policing its subjects for it. And I say this not to blame women for misogyny or patriarchy, but to point out that patriarchy is a system. A system that manipulates and exploits everyone who is subject to it. There are a lot of feminists, including a lot of trans inclusive feminists, who get very upset whenever someone points out that patriarchy exploits and abuses men, too, because they feel that mentioning this is downplaying how patriarchy most overtly targets and harms women. But don't worry, I've got a whole episode coming on that.

But back to the root cause analysis! Why has patriarchy stayed around for so long? Basically because it has trained people to preserve it by convincing them that various pillars of that structure are necessary for human survival.

This is where you get the line “biology not bigotry,” which was used to reinforce compulsory heterosexuality, which is again a pillar of patriarchy.

Today we have even fringe evolutionary biologists arguing that the continuation of the human species is dependent on believing in a sex binary and going to absurd lengths of mental gymnastics to assert that this mentality is necessary, or else we will forget how sperms and eggses work. Which is asinine! And so much of the objection to accepting gay relationships as valid, and just as good as straight relationships has been the notion that if we embraced and celebrated relationships that didn't have the potential for reproduction without outside help, then babies would stop appearing. See this, which I stumbled on while we were finishing up the script:

->Image here

As if gay people can't choose to have babies, we’re just less likely to be attracted to the people that we can generally make babies with. Like, we have known about cups and turkey basters for quite a while now. It’s literally known as the “Turkey Baster Method” in medical settings.

Side note: If they make enough that you have to use a whole turkey baster, I’m going to need their phone number and if they’re free Saturday.

Also, this chud kept going.

->Image here


So what do we do with the knowledge that misogyny is preserved by the belief that people must be categorized by their reproductive systems and that it is okay to make sweeping generalizations about people based on which reproductive system they presumably have?

This is somewhere that trans liberation would actually be profoundly helpful and why it is so infuriating that terfs blame trans people for misogyny, or accuse trans people of being part of patriarchy.

Our existence as trans people is fundamentally in conflict with the goals of patriarchy. Patriarchy, again, relies on categorizing people by their reproductive systems, and trans people are by nature rejecting that categorization. Feminism relies on bucking the societal expectation for reproduction and rejecting gender roles, which again emerged to more easily distinguish people's reproductive function and establish a hierarchy based thereon.

So we need to abandon the idea that you can or even should infer somebody's reproductive system, in part or in whole, at a glance. Or that it's even any of your fucking business.

We have to abandon the idea that a person's moral worth and what they can or should want to do in life is determined by their sex. That means no more “boys will be boys,” or “she couldn’t have done that, she’s just a woman.” That means we hold everyone accountable for their behavior regardless of their sex or gender identity.

We need to abandon the idea that a system composed of many, many moving parts with complicated variations, both naturally and as a result of human intervention, can be boiled down to one of two checkboxes and that said boiling down is always applicable and always useful.

We need to let people be people first. Individuals. We need to get over the idea that we need to know someone’s sex in order to predict their behavior, get over narratives about males being big, strong, brutish, and sex-pests as a default and females being weak, delicate, benevolent, and innocent. Those ideas are sexism and misogyny, and they are the beliefs that ultimately lead people to believe that it’s excusable or justified when men are abusive because they just can’t help themselves. Or that the supposed weakness of women means that they just shouldn’t go places or get to have certain jobs - it leads to victim blaming.

Just as myths of some obligation for each and every individual to reproduce result in homophobia, so too does a reductive view of sexual morphology and the humanity of people with one kind of morphology or another result in sexism and misogyny. This is why feminists have coined the term “benevolent misogyny” to talk about sexism derived from narratives of women being delicate, precious *objects*, instead of individuals who might be strong, might not, might be altruistic and kind, might be selfish and cruel.

The problem is sociological, not biological. And that means we can fix it without having to rewrite the human brain, which would be kinda hard, and unethical AF anyway.

We don’t have to change our brains. But we do have to change minds. *clip from Dr Horrible “It’s not enough to bash in heads you’ve got to bash in minds”*

And seriously, patriarchy as we know it cannot survive trans liberation. How are men supposed to get special privileges when it respects, as a man, anyone who says they’re a man? TERFs joke about “identifying out of your oppression” but if trans liberation achieved its goal of nobody assuming anyone’s sex or gender and just respecting their identity…then yes, oppression would have become literally impossible because you would just identify out of it if it came your way. That’s a good thing. Making it impossible to enforce bad systems is a good thing.

The root causes of misogyny and patriarchy are:

  • A belief that people are fundamentally different beyond just their anatomy and probable gender identity based on sex. This includes believing that someone’s decision-making and motives are determined by sex, ie “boys will be boys” and “that’s not something a natal female would say” This upholds rape culture and benevolent misogyny.

  • A belief that we need to define people based on reproductive capacity, or put people into the “nearest one” based on their anatomy at birth. This results in intersex phobia, including people thinking it’s justified to perform unnecessary and harmful cosmetic surgery on infants without their consent, aka intersex genital mutilation, and needs to be abolished. As well, the emphasis on reproduction contributes to homophobia, compulsory heterosexuality, and social pressure to make babies, all of which are anti-feminist.

  • A belief that we are entitled to know the sex and gender identity of everyone we interact with such that people are harassed if they wear the clothes for the “wrong” sex. Yes, even TERFs do this; while claiming to want to eradicate gender roles and claiming that gender identity is nothing but gender roles, they harass cis men who wear heels because those men are “appropriating our chains.”

If all of these three pillars of patriarchy are expunged from our collective conscious, then we’ll have erased sex-based oppression. We’ll have achieved gay liberation, trans liberation, women’s liberation. We’ll even achieve men’s liberation - a branch of feminism dissecting how patriarchy is harmful to men specifically, such as how homophobia most acutely targeted gay men, especially for violent hate crimes. Which loads of TERFs conflate with MRAs, who are not actually doing anything for men, just defending patriarchy even as it fucks men over. They talk about “male disposability” and how masculinity is used to manipulate men into working to death on the corporate treadmill, but they don’t actually do anything about that because doing so would require challenging normative ideas about what masculinity should look like - and MRAs are unwilling to do that. But Men’s liberation feminists are. They’re teaching boys that it’s okay to cry. That you don’t have to be anyone else’s idea of a man - you don’t even *have* to be a man, regardless of whatever sex you were born with, but you can be if that’s what feels right to you.

But hey, that’s a whole other video.

For now, let’s just leave it at this:

If you assert that the root cause of misogyny, of violence against women, is “men” and that’s all there is to examine, you are implying that we need to eliminate men or maleness in order to have a peaceful society, that the problem isn’t bad cultural ideas and attitudes but an immutable biology.

If you assert that the root cause of female oppression is “because of their sex” and that’s all there is to examine, then you are asserting that the only way to fix this oppression is to alter what sex is, and failing that, we just have to accept it as inevitable.

Miss me with both of those. I actually believe in humanity.

*stomp stomp stomp*

Oh hey, Rexy, what’s up?


Your pronouns are he/him now?


You changed your sex? Nature finds a way?


You heard the dinosaur.

Trans rights - or I bites.